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AgriculturePhilosophy

Permaculture Design Principles

Permaculture was originally a word made up of the two words ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’. But now the scope is broader, and permaculture is more often defined as ‘permanent culture’.

Permaculture (the word, coined by Bill Mollison, is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture and permanent culture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture, there is no possibility of a stable social order.

Permaculture design is a system of assembling conceptual, material, and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all its forms.

The philosophy behind permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them; and allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.

Permaculture is not exclusive; its principles and practice can be used by anyone, anywhere:

  • City flats, yards and window boxes
  • Suburban and country houses/garden
  • Allotments and smallholdings
  • Community spaces
  • Farms and estates
  • Countryside and conservation areas
  • Commercial and industrial premises
  • Educational establishments
  • Waste ground

Permaculture encourages us to be resourceful and self-reliant. It is not a dogma or a religion but an ecological design system that helps us find solutions to the many problems facing us both locally and globally.

The Twelve Principles of Permaculture –

Permaculture gives us a range of practical solutions for a better world. These principles are most commonly used in relation to food growing systems, but can also be used to guide us in all parts of our lives.

Twelve Permaculture design principles articulated by David Holmgren in his Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability:

Observe and Interact – Being observant and responding to what we see is really important in moving towards a more ethical and sustainable way of life.

We can learn from nature, and from other people, observing how others have moved to a greener and more ethical approach, and working with the world around us to succeed in our goals.

Catch and Store Energy – Energy is abundant on our planet. Learning how to catch and store that energy in plants, with renewable energy infrastructure, or in other ways, is key to living a sustainable way of life.

Growing our own food at home is a great way to catch and store energy from our sun. The passive solar design also offers opportunities for architects, engineers, and designers to make further use of this abundant energy source.

Obtain a Yield – Taking the three core ethics of permaculture into account, we can work with nature to get all the things we need. Obtaining a yield can be as simple as using organic gardening techniques to provide food for our families but it can also be about obtaining a non-tangible yield: happiness, health or mental well-being.

Living a sustainable lifestyle that sticks to permaculture principles can allow us to obtain all sorts of more intangible yields as well as the obvious tangible ones.

Apply Self-Regulation and Feedback – Understanding where we’ve succeeded and where we’ve gone wrong is vitally important to creating real and lasting change. For example, by analyzing and evaluating all the things that we bring into our homes, we can make better purchasing decisions moving forwards: reducing, reusing, recycling, and regulating our worst consumerist tendencies.

Use and value renewable resources and services – By using the power of the sun, the wind, or the water, we can power our homes, grow our food, and regenerate our environments.

Rather than relying on finite and polluting fossil fuels, we should make full use of renewable sources of energy: for example, switching to a green energy supplier or even generating our own power with solar panels or other renewable infrastructure at home is something many of us can do to move to a more sustainable way of life.

Produce no waste – Moving towards a zero-waste lifestyle means looking at all the trash we chuck out and trying to eliminate it. We can do this by reducing the amount we buy, by buying wisely, by reusing or recycling where possible, by composting, and by working with ethical companies who look at waste throughout the entire life-cycle of their products.

Design from Patterns to Details – Whether designing a new vegetable garden or an entirely new sustainable way of life, we have to look at the big picture before we get bogged down in the little things.

Thinking wholistically, about all areas of our lives, can help us move forwards in a positive direction.

Integrate Don’t Segregate – Plants work well in diverse systems the same is true of people too. Planting polycultures (guilds of plants that work together) is just one example of how this principle works in the real world.

And as well as applying this in the garden, we can also apply it to communities, groups or organizations. Sustainability is something we achieve together through collaboration and co-operation it’s not something we do alone.

Use small and slow solutions – Every journey begins with a single step. Whenever we try to do too much too soon, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and though big changes can bring big benefits, they bring bigger risks too. Making small, incremental changes is the best way to move towards sustainable change.

For example – don’t start a farm, try a small windowsill garden. Don’t overhaul your entire shopping philosophy change things one ethical purchase at a time.

Use and Value Diversity – Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides. Just as ecosystems work best when filled with a greater variety of different plants and animals, so human society functions best when a variety of different people are represented.

In our garden, home, and our life in general, it’s a good idea to promote and value diversity in all its forms.

