‘Permaculture’ from the words ‘permanent’ and ‘culture’ was coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s. From their observations of natural systems they came up with a group of ethics and principals for designing communities and landscapes that would allow us to live in a truly sustainable way.
If you are lucky enough to have spent time in a relatively untouched piece of nz bush, then you would have seen examples of the type of sustainable system on which permaculture is based.
Imagine that forest without any human intervention. The bush would contain within it, along with sunlight everything that all the species within it need. In this natural system, nutrients are used, and recycled producing no waste. This is the basis of permaculture.
A Permaculture system is one which is designed by humans, to mimic natural design while at the same time providing for our needs such as food, shelter, and community in a sustainable way. Sounds wonderful and in our modern world when we see everyday examples of how unsustainable our current systems are, climate change ,pollution, dirty rivers, huge equity gaps, wars, loss of biodiversity…sometimes it can seem overwhelming. Permaculture is one of the tools we can start using to try and redress this imbalance. There are examples around the world of permaculture making a huge difference to some communities.
The first part of Permaculture are the three ethics: EARTH CARE, PEOPLE CARE, and FAIR SHARE. I believe these ethics should form the basis of everything we do. I see examples of these ethics being considered frequently on our Facebook page with the way in which many of you have been sharing information, resources and trading produce.
The Principles (of which there are 9 main ones) Guide our planning of permaculture landscapes and communities. The principles are applicable to anywhere in the world…Whether rural or urban, arid, tropical rainforest or Cold temperate. The Principles are listed below.
‘PRODUCE NO WASTE’
‘CATCH, STORE, AND RECYCLE ENERGY’
‘BUILD/ ENCOURAGE DIVERSITY’
‘KEEP SOIL WILD’
‘USE BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES’
‘OBTAIN A YIELD’
‘USE MULTIPLE DIMENSIONS TO MAXIMISE PRODUCTION’
I will discuss each of these with examples.
The First Principle of Permaculture is to PRODUCE NO WASTE.
In the bush example referred to earlier, plants shed leaves, die and decay which organisms turn into food for themselves and eventually into nutrients for plants. This is natures composting and is a good example of the principle of producing no waste. In our modern systems which are lineal rather than cyclical, this waste becomes pollution. composting, wormfarming, bokashi, biodigesters, and greywater recycling are all examples of using what would conventionally be seen as waste, so that it becomes a resource instead.
CATCH, STORE, and RECYCLE ENERGY:
The sun is the main source of energy for everything that happens on our planet. Plants use the suns energy for photosynthesis, wind energy helps some plants to disperse their seed. We can design our houses to maximise the energy of the sun in winter to keep us warm, and reduce our dependance on fuels to warm us. We can use the winds energy to dry our clothes. Saving seed provides us with the opportunity to store the energy for plant growth contained in the seed and nurture it to provide food.