Native Americans, like many other ancient civilisations, were clued in on the inner-workings of nature. They found ways to harmonise with it, taking advantage of biological cycles and utilising astute observation to make abundance seem almost fortuitous. But, it wasn’t all luck. Sometimes colonisers simply didn’t (and still don’t) recognise the guiding hand behind these highly productive, innately cooperative systems that were in place when they arrived. We continue to pay a price for that oversight today, and our payments may have only just begun.
One of the reasons permaculture is such an appealing methodology for creating sustainable homes, gardens, and lifestyles in the modern world is that it so often harkens back to ancient techniques, adopting the logic behind them whilst imbuing them with today’s technological advancements. In this interplay between bygone ingenuity and mechanical diggers, wells of inspiration spring forth for innovative design that keeps us comfortable and, at the same time, emboldens nature to put forth its best work on our behalf.
With that in mind, perhaps now—amidst Pacific Coast wildfires, cues of hurricanes in the Atlantic, and a pandemic putting the brakes on consume-it-all capitalism—is a good time to revisit what was happening in the gardens of North America a few hundred years ago, before colonisation. Maybe we don’t want to live exactly that way today, minus the internet and all that good stuff, but maybe there are some answers for today’s problems that were overlooked back then.
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