What is Permaculture?

 

Permanent Culture

The word Permaculture was coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist, and one of his students, David Holmgren. It is a contraction of “permanent” and “agriculture”, or “permanent” and “culture”. Permaculture is a system of design for creating ecological human habitats and food production systems. It is a land use and community building movement that strives for the harmonious integration of human dwellings, microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into stable, productive communities. The focus is not on these elements themselves, but rather on the relationships created among them by the way we place them in the landscape. This synergy is further enhanced by mimicking patterns found in nature.

One of the essential goals of permaculture master planning, design and education, is the ecological restoration of degraded landscapes, including the built environment, gardening and farming, the waste stream, use of energy, and all aspects of the site. A central theme is the production of healthy food. Emphasis is placed on multi-use plants, cultural practices such as sheet mulching and trellising, and the integration of animals to recycle nutrients and graze weeds.

However, Permaculture entails much more than just food production. Energy-efficient buildings, waste water treatment, recycling, and land stewardship in general are other important components of Permaculture. More recently, Permaculture has expanded its purview to include economic and social structures that support the evolution and development of more permanent communities. As such, Permaculture design concepts are applicable to urban as well as rural settings, and are appropriate for single households as well as whole farms, villages, towns and cities.

The Three Ethics of Permaculture

Ethics:  The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children. Cooperation, not competition, is the very basis of future survival and of existing life systems.

  • Care of the Earth: includes all living and non-living things, plants, animals, land, water, air
  • Care of People: promotes self-reliance, community responsibility and mutual access to resources necessary for existence
  • Reinvest Surplus back into Earth and People Care: benevolent distribution of goods and resources

Principles of Permaculture

The permaculture design system is based upon certain ethics and principles and methodologies that govern design work. These principles are witnessed in the behavior of natural systems and therefore constitute a base for human activity that mirror nature and act within the laws that govern its behavior. There are many principles that guide a designer’s effective use of permaculture.

David Holmgren, co-creator of the Permaculture concept, has focused the Permaculture principles into twelve (12), summarized points. Visit his site for more information and free materials: Essence of Permaculture.

For a more comprehensive list of guidelines, Wayne has put together a list based on Bill Mollison’s larger vision. This list is available for FREE and can be downloaded as a PDF here: Principles of Permaculture.