Saturday, 13 October 2012

My Introduction to Permaculture

I mentioned in my previous post ("Sustainable Garden") that as I researched how I was to achieve a sustainable garden on my plot of land in Crete I regularly found references to permaculture. When I started to delve into this wonderful world I was intrigued, given my mathematical background, by the range and diversity of the definitions that existed for permaculture. Having now read much further I realise that this is perhaps the single most important factor in that permaculture is not a clearly defined set of rules but a process of design based around principles found in the natural world. Of the many definitions I found the three listed below seemed particularly apposite:

A 3D pattern
- PERMACULTURE (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintainance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural systems. 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. (Graham Bell from "The Permaculture Way", also attributed to Dan Hemenway)

- PERMACULTURE is the use of systems thinking and design principles that provide the organising framework for implementing a permanent culture. (David Holmgren)

- PERMACULTURE is the conscious design of "cultivated" ecosystems that have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is a harmonious integration of people into the landscape in such a way that the land grows in richness, productivity and aesthetic beauty. (Peter Bane)

When I retired, some three and a half years ago, after over forty two years in the world of statistics and computing, little did I realise when I started my Cretan adventure(see my first post "The Start of a Journey") that I would find in Permaculture a set of ethical principles and design principles that I have been trying to live by for many years.

Organic yield
At the heart of all sustainable design and practice is a fundamental set of ethics which remain constant whatever the situation.viz:

- EARTHCARE - Respecting the Earth, Gaia, as the source of all life.

- PEOPLECARE - Helping each other and ourselves to live sustainably.

- FAIRSHARE - Using the Earth's limited resources in ways that are equitable and wise.

From my early research on the internet it was apparent that whilst the ethics principles, above, were universally recognised across the permaculture community there were many variations regarding the detail of the design principles. David Holmgren in his "Essence of Permaculture" ebook provides what many regard as the seminal set of design principles. viz:

Potential yield
1. Observe and Interact
2. Catch and store energy
3. Obtain a yield
4. Apply self-regulation and feedback
5. Use and value renewable resources and services
6. Produce no waste
7. Design from patterns to details
8. Integrate rather than segregate
9. Use small and slow solutions
10. Use and value diversity
11. Use edges and value the marginal
12. Creatively use and respond to change

He concludes by stating "Permaculture design principles can never be a substitute for relevant practical experience and technical knowledge. However, they may provide a framework for continuous generation and evaluation of the site and situation specific solutions necessary to move beyond the limited successes of sustainable development to a reunion of culture and nature."

With the above ethics and design principles of permaculture and, particularly, with the above paragraph in mind I realised that I had identified a world wide community with similar ethics and ideals. These "permies" possessed a huge fund of knowledge and experience that was so practically aligned to my sustainability goals, for both my life and my project in Crete, that the next steps were more in depth reading and research and finding a suitable Permaculture Design Course. More next time.