Permaculture defies simple definition. It’s a complex concept that means many things to many people. In its core, permaculture is a holistic design system, based on three ethics; care of the earth, care for people and fair shares (or the redistribution of surplus). The aim of permaculture is to design effective and resilient human systems which meet human needs that support, include, and enhance nature in all aspects.
Permaculture was developed in Australia by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978 as a practical and ethical design process for creating land-based food production and housing systems that protect and have a positive effect on nature, rather than deplete it. Drawing on a combined knowledge of agriculture, ecology, geography and other natural sciences it provided a holistic understanding of human and natural environments.
Since then permaculture spread to include other like education, economy, community organization, communication, architecture, and others. Its ethics, principles, and design process aren’t bound to agriculture and ecology but can be used to solve challenges in any area. It brings a shift in a more systemic perception that sees humans and nature are inseparably connected and part of one system.
Nowadays permaculture is understood as an ethical and practical design process that through constant observation, analysis and evaluation is able to produce truly sustainable systems in a social, environmental and economic sense. We can also understand permaculture as a holistic worldview that sees people as one element in the biosphere of our planet and recognizes our responsibility to all living creatures. It gives us the tools and opportunity to take responsibilities for our actions and take a role as caretakers of Mother Nature and our own humanity.
Or as Graham Bell puts it “Permaculture is a direction, not destination”.
The internet is full of information about permaculture. Here are two links that provide more in-depth descriptions about permaculture:
More musings, definitions and descriptions of permaculture:
“Permaculture offers a radical approach to food production and urban renewal, water, energy and pollution. It integrates ecology, landscape, organic gardening, architecture and agro-forestry in creating a rich and sustainable way of living. It uses appropriate technology giving high yields for low energy inputs, achieving a resource of great diversity and stability. The design principles are equally applicable to both urban and rural dwellers.” Bill Mollison
“What permaculturists are doing is the most important activity that any group is doing on the planet. We don’t know what details of a truly sustainable future are going to be like, but we need options, we need people experimenting in all kinds of ways and permaculturists are one of the critical gangs that are doing that.” David Suzuki
“Permaculture principles focus on thoughtful designs for small-scale intensive systems which are labor efficient and which use biological resources instead of fossil fuels. Designs stress ecological connections and closed energy and material loops. The core of permaculture is design and the working relationships and connections between all things.” Bill Mollison
“Permaculture is common sense in a world where sense is no longer common” Rakesh Rootsman Rak
“Permaculture gives us a toolkit for moving from a culture of fear and scarcity to one of love and abundance.” Toby Hemenway
“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.” Bill Mollison
“Traditional agriculture was labor intensive, industrial agriculture is energy intensive, and permaculture-designed systems are information and design intensive.” David Holmgren
“There is one, and only one solution, and we have almost no time to try it. We must turn all our resources to repairing the natural world, and train all our young people to help. They want to; we need to give them this last chance to create forests, soils, clean waters, clean energies, secure communities, stable regions, and to know how to do it from hands-on experience.” Bill Mollison
“The holistic and practical permaculture garden is the best classroom for studying biology, chemistry, physics, poetry, economics, every subject. Permaculture is one of the most beautiful, inspiring, resilience, sustainable, ecological, and joyful pathways of living. The future is permaculture.” Satish Kumar
“Permaculture is about designing strategies for the world that are based on caring for the earth, caring for people and caring for future generations. Within a framework of ethics and principles inspired by nature and by the best that previous cultures had to offer, permaculture offers much toward shaping a more healthy, sustainable and just world.” Rosemary Morrow
“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.” Bill Mollison
“If we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late; if we act as individuals, it’ll be too little; but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.” Rob Hopkins
“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” Bill Mollison