Introduction to Humid Cool to Cold Climates

Permaculture Designers Manual

CHAPTER 12 –

HUMID COOL TO COLD CLIMATES IN PERMACULTURE

Section 12.1 –

Chapter 12 Introduction to Humid Cool to Cold Climates in Permaculture Designers Manual

 

This chapter deals with the cool to cold humid climates, where precipitation exceeds evaporation over the year.

These climates differ from dry lands in respect to evaporative effect and from tropics in that frosts can regularly occur in winter. It is in this section also that we will deal with aspects unique to a cold climate (snow, ice, frozen ground, snow avalanche), and the character of settlements, landscapes, and husbandry in these regions.

Cool humid climates include Mediterranean areas, pole wards to the boreal forests (the Taiga) that rim the tundra or cold deserts. For the most part, they are winter-wet climates, and suffer fogs and frosts.

 

It is in the European and southwest Asian areas of cool humid climate that what we call contemporary or broad scale crop agriculture developed.

This form of agriculture (high capital input, mechanized, energy-intensive, using artificial fertilizers and pesticides) has been in appropriately exported as an ideal to tropics and deserts, where neither soil, water, nor financial resources can support it.

In more sensible times, the cool (mesothermal) climates were a mosaic of mixed forests, vegetable plots. Trade and export pressures from a subsidized agriculture have destroyed this stable use of land, and forced large-scale grain crops and feed-lot systems on farmers.

 

Fields have been coalesced, hedgerow destroyed, and few significant forests remain within the farmed areas.

Even where forests are preserved , the heavy industrial base of temperate areas, plus overuse or fossil fuels generally, have created widespread problems with acid rain, affecting the foothill forests and the thin soils of older shield areas, with secondary effects on water quality due to a release of excess metals from rocks and soils to streams.

Ozone production and soil losses (people now speak of the “‘desertification‘” of such areas as southern Eng­land, where wind effects on exposed broad scale soils sown to grains are pronounced) are slowly decreasing production on once-fertile fields.

 

There is widespread pollution from the overuse of nitrogen fertilizers and biocides, compounded by such accidents as Chernobyl and persistent radioactive in add soils, uplands, and field crops.

Groundwater quality is decreased and potable water supply becoming a problem.

The 40-year thrust for more and more production from temperate farms succeeded in producing surpluses in almost every farm product (grains, meats, dairy, and wines) at enormous cost to the public and the land.

Thus, the central problem of the mesothermal climates and their societies is not (as in deserts and tropics) one of subsistence, but the very opposite. It is how to change energy and land use to create a sustainable future for such societies, without the huge public subsidy of modem agriculture.

 

However, since 1970 or thereabouts, there has been a widespread home garden movement and an increasing development of urban farms under community control. The production (in dollar terms) of such home gardens now equals or exceeds farm production, and gardening is still increasing in popularity.

Public attitudes to industrialized or polluted farm product is also changing due to data almost every day on the health effects from residual sprays, hormones, and excessive nitrogen or mineral content Radioactive fallout has not helped to inspire consumer confidence in farm product, which priories to create a new category of human morbidity, called agriculturogenic disease (illnesses caused by farm chemicals).

As a result of “better health education“, animal fats, carbohydrates, and red meats are falling into disfavor as the effects of diet on diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and immune response are being elucidated.

These effects are worsened by that more sedentary lifestyle of a mechanized society that are as a pronounced consumer swung to higher diets, less fats, starches, and sugars, and a greater consumption of naturally produced vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish, and poultry.

As many people now view modem agriculture, it has few essential roles to play in a sane future economy. Perhaps the production of lean protein and energy crops (firewood and liquid fuels, biogas and forest product) is the only foreseeable farm future.

Conservation forestry for watershed protection and wildlife will certainly be a large part of future land use on the more affluent, leisured societies A s for food production, there is already ample evidence that the existing waste space within urban /suburban areas can produce most of the essential food of such areas.

The societies occupying mesothermal climates have achieved, for the most part, zero or negative population growth, and thus the pressure on land to produce have lessened while the land itself has been forced into uneconomical overproduction.

Perhaps the best indicator of this stability in population is that more people are regarding farms and forests as recreational reserves and near cities farm produce can be derived from facilities, not farm product.

 

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