What is Permaculture?

Several books have been written about what permaculture is and how to do it. So, this is just a short introduction to what I think Permaculture is about and a few pointers to where you can find out more.

The term permaculture was coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 70's to name the design system they have devised after spending time in the rainforests looking for solutions to the pollution they saw all around them. The word is a contraction of 'permanent' and 'agriculture' and looks to nature to teach us how to produce food for ourselves in a sustainable, non-polluting way. These days, permaculture is generally thought of as 'permanent culture' - thus taking in social as well as environmental issues.

The best way I have found to describe permaculture is as a sustainable design system that provides for human needs while having positive affects on the surrounding environment also. It allows us to find solutions that are appropriate to the situation - whether that be a farm in Australia or a tenement in Edinburgh. It has allowed me to bring together my social and environmental concerns and find positive solutions for both.

What makes permaculture design different from other design systems is that it is based on ethics and uses principles taken from nature. The ethics are summed up as earth care, people care and fair share. The principles are based on observations of nature and permaculture designers will try and mimic nature in their designs - so for example, nature (re)cycles energy and matter, so permaculturists may try to do this by catching water from a roof to water their allotment, or by using tetra packs as plant pots.

A quick word about what permaculture is not - its not just about trees, you don't need to have a huge piece of land to do it, its not just gardening - it's a design process that can, and is applied to a variety social systems, e.g. housing, economic systems as well as gardens and agriculture.

Many of the techniques used in Permaculture are common to those that are used by people who garden organically, and I believe there is a great deal of knowledge and experience to be shared between permaculturists and organic gardeners.

More information can be found on this website or by contacting the office, and why not join the association to find out more and support our work!

Permaculture Magazine - Sustainable solutions for everyday living, particularly in the UK.

Anita Aggarwal, anitaa@appleonline.net

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