At its core, Permaculture is the study of functional design and whole-systems thinking to create and maintain sustainable systems that support human society. It is based on a philosophy of working with nature rather than against it and of thoughtful action based on observation.
Permaculture guides us to mimic nature, in particular the patterns and relationships that build stability. This can then be applied to most aspects of human settlement including gardens, buildings, businesses, and even communities. By designing systems that are intended for human use, we can dramatically increase the production of food, fresh water, and firewood from established urban areas to free up the rest of the planet for natural ecosystems.
By living a life based on ethics and applying the principles of permaculture, we can change our relationship with the Earth, becoming responsible producers rather than blind consumers. Permaculture helps us build resilience and a skillset that will become increasingly important as resources start to become scarce (Holmgren 2002).
The strategies that are used when applying the principles of permaculture will vary depending on the location and access to resources. For example, what works for me here in Telemark, Norway (USDA Zone 6) would be a disaster in the tropics and vice-versa. Hence the methods may vary but the principles remain the same, making it possible to practice permaculture anywhere in the world.
The beauty of permaculture is that anyone can do it no matter what one’s age, sex, education, or culture. You can start small and with little money by applying low-cost techniques based on your skill set and interests. Because permaculture focuses on positive action, it can open the door to a lifestyle that is extremely satisfying.
Discovering permaculture can be inspiring. Some people use their newfound outlook and skill set to try a new career such as a landscape designer, an energy auditor, an organic farmer, or a teacher, but most people will simply choose to apply permaculture to their existing situation.
Sue, a kindergarten teacher in Sydney has taken the principles of permaculture and applied them in her workplace, setting up a chicken coop and teaching the kids how to develop a respect for nature. And of course, the kids love it!
Marie, on the other hand, couldn’t stand living in an apartment any longer! She told me how she just shakes her head at the insanity of how she spent most of her income on rent, living in what felt like a box on a busy road with loud neighbors. She chose to move to the countryside where property prices are a fraction of what they are in the city. She now has the room to really connect with nature, there is a freshwater creek flowing through the backyard, a kitchen garden filled with organic veggies and herbs, she has chickens, ducks, a beautiful view, and no neighbors to worry about. In the first year, she planted over 20 fruit trees that are now starting to bear fruit, and although she still works as a primary school teacher on the same pay as in the city, her life has completely changed for the better. Luckily, so has mine, as Marie happens to be my wife! 🙂