Testing the carrying capacity of permaculture?

Discussion in 'Jobs, projects, courses, training, WWOOFing, volun' started by rowan, Mar 9, 2015.

  1. DC Brown

    DC Brown Junior Member

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    I've found models rarely, if ever, translate to the real world. Not in complex systems. For artificially created environments it might work. Models are useful in that you can see how expected results compare to actual results.

    When looking at this as a societal wide concept for helping (feed) mankind, other large scale problems must also be considered. Pollution, carbon cycles, the nitrogen cycle, employment/unemployment, local vs corporate economy, erosion and more. It's not sufficient to count monetary cost vs harvest alone, as it's just a model of the same failed systems creating huge offset costs (and no responsibility) and claiming thrift.

    An ecosystem at carrying capacity does not need to take 100 years. There are a whole bunch of functional parts and put together in a design we can greatly accelerate the process.

    We don't wait for pioneers to arrive, we can bring them in, and mid-late succession at once. We provide the fast growers to shade the emergent layer, we provide habitat, pollinators and accumulators and fungi and other innoculants. Nitrogen fixers and mineralisers. We don't wait for erosion and land features to create a soil, we use earthworks and trap the water and nutrients/minerals where we want them. We don't wait for rocks to weather, we can crush and distribute them remineralising soil to encourage the diversity we pursue.

    Ecologists get it. I had a hard time having intelligent conversation with anyone in agriculture about this. Gave up. Have left science to try help permaculture, it makes perfect sense scientifically, socially, environmentally, economically.

    What would those old Ag scientists do without their models to keep corporate sponsorship happy? They'll agree with common sense but they won't endorse it. I do love science, it's a shame we had no 'organic' program here.

    I wish you the best of luck. Science needs more holistic learners, and permaculture needs more science. I'm pretty abrasive so it was really hard for me in university listening to glowing GE endorsements and the like. I eventually learned to shut my mouth but had to leave after five years of it the steam coming out my ears made me think I had tinnitus. :p
     
  2. rowan

    rowan Junior Member

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    Yes, well I had planned to use the World3 model which might have been able to account for the things you mention somewhat. But Dennis Meadows, one of World3's originators, wrote to me and told me not to use it for land-use change. It's funny because the '91 version includes and ecological footprint calculator and I think it would have been good enough for what I was looking at. But anyway I abandoned that idea because with him opposed it probably would be difficult to publish. That's science for you! So I'm looking at other options. I really just want to highlight the problem of the unsustainability of the dependence of on the haber-bosch process for our food and that we need to plan for alternatives, and what would help when you consider the whole system, and not just the plot you're growing on.

    To study permaculture it would be much better to conduct experiments than to try and model it, but that takes too long. I wish at least some people doing PC would quantify their production and inputs, but that wouldn't help much because few people try to maximise their yield.

    Cheers
    Rowan
     
  3. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    It seems to me that we have the highest fidelity model possible, available to us immediately ... the earth itself! The product of 3+ billion years of evolution, we can be sure that the systems work and have adapted to the nuanced climate and environment niches we find around us.

    As Permaculture is a design process/science based on observation and mimicry of natural systems, it is most likely our implementations that require adjustments to "maximize the yield" which is very site specific and a long term process (as you mentioned).

    I have been reading recently about how humans (and almost all life forms) are "energy dissipators" as evidenced by such behaviors as food consumption and iterations of the use of fire (an example here: https://www.quantamagazine.org/20140122-a-new-physics-theory-of-life/) The main/only source of energy input to the system (earth) is sunlight.
    The Haber process utilizes energy in the form of ancient stored sunlight (hydrocarbons) to artificially fix nitrogen via ammonia for agricultural fertilizer (correct me if I'm wrong), whereas the earth's natural systems utilize soil biota to exchange all plant foods directly with the plant. Which process is more efficient and sustainable?

    Please excuse my rambling ... I'm not sure I've made the somewhat elusive point that's rattling around in my head!
     
  4. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    the other thing to consider is that to me carrying capacity also means giving the rest of the creatures of this planet enough room to have healthy populations. we, as of yet, have no real certain idea of what amount of space is needed for things other than ourselves and our needs. and as we see in the Western USoA during this drought that many people say that they don't think an endangered fish should merit concern or trump the needs of humans. i disagree, but i also don't live out there where it is so arid. that they can do much more to recycle waste water and conserve water i think it is selfish and short-sighted to not give the fish/rivers what they need to continue to survive and flourish.

    i think a very fitting evaluation of any system includes measuring both diversity and health of the creatures, but also tracks the topsoil and groundwater levels, degrees of contamination, to what extent the society restores damaged environments. by the least critters level of needs and growth we can find out if the system is doing ok, or if it appears to be crashing.

    my worries are that many people live in little boxes and don't interact with nature or understand how things can work together. to them bugs are things to be killed, rain is stuff that happens on the other side of the windows and plants are in containers... they've never seen a meadow or forest or the edges between, they've not played in a stream or even looked at the clouds. this amount of disconnect from a critical suppor system seems geared towards disaster. things go wrong and nobody notices or cares until it is too late. we hope it really isn't too late, but we really don't know...
     
  5. DC Brown

    DC Brown Junior Member

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    Been giving this some thought.

    There is much literature to be found on Ecosystem Services. There is even estimates for their worth. Here you might begin to quantify permaculture vs agriculture quite well. :y:

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800902000897

    Energy in and out can be standardised to calories. Ecosystem services can be measured by gain/loss.

    The link will give you plenty of reading in the references. Also, there's over 2300 articles citing this article, it's very likely you'll find some examples of the methods outlined.

    Thoughts?
     

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