Permaculture Principles

Observe and interact
Not rushing in, watching all that is present and seeing relationships between land, water, weather, nature and humans. This increases the chance of making wise decisions. Just observing makes nothing happen, just acting can make problems bigger and bigger. Finding a balance between observation and action is key.

Catch and store energy
Intimately connected to observation is the art of capturing energy in a design to minimise the need for external inputs. Making our capitol bigger rather than spending the interest. Energy capture may include:

  • Preserved fruit and vegetables
  • Water in ponds, tanks and reservoirs
  • Biomass creation / enhancement
  • Seeds for next year
  • Wood pile for fuel
  • Renewable energy production and storage

Obtain a yield
Obvious material yields such as food water and materials but also knowledge, social capital, money savings and inspiration and empowerment of people.

Apply self regulation and accept feedback
Taking responsibility for our actions; this is inextricably linked to limiting our consumption to a level that can be continued into the future.

Use and value renewable resources and services
Let nature take its course. Permaculture seeks to use resources that can be renewed though non-renewable resources may need to be used to establish the system in the first place. Understanding the value of ecosystem services – a tree can produce timber but it also provides us air to breath, it cools the surrounding air and casts direct shade, It’s roots hold the soil in place and play a part in soil creation, it’s structure provides niches for many other organisms to live out their lives who then may provide yet more ecosystem services.

Produce no waste
Waste is just an unused output. If the output is unusable, or downright dangerous, we probably shouldn’t be producing it. Aim to connect inputs and outputs so that different elements meet each others needs.
“refuse, reduce, re-use, repair, recycle and re-design”

Design from patterns to details
Think big, act small. Understand the underpinning concepts and distill for a given project/site. Big picture first.

Integrate rather than segregate
Many hands make light work. One of the most important insights from ecology is that the relationships between things are as important as the things themselves.

Use small and slow solutions
The bigger they are the harder they fall. Our society currently depends on vast inputs of fossil fuel, whilst our biosphere is over-loaded by their outputs. The more accessible and fixable our technologies and chains of supply are, the more robust the system. Permaculture favours small scale and local, over big scale and global, usually. Start small and then slowly expand. Incremental changes can be more easily monitored and understood.

Use and value diversity
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Biodiversity creates healthy ecosystems. Valuing diversity between people makes for a more peaceful and equitable society. Diversity is the very essence and joy of life. There is usually a positive correlation between diversity and resilience.

Use edges and value the marginal
In human society, edge is where we have cultural diversity. It is a place where free thinkers and so called ‘alternative people’ thrive, where new ideas are allowed to develop and ageless wisdom is given its rightful respect. In ecology where 2 ecosystems meet (eg. woodland and meadow) is generally more productive and richer in species number than either habitat on its own.

Creatively use and respond to change
Identify the drivers of change in a given project or area. A deep interpretation of this invites us to imagine a future world where there is not an abundant cheap supply of oil and a world that necessarily radically reduces its carbon load in the atmosphere. By doing this we take the first step toward creating it. Plan for predictable changes such as season or succession.


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