This episode continues the back to basics series by examining David Holmgren’s 5th principle of permaculture: Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services.
Before we begin, I would like to thank Ben Weiss of Susquehanna Permaculture, Yigal Deutscher of 7 Seeds, and Nati Passow of the Jewish Farm School for sponsoring this episode. You can join these three instructors from August 6 -13 in West Philadelphia for “Shmita & Urban Permaculture Design.” During this one week intensive they’ll merge the ancient wisdom of the Shmita, or Sabbatical, Year with permaculture. These sources of wisdom and knowledge will be used to provide participants with a foundation of understanding to create a range of sustainable initiatives for home and community.
Find out more at: jewishfarmschool.org/urbanpermaculture/
Now then, David Holmgren’s 5th principle of permaculture:
Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
This principle bears the subheading, “Let nature take it’s course.”
If we value our renewable resources, we must use them appropriately. To use them appropriately, we must value them. Through use we can discover the ways in which resources have more yields. To ask the question, “What can I receive, or be given, from something?” Rather than, “What can I take from it?”
If you’ve never read it, I recommend Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael. Mr. Quinn tells an allegorical story of leavers and takers and the impacts those choices have on society. Ben Weiss suggested this book during my Permaculture Design Course, and several listeners have written in to ask about Mr. Quinn’s work, and one of my professors made it one of the choices of required reading for a course on Environmental Education, so Ishmael is on my recommended reading list.
Why use renewable resources? Because being mindful of our use of something that naturally regenerates, we can use it indefinitely. That long view that stretches beyond our own life horizon, to allow generation after generation to have access to the surpluses we can build in this life time.
For me this is why we, as permaculture practitioners, are shepherds and stewards of the earth. We do our best in our own little section of the world, as suggested by Michael Pilarski, to clean it up, make it better, make it last, and pass it on to someone else who has the knowledge and skills to tend it after we’re gone.
But if we don’t act in a regenerative, if we take, and take, and take, then what will be left? What will be permanent about our choices?
From there, what are our renewable resources? Our biological resources such as plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria, and those resources that result from natural cycles: water, wind, and sun. We expand our options and opportunities because we can use these resources passively and actively.
A “classic,” if you will, example from the permaculture literature is to have south facing windows that allow for the passive collection of solar energy into our homes. Building arbors along that side of the building with vining plants that leaf out in the summer provide shade when it is needed but can then die back in winter to allow more of the sun in.
Another one of those common examples is the chicken. Actively we can gain eggs and meat. Passively the chicken provides fertilization, soil disturbance, companionship, pest removal, and so much more.
One of the projects on my list, is to plant a functional hedgerow along the eastern edge of the yard. Passively, it provides a designated path for the people who visit the stream along the land here, provides habitat for birds, rabbit, and other small animals. It also can act as a filter and trap during floods. Actively, depending on how it is ultimately planted, I can harvest wood or food from the hedgerow.
The list goes on and on and on when you being looking at the services and resources available to us within the framework of a set of permaculture principles.
Rather than continue this sort of listing, some other episodes I recommend you listen to in order to round out this conversation and the idea of renewable resources are:
- Ethan Hughes. The community where he lives, the Stillwater Sanctuary, embodies this principle because they live without electricity and petrol, and live within many of the bounds and bounties of renewable resources and services. (Part 1) (Part 2)
- Bob Theis. His recommendations about natural building, what we can do where we are, and where we live now, expands on how to interact with the built environment while considering this principle. His recommendations have had a big impact on many of my choices. (Part 1) (Part 2)
There is a question inherent within this principle what technologies are appropriate in a permaculture future, including whether or not the application of solar and wind energy, through solar PV and large turbines, should be used. I’m still working my way through that question because one of my goals includes being able to keep the lights on and the internet running. While I’m undecided, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this matter.
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The Permaculture Podcast with Scott Mann
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Dauphin, PA 17018