What Is Permaculture? - by
Permaculture is ecological design aimed at creating systems that
meet human needs while regenerating and healing the environment
around us. It does this by applying a set of ethics and principles
that guide us in designing connections, flows, and beneficial
relationships among various elements, whether in a garden, a building
or an organization, and mimicking the way that nature works. Permaculture
is no one technique or process, but rather weaves together multiple
approaches, technologies and solutions to problems of sustainability.
Instead of designing separate things, we design connections and
The word ‘permaculture’ was coined by Australians
Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970’s, from ‘permanent
agriculture’, but has come to encompass many sorts of systems:
We see permaculture as a vitally important set of ideas and practices
in this crucial time. We have a very narrow window of time left
in which to respond to climate change and environmental degradation.
If we don’t, we face ecological and human catastrophes that
are beyond imagining. No one solution or technology can save us:
in fact, applying single or simplistic solutions generally will
create new, unforeseen and possibly worse problems. One example
is biofuels—When rainforests are cut down and new land is
plowed for biofuel cultivation, when human food supplies are diminished
in favor of growing fuel, biofuels simply worsen the problem.
When ‘wastes’ such as used restaurant grease are turned
into biofuels—as the city of San Francisco now does to run
its busses—they can be part of the solution. Only an integrated
systems approach can find effective solutions to environmental
and social ills.
Permaculture has three basic ethics: Care for the earth, care
for people, and care for the future—sometimes framed as
“return the surplus” or “limit consumption”.
It has a set of principles that direct us to observe natural systems
and mimic the way they work, catching and storing the sun’s
energy, using biological and local resources, with minimal inputs
of fossil fuel energy, and getting multiple uses out of each element.
Permaculture favors low-tech solutions that empower ordinary people
to take responsibility for their own needs and impacts. Our goal
is more than sustainability: we work for abundance, regeneration
Permaculture is also a global movement and network. A permaculture
design course includes a seventy-two hour basic curriculum that
introduces the principles, practices, techniques, and spectrum
of solutions available for food growing, building, energy and
economics. Permaculture practitioners are involved in projects
all over the world—we have more on-the-ground projects in
the third world than the U.N. Vietnam adopted permaculture as
its core agricultural system, and increased production over 15%.
Cuba turned to permaculture after the Soviet Union collapsed,
taking with it their major oil supplies and markets, and now feeds
its people with organic crops, many of which are grown in and
Permaculture is a set of tools for shifting our thinking—from
separation to connection, isolation to interdependence.
Earth Activist Training is Starhawk’s organization that
teaches permaculture design with a grounding in spirit and a focus
on organizing and activism. For course information, see: www.earthactivisttraining.org
resources for those interviewed in the film, there are dozens
of other online resources for permaculture. We can't possibly
list them all, but here are some important additional informational
Permaculture Research Institute of Australia permaculture.org.au
Bill Mollison, the legendary Permaculture teacher,
promoter and designer – who, over 26 years of non-stop
travelling, designing, teaching and writing, personally planted
the seeds of Permaculture in over 120 countries. Bill is the
co-founding director of The Permaculture Research Institute
of Australia, the first and longest running Permaculture Institute
Permaculture Research Institute of Australia
Geoff Lawton who is world renowned for field
expertise and extensive teaching experience in the ecological
“badlands” of Earth, areas of extreme cultural
conflicts, as well as more friendly environments. Co-founding
director of the acclaimed Permaculture
Research Institute of Australia, Geoff is working in more
countries and co-coordinating more projects on the ground
than any other Permaculture Institute today.
Australia Felix Permaculture
The principal of Australia Felix Permaculture
since 1993, Darren has had extensive experience across the
planet in Permaculture project design, development & management,
with a focus on retrofitting broadacre agricultural systems,
and has been identified by Permaculture Co-Originators Bill
Mollison & David Holmgren as a pioneer in this important
& often overlooked field. Darren has taught on over 20
Permaculture Design Certificate Courses (PDC's) including
co- teaching PDC's with both Bill Mollison & David Holmgren
& a range of other quality Permaculture educators. He
is a registered teacher with Bill Mollison's The Permaculture
Institute (Registration No. 25), a qualified Whole Farm Planner
(University of Melbourne), Approved Keyline Design Consultant,
& Accredited Permaculture Training (APT) Trainer.
