Can we not just achieve sustainability, but go beyond it too?Permaculture suggests that we can, and that our survival depends on it. Permaculture, broadly defined, is the practice of designing and inhabiting regenerative landscapes and systems that care for the Earth and for all people. The goal is to help generate maximum ecosystem services in a given space, in a way that can continue long term. The concept of “Fair Shares” is an important part of permaculture. As explained by Maddy Harland, editor and co-founder of Permaculture magazine, “Permaculture fundamentally rejects the industrial growth model of the global North at the core of its ethics, and aspires to design fairer, more equitable systems that take into account the limits of the planet’s resources and the needs of all living beings.”
Permaculture is about designing systemsthat provide food and habitat for people, plants, invertebrates, and all other groups of species. The concept of “regenerative” systems is key to permaculture. Chris Rhodes describes what this means in his post at Resilience.org: “Fundamentally, the word regenerative means the capacity to bring into existence again; hence, if an item or system is regenerative, it has the inherent capacity to bring itself into existence once more…All sustainable solutions are unsustainable over the longer term, if they are not also intrinsically regenerative.”
Permaculture is science and art.It integrates knowledge of ecology and ecological engineering, botany, soil science and agroforestry with the ethics of social justice to develop functional living systems. Permaculture systems are based on Nature’s principles of multifunctionality, biodiversity, synergy and closed-loop processes. Through permaculture, people are connected with nature and one another. There is a local focus, recognizing that we need to be able to meet our needs locally in the long and even the short term. It truly is not sustainable, much less regenerative, to rely on goods mined from far away resources. As stated by Ben Falk of Whole Systems Design LLC, “Permaculture focuses on providing for basic human needs in healthy and regenerative ways that don’t depend upon distant destruction of ecosystems to provision ourselves.”
Want to learn more?Me too! I’m just starting to delve into permaculture, and the principles resonate strongly with me. I intend to continue down this road and to learn more about this positive, action-oriented approach to living in ways that help support rather than exploit our planet. What are your experiences with and thoughts about permaculture? Feel free to comment below!
Some permaculture resources:
? Permaculture Research Institute: Contains a blog, discussion forum and many other resources.
? The Permaculture Podcast: A great resource produced by Scott Mann in Pennsylvania. Lots of interesting, informative and inspiring interviews.
? Sustainable World Radio: Website and podcasts about ecology and permaculture.
? Here’s a list of the Permaculture Association’s “Top-10” permaculture books.
? The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm: The D Acres Model for Creating and Managing an Ecologically Designed Educational Center, by Josh Trought. I’m still reading this one and am finding it a fascinating and thoughtful account of the evolutionary process of developing a large permaculture farm in New Hampshire.
? The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach, by Ben Falk.