Permaculture is a design system which supplies all our needs and benefits the environment.Another useful definition is:
Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.Permaculture works with complex ecosystems and habitats, including humans and their habitats at its core.
In order to supply all our needs and benefit the environment we need to capture and store energy at every opportunity - for example capturing water and keeping it in our system for as long as possible, capturing the warmth and energy of the sun in ponds, rocks, greenhouses and of course the plants and animals themselves.
I've been learning about permaculture off and on since I met Andy Goldring of the Permaculture Association back in 1997 so at this point in the course it's fairly familiar to me. There are still lots of good insights, and my favourite one so far is the definition of diversity that I've included in the graphic above.
Diversity links to lots of things in permaculture: for example we may want to use cows to help build the soil, chickens can also help in this process and if they go to an area after the cows they'll help process the manure and eat the pests that grow in it, then after the cows and chickens the land is really fertile and ready to grow lots of trees and shrubs and vegetables and herbs and flowers, some of these fix nitrogen in the soil, some of them work symbiotically with pollinating insects, some of them provide food for us or products for market, some of them provide shelter for other elements in the system, and so on and on. Many elements working together in 'complex' ways, storing energy in the system and reusing it again and again, stacking systems in space and time.
Two more principles of permaculture design:
- Each element should have many functions.
- Every function should be supported by more than one element.