“Are a guide to what is considered right and wrong in the relations among people and between people and the larger living world” - Earth Charter
Permaculture is a design process to meet human needs while enhancing ecosystem health and it is less about what we can do, but more about what we should do.
The permaculture ethics are the foundation of what we do. Much like when we build a house or other structure we need to have a solid foundation in place. If not, then the structure is significantly weakened and can fall easily.
When the father of permaculture - Bill Mollison and the co-creator, David Holmgren first came together at the University of Tasmania and shared their ideas, one of the ideas they had was to look at indigenous cultures that had not only survived but thrived and find what the unifying factor was.
After much research and discussion, they boiled it down to 3 different Ethics - Care of the Earth, Care of People and what is typically sloganized now as Fair share.
Earth Care (Care for the earth) is about exactly that. We only have one planet that we all collectively live on. It is about rebuilding Natures Capital. While the word capital is typically used to define the concept of monetary wealth, in this instance we are referring to the natural or environmental resources so that we not only have enough for a sustainable existence but also add to that balance sheet – enhance our ecosystem.
People Care (Care of People) is about looking after self, kin and community. While most consider ourselves separate from the more extensive system, we are a big part of the system that has evolved in this environment, and we have the choice to help to not only our environment but also each other.
Self-care is not ‘selfish care’ as I heard someone put it once, but more about the care of self. We cannot pour from an empty cup, and we need to understand that we need to look after ourselves if we are to help look after others.
Kin (family or chosen tribe) is about the understanding that we cannot do it alone. We also need to look after family and friends. In the ’70s there was a huge movement for ‘self-sufficiency’, but honestly we cannot do it all ourselves. It is more about self-reliance and community abundance, and that starts with our family or chosen tribe.
The community is the understanding that we are a part of a greater community and that this ‘cultural capital’ is something that can help us celebrate our successes and help shape our character, to help us become more self-supporting and as Aristotle wrote approximately 2300 years ago, celebrating the good life.
Also, there is Third Ethic which is usually sloganized by the phrase Fair share. I sometimes think this is my favourite (if you can have a favourite ethic ;)) as it has gone through some transformations over the last 40 years.
While I know this has frustrated some and has created much debate in some circles in the permaculture community, what inspires me is that fact there is a conversation about it. An evolution of sorts as it shows that we are still learning, evolving and aspiring to be more.
What are we talking about when we are referring to a fair share? It could be said that we are talking about celebrating nature’s abundance while accepting and respecting nature’s limitations.
Celebrating Natures abundance because honestly, it is. NATURE IS ABUNDANT. Who has not walked into a rainforest and not been in awe of the wealth that surrounds us. The trees, the animals and life within the soils.
However, we also need to respect and accept that nature does have limits. If we continue to take and take without the understanding of boundaries, then there will be nothing left for that future growth – for future generations.
While traditionally there are only three ethics that are used and talked about, I like to talk about a couple of others that help guide me not only in my life but also when I do design work.
While these are not strictly ‘ethics’ I think that they are just as important to consider.
Transition. While there is some talk of this, mainly around the transition initiative, what I am referring to is that fact we need to understand that it will take time, that we are not going from zero to a sustainable existence overnight. We need to consider appropriate technology to help create our systems and the time frame that is required to have it happen. Even a tree that we plant on our property can take 3 to 5 years before we start obtaining a yield from it.
Also, lastly is the potential of Future Care. I was first introduced to the term ‘future care’ from someone who was attending Dave Jacke’s Forest Garden Design Intensive with me three years ago. She was telling me that the idea came from an ongoing discussion in the USA about the meaning of ‘Fair Share’.
Future care was about the need to not only look at closed looped systems and how the surplus needs to be distributed between the first two ethics but that we need to consider if our designs are caring for the future, not just now but the seven generations – regenerative and looking toward legacy.
The Ethics in Permaculture mean different things to different people, but if we want to make real change we need to consider these in the foundations of our decision-making processes, as a guide to asking ourselves are we caring for the earth, caring for people and caring for the future.
Click on the picture link below to the free download from David Holmgren with the art work and links from permacultureprinciples.com
"The word permaculture was coined by Bill Mollison and myself (David Holmgren) in the mid-1970’s to describe an integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man. A more current definition of permaculture, which reflects the expansion of focus implicit in Permaculture One, is ‘Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs.’ People, their buildings and the ways in which they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture." - David Holmgren (co-creator of Permaculture)
"Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system." - Bill Mollison
The big question. What is Permaculture. One of the consistent responses to this question in the courses that I help facilitate is, "How long is a piece of string?"
