Environmental Science through Permaculture
Do you want to think about how we’re going to feed ourselves, use our energy and water intelligently, keep our soils healthy and restore everything that has been poisoned and destroyed by our current ways of doing things...but also somehow stay positive, creative and innovative, design beautiful landscapes, buildings and environments and even styles of life in the process? Well that’s what permacultural thinking is all about!
It would be great if you wanted to join me in studying it, because we could really use your unique intelligence in making a more environmentally friendly, healthy and beautiful world for us all to live in! And it can start with something as simple, and as fun, as starting to grow your own pet plants. Wherever you live, as long as you have a window and a little sun you can start to sprout the seeds that create the life that creates the food we all eat as well as the air we breathe, and the amount of science involved in understanding just that small act is enough to fill a lifetime of study! But we’re going to keep it focused on how we grow food, feed ourselves healthy goodness, design our own spaces and gardens, and treat the earth really well in the process. We’re going to establish a foundation for you to understand the big picture and think about everyone’s interest, as well as the science involved, yet act simply and individually and in a way that can lead to a better, more beautiful and secure life for you and your loved ones.
Ecology isn’t about reducing our impact or not enjoying ourselves,
it’s about making the most positive impact we can make, on ourselves and our planet!
Some of the Parmaculture Principles we will practice in this class:
Ecological positivity - it’s not just about ‘reducing impact’, it’s about maximizing positive impact
Purity and beauty as guides. It’s about more than just meeting basic needs with functional solutions, it’s about maximizing and creating the best possible quality of life for as many people and communities as we can impact, starting at home, in our bodies, households and communities.
Global perspective, local action. Big picture thinking, starting with local/small changes, multiplying these, spreading so they have fractal/exponential effects
Symbiosis, interdependence and Integration - we are part of the ecosystem. We are nature. Ethic of inseparability. Human civilization and nature can be one, already are one. Water smart, food smart, energy smart biophilic cities and homesteads are the future. Autonomy and resilience is achieved through the acknowledgement of interdependence, through cultivated symbiosis.
Food security and justice: Human nutrition is allied with maximizing social, ecological and biological health . Economic, nutritional and ecological/environmental health are interlinked issues
Here are some of the projects we'll be doing in this class!
Beginning a seed collection
Sprouting seeds and grains
Presenting your own research on a topic of your choice
Creating a solo permaculture design
Collaborating on permaculture design
Optional outcomes, if possible:
Growing at least 2 different types of plants during the course, minimum. Ideally growing as many as possible and desirable, ideally including many perennials and even mushrooms if you can. Even if you can’t see the plants to maturity, you can find neighbors or other people with yards to give them to, or even plant them in your city somewhere (check your local ecology and make sure they won’t be invasive though).
Starting a compost pile or bucket, and/or using creative ways of making homemade fertilizer using common household scraps. Building your own soil.
Starting a home, school, or community garden.
Participate in a permablitz, ie a quick, communal intervention to establish multi-faceted food gardens in peoples yards, often converting lawns or unused land into productive land in a single day, festival style)
Tools (most of these are common household items or are easily accessible):
*Some type of seed or grain (lentils, brown rice, beans, peas, seeds saved from fruits, seeds bought from the store or online etc. Other things you can grow from: cuttings from other plants like rosemary or shoots from plants like bananas if you have access to them, the tops of pineapples or bulbs from onions, including onions that begin to sprout in your pantry, as well as tubers like sweet potatoes or ginger that sometimes starts to sprout on its own)
*Jars and/or Tupperware to sprout seeds in
*Paper towels to help the sprouting process, reusable cloths or cut-up old shirts also work
*Containers to plant in. These can be anything that you can poke holes in: old plastic peanut butter jars, water bottles of any size (cut off the top, you can still recycle it), yogurt cups, milk jugs or cartons, egg shells, egg crates, coconut shells, or store bought (ideally paper) pots. Ceramic planting pots or a plot of ground to plant in are ideal but not at all necessary. Plastic pots are common, but not ideal. The least amount of plastic we can purchase during this the better. Reuse and recycle plastic containers or repurpose old tupperware if you have it.
*Soil to put in your pots and plant in. I’ve found bags of organic potting soil at the 99cent store before, so it doesn’t need to be fancy. Home Depot and other home stores and nurseries will definitely have good organic potting mix and soils. Avoid ones with added chemical fertilizers, only natural plant, mineral and animal products.
*If you’re growing on a balcony or any surface you want to keep clean, some kind of plastic tubs (ideally wide with short walls, like kitty litter boxes) to put the plants in (I’ve also found these at the 99cent store before as well). If you can just put your potted plants on the ground or on any surface you don’t mind getting a little wet or dirty you can avoid this.
*baggies, envelopes, jars, or other containers to store seed collection in (recycled food and spice jars and stuff like that work too, even small water bottles…make sure you’ve let the containers fully dry out as we don’t want moisture where we’re storing our seeds).
