Ethics and Manure

My first permaculture task? Mix equal parts of manure with mulch and spread it out! We did this – sort of because it was rather hot – at one of the urban eatable gardens. It is the active part of an urban permaculture design course I am embarking on as part of my transition. Most of the time in the garden, we spent walking around to learn about the interaction between plants and to taste some of the fruits of the labor of others. Even though it is still a young plot – only two years old – and the dry summer presented a new challenge, there is quite a bit growing. And tasty stuff, too!

Before we ventured out to the garden, we learned the basics of permaculture ethics and design principles. Permaculture ethics are summarized in the slogan “Earth Care. People Care. Fair Share.” Earth care includes vigilance of cycles, including their regularity and stability, and creating biodiversity. Biodiversity is not limited to native plants. Permaculture integrates all plants, including so called “invasive species.” There really are no invasive species because a new plant to a healthy ecosystem either integrates or dies. The rampant problems we have with non-native species is due to human destruction of the ecosystem. A functioning ecosystem cannot be invaded. Also, the immigration status does not matter: Whether a plant just arrived to an ecosystem or has been there for millennia does not matter. What matters is its potential contribution to the system. This is important to remember for people, too! Which could be part of people care, which more generally includes our happiness and health. We would like to design societies so that all of our needs are met. Fair share is a part of that because it asks us to set limits to our consumption. Let us only consume what we really need, which will probably be much less for most of us in the rich World. Fair Share includes distribution and access – global justice, really, something I will be learning more about later this semester in the political philosophy seminar I am taking.

There are twelve permaculture principles – as distilled by David Holmgren from the many more principles in the designers’ manual. I will not recount the principles here since there is a beautiful website introducing them. These principles are really what underlies the whole design system. My current favorite is principle 10: Use and value diversity! This is probably the one principle most applicable to the expansion of our newly narrowed definition of “relationship.” Instead of putting all of our eggs in one relationship basket (The One; The Soul Mate), we need to use and value a diverse set of friendships and relationships. Only when we expand our circle of love beyond the nuclear family can we thrive. Cross posted here.