This post is made by one of our students as part of their PDC Completion Home Correspondence Course.
David Holmgren’s second principle of permaculture is “Catch and store energy” (Holmgren, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, Holmgren Design Services, 2002), often described with the proverb, “Make hay while the sun shines.” The idea of this principle is that we should be alert for and take advantage of opportunities to capture energy and slow down its flow through the landscape around us, thus ensuring a steady flow of energy through the system rather than an ebb and flow. One illustration of this principle is the pattern of any water drainage – for example, when the mountains above a river remain forested, the river flows at a more constant and predictable level year-round. But when the forests are clear-cut, the river floods extensively during the rainy season and can run dry during the dry season or a drought – both situations devastating for human settlements and for the local ecology. The saga of the Loess Plateau in China (denuded and desertified after centuries of overgrazing and deforestation) illustrates this phenomenon well, with the upshot being that the people living in some parts of the Loess Plateau are now working to reforest their high places, improving the vegetation, soil and water in the entire watershed in a domino effect begun simply by capturing and storing water (energy) higher on the landscape and slowing down its movement.
Chokecherries as harvested from the bush: