Can #permaculture regenerate our cities?

by Emily Townsend
September, 2017

Permaculture works in a circular, sustainable, and self-sufficient manner, whereas capitalism is based off a unilinear, unsustainable, and exploitative model. The question we explored at this coFood event was: “Could we use the ideas of permaculture to move towards a post-capitalist economic system that is less destructive?”

During coFood’s #permaculture informational dinner, we gathered together to explore how permaculture principles can be applied, not only to agriculture, but also to economics. We began the evening sharing a delicious meal of vegetarian and meat tacos provided by La Taqueria, and raw vegan chocolate brownies handmade by Emily McGill. This shared meal sparked connection and conversation on the topic of the night: permaculture.

After dinner, Christopher Nowlin presented his recently published journal article “Understanding and Undermining the Growth Paradigm.” In his paper he explains how the current economic system relies on the idea of attaining constant growth, and fears any type of stagnation. In the name of “growth” human life has become a vicious cycle of laboring and consuming, creating an exploitative system of shaping the natural world in a way that only serve humans. Nowlin highlights that a permaculturist approach is different; it understands that a healthy ecological system (and economic system) works best when it is in a balanced and interconnected state with all its parts.

Using some help from the Gaiacraft permaculture principles design deck, we moved on from Nowlin’s presentation to exploring permaculture principles as a group. We gathered around a table in groups of four to engage in a design charette using Gaiacraft’s deck of cards to co-create a vision for coFood’s Collaborative Garden. Each card explained and asked questions based on different permaculture concepts. These concepts provoked ideas for how we could continue using a permaculturalist approach to the Collaborative Garden during cold and rainy fall days.

On this night we focused largely on permaculture in relation to coFood’s Collaborative Garden and the notion that the permaculturalist conversation is one that we must have in order to reassess human’s post-capitalist system. It has become evident that we cannot continue to just take but must rather incorporate a more balanced and holistic design process to create a regenerative society.