A beautiful gnarled tree - nature at her best.What is Permaculture?

Practioners frequently get caught out by this question - to them it seems obvious, permaculture just is!

My preferred answer is "a sustainable ecological design system based upon natural solutions".

Having completed a Building Sustainable Communities permaculture design course, I strongly believe Permaculture offers the most direct and practical route to green living. It is a modern synthesis of disciplines, including architecture, horticulture, agriculture, smallholding, animal husbandry and other practical trades.

Permaculture is rooted in a strong sense of ethics (peoplecare, earthcare, fairshare) which when combined with a set of principles derived from nature herself, forms a superb design system.

For example, a common methodology is SADIM:

  • Survey - take your time to observe the problem at hand, in a structured and an unstructured fashion
  • Analyse - identify the interactions your system has with the world: where does it work well, and where could it be made better? Compare it to patterns in nature - she has probably already solved this problem somewhere else!
  • Design - build up your solution, allowing space for change and evolution
  • Implement - construct your solution, taking your time to do it well
  • Maintain - keep your design alive, evolving it as circumstances change

Linear vs Cyclic Flows - Artificial vs Natural

One of the first things we learn in permaculture is that modern living is based around highly linear flows of resources from source to sink, driven by vast quantities of energy, including oil. Such flows are inherently wasteful, treating rubbish as refuse to be chucked away, food scraps as waste, consumer goods as shortlived, time spent travelling as an irritant and social interactions with your neighbours as undesirable.

By contrast, nature prefers cyclic flows that scavenge and re-use materials and energy as efficiently as possible, leading to great diversity. Many of these cyclic patterns were once widely practised, but have fallen into disuse with the march of time and 'progress'! Permaculture aims to restore these lost cyclic patterns to our daily lives.

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-- (c) James Lea, www.GreenLiving.co.uk, 2005 - 2007 --