Observing nature has been an act of learning for the human being. Our grandparents woke up at dawn to receive the first light of day and walk with the sun. Many of the native cultures of America were governed by the movement of the stars, creating calendars that calculated the rhythm of the tides, the solstices, the hot or rainy seasons.
The lunar cycles governed the times to go fishing, put the seeds in the ground and go out to collect fruits. The women who knew how to speak with the plants asked permission when cutting them, extracting their medicinal properties to heal their people. At night, bonfires were lit to look at the stars, reinforcing the identity of the towns.
It was like this for a long time, but the memory was erased by force of a progress that disintegrated the ancestral communities of the continent in exchange for individual wealth. The supremacy of man over nature was then gestated to achieve a comfort in which one aspired to work less and enjoy more. We were educated to analyze everything from an egocentric point of view, in which the human is at the top of a pyramid, becoming master of all living creatures.
We have placed thousands of animal, vegetable and mineral species on university sideboards where the essence of life has disappeared. Under this logic based on patriarchal capitalism, it was decided that we can use and abuse the environment, which is why we mine to extract gold or copper, using highly toxic products that leak into the aquifers, causing cancer among many other diseases that especially affect to the most vulnerable populations. In other words, we see without observing.
It was the Australians Bill Mollison and David Holgrem who coined the word permaculture in the 1970s. They thus defined the models created by the human being that imitate the ecosystems of nature. Within these systems, each of the elements that make them up maintain a close reciprocal relationship, which is why one of the principles of permaculture is “one element fulfills multiple functions”.
For its creators ¬–and for the thousands of people who practice it around the world– permaculture is a logical way to live. For example, houses can be built with local materials that can withstand fires, earthquakes, or hurricanes, since we adapt to the climatic demands of the place.
In this sense, human settlements do not break with the landscape, but integrate harmoniously. The gray and black water is filtered, the water is heated with solar energy, it is cultivated without synthetic pesticides, native species are reintroduced or ponds are made that reflect the sunlight to our house, saving money on electricity. Spaces are also created that mature over the long term but eventually become very stable and require minimal maintenance. The philosophy of permaculture is based on caring for the environment and the human being in a healthy, lasting, self-sustaining and respectful relationship.
In a model like this, all knowledge is useful and science is not opposed to art or the humanities, so we have to look for personal, family and community solutions. Doctors, lawyers, painters, teachers, healers, they can create a very strong community, since cooperation is better than competition.
Permaculture suggests taking care of our resources in a rational way while maintaining a good state of mental, physical and emotional health. We, the heirs of the magnificent civilizations that inhabited the continent, have received a very deep knowledge that we must practice in every corner of the planet. Permaculture is a relatively new concept, it is important to remember that our grandparents practiced it thousands of years ago. It is time to resume this wisdom to be masters and not slaves of our destiny.