Tuesday, July 22, 2008


'Permaculture', a term coined by Australian naturalist, Bill Mollison, and his student, David Holmgren, around 1978, is a bit of a two-headed beast. It means both 'permanent agriculture and 'permanent culture'. This makes sense when you realize that permaculture can be a method of gardening or farming as well as a way of looking at systems such as community and society.

As an agricultural method, permaculture employs a great many techniques ranging from sheet mulching and polyculture to emphasizing things like tree crops and edible perennial plants. More than this, however, it is a method of designing food systems that are ecological, interconnected, and sustainable. In permaculture, each plant or design element performs multiple functions and each function in the design is supported by many components of the system. Permaculturists talk about beginning with thoughtful observation of ecological systems, looking at interconnections within a system (sometimes referred to as the 'working relationships' between plants), and designing in the patterns of natural systems. While this certainly applies to gardening, more and more permaculturists are applying the same principles to social systems.

Permaculture, of all types, has made an ethical commitment to three principles: caring for the earth, caring for people, and distributing whatever surplus is available to make sure that resources are used in fair and equitable ways. This last principle means placing limits on consumption--and population.

Permaculture has had a growing influence on activists as well as organic farmers. Starhawk, in her book Webs of Power, points out how permacultural principles suggest ideas for new economic and political systems.

A resource I'd suggest for people interested in exploring permaculture is the Introduction to Permaculture website which contains various definitions of permaculture as well as a resource list of books, articles, and many, many websites. A good book for someone wanting to start using permaculture in gardening is Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway.

Quote of the day: "The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children..." - Bill Mollison
Word (or phrase) of the day: Pluralistic Commonwealth
Hero(es) of the day: Kai Leigh Harriott

No comments: