Permaculture (permanent (agri)culture) is a holistic approach to systems through designing relationships and energy cycles, which aim at meeting diverse needs of humans in a way that benefits the environment at the same time.
The aim of Permaculture is to create ecologically sound, economically and socially prosperous human communities that are not exploiting anyone or anything, that are not producing any waste and thus are sustainable.
Permaculture is trying to work with and incorporate the principles of nature. So rather than trying to make nature obey to our mind-made plans and bulldozers, we first deeply observe how energy and matter flows naturally, and then try to arrange our needs incorporated in a design around that, which is then implemented carefully, using observation and feedback loops to readjust again and again.
12 Principles guide us through the design process.
- Observe & interact
- Catch & store energy
- Obtain a yield
- Apply self-regulation & accept feedback
- Use & value renewable resources & services
- Produce no waste
- Design from patterns to details
- Integrate rather than segregate
- Use small & slow solutions
- Use & value diversity
- Use edges & value the marginal
- Creatively use & respond to change
Those Principles being so broadly interpretable, allows to apply permaculture in any setting that includes processes. Most people may be familiar with the term of Permaculture in home-scale garden, with the herb spiral being a quite prominent image that comes to our mind. But it is way more than that. Whole landscapes and eco-systems have been regenerated through Permaculture approach, and there are also some farms that apply permaculture on big scale.
Basically, it can be used to design any kind of process, based on the ethics of earth care, people care and fair share.
Also Social Permaculture is becoming a more and more important tool for community work. Through the ethics of earth care and people care, the interdependence and close-relatedness of both earth’s and a communities well-being are emphasized. A healthy land and eco-system, producing abundant amounts of food and securing other basic needs, will benefit the health of individuals and thus the health of whole communities and vice versa.
Permaculture is an approach to design beneficial relationships.
As an approach to observe and design, it focusses on understanding elements as a product of their relations with their surroundings and in their interconnectedness, rather than seeing them as isolated parts that are arranged next to each other. The aim is, to put different elements in such relation with one another that they enhance and benefit each other. For example we use nurse plants to create favorable conditions for seedlings to grow. Or we place frost-sensitive plants like citruses in front of south facing walls, where they will benefit from the heat reflected by the latter.
“Interconnections are, what turns a collection of unrelated parts into a functioning system, whether it is a community, a family or an ecosystem.” – Toby Hemenway
One effect of Permaculture is to bring positive impact to ecological and social systems and increasing its resources, fertility and health throughout the time, rather than depleting them for getting an outcome. This moment is deeply transformative to the dominant human self-understanding of our times. Permculture shows us, that it is not neccessary to destroy the planet with human existence, if we use an approach that respects the cyclic character of natural processes and let go of our linear understanding of the world.
If you wish to get deeper into the topic, we invite you to explore this webpage, which will provide you concrete ways how to apply permaculture in community, peace and youth work, like on workcamps or youth exchanges.
In the Resources section, you can find an ever growing collection of links to other projects and resources from the fields of Permaculture, Social Permaculture, Socio-Ecological Transition, Alternative Economics, Earthbased Activism…