la plaza cultural Source: yougrowgirl.com

Permaculture: principles of agricultural design that uses and works with the natural features of a particular ecosystem. In an era of super developments, and a culture that manufactures, uses up and throws away, permaculture is an incredibly important principle to increase the culture’s sustainability. Resilience comes from sustainability and sustainability in part can be distilled in the community as the community is focused on using the   natural features of that ecosystem. By working with the positive features, and not forcing those things that are negative or bring harm.

The values of permaculture led a community to find the natural, sustainable features of the surroundings. Permaculture can be a guiding principle for our society to clear away the cruft of non-natural uses of an ecosystem. As the community returns to the foundation, resilience increases.

Why is this the case? Why is permaculture an important design principle? La Plaza Cultural is a wonderful example that can help teach what can happen when a community applies these principles.

La Plaza Cultural was founded in 1976 by the members of local community. They worked together reclaim vacant city plots but removing mounds of trash and debris. Replacing the un-natural with natural features suited to the area. The principles of permaculture are exemplified: repurposing materials into key landscape pieces to bring community together, returning the land to nature through gardens and then nurturing the space over time through full community involvement.

I found this quote by David Helmgren, “Permaculture is the use of systems thinking and design principles that provide the organising framework for implementing the vision.  It draws together the diverse ideas, skills and ways of living which need to be rediscovered and developed in order to empower us to provide for our needs, while increasing the natural capital for future generations (MakingSenseOfThings, Web).” These principles are clearly embedded in La Plaza Cultural. How wonderful to use a space to help those in such an urban setting “rediscover” more sustainable ways of living.

The benefits of these principles are clear. The gardens are a powerful force for bringing the community together and healing after a very hard time. The community is involved through different artistic endeavors and not just gardening. The space is natural in that it is returned to nature, but is also natural because it is an extension of the community. The spirit of the community is reflected on the then current state of the space. A particularly beautiful project I noticed were small birdhouses that were made from repurposed materials.

The community created such a beautiful space with such character, charm and welcoming sensibility. This isn’t to say that there aren’t struggles. I know that land developers tried to take over the area before it was protected by the city, for example. I’m sure that the community doesn’t always agree with everything that happens at the park. But overall, La Plaza Cultural shoes how permaculture can heal a community, remove obstacles to sustainability and build resilience by returning to a more natural, foundational state.

How can permaculture impact other areas of NY? Seems a natural fight between these principles and the desires of others to make profit – how can the principles of permaculture have higher priority?


MakingSenseOfThings. “Urban Permaculture in Practice.” November 23, 2010. http://makingsenseofthings.info/2010/11/urban-permaculture-in-practice/

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