Toby Hemenway is the author of the first major
North American book on permaculture, Gaia's Garden: A
Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, and an adjunct professor
at Portland State University. He is also Scholar in Residence
at Pacific University.
Edible Forest Gardens
Dave Jacke has been a student of ecology and
design since the 1970s, and has run his own ecological design
firm—Dynamics Ecological Design—since 1984 (click
here for a PDF of Dave's resume). Dave is an engaging and
passionate teacher of ecological design and permaculture,
and a meticulous designer. He has consulted on, designed,
built, and planted landscapes, homes, farms, and communities
in the many parts of the United States, as well as overseas,
but mainly in the Northeast. A cofounder of Land Trust at
Gap Mountain in Jaffrey, NH, he homesteaded there for a number
of years. He holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Simon's
Rock College (1980) and a M.A. in Landscape Design from the
Conway School of Landscape Design (1984).
Patrick Whitefield is one of the leading permaculture
teachers in Britain, indeed in Europe. He combines a deep
knowledge of the subject with an inspiring and professional
teaching style. He’s written three books on permaculture:
Permaculture in a Nutshell, How to Make a Forest
Garden and The Earth Care Manual. His latest
book is The Living Landscape, how to read it and
understand it, a subject especially close to his heart. He
also practices as a design consultant.
Regenisis Group, Inc.
Joel Glanzberg brings a background as naturalist,
Permaculture designer and educator, and green builder. His
work includes regenerative development, restoration, and agriculture
assessment, planning and design.
The magazine's purpose is to supply information
which enables people everywhere to provide for their own &
their communities' needs for food, energy, shelter, &
a decent life without exploitation or pollution & from
the smallest practical area of land.
Permaculture Association (UK)
The Permaculture Association is the UK national charity that
supports members and the public with advice, support, information
and training about the theory and practice of permaculture.
Earth Action Mentor is a community collaborative
dedicated to furthering permaculture principles and practices.
We are working towards bringing permaculture to the forefront
of people's actions and awareness through multiple avenues
of mentorship. Our team is dedicated to enhancing the permaculture
commons through permaculture mentoring, community inspiration
and direct application.
High Altitude Permaculture
Ward, Colorado and Salida, Colorado
Sandy Cruz has been working towards greater sustainability
at 9,200 feet for over three decades, experimenting with plants
and refining strategies for living in extremely harsh conditions.
She teaches diverse permaculture courses, trains new Permaculture
teachers, and consults on site planning and solar greenhouse
design. Sandy is currently relocating to Salida, Colorado,
where she and her partner are establishing a new permaculture
research and demonsration site.
AppleSeed Permaculture LLC is an edible landscaping and regenerative
design firm. We integrate humans into their environment by
creating regenerative organic landscapes that are full of
food and beauty. We also lead Permaculture Design Courses
around the world and blog on ecosystem restoration, carbon
farming, and community resilience.
Permaculture Designer and Permaculture Design Certification
I offer design and consultation services to homeowners and
land stewards in the northeastern US (primarily in the Hudson
Valley of NY); and I offer permaculture courses and workshops
to organizations, ecovillages, colleges, and more across the
northeaster US. I also lead natural building and earth plaster
workshops, courses, and presentations.
Jono Neiger, Keith Zaltzberg, Sebastian Gutwein and Associates
The Regenerative Design Group is a professional ecological
design/build firm with a focus on productive, permaculture
landscapes based in Greenfield Massachusetts committed to
creating a more vital, beautiful future.
Permaculture Institute of the Northeast
The Permaculture Institute of the Northeast (P.I.N.E.) is
a regional permaculture and sustainability organization in
the northeast United States. It supports local and regional
societal change based on ecological and social justice principles.
PINE aims to bring together and support communities.
P.O. Box 3461
Amherst, MA 01004-3461
Andrew Millison has been studying, designing, building, and
teaching about Permaculture systems since 1996. He is an instructor
in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University,
teaching the Permaculture Design Certificate Course. He is
currently working with the State of Oregon to train workers
and developers of low-income housing.
