Permaculture: a system of Principles for Sustainability

Sustainability is one of the issues that most concerns the world today. Just a few decades ago, the focus was on progress: but the planet’s resources are limited, and it is becoming increasingly necessary for this progress to be sustainable. Otherwise, we would have a planet with an expiration date.

In this context, the permaculture it appears as a system with new paradigms, which could be a real change in the ways in which it occurs today.

do you want to know what is it about?

In this article we tell you everything you need to know about permaculture, and believe me that after reading it you will want to incorporate it into your life.

Permaculture: What is it really about?

But first things first, let’s define exactly what permaculture is.

To begin with, it is important to know that it is a generic term, to talk about a whole system of values, ethics and universal principles applied in design and architecture. These values โ€‹โ€‹of permaculture appear in all stages of a project: planning, development, maintenance, organization and preservation of a habitat capable of sustaining life in the future.

Permaculture is also an international network and movement of practitioners, designers, and organizations, the vast majority of which have been developed and sustained without support from corporations, institutions, or governments.

The central axes of permaculture are food production, energy supply, landscape design and the organization of (Infra) social structures.

It also integrates renewable energies and the implementation of material cycles in the sense of a sustainable use of resources at an ecological, economic and social level.

The term permaculture (as a systematic method) was first coined by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978. In the words of Bill Mollison: โ€œIt is the philosophy of working with, and not against nature; of prolonged and reflective observation, instead of prolonged and unconscious work; to understand plants and animals in all their functions, instead of treating areas as mono-productive systems.โ€

The word (in English, permaculture) is a contraction, which originally referred to permanent agriculture, but was expanded to also mean permanent culture, because social aspects have been seen to be an integral part of a truly sustainable system, inspired by in the philosophy of Natural Agriculture of Masanobu Fukuoka.

Since its inception in the late ’70s, permaculture has been defined as a positive response to the environmental and social crisis we are experiencing.

The three basic principles of Permaculture

David Holmgren devised an ethic of Permaculture based on three fundamental principles:

Ethics 1: Care for the Earth

The first principle refers to the conservation of soil, forests and water. It implies provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy soil, human beings could not prosper.

Ethics 2: Caring for people

This second principle, for its part, has to do with the importance of taking care of oneself, family members, relatives and the community.

It is the provision so that people can access the resources necessary for their existence.

Ethics 3: fair share

The last principle refers to the redistribution of surpluses (limits to consumption and reproduction). Reinvest surpluses back into the system to provide them to the first two ethics. This includes returning waste to the system for useful recycling.

The third ethic refers to Fair Sharing reflecting that each one should not take more than they need.

Permaculture: 12 design principles

Based on these ethical principles, Holmgren defined 12 design principles of the permaculture, focused on systems theory. They serve as general guidelines to guide us within the enormous natural and social complexity when developing a system sustainable:

1. Observe and interact

By taking the time to engage with nature, we can design solutions that fit our particular situation. Nature is a large complex system of interrelationships from which we can learn to create integrated systems that benefit us.

2. Capture and store resources

The current wealth in the world is seasonal and is based on the use and waste of energy from non-renewable sources that will eventually run out, and on the degradation of the environment. Therefore, it is necessary to devise intelligent and sustainable ways for the generation and storage of resources that allow the development of future generations. Renewable energy sources such as water, fertile soil or biodiversity are considered as resources.

3. Get better performance

The systems that we design must produce results that guarantee the survival of the community, although without mortgaging the future. Productivity must be measured in terms of real product from the effort invested.

4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

By understanding how feedbacks work in nature, both negative and positive, we will be able to design systems that are self-regulating, reducing the effort required for their management and corrective management.

5. Use and value renewable services and resources

Make the best possible use of natural abundance to reduce our consumer behavior and our dependence on non-renewable resources.

6. Stop producing waste

Finding a value for each available resource and using them to properly integrate them into natural cycles, the concept of waste ceases to make sense.

7. Design from patterns to details

Observing nature and society from a broader perspective, patterns or general motifs can be detected that can then be used as the backbone of our designs, and then implemented in the details.

8. Integrate rather than segregate

The connections between the elements are more important than the elements themselves. In nature we find relationships of many types between species, such as predation, parasitism or symbiosis. By arranging the right elements in their right places, cooperative relationships are developed between the elements that improve and strengthen the whole.

Keep in mind that:

  • Each element performs different functions
  • Each important function is supported by several elements.

9. Use slow and small solutions

Small, slow systems are easier to maintain than fast, large ones, making better use of local resources and producing long-lasting results.

10. Use and value diversity

Diversity reduces vulnerability to potential threats and takes advantage of the unique environment in which you reside.

11. Find the edges and value the marginal

At the edges is where the greatest dynamism and richness within nature is found. The interfaces between land, water and air allow constant exchanges that facilitate the creation of adequate conditions for the development of life.

12. Creatively use and respond to change

A positive impact on inevitable changes or a vision of the future can be obtained by observing carefully and intervening at the right time.

How to apply the principles of permaculture in the house?

In some countries, permaculture is often associated primarily with building green houses or farming systems, but that is only part of this complex but wonderful value system.

As you have probably already noticed, the principles on which permaculture is based are quite universal, and can be applied in any context, even starting small.

Here are some simple actions you can start doing today to apply the concept of permaculture to your life:

Reduce energy consumption

According to different measurements, we could live consuming 40% less energy at home without making even the slightest sacrifice, eliminating only unnecessary cats (such as forgetting the bathroom light on, or having the mobile charger connected all day even if we are not using it).

Improve the structure of your house

If you can’t build yourself a new house based on permaculture, it doesn’t matter. There are many small actions you can take to optimize the resources you have. Fixing cold inlets, for example, or adding thick curtains that prevent heat from escaping, for example, can make a much bigger difference than you think.

Use the car rationally

That a single person walks in his car from here to there generates a tremendous consumption of non-renewable energies. Why not choose a more sustainable option?

Starting to use public transport can be one, or going to work by bicycle… And in that case you have double benefits!

If you really need to drive to work because of distance, the best thing you can do for the planet is to agree with more people and go all together. Once in each car!

They will save a lot of money and do the environment a favor.

Water care

Water is one of the most important goods we have, and unfortunately it is also finite. Therefore, saving water is essential for sustainability. You can, for example, collect rainwater to water your plants or wash your car.

Have a more natural life

Cultivate your own garden, plant trees, choose organic food, generate less waste… To apply permaculture in your daily life, you just need to lead a much more natural life, less consumerist and focused on the essential things as opposed to the superfluous.

permaculture in the world

Permaculture is now well established throughout the world, with many examples of its use.

Zimbabwe has 60 schools designed using permaculture, with a national team working in the school curriculum development unit.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has produced a report on the use of permaculture in refugee situations, after its successful use in the fields of South Africa and Macedonia.

One tribe in Peru has evolved from a growing dependence on state subsidies to self-reliance and support of other tribes. A US military base is being transformed into an eco-business park and wildlife haven.

Did you want to know more? Look at this video!

If you still want to know a little more about the permaculture way of life, this short documentary is all you need.

Do not miss it!

Now that you know permaculture, don’t you want to incorporate it into your life?



Gaia Association