‘Can man, using the forest as a model, design human habitats with the same complexity, stability & productivity as the life webs in the forest?’
This question was asked in the 60’s by Bill Mollison and David Holgrem from the University of Tasmania. They observed and studied life webs in the forest. Systems that continued to grow more and more stable and resilient the more complex the relationships between their diversity grew. Their search for the answer lead to the birth of Perma Culture – man and nature in a shared culture for the permanent well being of both.
The Ethic of Permaculture is … care for the people, care for the Earth & share the resources. This may sound like common sense – an easy solution to the bad news of global degradation and the crumbling values and morality.
When you begin to work in a Permaculture garden you soon discover new dimensions of the word ‘care’ and what our human activity aught to be or could be – if we used our imaginative faculties in the right way. Not for us to drive it all or use machines for acts that a biological system can do. Biological systems, e.g. earthworms, chickens, bees, work 24/7, reproduce themselves and are happy.
If you place them in the right places they can feed, protect and keep themselves healthy, while they continue to make their contributions. Moreover their presence attracts other diversity and so the ‘party’ grows. Besides the Ethic of Permaculture, there are 9 design and 5 attitudinal principles that act as a guide when planning and tuning the sustainability of a landscape. They work with the laws of nature, which also means that Nature brings her energies to assist us. They apply anywhere in the world, just the techniques change depending on climatic variations.
Get going at home
Start a Permaculture garden and in no time word gets around and young people want to volunteer, join in – lend a hand so as to learn. They are happy to muck in just so long as they can talk about Permaculture and the attitudes that underpin the principles. They sense the importance of this concept and want to experience the operating dynamic. It’s the energetics, the appropriateness for these times, the optimism; they sense the inherent intelligence and creativity in the conscious planned productive relationships. The synergy between different species is almost tangible with its practical uses and common sense.
This design or engineering science becomes an art form that is alive. There is a constant weaving between the different living systems as they respond in their rhythmic cycles, living – dying, fading and blossoming. These elements are linked in win-win symbiotic relationships that form ‘Ubuntu’, an holistic ethical core that underpins this way of farming or gardening. From this planning, mood and productivity, group intelligence evolves and begins to generate its own reproduction and energy.
A paradigm shift
The landscape could appear chaotic to even the traditional organic farmer’s eye – chaos with an underlying order rather than modern farming with its apparent order that creates environmental chaos. It offers and demonstrates the sort of truths and ideals that people seek especially today – a fertility that speaks of abundance and sharing.
Do we not all seek to be players in this kind of abundance or creative capitalism that insures year round food, while appreciating and growing the system – an economy of energy use? This leads to a new mindset and questions about our working with values, energy and money.
In this column we will discuss permaculture principles from philosophical, practical and economical points of view with references to science, when and if necessary. A 10-day Permaculture Design Course was created by Bill and David, using participatory teaching techniques. This 72-hour course covers as many hours as would be attended for a yearlong university course in a particular subject.
The PDC is internationally recognized and has spread in all languages throughout sustainable projects in the world. Avice Hindmarch has been giving permaculture courses locally and internationally and developing working PC landscapes since attending the first course in 1991.