Use Edges and Value the Marginal – Sustainability is about making use of all the resources that we have at our disposal. Whether we’re talking about land use, workplaces, homes or society in general, making use of all we have involves valuing fringes and fringe elements.

This might be as simple as using a neglected corner of our outside space to grow more food, or something more abstract, like thinking outside the box.

Creatively Use and Respond to Change – Finally, change is an inevitable part of life. It’s important to remember that permaculture isn’t just about now, but about the future. We design for change, understanding that things will alter over time. The changing seasons, changing attitudes, our changing climate… how we respond to these changes will shape sustainable progress in the years to come.

These principles are a starting point for an understanding of permaculture and can begin to give us an idea of how we can translate thought to action, and transition to a more ethical and truly sustainable way of life.

Each principle can be thought of as a door that opens into whole systems thinking, providing a different perspective that can be understood at varying levels of depth and application.

People and Permaculture –

Permaculture uses observation of nature to create regenerative systems, and the place where this has been most visible has been on the landscape. There has been a growing awareness though that firstly, there is the need to pay more attention to the people care ethic, as it is often the dynamics of people that can interfere with projects, and secondly that the principles of permaculture can be used as effectively to create vibrant, healthy and productive people and communities as they have been in landscapes.

Besides permaculture practitioners who study and learn about permaculture and consciously use permaculture to live in a more sustainable way, there are many people who practice permaculture without realizing it concerned environmentalists, organic gardeners, conservationists, land-use planners, urban activists, recyclers, indigenous peoples and anyone working toward creating a sustainable human civilization. The reason for this is that the philosophy of permaculture draws on a lot of ideas and practices that have been around for a long time.

The terms ecological design, sustainable design, applied ecology or green design are other terms that describe the basic philosophy of using nature as a model to foster sustainability. The difference between these approaches and permaculture is their scope and focus. Permaculture draws on these systems and incorporates them into a broader framework. Permaculture is a comprehensive system that can be applied to all aspects of one’s life although food production remains an important focus. As mentioned earlier, it is a dynamic, living philosophy that is continuing to evolve.

 

Information Sources:

  1. ethical.net
  2. permaculturenews.org
  3. permaculture.co.uk
read more
AgriculturePhilosophy

About Permaculture

“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labor; of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.” – (Bill Mollison)

By thinking carefully about the way we use our resources – food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs, it is possible to get much more out of life by using less. We can be more productive for less effort, reaping benefits for our environment and ourselves, for now, and for generations to come.

This is the essence of permaculture the design of an ecologically sound way of living in our households, gardens, communities, and businesses. It is created by cooperating with nature and caring for the earth and its people.

Permaculture is not exclusive its principles and practice can be used by anyone, anywhere:

  • City flats, yards and window boxes
  • Suburban and country houses/garden
  • Allotments and smallholdings
  • Community spaces
  • Farms and estates
  • Countryside and conservation areas
  • Commercial and industrial premises
  • Educational establishments
  • Waste ground

Permaculture encourages us to be resourceful and self-reliant. It is not a dogma or a religion but an ecological design system that helps us find solutions to the many problems facing us both locally and globally.

It has many branches including ecological design, ecological engineering, regenerative design, environmental design, and construction. Permaculture also includes integrated water resources management that develops sustainable architecture, and regenerative and self-maintained habitat and agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.

The term permaculture is a contraction of the words “permanent,” “agriculture,” and “culture.” Although the original focus of permaculture was sustainable food production, the philosophy of permaculture has expanded over time to encompass economic and social systems.  It is a dynamic movement that is still evolving.  For example, some practitioners are integrating spirituality and personal growth work into the framework of permaculture.

The term permaculture was coined by David Holmgren, then a graduate student at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education’s Department of Environmental Design, and Bill Mollison, senior lecturer in Environmental Psychology at the University of Tasmania, in 1978. It originally meant “permanent agriculture”, but was expanded to stand also for “permanent culture”, since social aspects were integral to a truly sustainable system as inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka’s natural farming philosophy.

Besides permaculture practitioners who study and learn about permaculture and consciously use permaculture to live in a more sustainable way, there are many people who practice permaculture without realizing it concerned environmentalists, organic gardeners, conservationists, land-use planners, urban activists, recyclers, indigenous peoples and anyone working toward creating a sustainable human civilization. The reason for this is that the philosophy of permaculture draws on a lot of ideas and practices that have been around for a long time.

