What the heck is permaculture anyway?
Oh boy. We spent a good deal of time considering how to respond to this very question during the Permaculture Design Certification Course up at the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute. It can be hard to distill permaculture's many faces into a concise answer without babbling on for hours and hours, which might be well-facilitated given a campfire & libations, but we're dealing with text on screens here, so here goes nothin'....
It's most convenient for me to think of permaculture as an interdisciplinary design toolkit, or a big umbrella that covers topics including ecology, agroforestry, sustainable housing, economics, earthworks & water retention, appropriate technology, renewable energy, and food production (with a focus on the reintegration of humankind with the natural environment), all fused into the handle of whole systems design. That's a mouthful.
PERMAnent(agri)CULTURE emerged from the academic collaboration of David Holmgren and Bill Mollison in the early 1970's. Permaculture One, the first published book, was essentially Holmgren's thesis at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education, with Mollison acting as an advisor. So sources say....
Key to the whole endeavor was Mollison & Holmgren's study of numerous indigenous practices and natural patterns & processes, and I feel like that first bit is glossed over too frequently. The observation of traditional practices revealed that, far from being uncultured savages with little to no agriculture, many indigenous cultures were so attuned to their environment that their food production systems blended seamlessly with the ecosystem. Therein lies one of the primary sources of inspiration, and it should not be forgotten.
From the ethical core, the permaculturalist then sets about the tasks at hand, using the Permaculture Design Principles to navigate the process, but that's a whole-other post...
So for now, to recap:
Permaculture provides a framework for designing human systems to integrate with and imitate natural systems, resulting in increased resilience as human communities re-mesh with the natural communities we've kind of had a tendency to displace....
From it's beginnings, permaculture has sparked a lot of interest. For most people, as they start learning more about the practice, it feels intuitive -- like something they've been thinking about for a long time without putting it into words. It has grown from it's academic roots into a much larger social movement, tackling such challenges as climate change and peak oil through creative design.
What separates Permaculture from, say, landscape design or similar professions is it's focus on an ethical core. It's not really a permaculture design unless it addresses these three central ethics, which seem self-evident and coincide with virtually any set of religious or political values. Intuitive, if you will... :
I'm stoked to be a part of Taproot Farm's evolution towards a more sustainable future. Stay tuned for more permaculture posts, including strategies & techniques, design principles and more. Here's to a glorious growing season!