10/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Permaculture: Homegrown Independence


"What permaculturists are doing is the most important activity that any
group is doing on the planet. We don't know what details of a truly
sustainable future are going to be like, but we need options, we need
people experimenting in all kinds of ways and permaculturists are one of
the critical gangs that are doing that."
-Dr David Suzuki geneticist, broadcaster
and international environmental advocate

We speak of independence as if it is some sort of brand name. Something that we just naturally have, although rarely do we reflect on exactly what it means. In actuality, how independent are we?

Of course I could go into some diatribe about how our freedoms are being stripped away from us in the name of security (fear), but this is much simpler -- something at our basic level of existence.

If the power were to go out tomorrow, or if oil prices went to $200 a barrel, what would happen to our daily lives? Many people have experienced blackouts, but lets imagine that the power doesn't come back on.

Do we like the idea of independence, but how dependent are we on cheap oil, cheap and clean water, and food grown by strangers shipped from thousands of miles away? Seriously...think about this.

Western Civilization has tangled itself into a thick web where interconnectedness thrives. Never before in known history have so many people relied on so few for the basic essentials of life. Over eight million people in New York City depend on electricity and water from only a few companies. If we blatantly need multinational corporations and governments to provide us with food, shelter, water, and transportation, are we, in fact free?

Truthfully, the answer is no. We need someone else to take care of us. Even if we pay for these items with our money, we still need them to provide these essentials. Like a child who decides to run away from home, we realize that without mom and dad taking care of us, the world can be a very scary place.

So what is the path to real freedom? Permaculture.

Permaculture is the idea of creating livable "closed-loop" ecosystems that provide food for humans, habitats for wild animals, and eliminates waste by working with nature by mimicking it instead of constantly fighting against it. Key ideas are planting fruit trees, having a garden, collecting rainwater, and composting.

The beauty of this is that almost everyone can retrofit their homes and yards to adopt these principles. Not much land is needed, and after the initial expense, costs are minimal. Fruit trees will continue to give high quality fruit for decades for the simple cost of picking it. Food expenses could be diverted to vacations, self-improvement, or simply money in the bank.

Is it not in one's best interest to have the freshest organic foods grown at home by loved ones and free of toxic pesticides? Imagine what a positive impact that might have on everyone's health.

Could we envision the suburbs turning into edible forests inhabited by humans and wild animals alike? Fruit trees would line our streets, and neighbors would start sharing their harvests with one another. Not only would our connection with nature be greatly strengthened, but also our connection with our fellow human beings.

Even if we live in a city, we can grow some of our food on our windowsills or fire escapes. We can take part in community gardens, or even create our own. How about saving money and eventually purchasing affordable land hours away from the city where we can plant our trees and start our gardens? We are only limited by our lack of spirit and creativity.

Even if nothing were to threaten our modern way of life, if society were to keep chugging along and costs stabilized, wouldn't this still be a wise way to live? At the very least its a wise investment. A home surrounded by fruit trees and grape vines is far more valuable than one with just turf grass.

I believe that it is the right of every single sentient being on this planet to be healthy and free. As long as we are tied into this modern way of life, our hands are bound. Permaculture is quite possibly the best way to liberate ourselves from this, and create paradise on Earth. It is simply mind-boggling how beneficial this all is. Start learning and planting soon, because there is no better time than now.

This model for living is good for our health (both physical AND mental), good for our bank accounts, and good for the Earth. Lets get selfish and start planting some fruit trees.