Published on August 27th, 2013 | by Jami Scholl
Introduction to Permaculture: Part 1
When introducing someone to permaculture for the first time, the inevitable question is, “What’s permaculture?” This question is both easy to explain, yet difficult for someone to comprehend.
Permaculture is defined by different people, in different ways. The word Permaculture was coined by Bill Mollison to describe thoughtful and small-scale ecological design process that he co-developed with David Holmgren in Australia during the late 1970’s. The word is a contraction of PERMA-nent agri-CULTURE and is a blending of native aboriginal wisdom with the science of ecology.
The central theme of permaculture is growing food within ecologically sound human habitats. By using patterns in nature, like bio-mimicry does in designing new products, permaculture designers strive to create sustaining and regenerative habitats. More recently permaculture has been evolving to include and address the challenges of designing communities and in human-to-human relationships.
The three principles that permaculture designers strive to meet include: Peoplecare, Earthcare and Fairshare. These three principles are used as guidance for how people should design and remind us of the interconnections with one another and the earth.
When one decides to attend training to become a permaculture designer, the person learns a core set of design principles so that they can design their own environments and build increasingly self-sufficient homes, neighborhoods and communities. Like other disciplines, permaculture is evolving to both meet the needs of people and the earth in the design of human communities, although there are many foundational principles that guide the practice. Here are David Holmgren’s 12 Design Principles of Permaculture:
- Observe and interact
- Catch and store energy
- Obtain a yield
- Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
- Use and value renewable resources and service
- Produce no waste
- Design from patterns to details
- Integrate rather than segregate
- Use small and slow solutions
- Use and value diversity
- Use edges and value the marginal
- Creatively use and respond to change
These design principles were an outgrowth from learning and using patterns, zones, sectors, connection’s between elements in the landscape, both non-human and human, energy, perennial plants and more. One of my favorite sayings has been “The problem is the solution,” which helps remind designers that what may be a frustrating turn of events needs another perspective or a broader view of the problem.
For example, I once visited a client where the family was frustrated and confused about why the tomatoes in their bed were not growing as well as the previous years. A quick look at the surrounding area answered the question quickly: the large walnut tree nearby had created a toxic environment for the tomatoes by giving off the toxic substance juglone. So often we see only our human conception of boundaries that we don’t see the natural ones right in front of us. By confronting the problem, a decision could be made to relocate the bed and then have tomatoes ripening on the vine, bright, red and tasty!
I hope you enjoyed this short Introduction to Permaculture. Check back next week for the next part of the series!