When studying permaculture, but before taking my actual design course, I thought that permaculture was mainly about food forests and chicken tractors. If you don’t know what those are, I encourage you to take a look into them. However, now I am beginning to understand a much bigger system.
Permaculture literally means “Permanent Culture”, not permanent agriculture, as I had originally thought. In order to have a permanent culture, we must think about the bigger picture and not just the food aspect. We must live in harmony with the earth, with those around us and with the systems we interact with.
Many have changed the last ethic to “Fair Share” and have included a piece of a pie as an icon to represent everyone getting their fair share of the pie. In nature, it is not guaranteed to get a fair share. When I walk in the forest, I see some trees that get plenty of sun and water but other trees that are struggling due to poor site conditions and are lacking in sun, water and nutrients. It would be silly of us to expect a tree that is doing well to give some of it’s surplus to the tree that was struggling. All life must take care of it’s own needs and this is reflected even in the Prime Directive, as stated above.
Return of Surplus, means just that. When there is an abundance in a system, much life is supported. Where does life come from? It starts in the soil. The soil life provides a network of bacteria and fungi that in concert with other micro-organisms provide the needed nutrients to plants above ground through symbiotic relationships. When healthy soil produces a healthy abundance of biomass, animals will come and partake in the abundance. A squirrel will get a nut, peel it, eat the nut and discard the shell right where he harvested the nut. When a deer eats some foliage or fruit from a tree, he drops manure in the same system that provided him with food. This is return of surplus and this is care of the earth.
As a species in the animal kingdom, we humans must also return surplus in order to care for the earth. In order for us to practice permaculture, we must think not just of getting a yield, but creating no waste, both of which are in principles above. We must think of retaining a closed loop system, where abundance is created but surplus is returned so that a self sustaining system remains strong and healthy for generations to come.
What are your thoughts on the Prime Directive, Ethics and Principles? Please comment below.