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Permaculture buildings

August 30, 2010

Thai and Chinese farmers might be considered permaculturists (sustainable living, capable of surviving on their own, using the resources of the land). They do it of necessity, because most of them would be so happy to change their hard life for a city life, living in a nice sturdy apartment. In the 1950’s, many Swedish farmers were so happy to leave the hard life and to the embrace the brave new world in the cities. Their grandchildren however, are very well educated, and with a romantic heart they embrace their grandparent’s old house and dream about moving back to the countryside, abandoning stress, noise and pollution. Some of these grandchildren are permaculturists. I believe there is a great difference between a poor uneducated farmer who is trapped in a life style he hates, and a very well educated person who would use the accumulated knowledge of mankind to experiment with an alternative living he has selected. Although the permaculturists humbly say they are nothing compared to the Southeast Asian farmers, they do represent a new type of civilisation, because they have such a holistic view, while an uneducated and poor farmer has very limited views, and most of his knowledge is derived from ancestors, mixing superstition and true knowledge without a thought. 

As to construction of houses, the Hunanese countryside is still full of houses which are either made by blocks of clay with earthen floors, or made by frames of bamboo covered with clay. Such houses may last for centuries, and they are very beautiful and cool in the heat. However, here in the frost-free tropics, such houses may disappear quickly due to termites, which is why they are rarely seen here. China is developing very quickly, and I can not but help feeling fear that these beautiful fairy-tale houses will soon disappear due to ignorance, as the farmers embrace modern materials such as concrete. Indeed such houses are stronger and cleaner, but I hope some old houses will remain because they are so beautiful and ingenious. I hope that when the grandchildren of the present generation look back at pictures of their grandparents clay houses, they will at least use their design when erecting modern buildings.

Eric Danell

In the foreground a new Chinese brick building, and in the background a typical old clay house. Note the grey paint of the clay house, trying to resemble concrete, the material of the rich. Hunan, China, August 2010.

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