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What is Permaculture? Some Definitions

Ethics and Principles
First Steps to Permaculture

In 1978 by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist, and one of his students, David Holmgren coined the word "permaculture". It describes a process for designing sustainable food production systems and ecologically-sensitive human communities.

The aim of permaculture is the harmonious integration of human dwellings, micro-climate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into stable, energy efficient, productive communities. Permaculture design focuses on building relationships between these elements by observing and copying patterns found in nature.

Permaculture design concepts are applicable to urban and rural settings; single households, whole farms and towns. "Integrated farming" and "ecological engineering" are terms sometimes used to describe perma-culture, however these terms alone do not capture the holistic nature of permaculture.

We've used permaculture to help us devise learning programs for our children's home education. Over the years this has led us to adopt a natural style of learning that is efficient and, we think, successful.

Permaculture is copyright word, owned as a common copyright by the Permaculture Institutes & their graduates.
It is derived, according to Bill Mollison, from the Latin permanens, to remain to the end, to persist throughout (per = through, manere = to continue) and cultura - cultivation of land, or the intellect, and is generalized to mean all those habits, beliefs, or activities than sustain human societies.

Permaculture is the study of integrated systems for the purpose of better design and application of such systems within sustainable human society.

Permaculture is of necessity a small scale, labour efficient endeavour, but with far reaching implications and effects. The connections and relationships between all elements within the design is kept uppermost in the mind, as well as a thoughtful consideration of the intrinsic characteristics of those elements.

A core principle of permaculture is that each component in a system performs multiple functions, and each function is supported by many elements.

"Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; & of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system."
Bill Mollison

Permaculture is built upon an ethic of caring for the earth and interacting with the environment in mutually beneficial ways.
Permaculture Drylands Institute

Permaculture is a holistic approach to landscape design and human culture. It is an attempt to integrate several disciplines, including biology, ecology, geography, agriculture, architecture, appropriate technology, gardening and community building.
Simon Henderson, Cortez IS, BC

Permaculture is a way of life which shows us how to make the most of our resources by minimizing waste and maximizing potential. Living ecologically doesn't mean giving everything up, but relearning the value of nature & understanding new ways of being wealthy.
Graham Bell, The Permaculture Way

It is a synthesis of ecology and geography, of observation and design.
Michael Pilarski, founder of Friends of the Trees

It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. The practice and development of liberating mental, emotional and spiritual ways of being. It seeks to provide a sustainable and secure place for living things on this earth.
Dan Hemenway, Grailville Workshop

Permaculture can be as small as a window with sprouts or as large as a farm or a bioregion. It can be in the city, the suburbs or in the country. Permaculture addresses the way we live on this planet in a graceful and healthy way, respecting the plants and animals around us, and leaving the biosphere in a more productive and healthy state than we found it.
Washburn TN PDC

Permaculture is a world-wide movement of designers, teachers, & grassroots activists working to restore damaged ecosystems & human communities. Permaculture derives practical techniques & principles from the study of natural systems & applies them to earth repair & care.

It empowers the individual to be resourceful, self-reliant & a conscious part of the solution to the many problems facing us, both locally & globally.
Ben Haggard, PDI inside cover #19

Permaculture is not an end or destination, but rather a means or road leading towards sustainable & ecologically sound ways to meet human needs.

Applied on a larger scale, we could create abundance everywhere in the world. All we need is human intelligence, courage, & insight.
Declan Kennedy

Permaculture combines current technology with aboriginal cultural knowledge collected over generations: to create self-contained, self perpetuating ecological systems.
Gus & LaNada James

Return to What is Permaculture



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Copyright © Beverley Paine 2002-14. Article from this website may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this entire notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author's name). Permission must be obtained from the author in order to reprint this article in a published work or to offer it for sale in any form. Please visit Bungala Ridge Permaculture Gardens for more original content by Beverley Paine.