The word ‘Permaculture’ was coined in the 1970s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, two Australian academics. Their original intention was to create a ‘permanent agriculture’, but later they discovered that their design ideas were also creating the foundations for a more ‘permanent culture’.

Permaculture is primarily a system of ethical land use and design for sustainable human settlements. The study of Permaculture Design encompasses traditional knowledge, ecology, sustainability, organic food production, efficient energy use, natural home design, recycling, appropriate technology, ecological economics, and much more.

Permaculture Designers realize that the present systems of big agriculture and agribusiness, their use of harmful chemicals, GMOs and pesticides, the unnatural treatment of animals, and monoculture farming (corn, soybeans, corn, soybeans, corn, soybeans….) are all seriously flawed. Scientists speculate that these practices are responsible for the disappearance of many species, and are a main cause of disease in countries that still farm using these outdated methods. When humans fail to work with nature and instead impose their own will, economy and destructive methods on it, all humans and the rest of nature inevitably suffer.

The Permaculture approach is to work with nature through careful planning and design, and creating systems that nourish the earth and ourselves - with less work and more favorable yields.

"Permaculture is a dance with nature - in which nature leads." - Bill Mollison

Some of the fundamental principles of Permaculture Design include the following:

  • 1.

    Working with Nature rather than against Nature

  • 2.

    Planting diverse species rather than single crops

  • 3.

    Taking advantage of “microclimates” such as sunny, shady, warm, cool, dry, or moist areas

  • 5.

    An emphasis on low-maintenance native and perennial food plants and trees

  • 6.

    “Stacking functions” — each plant, animal or location has multiple uses (for example, chickens have the multiple functions of producing eggs and manure, eating unwanted insects, clearing a garden bed by eating weeds and scratching the soil to loosen it up, providing heat for a greenhouse, and providing education and entertainment for people)

  • 7.

    Gardening like a forest - in “layers” — root, ground cover, plant, bush, tree and vine layers. Hence the Permaculture concept of a Food Forest!

  • 8.

    Working with “zones” of use intensity — such as planting herbs and salad greens close to the house, vegetable beds somewhat further out, and orchard and wild areas even further, where visits are less frequent

  • 9.

    Water harvesting, conservation and management

  • 10.

    Use of solar, wind, hydro, and other renewable energy sources for home and farm

"Permaculture (permanent agriculture) 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. Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order”.

“Permaculture design is a system of assembling conceptual, material, and
strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all
its forms”.

“The philosophy behind permaculture is one of working with, rather than
against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than
protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their
functions, rather than asking only one yield of them; and allowing
systems to demonstrate their own evolutions."  Bill Mollison


The more you explore the world of Permaculture Design, the more you will discover a fun and satisfying way of life.

Key Concepts:


  • EARTH CARE – Care for the earth and all living and non-living things (animals, plants, water, air and land.)
  • PEOPLE CARE – Care for people, promotion of self-reliance and community responsibility.
  • FAIR SHARE or SHARE THE SURPLUS – Ensure that all forms of surplus are distributed to others instead of being wasted or hoarded (money, crops, labor, information).


The Philosophy Behind Permaculture: Permaculture is All About Design

A word from Bill Mollison:

The sad reality is that we are in danger of perishing from our own stupidity and lack of personal responsibility to life. If we become extinct because of factors beyond our control, then we can at least die with pride in ourselves, but to create a mess in which we perish by our own inaction makes nonsense of our claims to consciousness and morality.

There is too much contemporary evidence of ecological disaster which appalls me, and it should frighten you, too. Our consumptive lifestyle has led us to the very brink of annihilation. We have expanded our right to live on the earth to an entitlement to conquer the earth, yet "conquerors" of nature always lose. To accumulate wealth, power, or land beyond one's needs in a limited world is to be truly immoral, be it as an individual, an institution, or a nation-state.

What we have done, we can undo. There is no longer time to waste, nor any need to accumulate more evidence of disasters; the time for action is here. I deeply believe that people are the only critical resource needed by people. We ourselves, if we organize our talents, are sufficient to each other. What is more, we will either survive together, or none of us will survive. To fight between ourselves is as stupid and wasteful as it is to fight during times of natural disasters when everyone's cooperation is vital.

A person of courage today is a person of peace. The courage we need is to refuse authority and to accept only personally responsible decisions. Like war, growth at any cost is an outmoded and discredited concept. It is our lives which are being laid to waste. What is worse, it is our children's world which is being destroyed. It is, therefore, our only possible decision to withhold all support for destructive systems and to cease to invest our lives in our own annihilation.


The Prime Directive of Permaculture:

The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children. Make It now. - Bill Mollison

Permaculture is not a fixed system. It is not a gardening association or an architect’s group or farmer’s federation, it does not tell people what to do. It does not say "what to plant when and where". Rather, it encourages people to think, to observe and to plan.  It encourages people to live in harmony with nature to imitate and learn from nature. (Mollison, 1991)

Additional Resources:

DIYFoodSupply.com – Podcast Interview with Alan Enzo and Ben Bishop of Nashville Permaculture:

To learn more, see our Videos and Resources and Courses pages.

Thoughts on Permaculture

"All of us would acknowledge our own work as modest; it is the totality of such modest work that is impressive. Great changes are taking place. Why not join us in the making of a better future. Ingenio Patet Campus. The field lies open to the intellect."

Bill Mollison

"Permaculture is design for sustainable living and land use. From its Australian origins in the 1970s permaculture has spread around the world creating positive and future-proof environmental solutions. Over more than three decades permaculture designers have pioneered many of today’s mainstream environmental solutions from land care to school gardens, from passive solar design to compost toilets, from ethical investment to farmers markets. But the autonomous, diffuse and decentralized nature of permaculture has tended to hide its great contribution to improving communities across the world. We continue to support permaculture projects and people that are building our sustainable future now."

David Holmgen

co-originator of the permaculture design concept

"What Permaculture Designers are doing is the most important activity that any group is doing on the planet."

writer, international environmental researcher
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