What is Permaculture?

From the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute’s website:

“Permaculture is a design discipline for productive systems such as gardens, farms, homesteads, and urban sites utilizing ecological principles found in natural systems. These ecological principles combined with a design method help to create sustainable, healthy abundant landscapes while meeting basic human needs. The permaculture movement includes organizations all over the world offering demonstration sites, trainings, and technical assistance. Where people have access to land and little else, permaculture’s ideas have spread rapidly. In more affluent parts of the world, permaculture has become a cutting edge design alternative to extractive, industrial systems that erode the wealth of our communities and natural resources.

In the 1970s Bill Mollison and David Holmgren created the foundations of Permaculture in Australia. They recognized the inefficient and destructive properties of modern human civilization and based a design of sustainable systems off the diverse and successful systems nature has created. The result was a new methodology of design based on a framework of ethics and principles. This framework is rooted in the commitment of individuals and communities to take responsibility for their existence and thus our impact on the earth.

Permaculture is not gardening techniques or a list of proper building materials for a house. Rather, it is a systems thinking approach that often includes garden and home design. The permaculture approach rests upon planning and connecting specific elements in a sustainable society; natural building, small-scale agriculture, non-violent communication, right livelihood, and the use of appropriate technology are a few examples of methods used by permaculture practitioners. These elements could be seen as pieces of a whole while permaculture designers attempt to examine and mindfully create the “whole picture” whether in a backyard, forest, or community.”



This diagram on the 12 design principles and 3 ethics of permaculture, as well as an interactive graphic that explains them, can be found at this website: http://permacultureprinciples.com/principles/

Other Helpful References:

  • The Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute offers education on permaculture and sustainable design in upstate NY. You can view their website at http://www.fingerlakespermaculture.org
  • Permcaulture: A Designer’s Manual by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren:               The foundational text that launched the permaculture movement, this volume explains the ethics, principals and practical applications of permaculture through well written prose and a rich tapestry of illustrations and diagrams. It can be read online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/54165878/Permaculture-A-Designers-Manual-by-Bill-Millison
  • Stay connected with the Finger Lakes permaculture community via the Finger Lakes Permaculture Network: http://flxpermaculture.net/
  • Occupying the southeast corner of Williams Hall on Ithaca College’s campus, the Ithaca College Permaculture Garden is more than just “another pretty face.” Instead, the garden marries aesthetics with food production and models approaches for carbon sequestration, water conservation, and valuing ecosystem services. Run by students and faculty, the project offers a glimpse of the future and a model for permaculture on campus. http://icpermaculture.wordpress.com/
  • Steve Gabriel is a Cornell professor who teaches permaculture. He is also a cofounder of FLPI. sfg53@cornell.edu
  • Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, by Dave Holmgren: a modern full-length book of updates to the original permaculture design principles after years of research and field work by the permaculture innovator Holmgren.
  • The One-Straw Revolution, by Masanobu Fukuoka: this influential book is both agricultural guide and spiritual memoir. Fukuoka recants his personal genesis from a research scientist to a revolutionary farmer. Beginning in the 1930s, his “Do-Nothing Farming” was a precursor to the later American permaculture movement.
  • Joel Salatin is a Virginia farmer whose agricultural practices put the principles of permaculture to work. His farm, Polyface, is composed of “holons” which use the relationships between animals and the land to grow a multitude of goods in the same space, increasing efficiency. He was famously profiled in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He has also written several books of his own, such as Folks, This Ain’t Normal.
  • Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmier: http://www.edibleforestgardens.com/ This comprehensive two-volume book constitutes an in-depth course in ecological garden design. Written in a passionate, clear, and engaging style, it integrates the vision and ecology of forest gardening with practical design, establishment, and management strategies.
  • Gaia’s Garden: a Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemminway: http://www.patternliteracy.com/books/gaias-garden Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens.

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