I initially found permaculture because I wanted to be prepared for a future that I feared, The housing bubble was bursting and I was a new dad. Finding Permaculture however has transformed my fear into seeing the potential for abundance everywhere I look. Looking back now I see my fear was only helpful in that it lead me to a viable solution. The solution is rooted in understanding and using natural systems, but Permaculture's overall goal has always been to help people take care of themselves and their families, what I was hoping to do from the beginning.
Permaculture is built on three ethics and a prime directive. The prime directive is to provide for yourself and your offspring. That doesn't mean you need to be completely self sufficient, but it does mean we all have a responsibility to be producers. So, between what you produce yourself and what you can acquire from your local community, you are to take responsibly for yourself and your family. No excuses. Making a lot of money is awesome, but what if what your family needs becomes scarce? Money might not get what you need. Dig a well before you get thirsty. The basic needs of humans aren't a mystery, so why not work with nature to make sure you can provide for your basic needs all the time?
If your new to this, that concept, and a quick inventory of what you, and your community are producing to meet your families basic needs might be scary. If you've ever been through a storm that has knocked out power and wiped out shelves, you know how quickly things can change. But take a deep breath and relax a little bit, because one of the things I've found with permaculture is it can turn that fear of scarcity, and transforms it into a realization that nature is quite capable of producing an abundance out of seemingly waste products. If we harness these natural systems while times are good, we can be prepared for nearly anything, and even if nothing bad ever happens the connection to nature and the peace of mind we will develop will be worth all the effort.
What is your household or community producing that currently appears to be a waste product? Small breweries produce spent grains, tree trimmers produce wood chips, restaurants create food scraps, horse farms have old hay and manure. Allowing natural systems to recycle these types of nutrients into useful products is the biggest problem in modern society, because none of us want to deal with our waste products, we just ship them "away", where they become part of a growing pollution problem. This is draining the energy out of our production, and forcing us to use expensive inputs to keep the ball rolling.
One of the other cool things about Permaculture is that it can bring people together with completely different world views. No matter if you think humans are creating climate change or not, the best way to create abundance is to return these organic waste streams back to the soil (carbon). The depletion of carbon from the soil due to deforestation (especially on steep slopes), over tillage, and a lack of diversity in agricultural systems has created a fragile system. Soil carbon holds onto water and nutrients, and gives a home to soil organisms that plants need to be healthy. Every time we knock out a piece of nature, we have to try to do the work of those natural systems, leaving us over paying and under delivering. So far it seems like with our constant scrambing we are keeping our heads above water. Trucking billions of bees around the world to pollinate various crops is still getting the pollination job done. Pesticides and herbicides are managing those issues, and pumping water from deep aquifers to water vegetables in the desert is still managing to produce enough. But the systems are fragile.
You might currently be getting along just fine with 100% city water, and grocery store food. Or maybe your happy with your little garden and chickens, but don't want to "go off the deep end". The problem with our current systems is it only takes one problem for our fragility to be stressed to the point of fracture. Taking just a bit of a "deeper dive" in the world of sustainability can provide a net of security that you can't experience without it. The word net is how many describe permaculture because we design in multiple things to meet the needs of everything in the systems, as well as multiple systems to meet each need. Capture rain water in large tanks, and capture the tank overflow into ponds, Not only does it create multiple levels of water security it creates an extremely productive environment for low maintenance food production, as well as reducing runoff and erosion. Fish don't fight gravity like other animals and so don't have to eat as much to gain weight. If your fish produce too much waste and your getting algae, that problem is a sign of abundance, and you know you have (free) excess nutrients, nutrients are only a problem if we can't think of anything else to grow, like aquaponic lettuce running off a small solar pump. Each level of design creates products, products with potential to create more value. The food waste can be feed to composting worms or black solider fly larva to create fish and chicken feed. The "waste" of the decomposers makes your garden soil full of life and nutrients, and the systems all make each other better, which creates an anti-fragile system.
Comparing the safety net of a permaculture system to how most of the modern world lives. City water can become contaminated, or have pipes burst. The grocery story or chicken feed store, can run out of food if we have prolonged drought, or bad storm, And even if none of these normal systems ever fail in a major way, we still know that most of them require huge amounts energy intensive inputs. The goal isn't to create fear, its to accurately paint a picture of how our systems currently work, and what we can do to improve our resiliency.
Even if all you do is buy a high quality, gravity feed water filter, like a Berkey, and catch some rain water in a tank, you've just provided the number one need for your family, clean water (obviously the bigger the tank/pond, the longer you've met this need). But I urge you to not stop there, become anti-fragile. Get an analysis of your property to see how much water is really running off your hard surfaces and dozens of other factors that effect your property. Take control of the things in your power, and plan for the things that nature consistently throws your way. It might take a little work, but once you start seeing the patterns of nature, and realize you don't have to fight nature at every turn, there is a harmony that gradually develops that is hard to describe, but again, very worth the effort.