Many people have never heard of it, and even those practicing it often have trouble defining it! So what exactly is Permaculture?
The easiest way to think of it is as ‘ecological gardening’, but such a brief description doesn’t really capture the essence of it, so here’s a more formal definition:
Permaculture is a holistic design system that emulates systems that exist in Nature to create sustainable human settlements and food production systems which integrate harmoniously with the natural environment.
It was co-founded by Australian ecologists Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, in the 1970s.
The word "Permaculture" is a contraction of "permanent agriculture" or "permanent culture."
Permaculture is a movement concerned with sustainable, environmentally sound land use and the building of stable communities, through the harmonious interrelationship of humans, plants, animals and the Earth.
The focus of Permaculture design is on the relationship between all the individual elements and their placement in the landscape, to form stable, productive communities that replicate the synergy and efficiency of natural ecosystems, rather than the individual elements themselves.
Permaculture design is applicable to both urban and rural environments, and encompasses all ranges of scale, from an apartment balcony to a large scale farm or village.
Being a design framework, Permaculture is concerned with much more than just the design of ecologically harmonious landscapes that produce food. As a system of design, it can encompass many different disciplines, which provide the techniques and methods to achieve the design goals.
…Permaculture can incorporate the techniques of organic gardening, biodynamic gardening, no-dig gardening, composting and a myriad of other sustainable gardening practices.
Therefore, Permaculture can incorporate the techniques of organic gardening, biodynamic gardening, no-dig gardening, composting and a myriad of other sustainable gardening practices. It can also use techniques of energy-efficient building design, water harvesting, waste water treatment and recycling for example.
Permaculture is a growing and evolving design system and has expanded to include economic and social systems that support stable communities, such as credit co-ops, Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS) and eco-villages.
Two terms which come close to defining Permaculture, as suggested by ATTRA (The US National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) are "ecological engineering" or “cultivated ecology".
So, in a nutshell, that’s what Permaculture is!