Permaculture is an ecological design system. It’s based on the way ecosystems work and how people have traditionally worked with their local ecosystems to grow or find food and meet their other needs within that system. It’s a system that’s about much more than gardening techniques: the principles of permaculture are very useful concepts that you can use in your home and personal life as well.
I love permaculture, but this I find “the problem is the solution” to be one of the most challenging principles to implement in practice. What if all of your problems contain a solution inside them? That’s a difficult thought.
Learning From Nature
What happens in nature when there is a problem? Let’s use the example of an animal or plant that is overabundant. It’s taking over. There are a few things that might happen here. The first is that the population will start to regulate itself. If there are too many deer, then over time there will not be enough food, and the population will go down. The problem solves itself, as the environment for the deer is necessarily limited. Alternatively, predators that enjoy eating deer might increase in numbers, solving the problem. Suddenly, you’ll have more mountain lions around. Again, the size of the deer population solves its own problem.
This is not always the case, of course. Sometimes that deer population will keep growing since the deer continue to find sources of new food, such as that garden you’ve conveniently planted. At other times, humans may have eliminated some of the ecological fail-safes in the area. In areas where people have hunted the top predators, there’s no one except people to jump into that ecological gap and hunt the deer.
Learn more: How To Grow A Garden Guild
Applying the Principle in Your Home and Garden
When people are part of the picture, we have a tendency to complicate and over think these ecological events. When I try to apply this principle, you can probably find steam coming out of my ears, along with mutterings of “There must be a solution in this problem. Somewhere.”
Let’s take the problem of dandelions. They’re all over your lawn, right? You need to spend time weeding, or you spend time and money putting weed killer on them. However, dandelions are a great solution. They are food for your bees and they’re food and medicine for you. Suddenly, you might find yourself consciously cultivating more of this problem!
How about English Ivy? This pretty plant likes to stealthily crawl all over your garden and home, taking away habitat from other species and removing your siding. However, it is a solution for nesting birds who live inside its protective branches, and if you remove it before nesting season, its tough branches are your rope and basket solution.
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Then there are the snails. My, there are so many in your garden. Should you ply them with beer or bait? You could, but you could also add more habitat to your garden to attract birds, who will do that job and many others in your garden, or you can add ducks to your home ecosystem.
You can do the same thing with other home problems and even personal ones. For example, at the nature center where I work, the many children walking through the forest has started to damage the undergrowth. This is a problem. The solution? Get each group to plant and mulch, having them participate in restoration.
When you look at problems as solutions, ask yourself how your problem could bring something new and good to your life. If you look at your problems in a different way, there could be some wonderful opportunities inside them.
How have you turned problems into solutions in your own home?
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