“The word permaculture was coined by Bill Mollison and myself (David Holmgren) in the mid-1970’s to describe an integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man. A more current definition of permaculture, which reflects the expansion of focus implicit in Permaculture One, is ‘Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs.’ People, their buildings and the ways in which they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture.” – David Holmgren (co-creator of Permaculture)
“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.” – Bill Mollison
The big question. What is Permaculture. One of the consistent responses to this question in the courses that I help facilitate is, “How long is a piece of string?”
Permaculture over time has had many definitions, each showing the unique character of the people who have applied it in their own context. From its original definition of a PERMAnent agriCULTURE to the evolution to one of a PERMAnent CULTURE.
Many different practitioners have come up with their own definitions –
“Permaculture is a way of life which shows us how to make the most of our resources by minimising waste and maximising potential. Conscious design of a lifestyle which is highly productive and does not cause environmental damage. Meeting our basic needs and still leaving the earth richer than we found it.” – Graham Bell
“Permaculture 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.” – Geoff Lawton
Permaculture is about “…saving the planet and living to be a hundred, while throwing very impressive dinner parties and organising other creatures to do most of the work.” – Linda Woodrow
“Permaculture has, in many people’s minds, come to represent a sustainable, organic, home vegetable garden.” – Rosemary Morrow
I even tried to come up with my own at one point many years ago.
“Permaculture is a design framework for the building of resilient, regenerative and abundant, human-supporting landscapes, both physical (Earth care) and hidden (People care), that mirror natural ecosystems through sharing of the abundance (Fair share). By linking the different parts of each system in ecologically sensible ways, permaculture achieves high yields for low energy inputs while actually building fertility over successive seasons..
Permaculture was started through the learning edge between Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the seventies. Since then, it has become a global network providing design solutions for every climate, landscape and culture imaginable.
Permaculture is a way of bringing together in a sensible system: ourselves and our communities, with whatever piece of land or space we are tending. It can be as small as a window with sprouts or as large as a farm or a bioregion. It can be in the city, the suburbs or in the country.
Permaculture addresses the way we live on this planet in a graceful and healthy way, respecting the plants and animals around us, and leaving the biosphere in a more productive and healthy state than we found it.” – Michael Wardle
I was very excited when I finally finished writing it. Emotive. And those I had shown it to thought it was awesome and needed to share it. It even brought a tear to my eye.
Unfortunately for me, there was something missing in it. It was just not ‘me’.
It was at this point that I was introduced to the writings of Rafter Sass Fergusson.
In 2012 Rafter engineered a survey which was sent to 800 permaculturists around the world of which 698 responses where returned.
From this survey Rafter collated the results and from the responses
84% said it was a set of farming and gardening practices:
91.6% said it was social movement
95.9% said it was a philosophy or worldview
71.4% said it was a profession
99.4% said it was a framework for design and planning
With this in mind the definition he came up with was that Permaculture was
“a Design process to meet human needs while enhancing ecosystem health.”
This really resonated with me… short… sharp… simple… not wordy at all.
It is a design process where rather than asking can we do something, it asks should we do something. It is a process where we can design our landscapes to be resilient and abundant while regenerating the environment around us… A legacy
Above all for me though Permaculture is a celebration of life
Click on the link below for more information on Permaculture from David Holmgren in his free PDF e-book “Essence of Permaculture” from the webpage of permacultureprinciples.com
What to read next?
Finding the Right Seed Planting Charts: A Guide Based on Observation, Climate Analogues, and Understanding Different Climate Zones
Gardening is a fulfilling and rewarding experience, but achieving success in growing plants from seeds requires careful planning and timing. One...
In a rapidly changing world where concerns about environmental degradation and food security are becoming increasingly pressing, permaculture offers...
When it comes to water, there are no standard rules. Instead, it is an understanding that depends on the type of plant, the soil, the weather, the...