Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society

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Student Research: Permaculture – Alternative Agriculture, part 1

Last year, students of the RCC Environmental Studies Certificate Program had the opportunity to attend a three-day workshop with Jochen Koller, Diploma Permaculture-Designer and Director of the Forschungsinstitut für Permakultur und Transition (FIPT). Students gained an insight into the ethics and design principles of permaculture, the diverse spheres of activity, and the practical possibilities. In this short series of posts, students reflect on their experiences at the workshop and on permaculture as an interdisciplinary approach to thinking, planning, and designing.

“Let’s Save the World by Gardening!”

By Marlen Elders

“Permaculture”—a neologism combining “permanent” and “agriculture”—is all about sustainability with the aim of creating a self-preserving world (Koller 2009, 9ff.). A permacultural gardener aims to create a symbiotic interaction between soil, plants, animals, and microorganisms, each of which profits from the other—ideally resulting in a positive outcome for the gardener too. Clearly, the concept comes with an ideology: the ethics of diversity and care that goes beyond bare agricultural methods. This idea is alive and kicking, still evolving, still improving, as the father of permaculture, Bill Mollison, hoped it would. He referred to permaculture as a tool that needs to be tested, modified, and developed further. He encouraged the creation of permaculture networks to exchange experiences and to spread knowledge amongst practitioners (Mollison and Holmgren 1985, 13).


Jochen Koller (right) with Alexander H. at Hummelhof, Elmatried. Photo by Ursula Münster.

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Snapshot: Zero Waste?


The amount of garbage accumulated over ten days by the average four-person French family. Photograph: Samantha Rothbart.

At the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (National Museum of Natural History) in Paris, the third floor of La Grande Galerie de l’Évolution (the Great Gallery of Evolution) is dedicated to humans’ impact on the environment. This collection of garbage represents a meager portion of the waste we produce globally. The RCC’s latest Perspectives volume, A Future without Waste? Zero Waste in Theory and Practiceasks if a world without waste can ever truly be achieved.