There is no doubt that Permaculture has the potential to bring about a lot of good by addressing multiple issues, including: the enhancing and repair of damaged eco systems, the provision of cleanly grown local food, community development by bringing communities together through skill and produce sharing and swapping, and a level of independence from the locked in effect of low pay and debt that our economic model has forced us into.
So when we consider that Permaculture is spreading across the globe like wildfire why isn’t this stuff getting out there to everyone? i.e. – people on low incomes, unemployed folk, and anybody else who is being shafted by our corporate Politicians? In the UK Permaculture overwhelmingly seems to be the preserve of middle class folk as I am sure it is in most places, this is easily explained, Middle class people have been educated, they have more disposable income and time so it makes sense that they would find permaculture and embrace it, others have not had these privileges and it is therefore unlikely that would come across permaculture in their daily lives.
As a working class man I have only been able to educate myself in permaculture design because of two things, firstly through my own self alienation as a young punk rocker who discovered DIY culture back in the early 80s, where I had to step outside of my upbringing to find knowledge and information about different ways of living and thinking, and secondly I was only able to stump up the cash to undertake a Permaculture design course because I had once been paid in advance for work which meant that I had some readily available disposable cash, albeit based on work that still had to carry out after my Permaculture training.
In my darker moments I something think, does anyone in the movement even care that there is a desperate need to get these ideas onto council estates in and into social housing, or is it all about keeping it confined to alternative culture and running off to the sticks and buying a smallholding somewhere in Devon? But I am sure that there are many within the broader permaculture movement that do care deeply about this and are working to address it.
So how do we get permaculture onto our housing estates? This is something that we have been trying to work with for some time now, it wasn’t easy when we started out and isn’t easy now. Our way of getting Permaculture into working class households is mainly through our community food growing projects, we don’t go steaming into council estates talking about repairing eco systems and banging on about food sovereignty and nutrition, we believe that we can bring bout these things by getting people out into their gardens and getting them growing some of their daily resources.
As part of our work we do ask our growers to go and research permaculture online, but since many either dont have access to the internet or would struggle getting to get to grips with the theoretical and philosophical stuff of permaculture we try keep everything as practical as possible. You wont find permaculture staples such as swales or herb spirals in any of our growers gardens because these are not suitable strategies for our growers needs.
what you will find is a few raised beds, a couple of fruit trees and bushes and some herbs growing. We have to start somewhere and local food production like permaculture has multiple benefits attached to it. At Bolton Urban Growers we have simple saying that encompasses many of our beliefs ‘If you grow and eat healthy food from your garden, you have the strength to fight back’