What is permaculture: origins and ethics

Permaculture was born in Australia in the 1970s . Farming system studies Bill Mollison and David Holmgren they come to reflect on the whole social system of a community. It is therefore not a question of a simple agricultural practice, but of something infinitely more vast and complex: an approach planning , covering all areas of human life their social relationships and those of the natural environment that surrounds them.

With this article we begin a journey that we will travel together, on the way to permaculture . In these lines I will give you an overview of what permaculture is, in its fundamentals: from the term “permanent” to the three ethical principles that underlie this vision. Let us then enter the approach between the project and the realization.

When I approached this discipline, at the beginning of the 2000s, I would have liked to find information in Italian accessible to all, technical but simple. That’s what I would like to do: provide useful tools for learn and improve and offer the opportunity to observe the world from a different point of view. Let’s start now with you reading and me writing, but I’m sure there will be valuable opportunities to talk and listen.

Contents [Ocultar]

  • What is permaculture

  • The ethics of permaculture

  • The design and application process

  • discover permaculture


What is permaculture

At Orto Da Coltivare we talk about vegetable gardens and organic farming, so this sentence reminds me: “The biggest change we need to make is to move from consumption to production, even on a small scale, in our gardens. If only 10% of us do it, there’s enough for everyone. .

These are the words of Bill Mollison, the founder of permaculture .

The word “Permaculture” was coined by Bill Mollison, with his student David Holmgren in the 1970s in Australia, from the combination of the words permanent Yes agriculture .

They identified it as a system design human-inhabited landscapes in harmony with the natural world . A system in which food, energy and shelter, as well as other material and immaterial needs, are met in a sustainable way.

Of course you can’t have permanent agriculture without a supporting crop and so permaculture is also permanent cultivation .

Word permanent deserves to be explored further.

Permanent means something stable and lasting. So when we talk about systems and structures that affect food, water and energy, we mean something designed to last, not to decay. Permanent agriculture has the capacity to maintain itself without time limit, in fact it is able to create more energy than it needed to produce. It is a process of regeneration.

With permaculture we create this type of design: we regenerate the soil, we purify the water, we produce healthy food, we build with ecological materials, we create biodiversity . Therefore, it is about caring for the environment in which we grow and produce food. Quite the opposite of intensive agriculture aimed at exploiting impoverished soils.

The discourse must however be considered with a broader vision, which goes beyond the action of culture: with permaculture, all aspects of human settlements in the environment are considered: political, economic and social systems are part of integral to the design, since they make houses, orchards and orchards possible.

Therefore, we can say that permaculture is a design system for creating and managing a sustainable society and, at the same time, an ethical and philosophical reference system and a practical approach to daily life. In essence: permaculture is an applied ecology .

To guide our society towards a bountiful and sustainable future, Permaculture It is based on three ethics .

The 3 ethics of permaculture

The core of this worldview is an ethical basis which Mollison and Holmgren summarize in three points.

The first ethic is to take care of the Earth. Our goal is to protect the natural environment and restore what is degraded. The Earth is a living being. By maintaining clean and abundant water, rich and healthy soil, intact forests, biodiversity, pure and breathable air, we create the conditions for our lives.

The second ethic is to take care of people. It’s about designing with people’s health and well-being in mind, so they have the security and stability to care for the land they live on. Healthy people and communities have the power to make good decisions.

The third ethic is the redistribution of the surplus. It is not sustainable that a few people accumulate more and more wealth, while many around them do not have enough to live on. Containing consumption and redistributing what remains is the basis for creating equity. But this is not enough: the imperative is to take the excess wealth and use it to help others, investing in the restoration of the natural capital of the earth’s ecosystem. An equitable civilization is stable and enduring, a civilization that, for profit, depletes the Earth’s resources, creating pollution, land degradation and poverty.

The design and construction process

The permaculture design process, as you may have guessed, is full of many elements that need to be considered, studied and mastered.

To begin to understand them think of permaculture as a tree , composed of roots, trunk, branches, leaves and fruits. Each element is essential to the collective system and is not sufficient on its own.

this tree grows : leaves and fruits are harvested through the design and development of farms, homes, cities, communities, businesses, gardens, plantations, aquaculture systems and more…

But what’s really important is that what we collect is not only a result, but the feedback that feeds the following choices . We work in a circuit where each step is a source of new information and conceptions and everything we obtain, observed and analyzed, allows us to remain in a virtuous circle, capable of constant improvement.

The design and application system is guided by several principles that the founders of permaculture identified and enriched by experience. From the next article, we will begin to discover them and understand how they help us in our daily practice.

discover permaculture

The world that refers to Permaculture is really vast . On the path that awaits us, we will proceed to discover this complexity, counting and reading the realities that in our country deal with its development and teaching, the people – in the world – who, with their experience , have become the cornerstones of this discipline. , the abundant bibliography (on paper, online and numerous videos…), often in English.

My partner Barbara and I started the project Permaculture training , which combines the creation of an urban permaculture center in Rivalta Torinese, in the space of an old farmhouse, with the teaching of sustainable practices and training in personal change. In short, I “met” Permaculture almost twenty years ago and fortunately we continue to see each other. From today, even with you.

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