*Masking tape and a marker to label plants/pots/jars/containers/baggies etc (Popsicle sticks are also very helpful to easily see what plants are in which pots without having to bend over to look at the tape on the side of the pot, or in case the tape comes off)
*A watering pot and/or spray bottle will make watering much easier (also 99cent store)
*Graph paper, rulers and stencils, and pencils and colored pens/pencils, and/or computer or iPad software capable of drawing in color and on a grid
*notebook (physical, on computer or in cloud) for taking notes
*folder (physical, on computer or in cloud) for portfolio of work
*Optional but rad: order or buy some mushroom spores, I like Oysters, Criminis, or Enoki…or Chanterelles, Morels, Lionsmane or Reishi if you wanna get real fancy. This is a whole topic of its own…how you grow them indoors or sow them into your garden, what will work for your climate or area, etc., but can be really fun to play with and really good for both you and your garden.
Home gardening, School gardens, Urban and community gardening
Permaculture home-gardening and market-gardening education
Seed saving and soil building
Homesteading and personal/community food security
Nature exploration, appreciation, conservation
Agro-Businesses, design-businesses, peri-businesses (tools, pest control, supplies etc) and other forms of regenerative entrepreneurship (alternative energy, water storage, technology and using telecommunications)
Reducing toxin and plastic use
Charity and aid work
Ocean and water protection work, advocacy, education
Regenerative and biophilic architecture
Initial course outline by week (subject to adjustment):
Week 1 - Foundations in principles and climate
Permaculture as philosophy and ethics, its basic categories. What climate is, various climate types, the changing climate as well as our ability to change climates, to make or understand microclimates, the influence of topography, the importance of climate for plants and plants for the climate, and thus the importance of plants for the survival of all life on earth.
Week 2 - Air: Sun, light, wind - Plants and climate pt 1. uptake of light and gasses
Science of air and light. Clorophyll and carbon dioxide. Interaction of biology with climatology (i.e. trees helping cause rain), and of climatology with biology (plants taking carbon gas and converting it into sugars). Plant pollination from airborne insects, seed dispersal through birds and other fauna, plant reproduction and genetic diversity mediated by both climate and animals.
Week 3 - Water: Properties - Plants and climate pt 2: uptake of water
Basic physics and hydrology, role of water in earth’s ecosystems and in plant biology in particular. Water purification. Mulching. Earthworks. Soils holding water. Root structures pt 1, variety of water needs and drought tolerance. Importance of the ocean to water cycle and all life on earth. Marine/terrestrial relationships/dependencies.
Week 4 - Soils: life, death, and restoration - Plants and climate pt. 3 - uptake of minerals
Bacteria, Fungi, insects, small mammals. Minerals, chelation, bio-availability, mycorrhizal networks. Bio-chemistry. Root structures pt 2, plant partnerships, carbon exchange: legumes and nitrogen fixing bacteria, mycorrhizal partnerships. Relation of soil to ocean (nitrogen fertilizers)
Week 5 - What we’ve been doing i.e. what not to do: Conventional agriculture and its damages
Monoculture and lawns. Fertilizers. Toxicology, pesticides and herbicides. Glyphosate. Human health, soil health, and environmental health hidden costs. GMOs and their longevity, also longevity of the problems they can bring. Other methods of plant breeding and adaptability. Animal treatment, antibiotics, unnatural diet, hormones, breeding.
Week 6 - What we can do to fix it, pt. 1: Clean it up
Restorative mycological/bacteriological technologies, cleaning up toxic waste, farming/industrial land, water purification and decontamination. Reversing the damage, removing, capturing and processing the unwanted chemicals we’ve released into the environment.
Week 7 - Fix it pt. 2: The original carbon capture science: plants, soils and composting.
Soil carbon retention. Soil building. Soil nutrient availability. Watch “The Need to Grow”
Intro to plant guilds 1: structure—heights, varying water/light/soil needs, ground cover and ‘weed’ suppression. Forests. Herd animals, prairies and grasslands. Also ocean carbon capture.
Week 8 - Fix it pt. 3: Medicinal plants
Herbs/mushrooms as medicine. Micro-nutrients as medicine. Plant guilds 2: interactions, mutual feeding and pest control, signaling chemicals, plant chemical and symbiotic pest-attraction protection. Symbiosis with insects and birds. Chemical plant defenses and medicine.
Week 9 - Fix it pt.4: Building systems for energy independence, food independence, water independence.
Solar, biogas, batteries, passive batteries, water storage, using gravity, food storage, fermentation, dehydrating, pickling, crop time-stacking. Design for disaster and longevity, solidity and adaptability
Week 10 - Broader applications pt. 1: Urban agriculture: Permaculture and the city.
Beauty as function in architecture. Biophilic buildings and cities. Design for beauty as well as functionality. Air purification and treatment, heat capture or management, passive cooling, water treatment and water table rehabilitation. Human psychological need for nature and for beauty, symmetry and harmony. Cities as exponential inspiration in proximity, efficient and maximizing division of labor. Put the cities in nature, put nature in the cities. Animal guilds. Human guilds. Architectural guilds. Machine guilds. Cities as nature. Life organizing itself into patterns.
Week 11 - Broader applications pt. 2: Economic, political/social and philosophical/psychological issues.
Extending permaculture thinking creatively in all directions. Design for adaptable interdependence, for system adjustment, for ethical symbiosis. Importance of animals, plants, and climate working together. Final discussion and project presentations.