Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
cing some new elements or methods, especially on an undeveloped site. But these changes
are incidental to the process of looking at the landscape as a whole.
Although permaculture started out as perma nent agri culture , the principles on which it
is based can be applied to anything we do, and now it is thought of as perma nent culture .
It has grown to include: building, town planning, water supply and purification, and even
commercial and financial systems. It has been described as 'designing sustainable human
How It All Began
Permaculture is not a new idea. In many parts of the world there are people, such as the
inhabitants of Kerala in southern India and the Chagga people of Tanzania, who keep gar-
dens that are modelled very closely on the natural forest. Trees, vines, shrubs, herbs and
vegetables grow together just as they do in the forest. This structure, called 'stacking' by
permaculturists, enables the gardens to be far more productive than either orchards or an-
nual vegetable gardens can be on their own, because several crops are being grown on the
same spot at the same time. They provide the people with all their food, most of their medi-
cines and fibres, some cash crop, and all on a very small area of land.
Permaculture has learnt much from traditional systems such as these, and it also incor-
porates many practices which have been developed in recent years. For example, organic
gardening, especially of the no-dig kind, and solar technology can both be important ele-
ments in permaculture design. It is important to recognise that permaculture has no copy-
right on many of the ideas it holds most dear and is indebted to many co-workers in the
field of creating sustainable human habitats. The specific contribution of permaculture is
two-fold. Firstly, it provides the element of design, a way of putting components together
for their maximum benefit. Secondly, it provides an overall framework which brings to-
gether many diverse 'green' ideas in a coherent pattern.
The word permaculture was coined by two Australians, Bill Mollison and David
Holmgren, when, in 1978, they published a topic called Permaculture One. It was an idea
that had fascinated Bill for years. He had spent much of his life in the bush, both as a
forestry worker and as a scientist, and the original inspiration came from the forests. He
studied them, realised how they work, and said, “I could make one of these.”
During the 1960s and '70s, Bill came to realise, as many of us did, that our present main-
stream culture is heading down a blind alley, potentially a disastrous one. So he became
involved in a lot of protesting, trying to persuade the people who are supposed to be run-
ning the world to put it to rights. After a while, he realised it was not getting him anywhere
and he became convinced that real change takes place from the bottom up, not from the
top down. So he gave up protesting, went home and gardened. And there permaculture was
Permaculture is very much about taking matters into our own hands and about making
changes in our own lifestyles, rather than demanding that others do it for us. This does not
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