Permaculture – could it ever go mainstream?
Submitted by Patrick Padden
Even with all the organic farms, community gardens, and backyard gardens added together, these environmentally conscious food producers would still be but a crumb on the pie chart of agricultural impact in the Northern Hemisphere. The overwhelming majority of our agricultural impact in the United States is attributed to commercial food, fiber, oil, and animal feed production. Carbon emissions through mass tillage, biodiversity reduction from mono-cropping and the polluting of watersheds with heavy chemical applications are the primary negative impacts that this culture of agriculture is having on the land. Few scientists would disagree with this fact and many are indeed concerned. So why do we keep doing it and how could we possibly influence this behemoth of a snowball as it thunders over our society?
As a grassroots activist and local (uncertified) organic farmer I am aware that my humble efforts make a difference in the world and in the lives of many individuals but I am not naïve to the fact that commercial agriculture is considerably larger, stronger, and at the rate it is going will have a much greater impact on people seven generations from today than I or my small plot of land. If I honestly desire to make a lasting difference in this world I must influence large scale agribusiness.
Who are the individuals in agribusiness? Where do they come from? Where do they learn their science and most importantly who teaches them about land ethics? Locally speaking, the answer to all four of these questions is Colorado State University. I believe that as a community interested in regional and global eco-social health, we can have the greatest net impact if we influence CSU.
Imagine if every student who graduated from our agriculture powerhouse institution held as a fundamental ethic “care for the earth,” how this could influence the industry of agriculture and therefore people seven generations from now. What if all soil scientists held a belief that soil life should not be compromised for soil chemistry? What if all horticulturists understood that the health of a plant and its relationship to potential pests depends upon the micro ecology of the soil and the greater ecosystem in which it is grown? What if agribusinessmen learned that it was more financially intelligent to work with the forces of nature rather than against them?
The ideas and ethics I am touching upon are fundamental to the newly emerging field of permaculture. Permaculture is a holistic design system for ecological and sustainable living built upon core ethics. It integrates plants, animals, buildings, people and communities. Currently, it is offered as a 72 hour certification course at locations around the world and integrated into programs at various institutions such as Naropa University in Boulder and Prescott College in Arizona. In order for permaculture to go mainstream, I believe large agricultural universities such as CSU need to recognize it, not necessarily as a science but as an ethical foundation and way of thinking holistically about our soil, society and our ecosystems.
Patrick Padden is educator in our Permaculture Design Certificate Course and he and Stephanie run the Permaculture Work Study Program at Sunrise Ranch. He is a counselor for Camp Sunrise. He has been with The Farm for 4 seasons as an intern and a manager.
Patrick holds a certificate in permaculture education, a B.A. in Philosophy from Colorado State University, and a passion for realizing new systems that allow us to live in harmony with the natural world.
Learn about the 11 day permaculture design course offered at Sunrise Ranch from March 28th to April 7th by going to http://sunriseranch.org/farm