The recent and on-going uptick in the occurrence of natural disasters, wildfires, mudslides, desertification, migration, famine, and now pandemic has renewed interest in solutions to these problems that lie outside of the typical inefficient government or corruption-plagued NGO and international bureaucracy-led initiatives.
For decades, independent researchers and consultants known as Permaculture Designers have worked in restoring degraded lands, reversing desertification, designing local, natural and organic farming and gardening systems, building with natural and non-toxic materials, harvesting and recycling water, creating zero-waste systems, mitigating the effects of natural disasters, and restoring balance to ecosystems. This design science incorporates both traditional indigenous knowledge and modern, sustainable systems and technologies.
As these solutions are necessarily multi-disciplinary in nature, encompassing knowledge and techniques from Natural Resources to Ecology to Forestry to Hydrology to Agriculture, and more, training in Ecological Design (also known as Permaculture Design) is not typically available through conventional college and university systems.
Universities specialize in “institutional silos”. Those trained in Economics rarely interact with those training in Sociology. Business students do not cross-pollinate their studies with Law or Natural Resources. Fields of study that incorporate knowledge and experience from several academic disciplines are traditionally not offered through college and university systems because of historical notions placing value on theory and specialization.
Professionals working in the field will always prefer hands-on experience and knowledge that comes from weaving together related disciplines. The historical university educational model is currently being turned on its head by necessity – we need inter-disciplinary thinking in order to address the systemic problems we are experiencing.
Intentionally operating outside of this “institutional silo” model of specialized academic training, an independent global movement of practitioners has taken up the work of integrating knowledge from many related disciplines to supply solutions to real-world problems on the ground.
This movement includes not only current and former academics, but also highly-skilled researchers and teachers from various disciplines, including farmers, gardeners, ecologists, builders, foresters, homesteaders, and people from all walks of life.
Permaculture Designers adopt “systems thinking” to design solutions to improve agricultural systems, mitigate the effects of drought, regenerate degraded landscapes, design and protect properties, incorporate renewable energy systems, create sustainable land-based livelihoods, and establish integrated local economic and social structures.
In the wake of natural disasters, Permaculture Designers have mobilized to offer solutions that can both prevent and mitigate such disasters in the future. However, because Permaculture Designers are traditionally trained outside of the conventional college and university systems, their solutions are not always given the merit and attention they deserve.
This is very unfortunate, because Permaculture Designers bring with them the knowledge, experience, and proven models from working in the most challenging environments across the globe. The knowledge and experience they bring to the table are far more valuable to humanity today than any theories being discussed and debated in conventional colleges and universities.
For example Designing farms, community developments, and even businesses in Australia and other arid environments necessarily involves thinking about the possible effects of drought and wildfires (among many other factors). Incorporating design solutions for the provision of water to support agricultural systems and human needs is of paramount importance in these regions.
In consideration of this, Permaculture Designers will proceed with employing design ideas from tried-and-true systems such as Keyline Design (see pic above), Earthworks (dams, swales, ponds, fire-mitigation strips), water storage and recycling systems, Ecological Restoration techniques, Reforestation techniques to prevent mudslides and erosion, and introducing fire-resistant and drought-tolerant plant and tree species.
If some of the farm, commercial and residential developments in drought and disaster areas had been intentionally-designed with these strategies from the start, we would not be witnessing the incredible level of destruction of life and property we see today. Some of these disasters are exacerbated by poor design of both human settlements and agricultural systems.
For 40+ years, independent Permaculture designers and consultants have led both large-scale and small-scale projects that have transformed landscapes into highly-productive and resilient ecosystems that provide for human needs, reduce human work, mitigate and minimize erosion, build soil, store water, support wildlife, and create sustainable local livelihoods.
Training in Permaculture Design is accomplished through the 72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate Course, also known as the PDC. There are options for attending 2+ week residential on-the-ground courses and also online. One of the leading providers of this course worldwide is the International Permaculture Education Center at PermacultureEducation.org
Unlike the conventional college and university education model of learning, education in Permaculture Design is completely decentralized. There is no head governing body or leading organization. The movement was designed this way intentionally by its founders – Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.
Permaculture Designers are self-governed by the global community of practitioners and are expected to closely follow the teaching and consulting directives set out by the founders. The majority of teachers and consultants honor and follow the directives, but there are exceptions – so it is important to inquire about the skills and qualifications of Permaculture Designers you intend to work with and/or obtain training certifications from.
Upon completion of the Permaculture Design Certificate Course, there are numerous options for advanced training from teachers around the world, including Permaculture Aid Worker Training, Organic gardening and farming, Aquaculture, Agroforestry, Water Harvesting and Earthworks, Ecological Building/Natural Building, Ecological Economics, Ecological Restoration, Social and Community Structures, Intentional Community Design, Renewable Energy Systems Design, and more.
Help Save the World – Become a Permaculture Designer!
It is time for the profession of Permaculture Design to be recognized for the common-sense design solutions it offers, all of which are directly applicable to the natural disasters and societal challenges we see in the world today.