Permaculture is a design art and science that sees nature as our essential teacher. Based on three ethics and 12 principles it takes a "systemic view" of the situations and circumstances of life. The understanding of "interrelationships" , the true meaning of ecology, is fundamental to permaculture. Originally applied to the notion pf "permanent agriculture" when it was first articulated as an integrated way of working with nature in the 1970's in Australia, its applicability to a wide range of human activities is now apparent.
The ethics earth care, people care and fair share form the foundation for permaculture design and are also found in most traditional societies.
Ethics are culturally evolved mechanisms that regulate self-interest, giving us a better understanding of good and bad outcomes. The greater the power of humans, the more critical ethics become for long-term cultural and biological survival.
Permaculture ethics are distilled from research into community ethics, learning from cultures that have existed in relative balance with their environment for much longer than more recent civilizations. This does not mean that we should ignore the great teachings of modern times, but in the transition to a sustainable future, we need to consider values and concepts outside the current social norm.
The Earth is a living, breathing entity. Without ongoing care and nurturing, there will be consequences too big to ignore.
The icon of the young plant represents organic growth, a key ingredient in sustaining life on Earth. Earth Care can be taken to mean caring for the living soil. The state of the soil is often the best measure for the health and well-being of society. There are many different techniques for looking after soil, but the easiest method to tell if soil is healthy is to see how much life exists there.
Our forests and rivers are the lungs and veins of our planet, that help the Earth live and breathe, supporting many diverse life forms. All life forms have their own intrinsic value, and need to be respected for the functions that they perform – even if we don’t see them as useful to our needs. By reducing our consumption of ‘stuff’, we reduce our impact on the environment, which is the best way to care for all living things.
If people’s needs are met in compassionate and simple ways, the environment surrounding them will prosper. The icon of the two people together, represents the need for companionship and collaborative efforts to affect change.
People Care begins with ourselves and
expands to include our families families, neighbors and the wider community. The challenge is to grow through self-reliance and personal responsibility. Self-reliance becomes more feasible, when we focus on non-material well-being, taking care of ourselves and others, without producing or consuming unnecessary material resources.
By accepting personal responsibility for our situation as far as possible, rather than blaming others, we empower ourselves. If we can recognize that a greater wisdom lies within a group of people, we can work with others to bring about the best outcomes for all involved.
The permaculture approach is to focus on the positives, the opportunities that exist rather than the obstacles, even in the most desperate situations.
We are provided with times of abundance which enables us to share with others. The icon of the pie and a slice of it, represents the taking of what we need and sharing what we don’t, whilst recognising that there are limits to how much we can give and how much we can take.
Established fruiting trees are likely to produce more than one person can eat. It takes time to pick and preserve the harvest, and there are limits to how much fruit we can use. There are many ways that we benefit from giving a fair share of the bounty to others in our community.
The growth in human consumption and the accelerating extinction of species make clear the impossibility of continuous growth. Sometimes we need to make hard decisions and consider what enough is.
We need to focus on what is appropriate for us to do, rather than what others should do. By finding the right balance in our own lives, we provide positive examples for others, so that they can find their own balance.