A Very Short Introduction to Permaculture

Jessica Macdonald

The system of permaculture was developed based on the concept of "life ethic" which recognizes the intrinsic value of every living thing. The principles of permaculture stress co-operation and the necessity of working in harmony with nature, rather than controlling or exploiting our environment. Permaculture is a philosophy of sustainable living that can be applied in almost any setting, whether it be apartment buildings, residential properties, farms, commercial and industrial premises, community spaces, or educational institutions.

In an optimally functioning permaculture, the diversity of species will increase the stability of an agricultural system, eliminating the need for harsh pesticides to control disease and pests. Biological control, or the introduction of species to an ecosystem to limit the population size of another species which is damaging that environment, is a more "environmentally-friendly" method of pest control. The system of permaculture encourages resourcefulness and self-reliance among individuals and communities in combination with efficient, well-planned land use strategies. The principles of permaculture are derived from issues relating to ecology, energy conservation, landscape design, and environmental science.

Summary of the Fundamental Principles of Permaculture

1. Every element (such as house, pond, road, etc.) is located to assist every other.
2. Each element performs many functions. Each important function is supported by many elements.
3. Houses and settlements (zones and sectors) use efficient energy planning.
4. Biological resources are emphasized over fossil fuel resources.
5. Energy recycling (both fuel and human energy) occurs on site
6. Natural plant succession is used to establish or accelerate favourable sites and soils.
7. Human beings encourage polyculture and diversity of beneficial species for a productive, interactive system.

Distilled from Bill Mollison,
Permaculture: A Designer's Manual, New South Wales, Australia: Tagari Publications, 1988.