This is a continuation of an introductory series exploring my study and application of Permaculture. You can find my other articles by visiting GHC’s Site Index. All of these topics are discussed more deeply during our Workshops and Seminars.
Before I type much of anything myself, let’s ask two gentlemen who are the accepted founders of Permaculture how they define it.
Now that we’ve heard straight from the best sources possible, I won’t feel so squeamish asking someone else.
Look how happy that guy is to be holding one of the newest additions to his compost making + garbage disposal + egg-producing system.
Sorry, I digress…
The word Permaculture itself is a concatenation of segments of two words… a “portmanteau” if you want to be all technical about it. (I had to look up that linguistic term. Thanks Internet).
Permanent + Agriculture = Permaculture
The first time I encountered the word Permaculture, before going any further I conjured up a mental image from afar of a vast, dense rain forest newly discovered and untouched by man. As my mind zoomed in, I saw the virgin landscape contained only edibles. Instead of palm trees… apples and pears. Instead of elephant grass…. giant blueberries. Instead of monkeys and tigers… chickens and turkeys foraged in the brush.
Obviously that’s a complete pipe dream, right? There’s no way something like that could exist without constant human intervention – tilling, planting, weeding, shoveling, spraying, netting, work, work, work.
As I continued reading, I saw that everything I had known, and therefore everything I had ever done regarding gardening was completely backwards. Most food production systems, no matter if they’re gigantic hundred acre monocropped corn fields, or my small backyard tomato patch… most of those systems see the world one way:
Everything is naturally unhealthy. It’s my job to get in there, break up the innate destructive processes and micro-manage. Every spring their soil has a serious Miracle-Gro deficiency. Every summer their garden has a devastating RoundUp deficiency. Stupid nature. They need to get to work fixing these broken systems and spray away. Forever.
Permaculturists see the world another way:
Everything is naturally healthy. Nature knows what it’s doing. After much observation, I may be able to help her speed up what she wants to do. But mostly I have to get out of the way. Moreso, if something is broken, it’s probably my fault.
Which way do you look at your garden?
Now, let’s take a quick look at:
What Permaculture is Not
Unfortunately, some Google searches frequently turn up results that leads one to believe Permaculture seminars and techniques look like what’s above.
Now don’t get me wrong. Permaculture can be a very big tent and I have no problem with someone enjoying a nice drum circle or interpretive dance session after a long day of garden work to unwind.
Just please don’t teach others your strawberries are flourishing because of your drum circle or because of the certain pitch you use to howl at the new moon. That’s not Permaculture.
Permaculture is a Design Science. A design science predicated on a lot of observation and at least the understanding of the rules of cause and effect, if not the understanding (as much as is possible) of complex natural ecological systems.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading along as we delve further into this topic. There is a little bit of theory and bookwork to cover as it’s important to understand the foundation. Very soon after discussing Permaculture’s Prime Directive, Three Ethics, and Twelve Principles, we dig in to some practical applications. After that, I’m not sure where this is going, but I bet it will be interesting (at least to me).
Question of the Day: Have you encountered Permaculture before? What was your first impression?