“Sitting at our back doorsteps, all we need to live a good life lies about us. Sun, wind, people, buildings, stones, sea, birds and plants surround us. Cooperation with all these things brings harmony, opposition to them brings disaster and chaos.” – Bill Mollison
Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in1978. It engages communities and individuals to address climate change, food sovereignty, and to connect with natural systems. Permaculture is based on 12 principles, that can be applied to community, ecological restoration, food production, and ethical economies. These principles can be thought of as lines of inquiry, each introducing practical and meaningful perspective.
Permaculture is centered around three big ideas called Ethics:
Care of the Earth
Care of People
Fair Share of Surplus
We can use the Permaculture Ethics as a systems thinking tool much like the three pillars or sustainability compass. We can discuss an issue or address a question from these three perspectives in order to find solutions, answers, and to develop more questions.
These Ethics give rise to the 12 Principles which we can use to design projects, schools, gardens, and communities;
- Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder” By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
- Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines” By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
- Obtain a Yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach” Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.
- Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation” We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.
- Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course” Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
- Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine” By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
- Design from Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees” By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
- Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work” By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
- Use Small and Slow Solutions – “Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
- Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
- Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path” The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
- Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be” We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.
Do you have experience bringing Permaculture to a school environment? Please tell us about it and share your favorite resources in the comment section below.
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