Who doesn’t love a good documentary to get your inspiration and motivation and feel-good juices flowing? This happened for me Friday night with INHABIT: A permaculture perspective, screened by Wildsight at the lovely Studio & Stage Door theatre. Now, I am by no means a permaculture expert, but I am someone who cares deeply for the environment, sees the destruction of our current monoculture food systems, and sees the necessity of biodiversity; I mean, really, if you have ever walked in a natural space like a forest or a wetland, you will see hundreds, maybe thousands, of different species of plants and animals living in one space – that’s what nature is and that is how it thrives.
What jumped out to me the most in this documentary was that so many people on Earth think that somehow we are a separate entity from these natural systems; we somehow exist independently and we won’t stop until we “rule them all”, like somehow we are entitled to own and run them as we see fit. This could not be the further from fact. We depend on the land, plants, water, animals, and the very soil beneath our feet. What are we without it? Every choice we make impacts our home somehow. Luckily there are many people on Earth that see it as the circle it is; that we are all interconnected with all other living and nonliving things.
The film highlighted various individuals or families, mostly across the United States, taking small spaces, urban spaces, rooftop spaces, and unused spaces, and turning them into a polyculture haven. Images of barren, abandoned and seemingly unusable spaces, transformed into living gardens that produce food and an ecosystem for all sorts of creatures. One homeowner had a very small, sad looking lot, which is what many people have, but with determination and heart, his family turned it into a jungle of food producing gold; countless fruits, vegetables, trees, shrubs, plants, now inhabit the place that was once a rectangle of a lacking, lonely lawn.
Something else that stood out to me was the wastewater in New York City. When it rains, that rain travels into the same pipes and same destination as their wastewater systems; of course, in NYC, a paved landscape, the water has nowhere to go because very little soil is exposed or left, so off to the drains it goes. And do you know where this heavy accumulation of rain and waste water end up? The ocean and other waterways, of course! Where else would they pump it to? Not only is this hazardous and detrimental to marine ecosystems, but it is also very unnecessary, as there are alternatives to soak up that beautiful rain water before it just gets pumped away. Think about it. What could a city do to use this rainwater instead of waste it? A city of a million buildings. Rooftop gardens!
What was most impressive is that these people just started with heart and an idea. They observed the land and its patterns. They knew what they wanted to do with it, and all it took was a redesign process to encourage growth, production, and biodiversity, but in a way that was beneficial to the soil and land instead of robbing it of all its nutrients and top soil. These people changed food production from a destructive to a regenerative design. From agriculture to permaculture. And that is a beautiful thing.