Introduction to permaculture
The permaculture movement was created in the 70’s by Australians Dr. Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. The word itself came from “permanent agriculture”. Since permaculture potentially affects every aspect of our life, it now commonly stands for “permanent culture”.
The creation of the permaculture movement was a response to the often rather destructive methods of industrial agriculture, aiming at creating sustainable food production systems as well as sustainable societies. Some of the main problems leading to this revolution were (and still are) the establishment of large monocultures and its consequences, the massive use of pesticides and industrial fertilisers polluting water bodies and destroying the soil’s life, and finally the massive soil loss through the erosion of barren soils.
In contrast, a permaculture type of system should take into account the whole system, taking advantage of any possible interaction between different elements (people, animals, or plants) that can reduce the work and improve the general health of the system. The aim is to create a web of interactions so that all the needs of any element are supported by other elements within the system. This leads to self-sustainability and self-regulation. It is the optimization of energy use to make the benefits:costs ratio as large as possible, for all life forms.
Permaculture systems inevitably start with a design process. Observation, planning, and thinking are all very important steps preceding implementation and continuing iteratively long afterwards. This is because all the planning efforts towards the most intelligent design you can possibly have will later save work and effort a hundred-fold.
But maybe the best words to give a short and concise definition of permaculture are those used by its co-creators. Bill Mollison described permaculture as:
“…a philosophy and an approach to land use which weaves together microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soil, water management, and human needs into intricately connected, productive communities.”
For David Holmgren, permaculture systems are:
“Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs.”