Permaculture is a branch of ecological design, ecological engineering, environmental design, construction and integrated water resources management that develops sustainable architecture, regenerative and self-maintained habitat and agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems. The term permaculture (as a systematic method) was first coined by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978. The wordpermaculture originally referred to “permanent agriculture” but was expanded to stand also for “permanent culture,” as it was seen that social aspects were integral to a truly sustainable system as inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka‘s natural farming philosophy.
- Care of the Earth:We all came from the Earth. Protecting existing ecosystems and rehabilitating damaged areas is our top priority.
- Care of People: Humans are social organisms. Our minds, bodies and souls will benefit by developing positive communities & environments
- A Careful Process: We must maintain a positive and cooperative attitude during the ongoing development of a mutually beneficial & regenerative relationship to the Earth.
Permaculture design emphasizes patterns of landscape, function, and species assemblies. It determines where these elements should be placed so they can provide maximum benefit to the local environment. The central concept of permaculture is maximizing useful connections between components and synergy of the final design. The focus of permaculture, therefore, is not on each separate element, but rather on the relationships created among elements by the way they are placed together; the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts. Permaculture design therefore seeks to minimize waste, human labor, and energy input by building systems with maximal benefits between design elements to achieve a high level of synergy. Permaculture designs evolve over time by taking into account these relationships and elements and can become extremely complex systems that produce a high density of food and materials with minimal input.
The design principles which are the conceptual foundation of permaculture were derived from the science of systems ecology and study of pre-industrial examples of sustainable land use. Permaculture draws from several disciplines including organic farming,agroforestry, integrated farming, sustainable development, and applied ecology. Permaculture has been applied most commonly to the design of housing and landscaping, integrating techniques such as agroforestry, natural building, and rainwater harvesting within the context of permaculture design principles and theory.
Twelve Permaculture design principles 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. Everything is connected. Place elements in a system to ensure optimal performance of the whole.
- 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. Systems without yields use more than they provide. Yields are only limited by the understanding of the designers & managers.
- Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. We need to plan for growth and change. Designs evolve. Anticipate system changes over time and design accordingly.
- Use and value renewable resources and services: Cycle & Recycle Energy. Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources. Catch, store, use and recycle energy before letting it go, as good as it was when received.
- 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: Cooperation instead of Competition. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 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: Minimal Change for Maximum Effect. Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes. Use intensive, small-scale systems and expand on their successes.
- 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. Develop connections between as many elements as is possible in a system.
- 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.
- Be Creative: The Problem is the Solution. Rethink the design from many different perspectives, angles and considerations. We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.
Source: Wikipedia for Permaculture
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, Introduction to Permaculture
“If we think of practices like organic gardening, recycling, natural building, renewable energy and even consensus decision-making and social-justice efforts as tools for sustainability, then permaculture is the toolbox that helps us organize and decide when and how to use those tools. Permaculture is not a discipline in itself but rather a design approach based on connecting different disciplines, strategies and techiques. It, like nature, uses and melds the best features of whatever is available to it. ”
“The aim of permaculture is to design ecologically sound, economically prosperous human communities. It is guided by a set of ethics: caring for Earth, caring for people, and reinvesting the surplus that this care will create”
Source: Gaia Garden: A Guide to Home Scale Permaculture, Toby Hemenway, p. 5-7