By Mark Lundegren
Many of us within HumanaNatura are strong advocates of permaculture and the placing of greater emphasis on ecological sustainability in our lives and global society.
After all, in many areas of modern life – from the foods we eat to the cars we drive and the houses we live in – we have not achieved ecologically sustainable practices. Overall, our general mode of life today threatens the planet (and us) with long-term environmental degradation. Given this, the ideals and growing science of permaculture have great appeal.
Unfortunately, not all practices that occur or are advocated in the name of permaculture today are true to its essential goal of environmental sustainability, which can be thought of alternatively as ensuring ecological health. At the same time, and as I will highlight, other permaculture practices that do foster ecological sustainability can be shown to be less than optimal from the standpoint of promoting human health.
In fact, when we broadly survey current permaculture practices, we can see these two shortcomings quite frequently, at least in part reflecting permaculture’s early and still developing nature as a field of applied science. Importantly, however, these common permaculture shortfalls appear readily correctable – via new effort to achieve deeper understanding and improved application of the inter-related science that spans ecological and human health considerations.
At the same time, these less than optimal “permaculture” practices are revealing. They circularly reflect and perpetuate ecological and human health misunderstanding in our time. They lead to misdirected efforts and resources. And they ultimately weaken or slow the essential modern advancement that is permaculture’s basic proposal of fully sustainable human living arrangements.
For these reasons, I would like to take up and encourage new exploration of contemporary permaculture principles and practices from a natural health perspective, one that spans both ecological and human health research. In the discussion that follows, I will begin by first illustrating important ecological and human health gaps or misconceptions that are now fairly widespread in self-identified permaculture practices.
But more importantly, I will then show how these gaps can be promptly closed through a more holistic and careful use of available human and ecological health science. This critical change can help aspiring and practicing permaculturalists achieve a larger and more accurate sense of our long-evolved human condition, as well as an improved understanding on how our environmental and species health needs can be concurrently and synergistically pursued.
In this essential discussion for anyone interested in human and ecological health issues, I will sample modern eating practices, in and out of present-day self-described permaculture efforts, and explore their underlying relationship to modern food production methods. This approach will allow me to demonstrate how a re-naturalized, more optimal, and fully sustainable model for both modern human eating and modern food production can be achieved via a new and broader synthesis of contemporary health, ecological, and evolutionary science.
Before continuing, however, let me underscore that this companion and complementary exploration of ecological and human health science has implications far beyond the topics of nutrition and food production. In principle, the approach can be applied productively to many other domains of modern life and endeavor – in essence, wherever human and ecological health goals may or must be pursued in tandem.