Permaculture is a design system for sustainability developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 70s. It is a system that developed in response to the increasing industrialization of agriculture and the subsequent degradation of soils, water, biodiversity and forests. Permaculture developed from years of observation of natural forests and teaches us that we need to start by observing nature, to learn from Mother Earth and the systems that she has designed. A natural system is naturally diverse and hence resilient to shocks and stresses and  produces no waste. By observing and thinking carefully we can design systems for food production that maintains and increases biodiversity and are resilient to shocks and stresses such as climate change.

When I found permaculture it felt like the framework of thought that I had been looking for to help join the dots, a simple, common sense system that is beyond ideology and based on a grounded reverence for the magnificent complexity of natural systems. It is a system of natural science based on ethics drawn from indigenous cultures around the world of earth care, people care and fair share which, if taught with respect for the local culture, has the potential of reviving traditional knowledge systems. It happened in Zimbabwe….

But Permaculture is not just about designing sustainable land use systems. It is about designing sustainable communities. Without taking into account the social ecology of the landscape systems are likely to fail. The basic ethics and principles that permaculture provides start with Zone 0- our inner selves, and works itself outwards to the environment and the community around us. The power of Permaculture education is that it teaches us to observe, to learn from nature rather than from books and in this way it gives us a new framework of though, a new way to look at the world in a way that sees the whole and the interconnectedness of all its parts. It is a way of learning that encourages learning from the inside, experiential rather than academic, and thus allows us to develop our own understanding and wisdom.

Most of all permaculture is about patterns. It is about pattern thinking rather than the square box, linear thinking that is promoted in current education systems. By observing patterns in both our ecological and social landscapes we learn to work with our environment and our community in a clever way rather than against it.


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