[permaculture] animals in permaculture

Rain Tenaqiya raincascadia at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 16 14:42:36 EDT 2004

The question about animals in permaculture systems is not "Should we include animals in permacultures?" but "How do we design for animals in permacultures?" because animals are always part of ecosystems, whether we put them there or not, from soil creatures to wild birds to wild small mammals and so on.  Large mammals introduced into humun ecosystems can produce many benefits if properly managed, from weed control, to the utilization of wasted food, to quicker nutrient cycling, but they are not a necessary component of sustainable food systems, as demonstrated in numerous ecosystems and cultures around the world (especially on islands).  Many horticultural people have intensely managed food systems near their homes with a limited animal component surrounded by wilder areas where wild animals are hunted for meat.  Maybe this is a good model to imitate.
I am interested in exporing the idea that grazing mammals are the best choice for grasslands, especially since I live in California where there is a lot of grassland.  I think it is impossible to make blanket statements about whether or not we should use grazers when the context is not included.  If growing food only for yourself and a few others, it is probably possible to do so from irrigated food forests and fields, even in a grassland, and use less space than if you were to derive most of your food from grazing mammals.  Extensive irrigation may not be sustainable for large-scale production systems, however (but I doubt that any large-scale production system is sustainable), and in this context grazing might be more appropriate.  However, the fact that grasslands tend to be more fragile than forested areas begs the question of whether the extensive domestication of grasslands should even be considered.  History shows that it is difficult to sustainably manage grazers on
 grasslands and huge areas of the world are now desert or severely degraded because of this practice.  Maybe (especially after the humun population starts to decrease) we should allow grasslands to remain wild (possible used only for hunting) and focus our food-growing efforts on more humid areas.
I would like to hear what others have to say about this.

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