What is permaculture?

Aerial photo of Djanbung Gardens

Permaculture is essentially about designing sustainable environments with the focus being on how we provide our needs in a way that works with nature’s processes and ecology. Based on the words Permanent (as in sustainable) and Culture (including agri-culture), Permaculture addresses all aspects of human culture, not only food production but how we build, how we organise ourselves and how we utilise all our resources including the human resource.

Aerial photo of Djanbung Gardens
Djanbung Gardens – a living learning permaculture centre

The Permaculture concept was originally created by two Australins, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s. Since then permaculture has spread all over the word training many thousands in sustainable design, landuse, community development and sustainable living.

The following explanation is from The PDC Handbook by Robyn Francis

Permaculture encourages the restoration of balance to our environment through the practical application of ecological principles.  In the broadest sense, Permaculture refers to land-use systems which utilise resources in a sustainable way.

From a philosophy of cooperation with nature and each other, of caring for the earth and people, it presents an approach to designing environments which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems, to regenerate damaged land and preserve environments which are still intact.

Permaculture is a practical concept applicable from a balcony to the farm, from the city to the wilderness, enabling us to establish productive environments providing our food, energy, shelter, material and non-material needs, as well as the social and economic infrastructures that will support them.

Permaculture is a synthesis of ecology and geography, observation and design. Permaculture encompasses all aspects of human environments and culture, urban and rural, and their local and global impact.  It involves ethics of earth care because the sustainable use of land cannot be separated from lifestyle and philosophical issues.

Permaculture draws from the wisdoms and practices of sustainable indigenous and traditional cultures and enriches this knowledge with insights from contemporary earth and design sciences.

Permaculture is design – a conscious process involving the placement and planning of elements, things and processes in relationship to each other. As such it is a way of thinking, and it is our thought patterns that determine our actions, so permaculture becomes a way of living.

Robyn Francis 1993


Find out more about permaculture by exploring this site, read this article by Robyn Francis, or look at the topics covered by the PDC (Permaculture Design Course) to gain a quick insight into the breadth of what permaculture encompasses. Browse by Tag to find articles about your area of interest.

Permaculture Perspectives:  Doing Nothing – or as little as possible Robyn Francis explores the permaculture approach to reducing non-productive work in an integrated system.

Free Download – The Essence of Permaculture by David Holmgren, co-founder of the permaculture concept.

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