Permaculture over time has had many definitions, each showing the unique character of the people who have applied it in their own context. From its original definition of a PERMAnent agriCULTURE to the evolution to one of a PERMAnent CULTURE.
Many different practitioners have come up with their own definitions -
"Permaculture is a way of life which shows us how to make the most of our resources by minimising waste and maximising potential. Conscious design of a lifestyle which is highly productive and does not cause environmental damage. Meeting our basic needs and still leaving the earth richer than we found it." - Graham Bell
"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." - Geoff Lawton
Permaculture is about "...saving the planet and living to be a hundred, while throwing very impressive dinner parties and organising other creatures to do most of the work." - Linda Woodrow
"Permaculture has, in many people's minds, come to represent a sustainable, organic, home vegetable garden." - Rosemary Morrow
I even tried to come up with my own at one point many years ago.
"Permaculture is a design framework for the building of resilient, regenerative and abundant, human-supporting landscapes, both physical (Earth care) and hidden (People care), that mirror natural ecosystems through sharing of the abundance (Fair share). By linking the different parts of each system in ecologically sensible ways, permaculture achieves high yields for low energy inputs while actually building fertility over successive seasons..
Permaculture was started through the learning edge between Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the seventies. Since then, it has become a global network providing design solutions for every climate, landscape and culture imaginable.
Permaculture is a way of bringing together in a sensible system: ourselves and our communities, with whatever piece of land or space we are tending. It can be as small as a window with sprouts or as large as a farm or a bioregion. It can be in the city, the suburbs or in the country.
Permaculture addresses the way we live on this planet in a graceful and healthy way, respecting the plants and animals around us, and leaving the biosphere in a more productive and healthy state than we found it." - Michael Wardle
I was very excited when I finally finished writing it. Emotive. And those I had shown it to thought it was awesome and needed to share it. It even brought a tear to my eye.
Unfortunately for me, there was something missing in it. It was just not 'me'.
It was at this point that I was introduced to the writings of Rafter Sass Fergusson.
In 2012 Rafter engineered a survey which was sent to 800 permaculturists around the world of which 698 responses where returned.
From this survey Rafter collated the results and from the responses
84% said it was a set of farming and gardening practices:
91.6% said it was social movement
95.9% said it was a philosophy or worldview
71.4% said it was a profession
99.4% said it was a framework for design and planning
With this in mind the definition he came up with was that Permaculture was
"a Design process to meet human needs while enhancing ecosystem health."
This really resonated with me... short... sharp... simple... not wordy at all.
It is a design process where rather than asking can we do something, it asks should we do something. It is a process where we can design our landscapes to be resilient and abundant while regenerating the environment around us... A legacy
Above all for me though Permaculture is a celebration of life.
Click on the link below for more information on Permaculture from David Holmgren in his free PDF e-book "Essence of Permaculture" from the webpage of permacultureprinciples.com
An article written in the Gatton Star about the School sustainability program I work on for many years
by FRANCIS WITSENHUYSEN
29th Mar 2016 2:30 PM
ST MARY’S School sustainability garden has become a special place students can go to escape the craziness of the school yard.
The garden was started after the 2013 floods when the school received some funding towards the mental health rehabilitation of the students.
A Holistic orchard, fairy garden, veggie patch, chicken pen and native bees make up the garden, with room for more installations to be added.
Students and 2016 sustainability gardening committee member, James, said his favourite part of the garden was the chook pen.
"I get to feed the chickens, collect their eggs and learn about the benefits of compost," he said.
"But the most important thing I’ve learnt in the garden, is to always water the plants.
"I like to come down here when I have a headache. It’s nice because its quieter and cooler.”
St Mary’s School Officer, Michael Wardle, helped to get the garden going three years ago.
"It’s a place for the kids, made by the kids," he said.
"The students own it from the ground up.
“And they get hands-on, in the dirt while learning about where there food comes from.”
Michael said the garden was a good place for kids who are having issues to come down and have space and reflection time.
"I work with some kids who are having troubles in the class room so I bring them out here and do some practical things and relate it what they are doing in class. That way they have some hands on learning," he said.
