Introducing Permaculture, The Sustainable Design System of Living

What Is Permaculture?

As environmental issues is getting more and more attention in the past few years, the term “permaculture” might sound more familiar for us now, even though the concept of permaculture itself has been around for quite some time.

In fact, the word “permaculture” was coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren back in the mid of 1970s. Back then, permaculture was defined as “an integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to mankind”

However, a more current definition of permaculture can be defined as “consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fiber, and energy for provision of local needs.”

Plants diversity is one of the key characteristics of permaculture. Source: growingarden.wordpress.com

In other words, permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. Permaculture integrates land, resources, people, and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies.

Illustration of a natural environment and all the elements that come into play. Source: transitionaustralia.net

The main idea is to create landscapes that simulate the natural environment in terms of the closed-loop and waste-free cycle, but at the same time resulted in something beneficial for humans.

The discipline of permaculture design is based on observing what makes the natural system works and endure, establishing simple but effective principles, and finally applying them to mirror nature in everything that we design, be it garden, farms, buildings, communities, and even towns and cities.

The Permaculture Flower

As Maddy Harland wrote, “where permaculture stands out from the crowd as a design system is in its capacity to integrate the intellect with ethics. It can teach us to ‘think’ with the heart and respond with the head.”

Ethics of Permaculture

Ethics of permaculture, taken from the book Essence of Permaculture by David Holmgren

1. Earth Care

The basis of this principle is to nurture and care for nature’s capital, be it the soil, water, climate, and other aspects of nature.

However, the vision whose original principle was to care for all living and non-living things has now grown to include a deep and comprehensive understanding regarding many decisions in humans’ everyday lives. Those decisions mainly in regard to human consumption, like the clothes we use and the food we eat.

Example of a permaculture garden. Source: growingarden.wordpress.com

It’s not that we should all grow our own food and build our own house, but what’s important to remember is that we have the power and responsibility when we decide to consume things, so choose wisely.

2. People Care

This principle addresses the need for the human necessity to be fulfilled, starting from food, shelter, education, employment, as well as healthy interpersonal relationships.

Moreover, after we are done with nurturing ourselves, the next focus is to realize and utilize the power of community. If one individual can make a difference, then as a community, surely there are bigger changes that one can initiate.

Permaculture focuses and empowers community. Photo by Dario Valenzuela on Unsplash

Be it in cities or rural areas, people can benefit from empowering and giving back to their local communities. Just like how neighbors help one another, a strong community can be a start of social transformation that started from the grass-root movements.

3. Fair Share

 Last but not least ethics is to acknowledge that we only have one earth and we have to share it with all living things as well as future generations. In other words, it not enough to just create landscapes that benefit oneself and one’s community whereas in many parts of the world there are others who are still struggling in meeting their fundamental rights to basic needs such as clean water, food, shelter, etc.

The ugly truth is that developed nations used up resources equal to at least three earths, while on the other hand, many developing countries are still struggling with hunger and poverty. This is what the ethic of Fair Shares is trying to acknowledge: that there exists a great disparity and inequality, which requires a limit to consumption (especially of natural resources) in the developed countries.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Permaculture fundamentally rejects the industrial growth model of developed nations and aspires to design fairer, more equitable systems that take into account the planetary boundaries and the needs of all living beings.

The concept of permaculture can be used not only in designing landscapes but also in our everyday life in order to live more consciously and in harmony with nature, just like what is being applied in Bumi Langit institute.

References

Holmgren, David. Essence of Permaculture: Revised Edition.

https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/what-permaculture-part-1-ethics

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