Permaculture is an emerging method of sustainable agriculture, focused on maintaining harmony with the native ecosystem.
Imagine a prairie. It stays as a prairie year after year, though the individual grasses may change throughout the season. What are those grasses, what animals live there, and how does this ecosystem stay stable through the seasons?
In essence, Permaculture studies the local ecosystem, and seeks to integrate its farming practices appropriately.
The methodology of Permaculture is structured like a pyramid:
Ethics forms the foundation of this system, followed by Principles, Design Methodology, Design Strategy, and Technology. Everything at the top of the pyramid must fit in with what’s below: Technology and Design must incorporate a system of Ethics and Ecological Principles.
This system in its concept is idyllic – what’s feasible to accomplish right now may not meet all of the requirements, but the ideal map serves as a guideline for where to go. It was created to be applied beyond just agriculture, to social structures like community, business, and government. Currently, its primary use is in gardening and farming, as the potential for other applications has only been explored on the surface.
- Earth Care
- People Care
- Share the Surplus
The 12 Principles, based on ecological patterns:
1. Observe & Interact
Nature just is – there is no right or wrong, there is only different. Values and judgments are human concepts that distort what’s really happening. It’s wise to spend a long time observing an ecosystem before starting to build or garden in it. That way, you can build or garden in the most efficient and sustainable way possible.
2. Catch & Store Energy
Energy comes in the form of:
- inherent heat (such as in stones)
- organic matter (in soil & compost)
3. Obtain a Yield
You want to obtain a yield in growing food, but also you want to make viable profit while running your own farm business. This concept includes taking care of yourself and balancing the budget books.
4. Apply Self-Regulation and Respond to Open Feedback Loops
Negative feedback probably means you need to do things a little differently, pointing to unsustainable methods. Excess positive feedback may hurt other systems. Your goal is balance.
5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
Don’t use up non-renewable resources, and always seek to restore resources. Build relationships with animals – they are our allies.
6. Produce No Waste
Everything should be made and used on site.
7. Design from Patterns to Details
The big picture is the most important thing to sort out first. Everything else falls in place after that. An important concept to remember is that every element has many functions, and every function has many elements.
8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate
Every element has strengths and weaknesses. In gardening, you can use this to your advantage by pairing plants with complementary needs, so they help each other grow steadily.
9. Use Small & Slow Solutions
Small and slow builds resilience and diversity, allowing your system to be adaptable.
10. Use & Value Diversity
Diversity forms the foundation of resilience.
11. Use Edges & Value the Marginal
Marginal land is not useless land. Marginal people are not useless people. Different things happen in different conditions, so there’s something useful to be found everywhere.
12. Creatively Use & Respond to Change
Things will always change, that’s guaranteed. What’s more important is how you respond to change – innovate continuously, and don’t give up
Those are the basic principles. If you wanted to apply these ideas to a business, for example, you can use #1 to observe and interact with the market before you build your business. You can use #2 to catch and store connections that come straight towards you so you don’t have to fight to network.
[Image used with permission from Permaculture Principles]