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Architect Mustafa Bakır—founder and conductor of the Permaculture Research Institute of Turkey—enlightened us on permaculture in Thailand, where he traveled to give a certificate course on Permaculture Design.
There’s nothing like enjoying then listening to possible solutions from a friend regarding how the world’s current ecological crisis can be solved at the Zen Restaurant by the beach, quiet and peaceful as its name suggests. It is also a pleasure to be able to share in these pages some of the ideas of Mustafa F. Balkır, who has accepted permaculture as a way of life and serves as a consultant for several national and international projects.
What Is Permaculture?
The formula for the permaculture concept created by the Australian Bill Mollison in the 1970s is as follows:
Permanence: To continue, to persist.
Culture: All that is related to human habitation.
Permaculture: To insist on human habitation, to maintain human culture.
No more time remains for us to understand this concept, which can also be defined as “sustainable human habitation design,” and to start putting it into action. Why? Because we have now reached a stage in which we shall soon consume all the world’s resources and wipe out many species off the face of the earth—along with ourselves…
A species goes extinct every six minutes in our world today. In environmental terminology, this condition is defined as the “3E crisis.” The 3E here stands for “ecology,” “economy,” and “energy.” It is very clear that we are nearing the end; we have lots of studies, books, and documents bolstering this conclusion.
Indeed, but what is to be done? Here is where permaculture stands out. What makes permaculture different is not only that it exposes the evidence, but also its clear way of producing solutions. Permaculture looks at what is positive and desirable, it is always very clear what needs to be done and how they will be done. As Bill Mollison—the father of permaculture—put it, “Although the problems we face are very complicated, unfortunately the solutions are still embarrassingly simple.”
In order to be able to clarify what needs to be done, we need to touch upon the basic principles of permaculture:
1. Caring for the Earth.
2. Caring for people.
3. Limiting our needs so we can devote resources to the first two principles.
Each one of these basic principles creates the next, because while protecting the world, we cannot overlook human beings and to be able to do so, we need to limit our needs. Bill Mollison explains this state as “enlightened self-interest”—a fantastic expression. If you want to be truly selfish, this is how you ought to be!
Permaculture redefines the concept of design. But how?
Every design is made up of elements. According to the permaculture approach, the relationships between these elements are far more important than what each element is. To be able to understand this, permaculture returns to nature to see how it works and how it relates to everything else. When we observe nature, we see that all the needs of living things are provided by nature, and all their products—including excretions—are utilized by the environment.
Here, taking that observation as an example and assessing all the things we need to do to cover our needs with that point of view, we can build our establishments, cities, and buildings in the most energy efficient and least polluting way. Design is thus redefined.
Permaculture In the CIty
Permaculture design does not require people to live in rural areas cut off from the city. So, from this perspective, what can be done in the cities?
- Many resources that cannot be utilized in the city turn into pollution. Sewage is, in fact, a very useful resource. Organic wastes can be used to fertilize the soil for urban agriculture and as feed for small animal husbandry businesses.
- Excess sewage and organic waste can be transformed into biogas and, consequently, energy with very simple systems.
- Many hectares of grassland in the cities are nothing more than a waste of fuel, effort and resources, but they can be turned into farmland and hence be dedicated to food production.
- People can be organized in small groups for the development of urban farming and small animal husbandry projects.
- Producer-consumer links can be established with farmers in close proximity to the cities through community supported farming (CSF) projects. Examples of such projects have been appearing in Turkey, such as the CSF Güneşköy Cooperative in Ankara, Marmariç CSF in İzmir, and the Yeşil Tabak (Özgen Saatçılar) project in Istanbul.
- It is possible to request support, sources, and space from municipalities for such projects.
My hope for humanity increased after understanding somewhat the things that can be done through permaculture. There are still many good things that humankind could do for the world it lives in. We just need to get on the right track and move together toward a brighter day.
WHAT IS BEING TAUGHT?
Types of courses given by the Permaculture Research Institute of Turkey:
1) Introduction to Permaculture (2 days – 12 hours)
2) PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate) Course (2 weeks – 72 hours)
The book titled “Permaculture: A Design Guide” forms the curriculum of the courses. This book will soon be published in Turkish as well. For the course schedule, visit: permacultureturkey.org
THE HISTORY OF COURSES
The Permaculture Research Institute of Turkey, established in 2009 under the roof of the Marmariç Ecological Living Association in the Dernekli village of İzmir’s Bayındır district, first started offering courses in 2010.
In November 2010, Bill Mollison, the father of Permaculture, came to Istanbul and taught a Permaculture Design Certificate course. The courses continue on an international scale. The most recent course took place in Thailand in April 2011.