In the Community
The basic principle of permaculture is to make useful connections between different ele-
ments in a system, so that as many inputs as possible are provided from within the system,
and as many of the outputs as possible are used within it. This principle can be applied to
connections between human beings just as well as it can to plants and animals. In fact, sus-
tainable human communities are possible only if they operate like this, with local needs met
largely by local production.
A real community could be an urban neighbourhood or a rural village, but it needs to be
small enough that people can know each other and communicate face to face. Social and
emotional relationships are just as important as economic ones. Indeed, each of these af-
fects the other and we cannot make any progress towards a more ecological lifestyle without
working on all three together. Learning to communicate with each other openly and without
fear is fundamental to creating true community and true communities are the essential build-
ing blocks of a sustainable world.
Today, most of us live in dormitories, whether these are country hamlets or huge housing
estates. Almost all our needs are brought to us from far away and most of us travel to another
place to work. We are part of an economy which is national, or global, in scale. One con-
sequence of this is excessive energy use and pollution, as huge quantities of fossil fuels are
used to shift people and things from one place to another. Another is the problem of remote-
ness. We become separated from the consequences of our actions, and dependent on forces
way beyond our control.
When we buy something in a supermarket it is hard to know what went into producing it.
The production process may involve ecological damage, ill health to the workers who make
it, or cruelty to animals. By buying the product we are playing a part in that process, usually
without even knowing it. When things are produced locally, by people we know, it is easy