Tree Roots

‘Roots’ is a Weird Word

Welcome to ‘Roots’ our Permaculture blog. Now you are wondering why ‘roots’ is a weird word and apart from ‘roots’ being the things that plants and trees have, what the hell has its weirdness got to do with Permaculture?

It goes without saying that ‘roots’ is a four-lettered word; albeit not what we usually mean when we talk about four-lettered words. As a four-lettered word it is one of the smaller ones in the English language. Despite being one of the smaller words it has an immensely large set of definitions across a sizeable range of subjects and objects.

Those of us who speak English as a first language are very used to the fact that we have several words that sound the same but have very different meanings; called homophones, they however have different spellings (their – belonging to them, there – the opposite of here, and they’re – a contraction of ‘they are’). The word roots is not one of them, no matter what sense it is being used in, you spell it the same way.

As a noun:

  • You find it as the basic cause, source, or origin of something (money is the root of all evil)
    • in music (the fundamental note of a chord)
    • in linguistics (a morpheme from which other words stem)
    • in the biblical sense (a descendant – “the root of David”) 
    • in family, ethnic, or cultural origins (your roots)
  • You also find it in computing (a user with full, unrestricted access)
  • In maths (as in a square root)
  • I am not even going to go into its use in Australia & NZ (only they could)

Then (still as a noun) you come to its use in the plant world, but even here it has a couple of different uses:

  • The one we all know and love; the part of a plant that attaches it to the ground conveying water and nourishment to the rest of the plant
  • It can also apply to the plant itself as in ‘a root vegetable’; turnips, carrots, beets (“roots like beet and carrot cannot be transplanted”)

As a verb (3rd person present) it applies to actions:

  • Cause (a plant or cutting) to grow roots
  • Or of the plant itself (give it time to establish its roots)
  • Establish something deeply and firmly have as an origin or cause
  • (of an animal) turn up the ground with its snout in search of food
  • The act of searching for something (she will find it if she roots through those papers)

As interesting as all this is; if you are in fact interested in the roots of words (see what I did there) at all, it still doesn’t explain what it all has to do with Permaculture. It has everything to do with Permaculture.

Most definitions are essential to Permaculture (barring one or two – especially in Australia & NZ). Permaculture is ‘rooted’ in nature, it is the basic source or origin from which everything stems. We (bi-pedal hominids) have our roots in nature; we are not seperate or above nature, we are an intrinsic part of it. Nature, as the roots of both ‘us’ and Permaculture, has the same function as in music; it is the fundamental ‘note of the chord’ the basis and base-line on which everything is built. We and Permaculture are, as in the biblical sense the descendants of this origin; we are the root of nature.

Our Permaculture roots are also the thing which attaches us to Mother Earth; the thing that conveys nourishment to ‘the rest of the plant’. In fact Permaculture itself is the root.

In Permaculture, when it comes to actions we should be the roots; the cause of Permaculture growing and establishing itself, deeply and firmly (especially in the mainstream). We should also never cease to root; to continually search out the knowledge that nourish us and provide the answers – after all nature has the answers, we just need to know where to look.

So for all us Permie practitioners ‘Roots’ in all their glorious senses are essential.


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