Environmental Ethics and Urban Permaculture in Central Texas
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Human activities are causing vast environmental degradation around the globe at unsustainable rates. It is more imperative now than ever that we create sustainable societies that can coincide harmoniously with the natural environment. The dominant social paradigm views nature as resources for human consumption, but this paper argues that there are ethical human activities that challenge the mainstream ways of interacting with the natural environment. Environmental ethics is a subject advancing different ethical human-nature relationships. This thesis explores environmental ethics held by permaculture practitioners. Permaculture is a specific type of sustainable agriculture that focuses on using a system’s thinking approach to designing gardens that emphasize biodiversity and locally-adapted, edible perennial plants, as well as maximizing energy efficiency. Permaculture also contains embedded ethics of Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. Since permaculture is ‘site- specific,' this paper examines the environmental ethics held by permaculture practitioners. It also explores the potential of urban permaculture in Central Texas.
Through interviewing permaculture practitioners of Central Texas, four main environmental ethics emerged, which are: social ecology, deep ecology, Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, and sustainability ethics. Many permaculture practitioners blurred the distinction between these ethics, while some aligned more closely with one ethic over another. Permaculture in and of itself embodies environmental ethics, and for the interviewees in this study, their ethical practice of permaculture influenced other aspects of their lives, not just gardening techniques. Practitioners also exemplified great hope for urban permaculture and felt that with the right amount of support, permaculture could become a more widespread practice. This paper also proposes some policy implications for implementing permaculture on a wider scale.