The terms ecological design, sustainable design, applied ecology or green design are other terms that describe the basic philosophy of using nature as a model to foster sustainability. The difference between these approaches and permaculture is their scope and focus. Permaculture draws on these systems and incorporates them into a broader framework. Permaculture is a comprehensive system that can be applied to all aspects of one’s life although food production remains an important focus. As mentioned earlier, it is a dynamic, living philosophy which is continuing to evolve.

Permaculture design emphasizes patterns of landscape, function, and species assemblies. It determines where these elements should be placed so they can provide maximum benefit to the local environment. Permaculture maximizes useful connections between components and synergy of the final design. The focus of permaculture, therefore, is not on each separate element, but rather on the relationships created among elements by the way they are placed together; the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Permaculture design, therefore, seeks to minimize waste, human labor, and energy input by building systems and maximizes benefits between design elements to achieve a high level of synergy. Permaculture designs evolve over time by taking into account these relationships and elements and can evolve into extremely complex systems that produce a high density of food and materials with minimal input.

The design principles, which are the conceptual foundation of permaculture, were derived from the science of systems ecology and the study of pre-industrial examples of sustainable land use. Permaculture draws from several disciplines, including organic farming, agroforestry, integrated farming, sustainable development, and applied ecology. Permaculture has been applied most commonly to the design of housing and landscaping, integrating techniques such as agroforestry, natural building, and rainwater harvesting within the context of permaculture design principles and theory.

Permaculture’s central theme is the creation of human systems that provide for human needs, but using many natural elements and drawing inspiration from natural ecosystems. Its goals and priorities coincide with what many people see as the core requirements for sustainability.

Permaculture tackles how to grow food, build houses and create communities, and minimize environmental impact at the same time. Its principles are being constantly developed and refined by people throughout the world in very different climates and cultural circumstances.

The real difference between a cultivated (designed) ecosystem and a natural system is that the great majority of species (and biomass) in the cultivated ecology is intended for the use of humans or their livestock. We are only a small part of the total primeval or natural species assembly, and only a small part of its yields are directly available to us. But in our own gardens, almost every plant is selected to provide or support some direct yield for people. Household design relates principally to the needs of people; it is thus human-centered (anthropocentric).

This is a valid aim for settlement design, but we also need a nature-centered ethic for wilderness conservation. We cannot, however, do much for nature if we do not govern our greed, and if we do not supply our needs from our existing settlements. If we can achieve this aim, we can withdraw from much of the agricultural landscape, and allow natural systems to flourish.

Vegan permaculture (also known as veganic permaculture, veganiculture, or vegaculture) avoids the use of domesticated animals. It is essentially the same as permaculture except for the addition of a fourth core value; “Animal Care.” Zalan Glen, a raw vegan, proposes that vegaculture should emerge from permaculture in the same way veganism split from vegetarianism in the 1940s. Vegan permaculture recognizes the importance of free-living animals, not domesticated animals, to create a balanced ecosystem. Soil fertility is maintained by the use of green manures, cover crops, green wastes, composted vegetable matter in place of manure.

We have abused the land and laid waste to systems we never need 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 this:

  • Implacable and uncompromising opposition to further disturbance of any remaining natural forests, where most species are still in balance;
  • Vigorous rehabilitation of degraded and damaged natural systems to stable states;
  • Establishment of plant systems for our own use on the least amount of land we can use for our existence; and
  • Establishment of plant and animal refuges for rare or threatened species.

Because permaculture is a comprehensive, dynamic system it can be practiced in different ways and at different levels. To help us begin to use permaculture in our life, the rest of this course will present (1) the ethics – the philosophical core of permaculture, (2) some principles – guidelines for applying permaculture, (3) strategies – goals to help us focus as we apply permaculture, and (4) techniques – concrete ways that we can apply permaculture.

We 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.

 

Information Sources:

  1. permaculturenews.org
  2. heathcote.org
  3. permaculture.co.uk
  4. wikipedia
read more
AgriculturePhilosophy

History Of Permaculture

Permaculture is a process, continually rethought and built upon. It does not belong to anyone person or rely on one charismatic leader. However, certain insightful individuals are important to the history of permaculture and to the future of the movement. This list is far from complete and will continue to grow as new names innovate with permaculture principles.

