Permaculture: a Pathway to a Sustainable Future

Permaculture is a word we’ve heard a lot lately. How would you describe permaculture to someone who is just starting to get interested in this topic?

According to the most general definition I heard from my dear teacher Murat Onuk, I can say “ethics-based, sustainable human settlements design science”.

When and for what purpose did your interest in permaculture begin? What was the reaction of your close social circle?

I don’t think I have a clear answer to the question of when my interest in permaculture had started. I can find some traces of permaculture in my earliest memory of my life. If you ask when I heard that there was such a thing as permaculture and when I said “oh, this is it!”, I would say 2016 is the year. In this period, my perspective and the way I relate to my dreams started to radically transform thanks to my dear friends who came into my life. Of course, in retrospect, I realize that this is very blissful. I think that an anger had accumulated inside me against the life I live in, the world, the system we live in. I was in a period in which I sensed that there was something wrong and I was not satisfied with my lifestyle. I had deep concerns about the world, about being alive. As I walked on streets, I used to think that everyone was crazy and how they lived in the city without oxygen and water. However, I had little idea about what to do or what kind of world I wanted to live in or maybe I had no energy to think on this. At such a stage of my life, I met my dear friends and learned about the existence of permaculture from them. I saw “Zone 0” as myself and dreamed of a spacious, happy, and central life.

Apart from my personal transformation, I was faced with a serious problem of the climate crisis that transformed all parts of the world. It is a very shortcut to get stuck and despairing about this issue, and at that time I was closer to such a point. Alternatively, there is a reality in which there are colorful and endless possibilities. Permaculture can be water in the desert at this point.

Bill Mollison, one of the founders of permaculture, has a sentence that I love very much: “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”

What is this “Zone 0”?

We do “zone analysis” in order to use energy efficiently in design. We can think of zones as intertwined circles. Zone 0 means the regions we are in mostly and where daily work is the most intense. Like our home. According to our scaling, the last circle, zone 5, is mother nature itself or our universe that is determined as the area in which we develop, live and explore. So, it is a journey from zone 0 to zone 5.

A great start! So, what are the principles and practical areas of permaculture? Could you briefly mention?

Permaculture is based on the life ethic of respecting and caring for everything, living and non-living, just because they exist. There are three basic principles of permaculture on this;

“care for the world”, “care for people”, “employ the leftover”

Permaculture has a claim “We can provide the entire food stock needed by all people in the world by using only 4% of the cultivated areas we currently use, and leave the remaining 96% to forestry and nature to repair itself.” In order for this to be actualized, we need to establish the right relationships. Permaculture also explores how this will happen. We learn this from the nature, which includes everything in it, as we learn all the life itself. Permaculture design is based on patterning. Recently, I am in a process where I am intensely trying to grasp the patterns where I am looking into.

When you say what are the practical areas of permaculture, I want to say everywhere and every moment, but  with the concern that it may be very abstract and incomprehensible, I would like to draw attention to David Holmgren’s “Permaculture Flower”. Each component in the flower can be functionalized in practice entirely depending on our creativity and how we want to live within the concept.

Permaculture Flower is adapted from Jonathan Woolson’s drawing, modified from David Holmgren. Each petal shows a basic human need.

What does permaculture mean to you in city life? How do we make this concept a part of our daily life?

I think “zone 0” is yourself, permaculture starts to settle in every area of ​​your life. A serious waste is generated in the cities we live in, at the same time, these wastes have the potential to turn into considerable resources. For this reason, I dream of being able to act together with institutions and municipalities and transform city life from within. Ankara Development Agency’s (Ankara Kalkınma Ajansı) studies and projects on this subject continue. In recent months, we attended the “Introduction to Permaculture Training” presented by Taner Aksel with Sevecen. We talked about “what can be done to improve our cities” and talked about the support we can offer. The development and proliferation of permaculture works fill me with hope.

I believe that it is very valuable to live in cities with as little waste as possible, recycled and upcycled. There are compost applications that can be done easily in apartments. In this way, it is possible to turn food waste into humus soil, so you have a wonderful soil and you feel good. Some kind of a way of connecting to the planet, I think. Apart from that, there are very good organizations. Getting together and collaborating with people is both easy and important in cities. It opens up a space where you can be a derivativer instead of a consumer. In food purchases, it can be bought directly from the producers as much as possible. When you change your food preferences, you can really feel the bodily change directly. In fact, there are so many methods of this practice when you decide to care for everything, living and non-living, you find yourself in endless options with creativity stripped of all theories.

Based on your theoretical and practical background related to the subject, what are you doing and what do you plan to do in the future?

We make “bokashi compost” at home and consume as little packaged food as possible. We strive to transform our shopping preferences in ways that I believe more connected to social networks and healthier. We make washing machine detergent and cleaning vinegar. I use vinegar, baking soda and sometimes soft soap for cleaning. I think the perfect trio is the solution for everything. I have learned it is possible to make soft soap at home from waste oils. We will try it soon. I use soap in the bathroom and vinegar as hair conditioner is great. İlkin and Sevecen care about me in terms of cream and fragrance because they make perfumes and creams. I use EcoFont Vera Sans when printing even in the office and I use less ink. These are the first things I can remember.

Nowadays, the desire to do a permaculture internship is very vivid for me, I want to come together with the people who spend effort for this and may increase my knowledge. Essen has some projects carried out for years in Izmir. They are trying to create a permaculture garden on their land in Foça. I want to create some time and help them because they have a lot of practical experience that I can learn from.

On the other hand, we intend to create a permaculture-based garden in the front garden of Hamleci Mansion. In the recent past, we have started to take concrete steps regarding our ideas. Our soil analysis has arrived and we will soon have the well water analyzed. Our ideas, sprouting over the years, are beginning to deepen their roots. I am at peace.

What have you learned from your mistakes until today? What are your recommendations for the beginners?

I suffered from my tendency to be pessimistic and looking from a limited perspective. I learned how valuable it is to be hopeful and to be aware that the problem contains the solution. I understood the importance of taking care of each other and saw what we can achieve in cooperation.

There are very nice tutorials, videos, resources and they are increasing day by day. In fact, everything starts with increasing individual and environmental awareness as well as connecting with each other and with ourselves. Thus, our way of handling of the world becomes fun, constructive and sustainable.

Ayşe Yayla

Interviewer: İlkin Taşdelen

Translation from Turkish: Tevfik Hürkan Urhan