Tragedy in Haiti

The recent earthquakes in Haiti have made already desperate conditions turn apocalyptic. In times of crisis people become open to new ideas, and look to collect these ideas from whatever is ‘lying’ around. Free market ideologues are quick to suggest structural adjustment programs, but some permaculture activists are mobilizing to provide relief aid services. Gaia Punk Evan Schoepke posed a question of a “Permaculture Relief Corps” in Haiti for sustainable recovery, both ecological and economic. Now the Santa Barbara Permaculture Network is coordinating funds and efforts to facilitate just such a thing at

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A permaculture approach to disaster might look different than other conventional forms of international relief aid. It might incorporate natural building techniques (a la Mike Reynolds) using locally available materials to construct shelter, and it might use composting systems to process human waste. Long term relief efforts may use earthworks to hold, cleanse and cycle water through agriculturally productive landscapes.

As Evan Schoepke of punk rock permaculture said:

Some of the projects which permaculturists can design and implement are:

Short Term:

Building sewage systems, composting toilets, compost and recyclying centers, rocket and solar stoves, temporary shelters (perma-yurts), water catchment and filtering, and plant nurseries.

Rocket and solar stoves are key because the major ecological problem in Haiti which causes huge hardships from many angles is deforestation for fuel. Solar stoves use no wood and rocket stoves, which can be made out of old cans and pipes laying around, use almost no fuel and can cook with twigs.

Correct diversion of sewage, human waste, and water can substantially contribute to rebuilding farm land in the area – the idea is to create the conditions for long term self-sufficiency and abundance with even our short term handlings.

Long Term:

Permanent, low cost, earthquake resistant natural buildings, water storage, earth works, renewable energy, permaculture food forests, broad-scale reforestation, farms, aquaculture systems, and community buildings such as schools and health centers.

An example of permaculture relief aid occurred in Macedonia in 1999 during the war in Kosovo. Geoff Lawton was brought on to consult and design the landscape for a long term refugee camp. Permaculture design would be a tremendous help to disaster relief aid because it is site specific, client specific and culture specific. During ecological rehabilitation of a site, preference is given to native and naturalized plants, preserving local ecological diversity and nutritional customs. As Mollison said:

“Aid is a necessary but delicate affair; some forms of aid can produce dependency, online pharmacy viagra uk facilitate further inequities in a society, destroy or impair cultural values, decrease the yields of the environment, upset the balance of nutritional habits, or actually destroy sustainable local ecologies or agricultural systems.” – Bill Mollison, Permaculture Design Manual

Haiti has seen enough engineered dependency and inequity. Permaculture design is a powerful tool in the relief of accute stress and as a long term restoration strategy in Haiti. Please consider making a donation to