New Mexico is at the heart of a revolution. The new green revolution has begun with a common view and practices that will provide food and fiber that are economically sound, environmentally wise and socially and culturally appropriate now and into the future. Sustainability of natural resources and our own connection with the Earth improve with the practice of Permaculture. “Permanent Agriculture” is the conscious design and maintenance of cultivated ecosystems, which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape, people and appropriate technologies, providing goods, shelter, energy and other needs in a sustainable way. Permaculture is a philosophy and an approach to land use which works with natural rhythms and patterns, weaving together the elements of microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, water, soil management, and human needs into intricately connected and productive communities. All living systems are centered around energy flow. The existing energetic forces in the high desert of New Mexico, sun, rain, wind, humans, and money act through systems; whether that system is a garden, a family or a business. In a permaculture system, position interconnects elements in the system into beneficial relationships. When designed correctly, such a system will become, like a natural ecosystem, increasingly diverse and self-sustaining. Permaculture is based on three ethics: Care of the Earth, Care of the People and Setting limits to population and consumption. By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the first two principles. Successful permaculture systems have three guiding principles that have proven successful. The first principle is that each element must perform multiple functions within the system. An example would be the cherry tree outside a home in the valley. The small tree bears fruit or a cash crop, the rotten cherries fall or get eaten by birds, spreading the fruit and also fertilizing the ground for the berries that grow in the shade. The twigs are used for kindling in the winter and the leaves act as mulch in the compost pile. The second principle is that each desired function is supported by multiple elements (shade is provided). Lastly, interconnectivity is vital. The susceptibility and output of a New Mexican permaculture system is not dependent on the number of elements, but rather the number of varied exchanges. Think about the diversity and richness of an old growth forest versus that of a monoculture tree farm. Water is the dominant energy theme in dryland permaculture design. New Mexico and the Colorado Plateau have water resources that are being diminished at astonishing rates and the “ownership” of that water is being disputed with ever increasing fervor. When we take a step back from the water crisis and evaluate the sources of water and the lasting climatic and geographic patterns of our state, a drought should be no surprise. Water system quantity fluctuates dramatically in the high altitude deserts of the world, being subject to varying inland climatic patterns due to dramatic mountain ranges and complicated geomorphology. The pattern that many hydrologists and climatologists suggest is governance of our consumption. This can be done by various means: “gray water” systems, rainwater catchments or drought tolerant plant species. Two other sources of energy in New Mexico are sun and wind. By taking advantage of these forces, we can harvest and store amazing amounts of energy and build our communities with a more “earth cultural” mindset. Traditions Converge
In New Mexico there is a rich legacy of profound human interconnection with the land and its blessings of food plants. The native peoples of this region hold an intimate connection with the land and plant life. When the Spanish arrived in the 15th century they brought with them their own plants and practices, and when the Anglos arrived later they transported many botanical allies as well as foes. These traditions converged to form a rich and unique legacy, which serves as a primary source of health and healing. At the heart of is the profound reservoir of indigenous knowledge, gleaned from millennia of living in intimate relationship with the natural world. Throughout the year ceremonial dances and rituals celebrate the gifts of the earth, giving thanks for corn, beans, seeds, rain and the mysterious tapestry of sacred relationships that sustain human beings and all life. Modern agribusiness built an industry based on the use of packaged hybrid seeds and toxic chemicals. The restoration of Native food plant and cultural heritage will be a difficult task, and is necessary for the evolution of permaculture design. We must use innovative, viable models for environmental restoration and implement them at the same level of importance as other political endeavors. Permaculture is about understanding our human relationship to place; it is about being attached, connected, and belonging to the essence of these natural places and the delicate environmental balance. The cycles of energy to matter and matter to energy, and of birth, death and rebirth are ongoing. A slender thread binds the weave tight in the intricate, mysterious fabric of life, and yet we have been blindly unraveling the tapestry of creation. As we strain to find the limits of the natural world, we can no longer escape the knowledge that we are inseparable from our surroundings and that our fates are the same. Permaculture principles are being used on every continent except for Antarctica. Design solutions exist worldwide for every environment and technological, social and economic needs can be modeled on natural systems.