Explaining Permaculture…in brief (Jan 2011)

If you have ever tried to explain Permaculture to someone who  has never heard of it before you will be familiar with the challenges that this can bring.  It would  be like somebody saying, “Can you just explain the bible to me… in brief?”  There are so many overlapping and interconnected facets of Permaculture that a “simple explanation” is almost impossible to give.  One thing that we have learned, however, after having attempted to explain Permaculture over the years is that it is important to emphasize that it goes “beyond agriculture”.  We have encountered many problems with people thinking that Permaculture is just a “cute way of growing tomatoes with the water from your kitchen sink.”  Many people do not realize that Permaculture is an all-encompassing “Design System” with guidelines, principles, and ethics to guide its implementation.  It can be as simple as the way that you “grow tomatoes”, or as complex as the planning of an entire ubran city.  It can be as large as a commercial farm or as small as an individual apartment.  It can be used in development work when working with communities or in a child’s classroom to increase learning potential; it is even capable of recognizing regional differences while coninuing to adherere to global “commonalities”.

Our daughter, who was about 6 years old at the time, once defined Permaculture as, “Putting everything in the right place.”  That is about as good as any short definition that we have ever heard.  You’ve got to love the wisdom of children!  Stacia and I often say that Permaculture is, “A design system for sustainable living”, and then if we still have the person’s attention we will go on to explain what that means for hours and hours (possibly days, months, or years)!  There is no “perfect” definition, true understanding of Permaculture will come when a  person is ready to understand and has committed him or herself to the process of restoring the health and balance of this world that we live in.