Permaculture is a term coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren from Australia in the 1970s. It stands for Permanent Culture. Mollison and Holmgren believed that with an integrated approach to agriculture, architecture, sustainable development and infrastructure, energy, technology, business, economy and education we can maximize the useful connections between each discipline, reducing waste and resource exploitation while creating a synergistic and energy-efficient society.
This wonderful short clip by Any Sany and Jacob Redman, two Permaculture filmmakers ask this question and get some great responses!
We have entered the time of peak oil descent where the stakes for global resources are at their most competitive. Population and energy demands continue to grow exponentially. Permaculture is a set of design tools at our disposal to reshape our role at this crucial period. It is a practical design methodology which pushes the boundaries of systems management. It continues to reshape land practices, local economies, disaster relief, businesses, self-reliance and community interdependence.
Shifting into the Permaculture perspective
So, getting down to the basics, what is permanent culture or permaculture? First off, it is a practical discipline that is both process and result oriented. Three ethics and twelve principles create structure for the process.
The three ethics consist of earth care, people care and fair share. Each ethic encompasses a duty of care towards us, our community and the environment with the emphasis on meeting the needs of each without negatively impacting the others.
The primary ethic, earth care, is the support for the earth to succeed and prosper and is based on the fact that without a healthy earth, humans cannot thrive.
People care is based around creating systems which nurture individuals and communities, enabling them to access resources and reach their full potential.
Surplus (fair share) is valued in many forms and the permaculture design system is considered successful in the way that it offers prosperity to both the eco-system and community or individuals impacted by the project.
The twelve design principles structure and expand comprehension of the evaluation, design, implementation and process of any project. The principles are influenced by the dynamics of the natural world. They are:
- 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 behaviour 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.
Permaculture design fosters a progressive, problem-solving mindset and while result-oriented, it has the potential to generate insight and transformation for designers and facilitators of any given project.