Blending Human Requirements and Nature’s Needs

Parks and gardens are all too often compromises, which fail to fully meet both human and ecological needs. But with the right approach, they can deliver on every front.

Designs for home gardens and community sites must take into account, of course, the needs of the natural world around us. But they should also meet human needs.

Often, it can seem as though these are conflicting. Though at the root, of course, these are one and the same. At the heart of it all, what is good for nature is good for us.

Putting human requirements and nature’s needs into opposition sets forth the false idea that we humans are somehow distinct from the world around us. Where we should, of course, view ourselves as part of the whole.

There are times, however, when human systems and requirements seem to conflict with the urgent necessities of caring for ecosystems and their wildlife.

A permaculture designer’s goal should be to find sustainable solutions which cater to both, since few are willing to live in huts in the midst of a completely wild and untrammelled environment.

Below are just a couple of the key questions to consider:

Natural Forest Vs Food Forest?

There is of course an urgent need for native reforestation and afforestation around the globe. This is a complex topic, however. And it is vital that we look not only at tree planting but at ecosystem restoration – since forests are far more than just trees.

We also need to look at where precisely forests and woodlands should be planted, and the impacts of those plantations, in science-based ways.

But another crucial thing to look at is how new forest creation and conservation and restoration systems intersect with societal systems, and impact people living close by. Projects which don’t neglect human needs are far more likely to meet with long-term success.

When planting trees on your own property, one crucial question to ask is whether you should plant a native, natural forest, or a food forest (or, perhaps, a combination of both) to meet needs and obtain yields.

This is a complex question which cannot be answered in a soundbite – but if you are interested in discussing your options further, please do get in touch.

Lawns and Grassy Areas Vs Native, Biodiverse Planting Schemes?

Do you need a lawn or grassy area? This is a key question for many gardeners, and for many public sites.

Mono-culture grass lawns are frequently effectively ecological ‘dead zones’ – especially when maintained non-organically. However, many still feel that they need some grass area for ball games or other sports, or for children to play.

Often, of course, flat grassy areas are better replaced with native and more biodiverse planting and features.

But where lawns or sports fields etc. are required, the key is to work out how needs for flat and level areas can be balanced out with other work on site, to meet human desires and requirements while still creating an overall plan for the site that allows it to function ecologically, and work in harmony with the natural world.

Later this week, I will share a case study for a park area, which required space for sports and recreation, which illustrates how sustainable planting and features around these zones can balance a range of seemingly conflicting needs.

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