A definition of Permaculture
After the last spate of stuff about food systems there seems
to be some confusion about what Permaculture is. In an attempt
to clarify this, I have enclose below a one page definition
with some characteristics that I have built over eight years
of dealing with people's requests for information about
We are all moving in the same direction and have different and
overlapping mental frameworks for doing it. Arguing that "my theory
contains yours" is not very fruitful. But one of the fundamental issues
we face is the order in which we come across ideas, and what we do with
Most times we fit subsequent material into the first framework
we receive. Very occasionally we find a new framework that fits
our experience of the world so well we go through the huge mental
effort of changing.
Permaculture seems to me to be a comprehensive framework that is
system based, that is positive, personal, and pragmatic. For me,
it is a framework that contains organic gardening, sustainable agriculture,
homesteading, solar design, alternative power, frugal living,
alternative economics, independence/interdependence issues, and so on..
Here is the text of the handout:
Permaculture is applied integrated design.
Permaculture started as a strategy for designing systems for Permanent
or Perennial Agriculture. It has developed to include other systems
where carefully integrated design is desperately needed; houses and
factories, as well as economic and community structures. Permaculture
has drawn together a wide range of techniques, old and new, but it is
different from most of them, because it is concerned about the >placement<
of >elements< within the >system<.
Permaculture is about deliberately designing systems that
are resilient and meet the needs of all their members.
Characteristics of Permaculture systems:
1. The designed system uses and complements the natural systems that
are present. eg: water control by planted swales not concrete drains.
2. Each element performs many functions in the system. eg: A fruit
tree can provide a crop, wind shelter, trellis, soil conditioning,
3. Every function needed in the system is provided by many elements.
eg: To keep warm: clothes, hats, gloves, food, exercise, find a sunny
spot, before lighting a fire.
4. The system's size is appropriate to the resources available to
design, establish and maintain it. eg: Dont spend all your money on
buying a large block of land. eg: Dont look for the worlds best
technique or machinery, look for something appropriate, inexpensive,
that works, here. eg: Borrow a 4WD once a year..
5. The local needs of the system and its participants are given
priority over external needs. eg: Design and finance a farm so most
needs can still be met if there is reduced income from exports (that
is, anything going off the property).
6. In the longer term, energy is conserved and variety is maintained.
eg: Producing your own food saves energy used for transport and packaging.
eg: Adding predators to the system, rather than trying to kill a pest.
Please feel free to distribute freely, but only with acknowledgement to
Permaculture Applications, Consultancy and Education
Perth, Western Australia.
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