By Tom Gibson
What better time than January to ask that age-old question: What is permaculture? Actually, we trained permaculturists wrestle with the concept ourselves. Partly that’s because we don’t really like the word “permaculture”—which seems clunky and ideological– but we still use it because the rest of world (that is, the narrow part of it that more-or-less understands the term) has made the word part of standard usage. Partly that’s because the question reminds us of too many party-stopping conversations that go on for 10, 20, 30 minutes and get increasingly down in the weeds. And partly that’s because everyone seems to have his or her own–albeit overlapping–take on the concept.
But, in the end, permaculture is a concept worth wrestling with. Few things once grasped, in our experience, seem to generate such enthusiasm. Many of our students, including quite experienced gardeners, call their exposure to permaculture and its possibilities “life-changing.” It is, in fact, a different take not just on gardening, but on life. That is perhaps best illustrated by David Holmgren, one of the co-founders of permaculture, in his flower of interconnectedness:
See something in that wheel that resonates with you? That’s the point. All of us come at the topic differently. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be giving you our personal takes on the concept and where it can lead. And, if you have your own thoughts on the topic, we’d love to hear from you.