When acting appropriately, humans can have a deep positive impact on the ecological systems upon which we all depend on to survive and thrive. This idea that humans are good for the earth seemed to fly in the face of every dominant narrative in the culture that I grew up in (New Jersey, USA). Everywhere around me, the message was clear. Humans are destroying the planet. We are supposed to be consuming less. Moving around less. In fact, I had come to believe, prior to permaculture, that even the mere fact that I was alive and in need of food, water, and shelter put me at direct odds with the ecosystem and the planet as a whole. Reduce my footprint. Because every time I take a step, I am destroying the planet. WTF?
Wow. Just wow. That is messed up. I began to see how damaging this idea is for the culture of humanity. How can we ever be at home? How can we ever feel welcome and that we can actually do some good in this world, when at the core level, we have internalized the idea that we are bad for the planet?
The whole idea of nature conservation says that humans should not interact with a delicate ecosystem, because they will inevitably destroy it. Weirdly, this is almost a license for humans to destroy ‘un-conserved’ land. It basically says, “Hey, humans are bad for the planet and will always end up destroying the places they live and work in, so lets at least keep some land off limits from this horrible species.”
The worst part of all this is that young people grow up without any connection to nature and with a belief that if they interact with nature they will destroy. We have become completely severed from the beauty, wisdom, and abundance of nature. This is not only sad, it is dangerous.
The most important thing that permaculture teaches us is that we can enhance the environments in which we live and work. We can make them better. As crazy as that sounds, it is true. We can make the environment more beautiful, more diverse, and more resilient than any version of the ecosystem that excludes human beings.
Permaculture gives us a framework for designing human behavior that is ethical and ecological. It gives us the tools to build resilient systems that meet our needs while simultaneously enhancing the ecosystem they are a part of. In permaculture, we design ecosystems that are human inclusive. In permaculture, we recognize the innate gifts of human beings and seek to implement thee gifts for the betterment of all living beings. It is not only possible, it is fun, and it is beautiful.