What is "permaculture" anyways? At its simplest, permaculture is an eco-logical approach to design. It can be described as a way of thinking, making decisions and designing things based on observing nature. Permaculture has a set of ethics and design principles, which can be applied to physical things - like farms and landscapes - as well as to invisible things - like business models and our personal lives.
The word has its roots in "permanent" and "agriculture". Indeed, a large part of permaculture design courses focuses on land-based techniques and examples. No wonder so many people think permaculture can only be used on the land. I have the impression that for most folks, the word "permaculture" evokes the ideas of homesteading, organic farming, forest gardens, chicken tractors, sheet mulching and swales. Yes, it can involve all of these things AND it offers so much more too!
I've heard people say that they can't use permaculture because they don't have a piece of land, they live in an apartment in the city, or they're not farmers or gardeners.
Actually, I don't have a piece of land, I do live in an apartment in town, and I'm not a farmer. And yet, I use permaculture in my life regularly. I apply permaculture to help me decide how to best make use of my time, energy and resources. I use the principles and design process when I'm planning and making decisions about my business, the classes I teach, the community projects I'm envisioning, how to plant my garden, and even how to organise the stuff in my closets!
The part I appreciate most about permaculture is that it has evolved to embrace the ideas of "permanent" and "culture". We are aiming to help ourselves, our communities and culture be as self-sustaining and regenerative as possible.
So, if you are interested in learning how to apply eco-logical thinking to your life, to your work or to your land, I encourage you to learn more about permaculture. It's a tool that can serve multiple purposes, while helping people and the Earth.
Written by Bonita Ford. Creative Commons - Attribution, 2009.