A dynamic teacher, consultant, and designer of regenerative
systems. He is the author of the award-winning, best-selling
books Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond,
the information-packed website HarvestingRainwater.com and
the Drops in a Bucket blog. He lives his talk on
an oasis-like eighth of an acre in downtown Tucson, Arizona,
by harvesting over 100,000 gallons of rainwater a year where
just 12 inches per year fall from the sky.
Permaculture Artisans offers a wide range of
services in designing and building regenerative landscapes,
farms, and neighborhoods. We have three basic programs: Ecological
Landscapes & Farms, Ecological Neighborhood Training Program,
and a first class Maintenance Program.
Common Sense Permaculture Principles
Everything is connected.
Abundance, health and happiness come not from things, but relationships.
Money can’t buy me love!
As designers, we look at connections in space and time. If we
put things in the right place, do things in the right order and
at the right time, we save work, money and energy.
“To every thing, there is a season, and a time for every
purpose under heaven.”
We look at flows between things—flows of water, energy,
nutrients, information. Every time we link things together, we
create more abundance than when they are separated.
Nature Moves in Circles.
Birth, growth, death and regeneration—everything in nature
is part of a cycle.
Waste is food—one thing’s waste is another things’
resource. So—produce no waste, re-use, recycle, and look
for places where we can close loops—find a use for a former
waste product. Pollution is an unused resource.
To maintain the cycle, we must give back. If we use a resource,
we must replenish it.
Energy is abundant but not unlimited.
Every day the sun shines down on the earth, showering us with
energy. The sun’s energy gives us our solar budget—that
extra that creates growth and abundance. But we must use it wisely.
So—catch and store energy. Cycle energy and resources multiple
times. Use renewable energy.
Do more with less.
Make a way out of no way. Kill two birds with one stone (sorry
for that!). Every element serves more than one function—so
choose and place it carefully. A climbing rose, in the right place,
might produce a bouquet, filter the wind, and keep out intruders.
Use on-site and local resources whenever possible.
Let nature do the work—if you can use a biological resource,
chances are it will be cheaper, easier and more effective than
chemical or mechanical means.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Work smarter, not harder! Use your eyes and your brains more,
and your money, your muscles and your fossil fuels less. Look
before you leap. Observing, thinking, designing and planning can
save you time, sweat and money.
Resilience is true security.
Value diversity—for diversity creates resilience. This is
true for ecosystems, gardens and humans! Give your plants the
right companions in guilds, polycultures and crop rotations.
Edges and margins, where two things meet, are often more dynamic
and creative than either one alone, so make use of them.
Have more than one way to fill a need—don’t put all
your eggs in one basket. Have more than one source for food, energy,
Make mistakes—carefully! Start slow and small so you can
try new things and tweak what doesn’t work.
Weak links and constraints—design for the limiting factors.
Design for catastrophe—the hundred year flood could come
Small-scale, intensive systems are more diverse, creative and
resilient than giant megasystems.
Build from the ground up.
First things first. Prepare the soil before you plant the seeds.
Respect the roots of culture, place, and people as well as plants.
In nature, there’s a succession of evolution—pioneer
plants prepare the ground, grasses move in, then trees….work
with those patterns to speed them up or hold them back.
Feed what you want to grow. Create the conditions that will favor
the things or behaviors you want, rather than making war on what
you don’t want. Trying to kill the pests simply breeds resistance.
You break it—you bought it. If you change something, you
become responsible for the consequences.
Monitor and maintain what you create. Permaculture systems rarely
work perfectly at first—they are living things that need
Get some! Obtain a yield.
You’ve got to get back for what you put in. You have a right
to a life of health, abundance, joy and beauty—and that’s
why we’re doing this.
Grow what you want to eat. Decide what yield you want, and plan
Get the biggest bang for the buck—observation, creativity
and planning will let you use the least amount of time, money
and energy to get the benefits you desire. Don’t use a chainsaw
to cut your cheese.
The gift multiplies. Nature is generous—when we give freely,
we create more abundance for everyone.
Creativity is an unlimited resource.
Nurture creativity in nature and in people, and you will reap
Focus on solutions rather than just complaining about problems.
The problem is the solution.
Look for ways to add creativity and you will add value.