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Permaculture is designing sustainable human habitats by following nature's patterns.


In the mid 1970s two Australian ecologists, Dr. Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, started to develop ideas that they hoped could be used to create stable agricultural systems. This was in response to the rapidly growing use of destructive post-war industrial agricultural methods that were poisoning the land and water, reducing biodiversity, and removing billions of tonnes of soil from previously fertile landscapes. A design approach called 'permaculture' was the result and was first made public with the publication of Permaculture One in 1978.

What is permaculture?

There are three main ingredients to permaculture:

1. Shared ethics of 'earth care', 'people care' and 'fair shares' (which is shorthand for limits to populations and consumption, and the fair distribution of resources to further the work of earth care and people care.) Permaculture also stresses the importance of taking personal responsibility for our actions.

2. Ecological principles derived by the observation of natural systems, by ecologists such as Birch and Odum.

3. Design tools and processes that allow an individual or group to assemble conceptual, material and strategic components into a 'pattern' or 'plan of action' that can be implemented and maintained with minimal resources.

After the publication of Permaculture One, Mollison and Holmgren further refined and developed their ideas, with both originators designing hundreds of 'permaculture plots' and writing further books. Mollison lectured in over 80 countries and the two-week Design Course was taught to many hundreds of students. By the early 1980s the concept had moved on from being predominantly about the design of agricultural systems towards being a more fully holistic design process for creating sustainable human habitats.

By the mid 1980s many of the students had become successful practitioners and began teaching and in a short period of time permaculture groups, projects, associations and institutes were established in over 100 countries.

Permaculture is now well established across the world and there are many inspiring examples of its use. Zimbabwe has 60 schools designed using permaculture, with a national team working within the schools' curriculum development unit. The UNHCR has produced a report on using permaculture in refugee situations after successful use in camps in Southern Africa[?] and Macedonia. A tribe in Peru has moved from a growing dependency on state support to self-reliance and support for other tribes. A military base in the USA is being transformed into an eco-business park and wildlife haven.

In the 24 years since its conception, permaculture has demonstrated that it is a successful approach to designing sustainable systems and can be utilized in every climatic and cultural zone.

See also: forest gardening, Masanobu Fukuoka, Marc Bonfils,organic gardening, organic farming, keyline[?], agroforestry[?]

Some useful books about permaculture;

Permaculture 1 (Bill Mollison & David Holmgren- Tagari Press(Aus)),
Permaculture 2 (Bill Mollison & David Holmgren- Tagari press(Aus)),
Permaculture A Designer's Manual (Bill Mollison- Tagari Press (Aus)),
The Permaculture Way (Graham Bell- Thorsons (UK)),
The Permaculture Garden (Graham Bell- Thorsons (UK)),
Permaculture A Beginner's Guide (Graham Burnett- Land & Liberty (UK)),
Permaculture In A Nutshell (Patrick Whitefield- Permanent Publications (UK)),
Forest Gardening (Robert Hart- Green Books (UK)),
Gaia's Garden (Toby Hemenway- Chelsea Green Books (US)),
The One Straw Revolution (Masanobu Fukuoka- Rodale Books (US- trans. from japanese))
Plants For A Future (Ken Fern- Permanent Publications (UK))
The Woodland Way (Ben Law- Permanent Publications (UK))

Above; 'Permaculture Mandala' illustration by Graham Burnett, summarising the ethics and principles of permaculture design (used with permission)

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