What is Permanent Culture?

The word Permaculture was coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist, and one of his students, David Holmgren. It is a contraction of “permanent” and “agriculture”, or “permanent” and “culture”. Permaculture is a system of design for creating ecological human habitats and food production systems. It is a land use and community building movement that strives for the harmonious integration of human dwellings, microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into stable, productive communities. The focus is not on these elements themselves, but rather on the relationships created among them by the way we place them in the landscape. This synergy is further enhanced by mimicking patterns found in nature.

One of the essential goals of permaculture master planning, design and education, is the ecological restoration of degraded landscapes, including the built environment, gardening and farming, the waste stream, use of energy, and all aspects of the site. A central theme is the production of healthy food. Emphasis is placed on multi-use plants, cultural practices such as sheet mulching and trellising, and the integration of animals to recycle nutrients and graze weeds.

However, Permaculture entails much more than just food production. Energy-efficient buildings, waste water treatment, recycling, and land stewardship in general are other important components of Permaculture. More recently, Permaculture has expanded its purview to include economic and social structures that support the evolution and development of more permanent communities. As such, Permaculture design concepts are applicable to urban as well as rural settings, and are appropriate for single households as well as whole farms, villages, towns and cities.

The Three Ethics of Permaculture

Permaculture is guided by three core ethics that serve as foundational principles for sustainable living and design. These ethics were originally articulated by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, the co-founders of permaculture. The three ethics of permaculture are:

  1. Earth Care: This ethic emphasizes the importance of caring for the Earth, recognizing that the planet’s ecosystems provide the foundation for all life. Earth care involves practices that promote environmental health, biodiversity, and the regeneration of natural systems. It entails minimizing ecological impact, conserving resources, and working in harmony with nature rather than against it.
  2. People Care: People care recognizes the intrinsic value and well-being of all individuals, including humans. This ethic emphasizes the importance of meeting human needs, fostering healthy relationships, and supporting communities. People care involves promoting social justice, equity, and empowerment, as well as cultivating empathy, compassion, and respect for others. It also encompasses personal health and well-being, acknowledging that sustainable living must prioritize the health and happiness of individuals and communities.
  3. Fair Share (or Fair Share of Surplus): Fair share embodies the principle of equitable distribution and resource sharing. It emphasizes the need to distribute resources fairly among all living beings, both human and non-human, and to use resources wisely and responsibly. Fair share encourages practices such as sharing surplus resources, practicing moderation and frugality, and considering the needs of future generations. It also entails promoting economic justice, supporting local economies, and reducing consumption and waste.

These three ethics provide a moral compass for permaculture practitioners, guiding their decisions and actions towards sustainability, resilience, and social responsibility. By adhering to these ethics, individuals and communities can work towards creating a more just, equitable, and regenerative world.