Permaculture is a system of conscious design that mimics the patterns and relationships of nature to provide for local human needs. It can be applied to anything from growing food on an apartment balcony to managing a broadscale farm to designing an industrial process to running a community economic development project.
BUT... permaculture cannot be captured by simple definitions. It is a living and evolving practice. This section, and indeed the whole of this website, will help to fill out our definition but the understanding of what permaculture is develops and grows all the time. As you learn from other practitioners and apply those learnings alongside your own observations and experiences, you yourself will contribute towards the shaping and directing of this slightly amorphous movement we know as Permaculture.
Permaculture is a positive response to the environmental and social challenges of our time.
Permaculture is an approach to design that is firmly grounded in Ecology. It was developed to help us meet our need for air, water, food, fuel, comfort, and community while regenerating the earth’s life support systems. It is built on an understanding that it is not enough to simply reduce the harm we are doing to the ecosystems we live in - we need to actively rebuild ecological integrity into all aspects of human life.
Permaculture is built on ecology, and ecology is all about relationships.
The most fundamental task of permaculture design is to optimise relationships between organisms (including humans) and between organisms and their environment. It is the antithesis of reductionism because it recognises that every element in a system exists only as a part of the whole. This focus on building beneficial relations, through co-location and through a deep understanding of the functions of different elements, is a defining feature of permaculture design.
Permaculture attempts to integrate nature's wisdom, indigenous and traditional knowledge, and science.
It is hardly surprising that permaculture has taken off around the world. We are after all a product and part of nature ourselves, indigenous to the planet, and we all have a connection with the forces of nature around us. This is true whether we live in a city or at the edge of a pristine lake – we all breathe from the same atmosphere, drink water from the same hydrological cycle and eat crystallised energy from the same sun. Grounded in this reality we can all recognise the beauty, elegance and inherent “rightness” of the natural systems that Permaculture practitioners take as the best model for building sustainable, resilient and regenerative systems.
Permaculture is infinitely more than an approach to gardening.
Permaculture thinking can be fruitfully applied to all spheres of human activity; our social structures, land management systems, resource use, manufacturing, city planning, transport, energy, and economics. Humans are as much part of the natural world as any other thing and so it makes sense that we are subject to the same ecological principles as the rest of life. Permaculture's application is limited only by our own capacity to explore.
Here is a small random selection of other resources introducing permaculture design:
Designing a Sustainable Culture An article from Malawi that uses a different articulation of the principles