Published:  02:27 AM, 05 November 2019

Permaculture: A sustainable solution to climate change problem

Permaculture: A sustainable solution to climate change problem

The earth, in its 4.5 billion years, has evolved to find a comfortable, relatively stable climate for all of man's' history. This was accomplished through a process that began way before people came along what is called 'the carbon cycle'. The symbiosis of plants breathing in CO2 and exhaling O2 while the animals breathe in O2 and exhale CO2. This symbiosis has found such balance and stability that for the last 10,000 years the world has seen less than a one-degree Celsius change in the earth's temperature.

As a result, flora and fauna have thrived. For 10,000 years, nature has managed to maintain its balance in spite of the presence of man. Human activity worked in concert with nature, not against it.  That is, until now. The past 200 years, and mostly the last 60 years, the world has seen an incredible shift in nature's balance. 

The use of fossil fuels continually rising has released millions of years of carbon that was stored deep within the earth's soil, now working against nature, once slowly, but now rapidly destroying what remains, this delicate balance gone. Life threatening heat waves all over Europe, burning of Amazon rainforest and states of Emergencies are unfolding on the wider horizon.

The amount of carbon that the Amazon rainforest is absorbing from the carbon emissions is now significantly less and less. All these did not just happen in one night. These are the consequential result of mankind carelessly wasting finite resources and living outside of their means and are now continuously contributing to the destructive impact of the human race and placing everything they love at risk.

Climate will keep on changing with the rampant industrialization in cities and towns. The ecosystem is now threatened by collapse, which will not only lead to mass extinction of countless species, the loss of soil fertility and more extreme weather but will also bring with it the social crises of famine, war and migration.In the near future, disasters will begin happening simultaneously with increased frequency and severity.

The world will see more civil unrest, mass hysteria, widespread suffering and death. Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), global warming, or climate change, it does not matter what it is called or if someone believes in it or not; it is escalating too fast and there will come a time soon when this planet is beyond the point of no return. Whether or not it is already beyond the point of no return can be a debatable issue but even if it is true, the world must still do what it can to reduce future greenhouse gas emissions.

That means real change - not just platitudes by politicians about recycling or making the world greener by imposing global carbon tax. That being said, there is no single solution to combat the climate change. So right now what this planet and its people need is an aggressive combination of approaches that will fully address the issue. Permaculture is one such thing because it literally has all the solutions the world needs. It consists of a whole encyclopaedia of ecological wisdom that people need to survive for thousands of years into the future.  

If human beings are going to survive this biggest threat they have ever experienced, they need to shift their perspective towards ecologically functional design for cities and towns. They should rehabilitate large scale degraded landscapes and create food forests that can provide food security that is resilient to climate change. All this can be done with permaculture design.  

Permaculture is not extractive, unsustainable or favouring non-renewable technological solutions over renewable and self-replicating biological solutions. The fundamental point of permaculture is to design a system that is indefinitely sustainable. Any technology that uses finite non-renewable resources, produces harmful waste and/or is not completely recyclable at the end of its life, isn't really permaculture.

Human beings must be well aware of the fact that they are emitting lot of carbon dioxide through their energy use. Burning fossil fuel is the major driver of climate change which warms the earth. There is literally no way to burn fossil fuels, or even mine fossil fuels, without putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Nobody can compromise with the laws of physics.

But right now, right today, individuals as well as organizations can stop looking for new opportunities in fossil fuels, stop expanding their fossil fuel business through new pipelines, through fresh investment. Right now, right today, they can stop giving tax benefits and government welfare to fossil fuel corporations, and use the money instead to develop a broad-based renewables system, including nuclear energy, sustainable on the only planet they have available.  

Moving forward, using nature as the guide, it is indeed possible to redesign society to be in sync with nature once again. Humankind can once more be part of rather than feeling bigger or better than nature. This is exactly what permaculture is all about: creating food forests rather than barren fields, creating regenerative, rather than degenerative systems.

In doing so, they will create many levels of food producing, CO2 sequestering, oxygen supplying, water storing, soil creating, life giving, planted living systems that work with nature rather than against her.   Rather than stubbornly insisting on the continued use of fossil fuels, rather than maintain the harmful status quo, they must begin collecting and storing energy of many forms. They must learn to value and use renewable sources. They must learn to integrate rather than segregate. They must learn to use, reuse, and repurpose, producing no waste. 

The planet isn't sustainable without trees. Above & beyond just helping to remove excess CO2 from the earth's atmosphere, planting trees would do so many good things. Trees contribute, as a critical member, to the overall health of the local ecosystem. Trees help hold the soil in place, and shade the ground below, slowing down evaporation.   Humankind should be pioneering a green industrial revolution, encouraging entrepreneurs away from the traditional biotech/electronics/internet start-ups, towards anti-pollution start-ups. They surely must fight by both reducing/stopping pollution and finding technological solutions. They need to change over to green energy sources and use energy efficient transportation.  

But there are only so much individuals can do, the big changes require national and international action. Policy shapes action and action shapes the world. If policy isn't sustainable, the world of humans and natural world suffers. Policy is inherent in permaculture because the concept underlies how humans view the earth and its usefulness. So there needs to be concerted international actions pursued with a determination similar to the way wars are fought, a program of education is also necessary as, even now a substantial proportion of the planet's population is unaware how serious the problem is.

The countries need more policies which promote renewable energy and discourage coal and oil (and nuclear energy to some extent). Governments need to take prompt action to decarbonize, mass tree plantation and scientists need to devise ways to capture CO2 and methane from the environment. There are few climate talks regarding capturing CO2 and turning it into coal, but it should be done at a larger scale. It is the dire need of the hour. Permaculture ethics and principles need to be implemented in the governments and corporations. Earth Care, People Care, and Return of Surplus towards Earth Care and People Care should be common places ethics throughout organized human endeavours. 

This current civilization is quite simply eliminating life on earth, piece by piece, tree by tree, hectare by hectare, species by species. Climate change is the greatest threat to humanity and it is already affecting populations across the globe, and its impact will be catastrophic if left unabated. Without enough action, people will live in a world where the wealthiest nations will survive if not prosper and the poorest will wallow in poverty and war. So there is a need of major systematic change, sustainable practices, and a more circular economy-although consumerism is also a major issue still have to be tackled.

The climate is changing for all sorts of reasons and this world is now caught like a rabbit in the headlights facing the car crash. The decisions that are now made are the difference between a planets that's 5-6° C hotter by 2100 or one that's 2° hotter by then. Over the years, human beings have taken a lot of energy from Mother Nature's storage bins deep within the earth and released the heat back into the atmosphere.

They have reaped the benefits and enjoyed the gifts that the earth has provided. But it's time they all start to give back so that Mother Nature can come back to safe zone again and permaculture can help do just that.   

The writer is a student, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. He can be reached at:[email protected]  

---Muhammad Ibrahim Shah

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