Living in harmony with the earth may be one of the most important things we can learn to do in our lives. The planet lives and breathes, and all of its plants and animals deserve an opportunity to thrive, just like us. That’s why the permaculture philosophy and ethics were developed. 

Permaculture wasn’t new when the term was coined in the 1970s; it just expanded on the ideas we already understood about sustainable living. Many cultures lived with the earth’s rhythm long before us and understood its cycles. But the 70s ushered in a new awareness and the ethics of permaculture, which includes earth care, people care, and fair share. 

Together, these three ideas form the core of permaculture philosophy. We believe they are vital  concepts that should be common knowledge as we make the shift to a sustainable future. We’ll discuss all three in this blog series, starting with earth care.

What is Earth Care?

We can look at earth care as an expansive ideal, meaning that we’ll care for the entirety of the natural world. But to really understand earth care, it can help to start with caring for the living soil we use to cultivate life-giving food and resources.

Measuring the soil’s health in any location can give us an idea of what can thrive when planted. If you want to engage in permaculture, one of the first steps will be measuring the health of your soil. You can start by getting a soil test kit from the USDA. A more homegrown way is to see how fast the microorganisms in your soil decompose organic matter, like a teabag.

How Does Earth Care Connect to Food Forests?

Perhaps the most significant application of permaculture is the creation of  food forests or forest gardens. This is a way to plant edible pants to mimic the natural ecosystem rather than the way we do in a cultivated garden. 

Why mimic nature in the way we grow our food? Take a good look at the history of the earth and you will see why in a heartbeat. 

Nature has the template for wealth creation and healthy living. Natural systems get richer and more abundant with each passing year. 

Human systems, not so much. This is especially apparent in agriculture.  Soil degradation is one of the world’s most pressing problems today. But it’s a modern problem with ancient roots—and those roots belong to annual plants. 

You see, the vast majority of the food plants the world’s population relies on today are fast-growing annuals. These plants grow fast and produce a great yield. But they have to be planted anew each year – bypassing Mother Nature’s normal system. 

a bounty of fruits in a basket

In contrast, a natural system relies mainly on perennial plants after the first year or two. These are plants that come back year after year. The soil is not disturbed and has a chance to build up and increase in quality over time. 

There are several layers to a food forest, mimicking the plants found in a natural system. These include shrubs, roots, ground cover, herbs, and vines. Some also include mushrooms in their growth story. Layering perennial plants in this way enables a 10X greater yield while helping build the soil rather than deplete it. It also provides habitat for many species of wildlife. And, just as in nature, permaculture systems thrive without the use of toxic chemicals.  

It’s clear that earth care and the health of the soil are essential factors in permaculture as we create natural ecosystems that drive the growth of sustainable, food-producing plants.

How Can We Incorporate Permaculture Philosophy into Our Daily Lives?

Holding ourselves up to permaculture ethics, including earth care, people care, and fair share, will start us off on the right foot of living a sustainable life. Permaculture philosophy gives us a framework for being good stewards of the land and members of our community. 

Among the permaculture principles are more robust ideas for incorporating the concept into our daily lives.

  • Observe and interact: notice the beauty of the natural world all around you.
  • Follow the earth’s rhythms: collect and store energy when you can.
  • Self-regulate and accept feedback: understand that we all make mistakes sometimes.
  • Use renewable resources: plant perennials and engage in annual seed collection.
  • Leave no trace: reduce your waste.
  • Integrate: don’t separate types of plants; incorporate edibles with flowers and herbs.

Some of these ideals can extend past your sustainable gardening into your entire life. It’s always good to be self-aware of how you impact the earth and people around you at all times.

Earth Care and the Permaculture Philosophy

Photo of children's hands with seedling for food forest planting

We can see that earth care is a significant element in the path to permaculture. Creating food forests and sustainable resources can provide a healthier, more secure future for ourselves and our communities. Knowing how to move forward with permaculture philosophy in a way that works for the climate of the Great Lakes area and provides abundance and resources that fit our lives will be vital to embracing this way of life. If you want to know more about permaculture philosophy and the Great Lakes region, contact Great Lakes Food Forest Abundance.