‘What is permaculture? Here are the basics. Permaculture combines three key aspects: 1. An ethical framework. 2. Understandings of how nature works 3. A design approach. This unique combination provides an ethical framework that is used to design regenerative systems at all scales – from home and garden to community, farm and bioregions. The word ‘permaculture’ comes originally from ‘permanent agriculture’ and ‘permanent culture’ – it is about living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can sustain human activities for many generations to come, in harmony with nature. Permanence is not about everything staying the same. It is about stability, about deepening soils and cleaner water, thriving communities in self-reliant regions, biodiverse agriculture, and social justice, peace and abundance’!
Why permaculture? The main reason concerned practitioners/articulators initiated the idea of permaculture was to systemically challenge the ridiculous and unsustainable, but widespread notion of unending economic growth. This malaise, which still sways socio-economic narratives in all nation states, is aggressively destroying life and life support systems of the planet. Moreover and socially speaking, the extreme polarization this world system has instituted, within and between countries, is instigating conflicts and outright wars all over the world. Unfortunately, this highly flawed system, supported by entrenched interests (benefitting from the current destructive and lopsided arrangements) is willing to wage wars using WMD, rather than yield to logic, reason and reality! Fortunately, ‘system thinking’ approaches to problem solving, like permaculture, are debunking the half-baked idea of ‘economic growth’ front, left and right! Like many well thought out human constructs, permaculture is first and foremost an ethical system trying to bring sanity to a world that has become literally insane! We construe permaculture as a system of living that tries to abide by the whole cumulative natural processes and purposely leveraging nature’s myriad manifestations to sustain reasonably measured human activities.
Who should practice permaculture? The answer is easy; all of humanity, without exception. Preserving human collectives on a hospitable planet should be the overriding concern of all and sundry! But this is easily said than done. Entrenched interests and their dominant institutions do not like the whole ethos of permaculture, as it tends to undermine the current greed system, rather emphatically. Here are the twelve basic principles of permaculture as outlined by David Holmgren, one of the formalizers of the idea. See the articles on page 28, 41 and 44. According to the original developers, ethics is central to the concept of permaculture. The three ethics, namely; care for the earth, care for people, and fair share; anchor permaculture! Bill Mollison, the co-originator and sometimes called the ‘father of permaculture’ said: “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.
What are the major problems the prevailing world system is facing? Resource shortage is one. Cheap energy from fossil fuel, which facilitated all material comforts of modernity, is dwindling fast. It will probably be the first one to create major havoc to the existing order in the near future, assuming climate change and other imbalances can be mitigated, somewhat. To remind our not-so-bright advocates of ‘uninterrupted economic growth’; other mineral resources are also available only on a limited/finite basis on planet earth! In addition, natural sinks that are used to absorb and recycle ‘waste’ are being exhausted, the atmosphere, the oceans, the forests, the permafrost, etc., are all in very precarious conditions. Luckily and despite establishment’s not-so-subtle opposition to permaculture, the concept is catching fast. Unlike the North, those of us residing in the periphery can very much appreciate and relate to the practice of permaculture, since our integration to the unsustainable modern world system is still shallow!
‘As I saw permaculture in the 1970s, it was a beneficial assembly of plants and animals in relation to human settlements, mostly aimed towards household and community self-reliance, and perhaps as a “commercial endeavor” only arising from a surplus from that system. However, permaculture has come to mean more than just food-sufficiency in the household. Self-reliance in food is meaningless unless people have access to land, information, and financial resources. So in recent years it has come to encompass appropriate legal and financial strategies, including strategies for land access, business structures, and regional self-financing. This way it is a whole human system.’ Bill Mollison. Good Day!