PERMACULTURE IS A SYSTEM OF AGRO-ECOLOGY AND SOCIAL DESIGN PRINCIPLES THAT SIMULATES OR DIRECTLY UTILIZES THE PATTERNS AND FEATURES OBSERVED IN NATURAL ECOSYSTEMS.
The term “permaculture” was originally coined to refer to the idea of a truly sustainable agriculture, but has expanded to embrace the idea of “permanent culture” in recognition that the social dimension is integral to truly sustainable living systems. It has been described as “a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area or thing in isolation.
Permaculture draws from several disciplines including organic farming, agro-forestry, sustainable development, and applied ecology. The design principles which are the conceptual foundation of permaculture are derived from the science of systems ecology and study of pre-industrial examples of sustainable land use.
The primary agenda of the movement has been to assist people to become more self reliant through the design and development of productive and sustainable gardens and farms. It applies equally well to both rural and urban areas. Permaculture can also be called simply, “a revolution disguised as gardening.”
Back in the 70’s, two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren started a journey that we are still on today. They re-organized ancient knowledge and skills, traditional wisdom about plants, animals, and social systems, and added some new ideas. They effectively created a system of design for how to build a stable and resilient culture, and called it “permaculture.
The majority of sciences, including modern agriculture and horticulture, have been developed under a reductionist approach, separating everything — soils, plants, insects, animals and humans — and examining in great detail every one of these isolated elements. In contrast Permaculture is the study of inter-relations and the inter-dependence of living organisms in their environment. It results in a new way of sustaining and enriching life without social and environmental degradation.
Permaculture design focuses on connections between things, creating something bigger than its parts.
Permaculture is underpinned by a set of three ethics, and by principles which are transmitted in various ways and interwoven throughout the ethics:
The three core tenets of permaculture:
- Care for the earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
- Care for the people: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
- Fair Share: Reinvesting surpluses back into the system to provide for the first two ethics. This includes returning waste back into the system to recycle into usefulness and that each of us should take no more than what we need before we reinvest the surplus.
Twelve design principles
These 12 design principles were articulated by David Holmgren in his Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability:
- Observe and interact: By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
- Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.
- Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
- Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
- Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
- Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
- Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
- Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
- Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
- Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
- Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
- Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.