One core principle of permaculture is the use of edges. In nature, edges or border zones, like from a forest to grassland, are fertile systems that are abundant and diverse. Just like in nature, our societies are incredibly diverse, but often very compartmentalised. Socio-economic systems put us into groups or boxes based on sex, gender, ethnicity, academic performance, sexual orientation and wealth, and often mentally and physically separate us. Using the principle of using edge cultures means to facilitate societal change through breaking the harmful consequences of these boxes. If we let go of this compartmentalisation and promote equal opportunities for everyone, we will create a society that allows for the mixing and interaction of different ideas and beliefs, and ultimately for diversity to flourish. Just like in a food forest!
Many societies around the world are highly competitive and individualistic, fuelled by capitalism and meritocracy. Though, we often forget that cooperation is the foundation of such societies as well. We rely on farmers for our nutrition, nurses and doctors for medical care & train and bus drivers for transport. We’re all working together in this one big system.
In permaculture design, we try to achieve the same. As opposed to conventional vegetable gardens and large-scale farms, permaculture gardens aim to find synergies between the plants, focusing on each species qualities and how they can benefit the system as a whole. Contrary to what most people think, plants cooperate a lot with each other, exchanging nutrients, offering shade to plants that can’t stand full sun, helping each other deal with pests, improving soil quality, and the list goes on. It would be a big step forward if in society we can focus more on cooperation, finding these synergies between people and have appreciation for the services others provide us, as opposed to the current focus on competition where we try to be smarter, richer and more efficient than others.
I am glad to see and experience that a lot of the permaculture principles are also rooted in the social fabric of life at Ananda Valley. There are many different nationalities, age groups and backgrounds that foster an ever-changing environment and we often have stimulating discussions, with a focus on sustainability, self-development and spirituality. We try to find tasks that suit individual talents and interests, so that we can all contribute to the community in a way that everyone feels content and appreciated. It is communities like these that offer the framework of what a more just, equitable and eco-friendly future could look like and I feel lucky to be part of it.