The term permaculture was coined by David Holmgren, then a graduate student at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education’s Department of Environmental Design, and Bill Mollison, senior lecturer in Environmental Psychology at the University of Tasmania, in 1978. It originally meant “permanent agriculture”, but was expanded to stand also for “permanent culture”, since social aspects were integral to a truly sustainable system as inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka’s natural farming philosophy.

It has many branches including ecological design, ecological engineering, regenerative design, environmental design, and construction. Permaculture also includes integrated water resources management that develops sustainable architecture, and regenerative and self-maintained habitat and agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.

Mollison has said: “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.”

In the 1970’s Mollison and his student David Holmgren wrote and published some books explaining his ideas. In the 1980s he published his design manual and started teaching permaculture design courses to spread his ideas around the world. By the 1990s permaculture had started spreading throughout the US, although it’s more well-known in other countries around the world. To this day, it’s continuing to grow as a global grassroots movement and people primarily learn about it through permaculture design courses and workshops that generally happen outside of academia.

David Holmgren is best known for his influential work, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2002). Unlike many permaculture books that focus primarily on agricultural design, Holmgren’s book is an in-depth look at how sustainable systems function and how we can apply these lessons to our current culture. His theories are firmly rooted in the understanding that we are reaching peak energy. Holmgren lays out a system for us to live and thrive within nature’s limits.

Several individuals revolutionized the branch of permaculture. In 1929, Joseph Russell Smith added an antecedent term as the subtitle for Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture, a book which sums up his long experience experimenting with fruits and nuts as crops for human food and animal feed. Smith saw the world as an inter-related whole and suggested mixed systems of trees and crops underneath. This book inspired many individuals intent on making agriculture more sustainable, such as Toyohiko Kagawa who pioneered forest farming in Japan in the 1930s.

In Australian P. A. Yeomans’ 1964 book Water for Every Farm, he supports the definition of permanent agriculture, as one that can be sustained indefinitely. Yeomans introduced both an observation-based approach to land use in Australia in the 1940s and the Keyline Design as a way of managing the supply and distribution of water in the 1950s.

Holmgren noted Stewart Brand’s works as an early influence to permaculture. Other early influences include Ruth Stout and Esther Deans, who pioneered no-dig gardening, and Masanobu Fukuoka who, in the late 1930s in Japan, began advocating no-till orchards and gardens and natural farming.

The definition of permanent agriculture as that which can be sustained indefinitely was supported by Australian P. A. Yeomans in his 1964 book Water for Every Farm. Yeomans introduced an observation-based approach to land use in Australia in the 1940s and the keyline design as a way of managing the supply and distribution of water in the 1950s.

Among some of the more recognizable names who received their original training within Mollison’s Permaculture Design Course (PDC) system would include Geoff Lawton and Toby Hemenway, each of whom have more than 25 years experience teaching and promoting permaculture as a sustainable way of growing food and providing for human needs. Simon J. Fjell was a Founding Director of the Permaculture Institute in late 1979 and a teacher of the first Permaculture Design Course, having first met Mollison in 1976. He has since worked internationally and is currently listing a major social enterprise on NASDAQ.

By the early 1980s, the concept had broadened from agricultural systems design towards sustainable human habitats. After Permaculture One, Mollison further refined and developed the ideas by designing hundreds of permaculture sites and writing more detailed books, notably Permaculture: A Designers Manual. Mollison lectured in over 80 countries and taught his two-week Permaculture Design Course (PDC) to many hundreds of students. Mollison “encouraged graduates to become teachers themselves and set up their own institutes and demonstration sites. This multiplier effect was critical to permaculture’s rapid expansion.”

Because permaculture is a comprehensive, dynamic system it can be practiced in different ways and at different levels. To help us begin to use permaculture in our life, the rest of this course will present (1) the ethics – the philosophical core of permaculture, (2) some principles – guidelines for applying permaculture, (3) strategies – goals to help us focus as we apply permaculture, and (4) techniques – concrete ways that we can apply permaculture.

 

Information Sources:

  1. permadomia.com
  2. thecarrotrevolution.com
  3. wikipedia
read more