mean that political action is a waste of time. There are many things which are decided at
the political level and will probably continue to be so for the foreseeable future. It does
mean, however, that our first reaction to any problem or challenge is not, “Something must
be done!”, but, “What can we do about it?”
A Sense of Ethics
At the heart of permaculture is a fundamental desire to do what we believe to be right and
to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. In other words, a sense of ethics.
The ethics of permaculture can be summed up as:
Earth care can be seen as enlightened self-interest: the notion that we humans must look
after the Earth and all her living systems because we depend on them for survival. But on
a deeper level it is the realisation that the Earth is a single living organism, and we humans
are part of her, in just the same way that all the other plants and animals are. We have no
more right to survive and flourish than any other species. Thus the protection of all remain-
ing wilderness areas must be one of our highest priorities.
The human habitats created by permaculture are very much more Earth-friendly than
those created by present agricultural and industrial technology. But permaculture is not
about turning the whole world into a productive edible ecosystem. Far from it. By adopting
permaculture, we can increase the productivity of our land to such a degree that we will
need much less of it, leaving far more for wilderness.
We can help to save the dwindling remains of wilderness in the world both by campaign-
ing and by being careful about what we consume - tropical hardwoods are an obvious ex-
ample. But in Britain we no longer have any wilderness in a real sense. Every acre of the
island has been profoundly affected by humans, or at least by our grazing animals. Here
the richest areas for wild plants and animals are semi-natural habitats, in which humans
have played an important role over many hundreds, even thousands, of years. Flower-rich
meadows and coppice woodlands are examples. In these, continuing human activity, such
as mowing or regularly cutting the trees, is often essential to the survival of many species
of wild plants and animals.
People care is just as important as Earth care. In the past, there have been societies which
were completely sustainable, but at the cost of a life of drudgery for the majority of the
people. We are not talking about going back to that kind of society. We are talking about
replacing both drudgery and fossil fuels with the use of intelligent design.
In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that the technical solutions to problems are very
much easier to come by than the human ones. We largely know how we need to change
our agriculture and industry in order to make them sustainable. How to deal with human
emotions, such as fear and greed, is less simple however, and these are what really prevent