"This is a space where those kids can come to play and express themselves without interruptions."
Michael said the garden also helps the school to be more sustainable
"We have processing tools too so all of our organic waste ends up here,” he said.
“And 60 per cent of what people use is organic waste, so the school has reduced its waste by 60 per cent and growing veggies at the end of it.
Mr Wardle said typically there would be between 30-50 students down in the garden, of a lunch-time.
"Savour Soils was recommended to us by a friend who had heard we had moved. As busy people, with only slightly ‘green’ thumbs, we were keen to engage a consultant who could provide a property-specific report, complete with local knowledge – so that we wouldn’t be wasting time, energy and money planting the wrong plants in the wrong places.
When we contacted Michael he outlined the three levels of consultancy services he provided. As we had settled on a large rural residential lot and wanted to plan our long term future there, we engaged Michael on a full consultation basis so that we could commence the permaculture design, with an understanding that a number of elements take three to five years to implement.
Michael visited us on a number of occasions, taking observations of the property, our lifestyle, and asking many questions. Most importantly, Michael listened to our dreams and goals and also took into account our limitations, particularly as we are time-poor, and provided a report that will help us create a garden that will feed our family and look after itself in an energy efficient way.
So the overall outcome was a property report that will help us achieve our goals and break them down so they are not as overwhelming. Michael’s knowledge has provided us with a 25 year plan of growing our own food, educating our children and enjoying our property. He has been so approachable and eager to answer our questions and design our garden our way. We wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Savour Soils for anyone wanting to gain a deeper understanding of permaculture, or anyone seeking holistic advice on how best to feed their own family from their garden." - Megan and Jacob
Did you know we also do Land Design? Using our unique approach, adapted over time we will
Below is what we offer for those interested in taking their ideas further along the permaculture journey
Verbal Design Consult
First is a verbal, little research and no report, consult where I come to your site, talk to you and any others living at the site, asking a few questions, to discuss your time, energy and financial budgets, what you would like out of the site (e.g., how much and what kinds of food) and what elements you would like included in the design then we tour the site talking about various options - $300 (approx.. 3 hours onsite with 1 hour offsite research)
Concept Design Consult
Second option is the same but with research, 30 page report and doing a concept design (rough outline), after which we sit down and look at the report and again walk around the property talking about the design.. Depending on how extensive the concept and size of the block - approx. $700 (subject to scope) (approx..10 hours )
Working Plan Design Consult
The Working Plan design which includes report, concept and a much more detailed design, and again walk around the property talking about the design.. Again depending on size of block, research and level of detail - approx $1250 (subject to scope). (approx.. 50 hours)
Adaptive Design Consult
The Adaptive Design Consult is where we truly embrace the design principle 'Creatively use and respond to change' and over the course of several years we design and create your design on the ground suited to your context. We are engaged for a period of 3 years and over that time we come and work with you to help fulfill your dream of a flexible permaculture design. - approx $4500 over 3 years
An article written in the Gatton Star about the seed library that we help start with our local Library
by FRANCIS WITSENHUYSEN 2nd May 2018 1:21 PM
FROM little things, big things grow.
Did you know there is a seed library where you can borrow seeds just like books?
Any member of Lockyer Valley Libraries can borrow up to two packets of donated seeds to take home and grow. Then as the plants begin to produce seeds, members can save the seeds and bring them back to the seed library. The range of seeds available include herbs like basil, coriander and sage as well as vegetables like pumpkins and capsicums. There are also some flowers including marigold and cone flowers.
Lockyer Valley Regional Councillor Michael Hagan said the seed library encouraged community spirit and sharing.
"So far, more than 280 packets of seeds have been loaned,” Cr Hagan said.
"It's really growing in popularity.”
The seed library was started in January 2017, when Michael Wardle of Savour Soil Permaculture and Nicole Kilah from Lockyer Libraries brought the concept into fruition.
"While the idea of a seed library has been around for awhile, it's the first of its kind in the region,” Mr Wardle said
"The more a seed is germinated in an area, over successive generations like this, the more adapted it becomes to that particular region.”
"The seed library is important because it builds community resilience, and it's helping to support the community in growing their own food.”
He said to keep the service flourishing, more seed donations were always welcome.
To donate, write your name and the seed variety on an envelope or plastic bag and drop the seeds into either the Gatton or Laidley libraries.