WHAT IS PERMACULTURE?

Permaculture, at the bare minimum, is a design system for food growing and farming that relies on nature-based techniques to create a regenerative system [1]. Initially used as a way of improving the resilience of agricultural systems (the ability of a system to continue its function even after a shock to the system [2]), the word “permaculture” was originally intended to refer to “permanent agriculture” [1].

However, as ideas surrounding permaculture and permaculture design began to grow to incorporate ecological responsibility outside of food production, “permaculture” is now mostly used to refer to “permanent culture” [3]. These other aspects affected by permaculture design can include personal responsibility and lifestyle, community building and organization, and spiritual beliefs [3].

Permaculture has three general tenets that inform all aspects of the practice [4]:

  1. Care for the earth.
  2. Care for the people.
  3. Return of surplus.

There isn’t a single way to practice permaculture; techniques vary greatly over space and time to obtain the best results while still following the three tenets [5].

What do I think?

The aspect of permaculture that intrigues me the most is the emphasis on being more than sustainable, but being regenerative. Practitioners of permaculture are trying to not only maintain the quality of air, water, land, and food in their care, but seek to improvethe condition of these things over time [6]. This regenerative aspect, to me, is what puts permaculture above other natural/organic farming techniques available; it does more than improve personal or public health of humans in the present, but puts in place a framework that will benefit future generations of all living things.

Additionally, the three core tenets provide a lot of flexibility. Permaculture doesn’t try to offer absolute solutions to growing food in an environmentally responsible way, but recognizes that these techniques will differ from place to place. There is an emphasis on natural methods, but practitioners of permaculture recognize that natural methods for one region aren’t necessarily the best methods for another. As a result of this attention to methods and the impact on the earth, many permaculture organizations are more thoughtful about the use of different techniques and technologies, and constantly adapt to their changing environments to do what is best for the land.

The flexibility of the practice combined with the emphasis on regenerative techniques makes permaculture, in my opinion, one of the best practices we can do to mitigate the harms of environmental degradation that have occurred so far.

Links and Resources

I’ve used the term “permaculture” in previous posts and realized that an explanation was in order for those who may not have come across this term before. This post is meant to be just a brief introduction of the term to help clarify previous and future posts. A small sampling of resources to help continue learning about permaculture is included below.

Citations

[1] “Permaculture: A Quiet Revolution — An Interview with Bill Mollison” by Scott London, Green Living
[2] Resilience in Agriculture through Crop Diversification: Adaptive Management for Environmental Change by Brenda B. Lin (PDF)
[3] “What is Permaculture” — Part 1 of 18, Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Webinar
[4] “Permaculture Design for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programming” — AIDSTAR-One, January 2012
[5] “Essence of Permaculture” — Holmgren Design (PDF)
[6] “Weeds or Wild Nature” by David Holmgren

Additional Links