An Introduction to Permaculture


Permaculture is part of a global solution: a system or way of thinking that enables us, as human beings, to live in a way that can allow us, other species and our planet to not just survive, but thrive.  It is part of a global solution, implemented locally around the world, that can help us transition into a sustainable future ethically and with intelligence.

Permaculture began as a movement in Australia in the 1970s and has since gone on to inspire millions around the world. The term was originally defined as “permanent agriculture” but has evolved to encompass a wider range of concerns and is now most commonly defined as “permanent culture”. Permaculture is a philosophy, but more than that, it is also a practical guide for life. It has given us a range of design principles by which we can arrange our lives.

There are three key tenets that underpin permaculture:

  1. Care of our planet
  2. Care of humankind
  3. Return of surplus into the system.

These central principles have been further distilled into twelve principles of design, outlined by David Holmgren, a key figure in the world of permaculture.

These principles are:

  1. Observe and interact
  2. Catch and store energy
  3. Obtain a yield
  4. Apply self-regulation and feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

These twelve principles can be meditated upon and applied to a wide range of aspects in our modern lives, from gardening to our working lives to politics to social-activism. They can and have given a range of practical solutions for individuals and communities who wish to live in a sustainable way.

So much has already been achieved as a result of applying these principles in different ways around the world. Some might even say that miracles have been worked. Just imagine how much could be achieved were these principles applied consistently and conscientiously across the whole world!

Geoff Lawton’s Greening of the Desert

One simple and yet electrifying example of permaculture principles in action can be found in Jordan, where leading permaculturist Geoff Lawton has lead a project which has succeeded in turning the inhospitable, salt-ridden, hyper-arid desert there into a lush, green landscape where food can be produced.

Geoff Lawtons Greening of the Desert

Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture

By working with nature rather than against it and applying simple permaculture techniques, such as swales to collect what little water there is from over a large area and heavy mulches to make use of biomass on site and feed it back into the system, Geoff Lawton and the team were able to create a self-sustaining and productive ecosystem. This is just one of many examples of permaculture in action, changing our damaged world.

The positivity and hope of the message permaculture puts forward is refreshing in an age when, all too often, all we hear is messages of doom and gloom. The world needs to change – and fast – but is such change really possible? Permaculture shows us that it is.

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