Permaculture lecture targets sustainability.
Thursday, May 7, 1998
Farmer Dave is coming to town to give a lecture on permaculture. In case that sounds like an apparent predilection for curly hair and the formation of a new and bizarre agricultural society, a little explanation is necessary.
"The definition that I like to give of permaculture is: the art and science of designing human beings'' place in the environment," says Dave Blume, aka Farmer Dave, the president of the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture (IIEA) in Woodside, Ca. "Many people have suffered erosion and flooding damage from El Ni¤o. These are subjects dealt with thoroughly in permaculture."
Blume, who will be introducing the concept of permaculture to locals at a lecture in Monterey on Saturday, defines it as the only approach to sustainable development "which has any guiding ethics," he says, "they include 1) Care of the planet; 2) Care of people; and that 3) Any surplus should be directed toward the first two ethics.
"Ecology makes business sense," explains Blume. "Our responsibility is to improve the environment, not drain it." Problem solving is, indeed, the nature of permaculture, and the gist of most of Blume''s work. "Those in permaculture would say, ''You don''t have too many snails, you don''t have enough ducks''," he explains. "The idea is to consider the relationship of many things together, to take a complete and integrated view" of the environment and resources.
Such an approach is necessary, says Blume, "The pesticides we use are endocrine disrupters, or estrogen mimickers." According to Blume, they are extremely powerful and we pump tons of them into the environment in the form of pesticides and industrial chemicals every day. They are causing an increase in the ratio of female to male births and a decrease in the sperm counts of men around the world. "If they (sperm counts) drop much further," he says, "we will be considered infertile." He says he''s giving his upcoming lecture in the area, virtually at cost, because of the special relevance of the topic in California.
While the term "permaculture," may sound new, its principles are practiced by "indigenous people all over the world." In studying them, "we began to notice that they were managing the forest, encouraging useful things in the forest that they could use for food, medicine, wood or dye," Blume says.
Specifically, Blume, in his Saturday lecture, will discuss swales, which are essentially piles of dirt used to slow down the flow of water, decreasing erosion and allowing for the retention of massive amounts of water in the soil--very useful in California, where drought and flooding regularly cause problems.
Polycropping will also be discussed. It is the creating of canopies, the integration of several layers of vegetation--fruit trees, nuts, berries, flowers--so that the many plants will compliment one another, rather than compete. Blume says this organic approach makes it possible for a farmer to make a living off of as few as two acres. Particularly good growing climates--like rain forests--can generate crop yields 16 times as large as is possible with conventional agriculture. "Look to nature for the model," says Blume "Apples on the coast require painting of the trees to prevent sunburning of the bark. In nature, there is no problem because normally apples grow out in a canopy of trees." They only need 30 percent of all the light that they get growing out in the open.
Blume will also touch on the subject of alternative building materials, specifically the increasing difficulty of finding lumber large enough to make two-by-fours and four-by-fours. Some alternatives Blume will discuss include the use of posts and straw bales for building.
Blume, who has taught permaculture, alternative building, ecological farming and alternative fuel production to thousands of people in the United States, spent two years working with the Public Broadcast System on a 10-part series, "Alcohol as Fuel," which aired in 1983. Its San Francisco premiere quickly brought on the threat by oil companies to pull PBS funding if the series continued. He has also worked for NASA on an experimental solar energy, self-sufficient, sewage treatment project in the late 1970s. He currently consults on alternative energy, compost production and edible mushroom cultivation in agricultural waste at home and abroad, and is what is called an "ecological land designer." The "Farmer Dave" moniker comes from the numerous school children who have taken tours of the eco-farm at IIEA. "It just kind of stuck," he says. cw
Farmer Dave (Dave Blume) will be presenting his lecture "Introduction to Permaculture" Saturday, May 16, 2-6pm, at the Community Church of the Monterey Peninsula, one mile east of Highway 1 in Carmel Valley Road. $10 Donation. For more information: Call 1-888-PERMACULTURE.