Throughout 2015 I will be looking at Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Principles. I have allocated one principle per month at random. I will aim to find a relevant image, some quotations around the subject, some possible applications and a challenge for myself that relates to the principle and the Permaculture activity I am involved in at that time.
January ‘Energy cycling’
The image shows a leaf that has recently fallen from an oak tree and come to settle on the snowy ground in my local woods. It will be broken down by the actions of time, life-forms and the weather. As it decomposes it brings life to the forest floor and add fertility to allow more trees to grow, bloom, then drop their leaves in turn and continue the cycle.
“Our work as Permaculture designers is to prevent energy leaving before the basic needs of the whole system are satisfied, so that growth, reproduction and maintenance continue in our living components” Bill Mollison
“Energy Cycling: Permaculture systems intend to stop the flow of energies off-site and instead turn them into cycles. The interaction between plants and animals produces energy, which is caught, stored, used and re-cycled. Incoming energy –sun, water, wind, manures– are used at its highest possible use, then its next highest, and so on. “Source to sink”: moving water across the landscape in a series of interlinking ponds to prevent erosive runoff. Cascading nutrients: turning the waste of one product into a multitude of other products using various life kingdoms i.e. plants, animals, bacteria, and fungus. Kitchen wastes to compost, animal manure to biogas, grey water to the garden.” Bill Mollison ‘Introduction to Permaculture’
“Design to make the best use of any energy or resources moving through a site. Link as many elements together as you can to create self-sustaining cyclic systems.” Aranya ‘Permaculture design a step-by-step guide’
I use this principle in my garden. I use prunings, weedings, animal bedding and food scraps to add to my compost bin or compost in place to return fertility to the soil. My local council supply ‘green’ bins for garden scraps but I declined to take one. I see my neighbours filling up these bins every week at the same time as buying compost from the garden centre. By keeping the fertility in my garden I hope to avoid having to buy in too much additional fertility from outside the system.
I wondered if I could apply this principle to a Zone 00 design (zone 00 means the self) I am working on a design currently about health, nutrition and exercise. Personal energy or lack of it has been a big issue for me over the last eight years of baby-raising and broken sleep. I felt very much like I needed to retain my energy whenever possible, so resisted exercising for a long time as I felt I did not have spare energy to burn. However, my attitude has now changed as I have began building exercise into my life and noticing that it actually inputs energy into my life.
I have done a quick input/output analysis and looked at where I could make links between energy needs and yields and ensure energy is being cycled around the system. I noticed how interlinked five elements were, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, taking exercise, achieving my tasks and finding time for myself. If one of these elements fails for any reason, then the whole system is thrown into disarray. So how can I ensure these energy needs are satisfied, energy continues to cycle and the system remains resilient? That is my challenge for this month.