Fixing the world by growing better food
BY ALEXANDER OJEDA, Group Host of Permaculture Jax
We hear every day that the climate is heating up, that toxic spills are killing the world, that we’re running out of food, water and fuels. If you listen to that too much you’d think that we have reached the end of our rope and that there’s no way to recover. There’s a movement that started in the mid-seventies that has been working on the answers. That movement is called Permaculture.
In this movement, we realize that we can grow our annual crops, but also that there’s a bounty to be had restoring degraded land to health by planting food-bearing trees in a mature ecosystem. For example, a man named Dr. Willie Smits took a large area of blighted land in Borneo and turned it into a viable, mature, food-bearing ecosystem within seven years. He’s planted over 16,000 varieties of trees along with the other eight layers, or a mature forest. This project is called Samboja Lestari. What’s most astounding is that in these seven years, the average mean temperature of his land has gone down 5-7°C, and the annual rainfall has increased 20-30%!
A similar project has been created in China on a piece of land called the Loess Plateau. It’s featured in a documentary by John D. Liu called Green Gold. In 10 years, an area the size of Belgium has been restored from a desert into a lush, food-producing forest system.
So how long would it take us to restore our environment? We’re looking at 10 years. If you look into this more, you’ll see that there are thousands of much smaller projects all over the world, proving these techniques work.
What does this mean to you? Should you sell your car and move to the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, and take Geoff Lawton on as your personal mentor? Should you pack everything up, and go to the Krameterhof and learn everything that Sepp Holzer can tell you about growing nutrient-dense foods without irrigation and fertilization, in the Austrian Alps, no less? I’d say no–we need you here!
Permaculture is an attempt to create a true culture of permanence. In a permanent culture, you would move beyond the “sustainable” into the realm of Resilience and Regeneration. What does this mean? We ask ourselves who waters the forest? Who fertilizes the earth? We ask ourselves, what can we do to create a culture that wishes to be better than sustainable? We have to reconnect ourselves to nature.
In Jacksonville, we have a local group of people who are connected to the greater Permaculture movement all over the world. We are proving that we can create urban and farm-scale food production that is able to produce more with less work and no outside inputs beyond rain and natural processes. In the last 5 years I’ve personally created things that have literally changed the way I think about the subject of planet health and food production. I’m looking out my window, and I see wildlife and a lush garden filled with food that I neither water nor fertilize. We have these gardens all over Jacksonville now. Most are personal gardens, but some are community-sized. I hope that you’ll connect to us on Facebook and Meetup.com under the name of Permaculture Jax, and come see what we can do to help you do it, too!