“We’re heading for 1.5 C (2.7 F) of global warming by 2030, due to burning fossil fuels, deforestation and agriculture. The result is more droughts, floods, wildfires, heatwaves and hurricanes. This prompts the question ‘What can I actually do?’. The answer is simple: ‘Commit to positive action now’.”
Do an audit of your own climate impact and adapt accordingly.
Climate – Weather pattern over time, the general pattern of temperature, moisture, wind and sunshine is a particular area.
Microclimate – The climate of a very small or restricted area, mainly when this differs from the environment of the surrounding area.
Climate Change – More rapid changes in both global and local climates entailing increasing severity of weather patterns (not merely general warming).
“The hardest climate to change is that of the mind” – Darren Doherty
There is no topic more discussed at the moment than the climate and weather.
Weather and climate risk is a vast and complex subject, and we, as a species, have not responded to complexity well. One of the biggest challenges we currently face is to recognise the complexity of climate while at the same time, implement practical strategies of adapting and managing the impact of weather and climate and, hopefully, to regenerate for future generations.
Typically, when we design for ourselves or a client, it is from the perspective of that point in time. While we try to think of that 20/30/500-year timeframe, it can be only a poor shadow of reality – the limitation of a ‘master plan’.
We need to be adaptive in our thinking and our outcomes because, we do not really know what is coming. At best, it is an excellent educated guess.
Before discussing some practical tools for evaluating the land, it is important to emphasise that the most successful people looking at designing their area, spend time listening to the earth. In other words, learning directly from the opportunities and limits a property has to offer. It is better to match a given enterprise to the land, rather than try and work to shape the area to match the system. This is the underlying idea behind the scale of permanence.
The scale of permanence is a tool created by farmer and engineer PA Yeomans in Australia in the 1950s as part of an organising framework he called keyline design. The scale was the backbone of this system for whole-farm planning, and was initially dictated as:
The idea is that, as one moves down the list, the elements of a system become less permanent; that is, they take less energy to change and are less permanent as a factor for planning.
More recently, permaculture designers Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier, as well as Darren Doherty and Dan Palmer from VEG, have also adopted the idea of the scale of permanence into different variation.
Regardless of the variation, each begins with looking at climate. The most permanent element we are looking at in design and our landscape. It is easy, however, to fall into the trap of just looking at averages. Accessing the data and just looking at the average means we are designing for the norm, not for extremes and while things will flourish in those times, it is on the edges, the extremes, where we need to be at if we are truly to become resilient, regenerative and abundant.
One of the biggest things I have personally have done over in the last seven years to help with our climate impact was, interestingly enough, move. We had a larger property which was developed over time. We grew most all of our fruit and vegetables, had chickens and lived the ‘sustainable lifestyle’ or so we thought.
Yet the input in times of stress was immense. Travelling to get mulch or hay was not an easy prospect – a minimum of 40 minutes round trip, then the kids started school, then there were other activities. To do anything required a vehicle. Even a trip to the hospital, doctor or the library was an adventure due to the tyranny of distance.
So we moved. With an uncompromising list in hand, we began our search. High on that list was access to public transport, as much as we could within walking distance, good soils, fire risk, most of the yard in the back with a NE aspect, downsizing in land size but still wanted a rural feel. There was a lot more on the list but needless to say we found our ideal.
While already having existing infrastructure (House, shed, tanks and a few trees) pretty much a blank slate. Going through the design process, coming up with an adaptable working plan, we have since put in extensive gardens, planted about 160 trees as well as subtly adjusting some aspects of my landscape to hold more water.
Not everything has been rosy . I fell into this trap of complacency recently with one of my forest gardens. Without thinking, I had designed it for the average and when things got tough in the recent 12 months, it to suffer. The fault was not in the system but in the design. Going back over it and really looking at the figures showed me the flaw was and I was able to rectify the design with some simple adjustments with a shovel. Once done the next rainfall event, while only 20mm made a massive difference to the system.
Also, with the ongoing drought the ground covers here (and to be honest, everywhere around here) had died off. With the temperatures rising (and I will freely admit to missing the feeling of cover beneath my feet) I started using the grey water on the exposed soil, mixed with a number of ‘witchy brews’ (biology) that rapidly brought back a living cover over the soil between the house and the shed. And while yes, it is currently grass (I am not going to ignore succession) it proliferated in that space and has had the effect of dropping the temperature between 10-15 degrees.
This has, in turn, lowered the temperature of the house. Add to this the fact the way the shed and building are facing and the distance between creates a venturi effect in the summer months which channel the breeze through that space dropping, the temperature further is an added bonus
There is always something to do and always something to learn.
Some take homes:
- Understand your context (what do you want… really)
- Do a climate and microclimate assessment (see table 2 and MLA link as a guide for overlays)
- Look at trees and a living ground cover (rather than a dead one) and build microclimates
- Understand that your whole site (soft) is catchment, not just your roof-space (hard) and that every drop that hits it can be stored and used
- Understand the needs of the system you are putting in place – for example, each tree needs approx. 5 litres per tree (typically) per day during the peak periods, Veg patches approx 5 litres per sqr metre per day
- Look at what services you need and then look no farther than your local community to fulfill them
Your local council website for localised data and services offered in your community
Carbon foot print
Climate data (rain, wind, temperature, frost)
Type “climatology *your local weather station* and it should come up with the data for your local area from BoM
Property risk assessment – MLA
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