Permaculture

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 word permaculture 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.

“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.

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The three core tenets of permaculture are:

  • 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.
  • Return of surplus: 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.

Twelve Permaculture design principles:

  • 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.