Monday, May 10, 2010

Urban Permaculture

excerpted from an EarthLight magazine article by Jeff Brown

The Problem is the solution. Follow the bread crumbs backward. When asked to visualize a sustainable living environment, many of us envision a rural farm-like setting with lots of land and plenty of natural resources around that can support our needs. The reality, though, is that most North American's live in cities.

So we are faced with the difficult question. "How can permaculture address life in a city?"When applying Permaculture to an urban environment, it is especially important to understand the principle, "the problem is the solution." We all know that it is very easy to identify problems in most cities, but this can work to our advantage if we are intent on creating solutions rather than merely drawing attention to the problems. First, we might think of a city's characteristics in terms of an ecosystem such as a forest. A mature forest has a forest canopy, which in a city is the top of tall buildings. Mid-sized buildings can be anagolous to the forest understory. Small buildings and other human and natural structures are parallel to a forest's shrubs and ground cover. Finally, the city equivelant to a forest's soil could be streets, sidewalks and yards. Once we look at the city's elements as opportunities to create beauty through design, we begin to fiind solutions, including:

* Building greenhouses and planting gardens in vacant lots. Turning our grass lawns into gardens that produce food and are aesthetically beautiful. Creating community by combining backyards with our neighbors, tearing down fences to create bigger parcels of usable land. Using the presence of buildings to cultivate plants that need partial shade or vertical climbing space. Designing a water catchment system on the roofs of our houses that can provide all the water needs for the garden.
* Building bridges between biological, cultural, social and economic sustainability.

Remember, it is a conscious choice for us to see "impediments" to rebuilding sustainabale cities and "resources" and "opportunites." Urban areas have lots of energetic people who, when putting their minds and hearts together, can create beautiful, healthy, liivng environments in the midst of supposed chaos.