Sidney Fear of war and the Crown makes many people want to take care of themselves in an emergency. The “permaculture” developed in Australia can help here.
Anyone who visits April Sampson-Kelly immediately feels that there is something different about this place. Wild, enchanted and somehow untouched. Giant trees grow in the front yard and huge bamboo reaches for the sky.
In between are smaller figs, limes and carob trees, as well as coffee and ginger plants. In the distance, geese and chickens chatter and cluck. But there is a method for the alleged chaos on the property.
Gardening according to sustainable and ethical principles
Sampson-Kelly’s Urban Silk Farm in Mount Kembla, about a two-hour drive south of Sydney, was designed around the principles of “permaculture”, an Australian concept that allows anyone to make their own garden and style. of sustainable and ethical life.
Just a lawn in the backyard, that was yesterday, says the 55-year-old mother of two. She looks proudly at the lush flora all around. Around 200 types of plants currently grow on the 1,600-square-meter farm, including bananas, guavas, mangoes, taros, sweet potatoes, and various herbs. This means that the family can take care of itself almost completely.
Created more than 40 years ago
Feeding your family straight from the garden is one of the goals of permaculture. “Some call permaculture a ‘cool’ form of organic gardening,” says David Holmgren, who co-founded the movement more than 40 years ago. “It is a design system for sustainable and resilient land use and lifestyle”.
Together with biologist Bill Mollison, ecologist and environmental designer Holmgren published the book “Permaculture One” in 1978 – the term is made up of the words “permanent” and “agriculture”. The twelve principles explained in the manual include ideas such as avoiding waste and using renewable energy, as well as mottos such as “seek slow and small solutions”. The ultimate goal is to develop agriculture that allows survival in harmony with nature.
The principles are universal
Permaculture is practiced in many different ways today, both in densely populated areas and in rural areas, says Holmgren. “This ranges from the rich and socially comfortable environment to the poorest on the planet”. The principles are universal. Depending on the context and location, both in the tropical north of Australia and in temperate central Europe, the design is different.
As wild as the Silk Farm on Mount Kembla may seem, everything is carefully planned here. Plants that need a lot of water are supplied with recycled sewage, the tall canopy of trees provides shade, the thorny plants on the edge of the property deter unwanted animals.
“Observation is key,” says Sampson-Kelly. “A permaculture area is less work than a lawn to mow. But you need more knowledge, you have to observe and make decisions ”.
Interest in permaculture is steadily increasing
Irish architect and permaculture designer Declan Kennedy brought the concept to Germany in the 1980s. Today it is also taught in universities. “Permaculture works virtually all over the world,” says Christopher Henrichs, president of the Lower Rhine Permaculture Association. “For me it’s an exciting toolbox for shaping the future.”
Interest in permaculture is steadily increasing around the world. Because the fear of food shortages and the desire to be able to take care of themselves in an emergency have grown following the war in Ukraine, the crown pandemic and the climate crisis.
“In practice, permaculture means focusing on greater self-reliance and resilience – in the language of climate change it’s called ‘adaptation’,” says co-founder Holmgren. “By doing this, you automatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even if that wasn’t the real motivation.”
Solution in the fight against climate change?
Can permaculture be a solution in the fight against climate change or are Down Under’s ideas only suitable for your garden? “For us, the question we care about is to look: Does everything work on a large scale and commercially and can it contribute to the urgently needed change?” Says Henrichs. With the educational work, the association wants to end the niche existence of permaculture in Germany and spread the ideas further.
Permaculture has just come to the political level, but it has come with many citizens, says Florian Wichern, a professor of sustainable agriculture at the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences. His motivation: “Many people aspire to support a better world. And the awareness that the various ecological crises must also lead to a change in behavior ».
For Australian permaculture pioneer Holmgren, its principles have the potential to contribute to an afterthought around the world: “There are people who describe permaculture as a” revolution disguised as gardening. “It remains to be seen whether teaching can truly bring global changes.
In the meantime, anyone can start the change small: “First we ask ourselves: How can we use the energy and nutrients that are usually lost?” Says Sampson-Kelly, who also runs permaculture seminars on his farm. One example is leftover food in the kitchen. “It’s a source of nutrients that you can easily use for an earthworm farm.” Earthworms turn leftover food into compost for the garden – and that’s it.
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