Permaculture is a holistic design science that builds connections between disciplines with the ultimate intention of creating healthy, functional, sustainable human communities and natural ecologies.


WHY DO WE NEED IT?
The twenty-first century is upon us and with it, a plethora of environmental and social problems.Even more challenging, many of these problems exist on a global scale including climate change, biodiversity loss, soil erosion, desertification, deforestation, destructive agricultural systems, widespread toxic pollution, and many more.Paradoxically, many of these issues plague our communities on a local scale as well.

Fortunately, scientists, citizens and some policy makers have begun to recognize the interconnectedness of these issues.We can no longer afford to consider climate change and deforestation of distant rainforests as unique and separate topics.We now see that even our attempt to switch to renewable biofuels causes deforestation and exploitation in order to meet production demands.While we do not know exactly what will happen as the climate continues to change and global feedback loops are set in motion, it is clear that dramatic changes are afoot.The realm of economics has even come to recognize the way we treat ecological goods and services is not complete or sustainable and these considerations should be incorporated into the market - ignoring them is at our own peril.In the face of so many interconnected problems we need a far more holistic solution then what is usually provided.While current ecological efforts including conservation, recycling, reducing waste, etc. provide modest solutions, we need much more.We need a new way of viewing, inhabiting, restoring, and imagining the world around us.

“The world will not be saved by people with programs. If the world is saved, it will be saved because the people living in it have a new vision.” -Daniel Quinn

A VISION AND A SOLUTION

Permaculture seeks to provide this vision; it is at the same time a design science, a lifestyle ethic, and a vision for the future of world – both humanity and nature.It is the framework and conscious design process through which technologies and practices are applied in the maintenance of “cultivated” ecosystems that have the diversity, stability & resilience of natural ecosystems.It is a harmonious integration of people into the landscape in such a way that the land [and people] grows in richness, productivity, and aesthetic beauty.

In other words, permaculture is way of designing systems that highlights not just the individual elements themselves, but rather the relationships between them.For example, your farm could feature a windmill, an organic vegetable patch, and a water catchment system but not be considered a permaculture farm.Permaculture design focuses not only on individual elements but on the way in which their relative location to each other creates mutually beneficial relationships between them and thus reduces the overall ecological impact through reduction of inputs and negative outputs.By using the principles of ecology in the design of agricultural systems, land use, building placement, etc. we can let nature do much of the work while at the same time minimizing our own impacts on nature.

A main focus of permaculture is the sustainable production of food through a variety of methods including forest gardening, integrated pest management, agroforestry, animal husbandry, mutually beneficial plants guilds and more.These strategies are often utilized in combination with soil-improvement tactics like composting and sheet mulching.

And well beyond food production, permaculture has branched out into the design and development of communities, intentional settlements and social structures.It is equally applicable to community development projects and the rural homestead.

HISTORY

This new vision began in Australia, first articulated by Bill Mollison and David Homlgren in 1976 in a Tasmanian publication Organic Farmer and Gardener magazine.From this, the idea quickly spread throughout the Australian continent and beyond.Two years later Mollison and Holmgren would publish their first book; Permaculture One: a Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements. The focus of the first work in permaculture tended more toward design of agricultural systems that looked and acted very similar to natural ecosystems, commonly known today as a forest garden. In 1979 Mollison published Permaculture Two, and has since followed with Permaculture: a Designers’ Manual and Introduction to Permaculture. David Holmgren has also published other books, including the groundbreaking Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability.

Since its inception, permaculture theory and practice has spread to every inhabited continent on the globe and become a powerful force for restoring ecological and social health.

PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLES

At the center of permaculture is recognition that the way in which humans inhabit the world is causing a massive, unsustainable ecological impact, and that we actively want to be part of the solution not the problem.To that end, permaculture is based on a set of ethics and design principles.

ETHICAL PRINCIPLES

     1. Care of Land: Work with nature, not against. -  Gaia is our first client.

  • Protection of natural ecosystems.Rare species/ecosystems may need active management
  • Rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems.Use what is there now toward a healthier end.
  • Intensive human settlements in the least area. Do not settle in the wilderness.
  • Focus on putting you own house in order. Stay out of the bush – it is already in order.
  1. Care of People – Physical, social, and spiritual needs.
  2. Self Control of Consumption and Population – the most unstable ecosystems are those with too few, or too many of any one species.  An ecosystems integrity is linked to its population and a system can be sustained when it does not overshoot its carrying capacity. 
  3. Dispersal of surplus toward above ends.

PRIMARY DESIGN PRINCIPLES

Relative LocationEverything is connected.Choose optimal placements of all landscape elements in relation to one another to ensure synergistic yields and provide for the needs of each element or system. Ex: 1+1=3, tomatoes, basil, and marigolds planted apart grow well, but when planted together draw on each other’s presence and create synergies due to their proximity or relative location.Basil and tomatoes taste great together but they also grow better together - basil is an aromatic confuser that protects tomato plants whilst marigolds provide a layer of beauty as well as discouraging or even killing soil borne organisms called nematodes that can damage tomato roots.All three plant species work together in concert.This principle equally applies for buildings and energy systems.

Elements – each element should have many functions – The placement of a tree in the landscape has obvious benefits like beauty and shade, but why should it only provide beauty and shade when it can also provide fruit, nectar for honey and habitat for pollinators, fix nitrogen into the soil (improves fertility), and attract humming birds and butterflies all at once.Unlike non-living systems, the more functions and complexity that are offered by an individual landscape element the more resilient it is to stress, disease, and drought.

Functions – each function should be supported by many elements – Ensure that the most pressing needs of a site have redundant systems.Dig a well AND build a large cistern or water tank for water storage.Connect to the centralized power grid AND install a small 12 volt backup system for the most basic needs.Buy your food from many local producers AND plant a garden and small fruit orchard and grow your own.This is true stability.


CHECK OUT THE VIDEO Permaculture Principles at Work and others like it here.