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Lawrence F. London, Jr.


What is Permaculture?
The Permaculture International Journal says: "Permaculture is a practical concept applicable from the balcony to the farm, from the city to the wilderness. It enables people to establish productive environments providing for food, energy, shelter, material and non-material needs, as well as the social and economic infrastructures that support them. The concept was first developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Tasmania in the 1970's, leading to the publication of the book 'Permaculture One'.

Permaculture means thinking carefully about our environment, our use of resources and how we supply our needs. It aims to create systems that will sustain not only for the present, but for future generations". (PIJ, #55 July-August 1996)

Permaculture is a special way of selecting and arranging the things we need to create sustainable living places that are ecologically conscious and economically viable. It recognizes that sustainable culture is dependent upon a sustainable environment and that a sustainable environment is dependent upon sustainable culture. Permaculture uses a set of principles for guidance and has developed a number of special approaches and techniques for arrangement of design components on the land.

Origins of this Primer
In July of 1995 we took a permaculture course sponsored by the Institute of Bioregional Studies at the Ovens' Natural Park in Nova Scotia. The two week event was choreographed and informed by Michael Pilarski and Garry Lean, our primary instructors. The learning experience spilled over into all hours of the day as students, instructors, park owners, and guests interacted with and synergized each others' energies. At the end of the two weeks we had gained a new perspective on our lives, many new friends and a wealth of notes and references.

It is the latter, the volumes of notes and references, that this document attacks. Quite frankly, we were overwhelmed! We had just been through the equivalent of two college courses in two weeks and were suffering from information overload. We gave the material some incubation time and came back to it. We finally decided that the material could be organized into the five major areas around which this primer is organized.

The Principles -- which are the big ideas guiding decisions and helping in evaluation of design alternatives.

The Components -- which are the physical and social elements placed in the design to accomplish its purpose.

The Concepts -- which are those ideas that guide placement of components to meet the principles.

The Associated Movements -- which are other areas of interest having information that may inform our decision making.

The Resources -- which are publications, organizations and other information sources.

We have found this arrangement useful for consolidating our notes and thoughts, developing a filing system for material we collect, and dealing with the diversity of permaculture information. This 1996 edition is an update and expansion of our 1995 draft. It contains revisions of our original note material and new information we have developed since the course. We hope that it will be of use to others. It is an evolving document and we welcome comments, discussion, corrections and additions.

Dan Earle and Sue Hutchins
Author and Editorial Assistant