If God gave us the Garden of Eden, we’d spray it with Roundup and plant blue grass.
I jest, … sort of. How many Latter-day Saints have sprayed those pesky dandelions in their lawn with poison on a Saturday morning, and then Saturday night went out to a fancy restaurant and ate a salad made from dandelion greens? So, I speak lightly only of the part that isn’t true.
Making the world a more Eden-like place is a command given to the Latter-day Saints by many modern prophets. This includes improving our use of Earth’s resources as well as improvement of ourselves and our relations with all the people that inhabit this planet.
Latter-day Saints have a host of tools and techniques for improving the environment and our lives. Permaculture is one of the many tools available to Latter-day Saints.
Back to spraying dandelions and then eating them, … Obviously, being intent on killing all dandelions and spending extra money to eat dandelions are two practices that cannot coexist in a sane and sustainable society. Permaculture actually has a lot to say about lawns and the damage monocultures have done to our planet.
Permaculture seeks to expose unsustainable practices and suggest alternatives that benefit us and our environment. Permaculture is about finding sustainable ways to manage society and the Earth. Permaculture is about examining current practices in all industries and aspects of our lives and asking, What are the long-term affects of our behavior?
Permaculture stands for permanent culture and permanent agriculture. The idea is that no society or nation can last forever, unless it is built on and solidifies sustainable practices. This includes every aspect of life, including energy generation, food production, legal systems, and social norms.
There are only three hard and fast rules of permaculture. The three tenets of permaculture are:
- Earth Care
- People Care
- Return the Surplus
From a Latter-day Saint perspective, I swap #1 and #2 so that People Care comes first, because humans are God’s most important creation. In His words, …
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)
However, swapping rule #1 and #2 does not conflict with the aspirations of permaculture–creation of culture and agriculture that maintains our health and the health of the planet.
Caring for our planet is a stewardship that falls squarely on human shoulders. Only humans make a conscious effort to improve this planet for animals, plants and other people. Volcanoes, African lions, and American prairie dogs don’t don’t wake up in the morning and ask, How can I make the Earth a better place for polar bears? But, people can and do think these thoughts and act on them.
Some people have done much damage to our planet. Other people attempt to take care of our planet. Permaculture seeks to train everyone in methods for healing and sustainably managing the Earth, instead of damaging our planet.
Local people know their own needs and can more quickly and economically aid themselves than large centralized systems that are not tailored to local people’s needs. Local peoples producing their own foods and shelters are more likely to do so in a way that doesn’t jeopardize their local environment. Large global corporations and governments do not feel the effects of poor, local land management and environmentally unsustainable behaviors.
Food, sanitation, energy, and shelter are needed by everyone. Individuals, families and communities can provide for most of their own needs, locally. Permaculture seeks solutions to people’s needs that can be implemented locally in small groups or individually rather than relying on large corporate and government infrastructures.
Empower local peoples to find their own sustainable solutions, and amazing success stories emerge.
Return the Surplus
When permaculture is applied to Earth Care and People Care, surplus food, energy, supplies, and money are the result. That surplus should be returned to the Earth and people to take care of their needs. Often returning the surplus results in creation of permaculture projects to help more people learn to live sustainably. Other manifestations of returning surplus result in projects that undo damaging impacts people, governments and corporations have had on the environment.
Understanding when we have surplus comes into play here. When people realize that joy and happiness are connected to quality of life instead of possessions, we more easily spot the surpluses we can return.
Returning the surplus has to work within existing local legal frameworks to ensure sustainability. Many permaculture groups set up trusts and non-profit organizations to manage surplus and ensure that it is dedicated to specific aspects of Earth Care and People Care.
Latter-day Saint Permaculture
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often feel an affinity to the tenets of permaculture. Latter-day Saints feel a responsibility to exercise good stewardship over the environment, to help people in need, and give surplus to charities, including the Church, to help make the world a more livable place for everyone.
Latter-day Saints believe that building Zion will bring happiness and peace to the world. Zion is a society that is happy and sustainable because it is built on principles that last. Permaculture has principles that we as Latter-day Saints can incorporate into our lives and societies to help people and the Earth.
As Brigham Young stated, …
The Lord has done his share of the work; he has surrounded us with elements containing wheat, meat, flax, wool, silk, fruit, and everything with which to build up, beautify and glorify the Zion of the last days, and it is our business to mould these elements to our wants and necessities, according to the knowledge we now have and the wisdom we can obtain from the heavens through our faithfulness. In this way will the Lord bring again Zion upon the earth, and in no other (Discourses Of Brigham Young, 294).
Permaculture can help us develop a society that gives people joy and provides for future generations by caring for the Earth we share. Permaculture gives us techniques to create a permanent culture that helps us step towards making this Earth the Eden it can become.