Happy World Permaculture Day! I’m surprised such a thing exists. Permaculture has become trendy. There’s no other way to put it. PDCs popping up everywhere, permie blogs multiplying exponentially across the internet, permaculture books being written (and published!) at a furious rate to ride the wave of popularity. Permaculture design principles applied to everything from banking to muffins. This patient but slightly jaded article breaks down some of the various directions.
This is not good. This is not bad. This is to be expected when something complex and fairly rigorous hits mainstream popularity. It thins and disperses like concentrated dye being added to hot water. Think of what happened to yoga.
So what is permaculture to me?
Permaculture as a tool for design, a set of principles. I think Toby Hemenway said it best:
I’m going to argue here that the most accurate and least muddled way to think of permaculture is as a design approach, and that we are often misdirected by the fact that it fits into a larger philosophy and movement which it supports. But it is not that philosophy or movement. It is a design approach for realizing a new paradigm. And we’ll find that this way of defining it is also a balm to those in other ecological design fields and technologies who get annoyed, understandably, when permaculturists tell them, “Oh, yes, your work is part of permaculture, too.”
But when I first came across permaculture three years ago, it was also like stepping into a puddle and finding an ocean. The design principles fit into my established morals and ethics like a puzzle piece I didn’t realize was missing. The permaculture design approach created links between areas of practice and ethics that I didn’t realize were linked. I was hooked. I spent that entire winter reading stacks of permaculture books from the library, watching youtube videos, reading forums and blogs, and spending as much time as possible outside, actively observing the world in a new way.
I was already an animist-leaning Pagan. Permaculture deepened my connection to the land, and strengthened my commitment to expressing my faith through building biodiversity and the land itself. I was already libertarian. Permaculture strengthened my DIY relf-reliant spirit, building community directly through sharing your abundance. I was already a “post-environmentalist”. Permaculture gave me the language to discuss these ideas, a common point of reference that we can use to differentiate 20th century “recreate a single point in time” environmentalism and conservation philosophies. I was already into local food. Permaculture design principles inspired me to look so much further- local medicine, local building materials, local grains, sourcing native food plants, and integrating native plants to strengthen whole systems designs on my 1/3 acre scale. I was already into gardening. Permaculture got me thinking about gardening as part of a whole system and my place in that system.
Permaculture books, and the subsequent autodidactic education in organic gardening, horticulture, restoration agriculture, agriculture ethics, and farm design, all jumped me at once and lit a fire in my head- the dream of my own herb farm.