permaculture - just what is it?

permaculture is a system of design to create sustainable human habitats

Permaculture is a design system applied to food production and land use, as well as community building.

thinking lots and doing little
Permaculture involves ‘maximum contemplation and minimum action’. By taking note of the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems, we can design frameworks and guidance for people to develop their own sustainable solutions to any problem facing the world today.

copying nature
Permaculture involves creating sustainable human habitats by following nature’s patterns. It is based on the philosophy of co-operation with nature and caring for the earth and its people.

In a nutshell, permaculture is thinking before you act.

Bill Mollison and David Holmgren
The term was coined by the Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren during the 1970s, and is a combination of the words - permanent and agriculture.

Applied to food production and land use, permaculture involves productive and sustainable ways of living that integrate:

• ecology
• landscape
• organic gardening
• architecture
• agroforestry

it’s about relationships
However, the focus is on the relationships created among these elements, rather than on the individual elements themselves.

what’s wrong with conventional farming
Instead of man clearing land of its natural wilderness in order to plant a limited number of crops, which are then harvested for human and livestock consumption, with the cycle beginning again year upon year, exhausting the land, permaculture advocates a vision in which man uses as little land as possible, leaving a large percentage of land as wilderness. And where necessary actually encouraging wilderness to re-establish itself.

Freeing land for wilderness matters for everyone, even those who think only people matter.

Bill Mollison explains about how we’ve abused the land:
“We have abused the land and laid waste to systems we need never have disturbed had we attended to our home gardens and settlements. If we need to state a set of ethics on natural systems, then let it be thus:
1. Implacable and uncompromising opposition to further disturbance of any remaining natural forests, where most species are still in balance;

2. Vigorous rehabilitation of degraded and damaged natural systems to stable states;

3. Establishment of plant systems for our own use on the least amount of land we can use for our existence; and

4. Establishment of plant and animal refuges for rare or threatened species.
planting our own vegetables using as little land as possible
Permaculture as a design system deals primarily with the third statement above, but all people who act responsibly in fact subscribe to the first and second statements.

That said, I believe we should use all the species we need or can find to use in our own settlement designs, providing they are not locally rampant and invasive.”

Permaculture is not a set of rules. Instead, the principles found in the natural world – those of co-operation and mutually beneficial relationships – are translated into actions.

applied to our everyday living, these actions could include selecting:

• the food you eat
• the way you travel
• the type of work you do
• where you live

Most importantly it’s making decisions that relate to all your other decisions, so that all the areas of your life are working harmoniously. It is also about doing things that involve the least effort and the least damage to others.

the ethics and principles of permaculture are divided into 3 broad categories:

• earth care
• people care
• fair shares

earth care is about working with, not against, nature. The idea here is that one doesn’t waste natural resources, certainly not at a rate at which they cannot be replaced. It also means using outputs from one system as inputs for another (e.g. using your vege peels for compost) so that you keep waste to a minimum.

people care is about looking after us as people, both on an individual and community level. Here the principles of self-reliance, co-operation and support of one another come into play. Looking after ourselves is as important – it doesn’t help if we are too tired to do anything useful!

We have only one earth and fair share means that we need to share it – and that’s not just with other humans, it’s with all other living things and future generations. Translated, this means limiting the consumption of natural resources and making sure that we all have access to the basic needs of life – clean water, air, food, shelter, meaningful employment and social contact.

Most importantly, permaculture emphasises self-reliance and community sufficiency.”



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