What is PermaCulture

Permaculture is a design science,

based in observation,

which integrates all human activities in a holistic system

based on natural patterns and ecology.

In a word,

Permaculture = Relationship.

Penny Livingston

Utopia, Science, Practice and Movement

It is interesting to consider and describe what permaculture is and how it has advanced, in these times of economic, energetic and climate crisis,

... because far from being a type of agriculture (as it is often classified),

permaculture is something dynamic, in constant flux and continuously changing that now covers all areas of human knowledge, focused on creating sustainable human societies:

that is, crisis-proof.

In this short introduction we'll give an overview of the heart, mind, hands and legs of this creature.


Permaculture is above all a vision, a utopia ("for walking")* described in the word itself, perma-culture: term invented in the late 60s which means permanent culture, or sustainable culture.

The ultimate aim of PermaCulture is to create self-sufficient dynamic systems in the longer-term, that are ecologically sustainable, economically viable, that satisfy all needs and don't pollute or contaminate.

This ideal is also expressed in the ethics, which are explicit and are summarised as "Care of People", "Care of Earth" and "Design Limits to Population and Consumption" or "Future Care".

* The brilliant Uruguaian writer Galeano is often quoted in Spanish for this saying about Utopia:

"She is on the horizon.

I walk towards her two steps,

she moves further away two steps.

I walk ten steps and the horizon runs ten steps further away.

As much as I would walk, I will never reach her.

What are utopias for?

That is what they are for: for walking."

“... yet evil remains,

& while it hides in the secret places of the heart,

utopia is only the shadow of a dream”

N. Hawthorne


We already know what happens with many utopias and for this reason PermaCulture is also a very practical science, in the sense that it seeks to figure out how the laws of Nature work (including human nature) and imitate them, or at least synergize with them & apply them in our design of society. Native ecosystems in particular are masterpieces of sustainable design. Permaculture has always particularly sought to unify all that is useful in any of the sciences and in doing so possibly became the first ever truly holistic science, in constant evolution.

The Australians Mollison and Holmgren* gave these ideals the name and a very practical shape, creating a design language that facilitated its rapid adoption in the whole world. As a science it is based in observation and experimentation all fields of human endeavour: there are no dogmas, all has to be checked through experience.

* Building on the work of brilliant systems scientists Dana Meadows and Howard Odum amongst others.


Once figured out that the basic principles, models and design techniques worked very well (by helping put into motion many farms, organisations and businesses), the founders started to teach others how to create sustainable systems, primarily through demonstration and teaching, encouraging their students to do the same, and by publishing various books.

In Spain the Iberian Permaculture Network was woven and from this Node of the Permaculture Academy we created a complete training program that includes online and presential courses. As a very fertile evolving branch of the Academy we are pioneering with a Integral Permaculture, another step towards a synthesis of the best that is emergent and practically applicable now, to co-create vibrant systems that are in tune with and foster evolution.

The Integral Permaculture Online Manual is a bilingual project under continous construction & an extensive e-book showcasing the extent & depth of this science, from which anyone can study for free.

It is also the supporting information resource for a most ambitious international training event, the PDC +++

"Permaculture is joined-up thinking, by and for Everyone (meaning all species), and also a meta-language of design".


"Permaculture integrates people

in Nature's design.

A Permaculture design

gives us refuge, food, water,

income, community & spiritual fullfillment

& aesthetics inside a healthy & balanced

biological community."

- Dan Hemenway -

& Legs

Permaculture is also a great and dynamic movement, diverse and extensive. There are permaculture designers working in all sectors of society, at all levels and furthering the practice in every growing 'tip' imaginable of the science of sustainable systems.

As well as international conferences, regional meetings take place on five continents since 1985.

Its most modern, concrete and holistic version in the west is expressed nowadays as the Transition Movement, a network of citizen initiatives started in 2005 by students of a permaculture course, which combines good design to create crisis-proof communities (climate, economic and energetic crisis) with a good design for real "grassroots" participation. It is now 'going viral' and expanding rapidly all over the world as probably the most practical, coherent and hopeful answer to the most urgent planetary problem today, climate change.

There are also many equally brilliant yet very different pioneering projects on most continents, working on all levels, from providing basic food, shelter & empowerment to disaster or war-struck zones - in ways that empower people to organize themselves, not to be dependent on externals - to regenerating destroyed ecosystems, improving the quality of life and local economies for millions of people whilst creating living and evolving examples of rational, adaptive sustainable design.

As permaculture only provides the sustainability framework, basic design language and deep understanding of complex systems, every project, if well designed, is unique in its perfect adaption to the local situation, needs, resources and culture.

In uncertain times it's comforting to remember that (famous quote by Abraham Lincoln):

"The best way to predict the future ... it so create it".

Article by Stefania Strega ScozPermaculture Diplomat & Coordinator of the Integral PermaCulture Academy

More Definitions

Permaculture is ...

a way of achieving sustainability

(energetically, ecologically, economically & socially)

for the planet.

It is a design system

for the creation of sustainable human environments.

"Design is the connection between things.

It is not the water, the chicken or the tree.

It is how the water, chicken and tree are connected.

It is the opposite of what they teach you in school.

Education looks at each thing separately, ignoring the connections between them.

Permaculture makes the connections ...

... because when you have the connections you can feed the chicken with the tree.”

Bill Mollison

"Permaculture is a way of life which teaches us how to generate the maximum resource by reducing our waste and maximising our potential.

To live respecting the environment does not mean to leave it alone but to "re-learn" the value of nature and discover new ways of being rich ..

A conscious design of a life that is highly productive and does not cause environmental damage ...

To meet our basic needs including leaving the planet more fertile than we found it."

Graham Bell, The Permaculture Way