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What is permaculture?

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

Permaculture is a design science that embraces a holistic, ecological and ethical approach. Commonly applied to working with landscapes, permaculture designers seek to work with the complex systems of nature for the benefit of all life forms. We can also use permaculture design to create and provide a productive (often abundant) amount of various foods within our localities. As the systems are created to copy or follow the natural rhythms and cycles found in nature; growers are able to ensure that they will be able to sustain themselves long term; whilst over time, reducing the amount of effort and energy they need to put in with regards to physical labour. Another benefit is the apparent decrease in transportation requirements and pollution.

Why do we need permaculture?

The rise of industrial agriculture and increasingly controversial farming methods that use more and more expensive fertilisers and pesticides has left our soil and farmland struggling to keep up with the ongoing need to feed our populations. In addition, we have lost much of our biodiversity and are experiencing mass species extinctions which, for many of us, is a truly devastating reality to face. It seems that the use of various chemicals appears to negatively affect both human health as well as the wellbeing of the natural systems on which we depend. This sad truth could leave us feeling despairing about our prospects as a species, however the good news is that many people all over the world have already found ways of beneficially responding to this crisis. It also seems that we are able to do this in a way that wisely considers the best interests of our children, grandchildren and future generations.

Where did the idea come from?

Permaculture design and practice in the west was cultivated and nurtured in the 1970’s by Bill Mollison an Australian ecologist and professor and David Holmgren an environmental designer, educator and writer. They had both become increasingly concerned about the destruction and pollution of our land whilst witnessing the continual rise of agriculture as we have known it. Mollison and Holmgren sensed an urgent need to respond differently and had directly observed the growing practices of some indigenous cultures who successfully maintained edible systems that worked in harmony with their environment. Both pioneers went onto build on some of these ideas by exploring their own observations of natural patterns, going on to develop permaculture sites all over the planet in a wide variety of climates and settings.

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