What is Permaculture?

What is Permaculture? - The Urban Ecolife
Image Credit: Permaculture Memes

 This coming week I’ll be immersed in the Urban Permaculture Design Course offered by The Permaculture Research Institute at the Sunshine Coast.


I am super excited about the opportunity to spend a week camping, learning, getting my hands dirty, eating delicious homegrown, fresh and organic food, and soaking up some of Australia’s most beautiful natural landscapes. I will admit though, to the slight twinge of anxiety I’m harbouring about the limited internet access and zero mobile phone service. I realise it’s nice to switch off once in awhile but it’s a shame we often need a reason in order to do so as opposed to by choice. Like when the internet company decides to cut your line because you haven’t paid your bills. Or when the power goes out. Or when you’re thrown into the middle of whoop-whoop with not even a plug socket in sight. I like to coin these moments as technology black holes. Yes, it’s rather funny that this is what I’ve decided to be anxious about. Not the composting toilet or the woodfire heated shower.


So what is Permaculture anyway?

The fact that spell-check doesn’t recognise it just goes to show it’s still a relatively new concept that’s yet to break through into the mainstream.


It was a term and design framework crafted in the 1970s by two Australians (hurrah!), Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, which has gone on to spur an ‘underground’ (yet global) movement of self-sustenance and environmental stewardship that you can’t help but get excited about.


The technical definition according to Wikipedia is as follows:

“Permaculture is a branch of ecological design, ecological engineering, and environmental design that develops sustainable architecture and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.”

In simple speak, it’s a way of designing human supporting landscapes to mimic nature. Don’t let your lack of imagination get the better of you. It’s not limited to just gardening or plants. It’s a holistic framework that can not only be applied to basic human needs, such as water, food and shelter, but also used to design more abstract systems such as community and economic structures.


Permaculture principles can be seen throughout all aspects of life. Drawing from the fundamental patterns of nature, taking for example, the branches of a tree, these same patterns are replicated in the branching of canals in our waterways and the very vessels of our own hearts. There’s a fancy term for this; “Biomimicry”.


By observing these natural patterns and applying these to our own lives, we are able to develop sustainable systems that have the potential to not only enhance our own way of living, but the very world around us.


This is the essence of Permaculture. It’s a design methodology that allows nature to do most of the work for you. It allows for man to achieve high yields using a low level of energy and resource expense whilst contributing to the increasing fertility of the land to bring about sustained growth in the years to come. It’s sustainable, it’s practical and yes, it works.


It’s about working with nature, not against it.


There are 3 principles that reign supreme:

  • Care of the earth

Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish

  • Care of the people

Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.

  • Return of Surplus

Reinvesting surpluses back into the system to provide for the first two ethics. This includes returning waste back into the system to recycle into usefulness.


For more information about Permaculture and if you are interested in finding out about courses on offer, visit:




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Posted on by Emily Uebergang Posted in EcoLiving, Home & Garden

About Emily Uebergang

Urban hippie by day, wandering gypsy by night. Emily is all about sustainable living and writes like she's out to try and save the world or something. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Google+