Permaculture economy

Discussion in 'The big picture' started by Pragmatist, Sep 27, 2012.

  1. Pragmatist

    Pragmatist Junior Member

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    Thanks all - she's actually a bit of an angel so far. It's just the 3-hourly feeds that interrupt our sleep.

    Back on topic, this might look like a navel-gazing activity but it could be the possible to set up a community based on such a design.

    My contributions will be somewhat sporadic ;)
     
  2. Pragmatist

    Pragmatist Junior Member

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    Starting with a metaphorical "blank sheet of paper", let's look at what an economy is all about (helping people to organise the resources that we need/want to survive).

    In most economies we start with "primary industries", which extract raw useful stuff (food, fibres, minerals, etc.) from the natural world.

    At low population densities, primary industry is quite simple and low-intensity. At the extreme end of the scale, the hunter-gatherer approach works (in most locations) of simply taking what you need from the environment because it's always there. At the other end of the scale, high population densities require much more effort to extract the primary resources. The obvious one here is water. At low populations, enough is in the rivers and lakes. At high densities we see such measures as the (recently mothballed) desalination plant here in Adelaide.

    Of course extremely low population densities bring their own economic challenges, mainly the difficulty getting enough people together to have any specialisation as is required for most secondary and tertiary industries.

    Traditionally, economies have developed secondary industry (making stuff from primary industry output) and tertiary industry (basically everything else, like services) once primary industry got more efficient and freed up workers to do other jobs.

    As "lone ranger" individuals or single-family setups, most permaculture so far seems to be focussed on the primary industry with secondary processes happening within the household by the same people who do the primary industry work. This might mean preserving the food, spinning the wool or weaving/knitting the clothes. Where required, additional goods and services (machinery, computers, pipes, tanks, medical services, etc.) have been sourced from the external, non-permaculture economy.

    Stemming from this is what I think is the first key question: On a given piece of land, how could we set things up in a way that provides for the primary needs of all the people and "frees up" as many people as possible to undertake other roles within the community?
     
  3. Farside

    Farside Junior Member

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    I think permaculture practices address this primary industry well. The amount of energy input required is much less than a monoculture industry so it frees up time to operate the secondary industry practices.

    Nature and secondary industry don't mix so well unfortunately, but bringing in technology helps out in a big way, especially process automation. This technology is becoming cheaper and more accessible to the public through innovations such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi micro-controller platforms.

    Look at a bread maker for example. It saves somebody at least an hour of work every day.

    Right now, I'm putting together an automated environmental chamber for curing meat and brewing beer which will cost me less than $50.

    There must be dozens of other jobs like that that can be automated.
     
  4. Pragmatist

    Pragmatist Junior Member

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    Hi Farside - thanks for your thoughts.

    There are two definitions of "energy" here that matter in different ways.
    • Conventional farming (and other industries) uses mainly fossil fuel energy (cheap) in order to minimise the (expensive) human effort/energy. This has the useful (economic) benefit of freeing up plenty of people to participate in secondary and tertiary roles within society.
    • Permaculture tends to avoid fossil fuel use so all energy is pretty expensive. In this context, more human effort is required (compared to conventional farming) although clever design minimises this requirement for human labour. This leads to systems that are considered "less efficient" than conventional systems when compared purely on a short-term financial basis. Given the long preparation required to get permaculture systems operating at maximum effectiveness, these systems are often a less financially lucrative use of the land than conventional farming for quite a few years.

    This distinction may not matter personally to most permaculturists but conventional farming profit levels are what determine land price. In order to turn land over to permaculture use, these prevailing market rates must be paid :(

    I agree that secondary industry is far more damaging to the environment but not that this is inevitably so.
     
  5. marklar

    marklar New Member

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    I made an
    Arduino UNO based heated germination bed. As an example of andother job.
     

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