So, What the Bleep is Permaculture?

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:

David Holmgren wheel

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.

3 thoughts on “So, What the Bleep is Permaculture?

  1. Permaculture offers choices on how to live consciously in this time and where one lives. The three ethics say it perfectly: Earth Care – People Care – Fair Share. The rest explains how to do this. Of course there is a lot of “the rest”. 🙂 Looking forward to your follow-up posts on permaculture.

  2. So true that learning of permaculture is life changing. I feel Claudia and I are good examples 😊 especially Claudia!

  3. Wow! I love that flower! Permaculture is much more inclusive than I thought. We’re about to start consultation with an ecologically sustainable landscape design person, Sabrena Schweyer. Hoping to learn a lot from her, too.

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