By Christopher Nyerges
I can recall perhaps 30 years ago when I was first asked about “permaculture.”
It was a new word to me, so I asked, “What’s that?”
Permaculture, I learned, is a term to describe a set of design principles based on the integration of sustainable agriculture, ecosystems and even sustainable societies. It was coined in 1978 Bill Mollison, the teacher and biologist who developed and promoted permaculture – short for “permanent agriculture.” Permaculture originally applied to farming and gardening, but is now understood to include providing for food, energy, shelter and other human needs in ways that are in sync with nature.
As I studied permaculture more, I realized that the concept was as old as all sustainable methods of agriculture the world over, going back to the beginning of recorded time.
At the Permaculture Academy, located in Highland Park, local resident Larry Santoyo, a permaculture teacher and practitioner for 28 years, offers a rigorous, six-week course in the principles and techniques of permaculture design. “Our design course uses the garden as a metaphor for learning how to balance ecosystems, building business enterprise, and establishing community resilience within an urban landscape,” Santoyo explains. The teaching methods include hands-on learning, real projects and one-on-one mentorship.
Santoyo turned his attention to land use planning after a career in law enforcement. He was mentored by Mollison and taught with him in the United States and Australia. He has also taught environmental design at colleges and universities nationwide. Today, Santoyo is a senior designer at Earthflow Designs of Los Angeles, one of the largest permaculture companies in the world.
“Permaculture is an ancient technology,” says Santoyo. “It looks at the natural world and realizes that the natural world works already, and so it’s best if we can harmonize with it, not reinvent the wheel. We always ask, ‘how would nature do it?’”
Asking that question and answering it means using no toxins, having no wasteful products and, ultimately, using things that are better for the planet. “Following the principles of permaculture allows us to be more in charge of resources,” says Santoyo. “The principles can be applied to any discipline and any skills.”
The next design class, which begins the first weekend in October, has filled up, but you can be added to the waitlist. Classes are held on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at a location where safe social distancing can be practiced.
Christopher Nyerges is the author of many books and teaches self-reliance classes; see the class schedule at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com
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