Permaculture in Palestine

I have to hand it to ghirbaal. He entitled a recent post that mentions biodiversity Don’t You Quote Hobbes at Me, Nature Boy. That piqued my interest enough to go and take a look, and it proved a fascinating read. ghirbaal seems to be based in Jordan, and was reporting on a permaculture conference that he had been to in Marda, a village in Palestine. Marda is the site of an experimental permaculture farm. That’s interesting in itself, but besides the point.

ghirbaal gives a very clear account of what permaculture offers and the rationale behind most of its design principles.

I appreciate the ease with which permaculturalists acknowledge and celebrate the historical precedence of and continued ability of mankind to productively interact with his environment (while recognizing the destructiveness of some of the later instantiations of this ability). Mankind is likewise bound to the networks of ecological connections, though with a degree of flexibility, which permaculture tries to mobilize. And, personally, I likewise appreciate the sense in which permaculture design tries to break down the boundaries between the house and the garden, and explore ways in which they can fruitfully interact with each other, such that the house can become inseparable from the garden, and vice versa.

It seems to be with the realpolitik of permaculture that he (?) finds the greatest difficulty. The questions of scale and of focus are the big problem. Can permaculture ever supply the amount of food that might sustain a culture rather than a family? Moreover, can permaculture adapt itself to a society in which the individual dwelling, nestling in its carefully designed and tended permcultured acres, is not in fact the way most people want to live?

I’m not going to attempt to summarize the rest of the argument. I’ll just say that there are some thought-provoking ideas (if Israeli settlements were more sustainable, would that increase or decrease international support for them?) that are well worth exposing yourself to.

One Reply to “Permaculture in Palestine”

  1. With all due respect, I think the question of exactly how much we can produce with a system that does the things in this quote (I agree these are the strong points of permaculture) puts the cart before the horse. The focus on production stats as a criteria for action argues for monoculture– or at least it has in the past. We know we can produce more corn per acre by taking everything else off the land, for instance, but we haven’t yet accounted for the sum of all that might be produced in a diverse and sustained environment.

    Permaculture seems to me not so much a particular method (though it certainly has that) but an attitude. As such it is not a palliative, but a commitment to care for the land and in so doing to develop intricate knowledge of particular landscapes.

    Given nature’s complexity and dynamism, we cannot control it– but we can work with it in such a way that we make room for unintended positive consequences rather than the unintended negative consequences “industrial farming” has brought us.

    There were, for instance, the consequences to the land (increasing its abundance, fertility and diversity) resulting from the traditional activities of the agro-hunters and gatherers and fisherpeople of the Pacific Northwest who worked in careful concert with their land (See M. Kat Anderson’s TENDING THE WILD). We cannot return to the past, but we can honor some of those values and methods, as the modern Gaviotas demonstrated. Their actions wound up restoring thousands of acres of rainforest not because they intended to, but because that is what resulted from their careful tending of the land.

    As for Palestine itself, here is an excerpt from the journal I kept the year I taught at BirZeit University (half an hour from Jerusalem in the Occupied Territories):

    “On the Mount of Olives, we walk the cool garden, a tiny space lush with trees of every kind: almond, fig, pomegranate, lemon, orange, olive, mulberry, apple, plum—-bordered with the inevitable grape vine and a row of bee houses to pollinate the trees and yield honey from the flowers. All this exists in perhaps a quarter of an acre. The leaves of the trees crowd onto one another, but they are lush and heavy, tended by a traditional Palestinian gardener who knows how to use grafting to strengthen their limbs.
    Here there is no garbage caught up and blown in the wind as in other parts of the land. Here every inch of land is carefully, lovingly, tended and it responds in kind.
    “It is nice here in summer to take a chair and sit,” my elderly host says, as we linger in the shade of trees as loved by this man as they are by the sun and wind. ”

    As to accepting Israeli presence in the Occupied Territories, that is a question I speak to a bit in my blog (“Supporting the Heart of Palestine”).

    Cheers to you all,

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