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Traditional Catholic Permaculture…. Really?

Project: Traditional Catholic Homestead

Posted by David Dahlsrud about 8 years ago

Some folks may not know what Permaculture is or why I would go through the trouble of creating an entire post or perhaps series of posts on the subject.  Well I will broach the subject by stating that permaculture techniques are going to be central to our transition, as a family, from the conventional 9-5, working for the “Man”, depending on this Godless, broken system of physical sustenance for our livelihood, to a life of self-sufficiency, based on God’s plans and in communion with His teachings.  In other words permaculture is going to pay the bills, while faith will nourish the soul, all from our humble homestead in the mountains.

The rock of our faith

One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

This sounds great, you might say, so where’s the rub? Well for the most part everything seems to jive pretty well.  You see Permaculture is a design science.  As such it is a creation of man and has the potential to be flawed greatly.  Some people have embraced it as a philosophy or a lifestyle, but at it’s core Permaculture is a framework for decision making that is restrained by three ethics.  Those three ethics are: Earth Care, People Care, and some form of Equitable Return of Surplus to the system.

The Permaculture Ethics

The Permaculture Ethics

“Earth Care” is just that: We should be making decisions (all decisions) with at least some consideration of what the impact to our planet is going to be. To me this is just a nod to good old Christian Stewardship of the planet that God entrusted us with through Adam and Eve.  No problems here whatsoever.  This should be one of the fundamental aspects of good decision making with regards to being a good steward of the land God has given us.  We need to recognize that God has created a perfect system of abundance on Earth.  All we need to do is put aside our pride and submit to His will, by observing the systems He has set in motion and working with them instead of trying to alter them to our will.  As Men we should be striving to put aside our arrogance and humble ourselves rather than trying to bypass natural systems and create a synthetic world of relativism, false truths, and tolerance of wrong doing.  To me “Earth Care” is not Earth worship, but rather the stewardship of our planet that we all should be concerned with.

“People Care” is consideration for humanity as a whole when making decisions.  The idea here is that after looking at the impact your actions will have on the planet we should be looking even closer at how those actions will impact us, our children, our grandchildren, and generations yet to be born.  This can be thought of as the long view of the consequences of our decisions.  Making decisions with the full knowledge and acceptance of the consequences, with an eye towards the betterment of future generations, and sacrificing instant gratification/pleasure for the joy of knowing you are leaving this world behind a better place for those future generations.   This feels a lot like the fellowship and self sacrifice embodied by Our Lord Jesus Christ.  “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.

Now comes the third ethic.  This is where things get a little dicey.  As originally stated by the founders of Permaculture the third ethic is to set limits to population and return surplus to the system.  Setting limits to the population sounds a whole lot like the classic line of the population control crowd.  This goes in direct opposition to the mandate to be fruitful and multiply.  This is where permaculture generates a lot of angst even within the ranks of the believers.  The third ethic has been restated many ways from: “Fair Share”, and “Return of Surplus”,  heck some folks even state the third ethic is irrelevant because if you are following the first two you end up with the third in one form or the other (it takes care of itself).

The Permaculture Ethics

The Permaculture Ethics

Well for me the third ethic is relevant, and it was something that I struggled with for a long time.  Trying to make something as malign as setting limits to population mesh with my traditional Catholic beliefs and the teachings of the Church was quite an undertaking.  What it all boiled down to for me was looking at the problem in context, in it’s entirety, a holistic approach.  Is it logical to think that the population of anything can have infinite growth.  Clearly not!  Look at the world around us.  Observe the systems God has set in place.  Populations naturally ebb and flow.  God’s natural systems set population limits.  Is it the duty of man in his great arrogance to assume that we know what those limits are or should be, and try to enforce them.  Once again, clearly not!  There is no way, other than to trust and submit to the will of God, that we could ever amass enough knowledge to be able to make a decision like that.  As a traditional Catholic I am called to be open to life and submit to God’s will whether there should be more or not.  This is where you must trust in Him and submit to His will.  God’s systems are perpetual and abundant!  They can support life in a mass we can not even comprehend.  As long as we are stuck in the current Man-centric thinking that we have all the answers and can bend nature to our will we will never be able to realize the promise He has in store for us.  For me the third ethic is simply letting go of the arrogance that I can control the world around me and submitting to His will by allowing the natural systems He set in place to achieve balance.  In many ways if you follow the first two ethics the third will be fulfilled on it’s own.  This does not mean that we should ignore it for the sake of convenience, or intellectual sloth.  These things do matter and need to be discussed if humanity is going to move beyond our current state of affairs.


I firmly believe that until we transition from the current industrial extraction model of agriculture we will never realize the true potential of this Garden of Eden the Lord has created for us.  I also firmly believe that this will never happen as long as Man continues our willful disobedience and shuns the simplicity and elegance of God’s systems.  For me permaculture is part of the answer to how we move forward and grow in grace through being closer to God.  We need to realize that we are part of His systems not just a beneficiary of them.  Taking a holistic view of the stewardship of this planet that we are called to do is the only way that we can fulfill that calling.  We must be open and willing to submit to His plan.

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