On Wednesday, January 30th, Margaret Linggood spoke about Permaculture: Permanent (ie Sustainable) Culture.
A recent report (“Global Food: Waste Not Want Not”) produced by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers argues that half the food produced in the world today goes to waste. In poor countries this is mainly because of inadequate storage and distribution facilities, in rich countries because of sell-by dates and our throw-away habits. See the full report at http://www.imeche.org/Libraries/Reports/Global_Food_Report.sflb.ashx
The word ‘permaculture’ was originally derived from ‘permanent-agriculture’ (sustainable agriculture) but nowadays means ‘permanent-culture’ – in other words a sustainable lifestyle that includes everything.
So sustainable agriculture would be linked with the reduction of waste, recycling, soil and energy conservation and so on. And in a world where half the food we grow is wasted a permaculture approach to solving our problems is much needed!
“Modern” agriculture depends heavily on industrial fertilizers, requiring massive energy inputs (which may become prohibitively expensive as oil prices rise). Far better to work with natural processes which enhance soil productivity. But is this realistic with present-day world populations? Permaculture does not mean “going back” to the agricultural methods of 100 years ago which may have been adequate for much smaller populations. Today’s scientific knowledge is available for truly sustainable production for the future. But an important part of the debate is the political question of who controls agriculture today. For example, look at War on Want’s “Food Sovereignty” report (2011): http://www.waronwant.org/attachments/Food%20sovereignty%20report.pdf