Permaculture Design Ethics & Principles

Permaculture Design Ethics & Principles

Guest piece by Halli Moore

It is a very exciting time in the world of permaculture; there are a lot of existing and new permaculture projects around the world. Permaculture is defined as an agricultural system or method that seeks to integrate human activity with natural surroundings so as to create highly efficient self-sustaining ecosystems. With all the influx in implementing this system, it is very important to remember the ethics and principles that make up the foundation of our intentions and implementation. Let’s dive a bit deeper into what these are.  

The three ethics are represented in the centre and the twelve principles around the border. The twelve principles directly support the three ethics.

The Three Ethics

  1. Care for the Earth

This ethic touches on soil health and how it is directly connected to climate around the world. It is about creating and supporting soil environments that are self-sufficient and able to sustain over the long term via living microbiology.

The choices we make daily have a massive effect on the earth's health. Some examples are: where we get our food from, how our clothing is made, what materials our house is built from, where our waste goes, and how we choose to consume vs conserve.

2. Care for People

This ethic covers our basic needs for food, shelter, education, employment, and healthy social relationships. The belief is that humans can be more effective when working together as a community. This encompasses everything from how we interact with our immediate family, how our larger, local community interacts, to how we interact as a global community. The more networks we can create, the more skills we can share, the more self sufficient we can become.

3. Fair Share

This ethic recognizes that all of the planet's ecosystems are connected. It touches on the imbalances that exist and calls to limit consumption. Asking you to ask yourself, how does my consumption affect others, in proximity and all the way on the other side of the planet? How can we return the surplus, back into the system? Permaculture fundamentally rejects the industrial growth model some countries have adopted over the past 200 years.  

The Twelve Principles

  1. Observe and Interact - Observe and respond to what we see. Learn from nature.
  2. Catch and Store Energy - Make use of all possible energy resources, think outside of the box.
  3. Obtain Yield - Work with nature to produce what we need to survive. This can also touch on intangible yields such as happiness, health and wellbeing.
  4. Self Regulate/Accept Feedback - Recognise when we have succeeded just as much as when things have gone wrong. Progress with the ever changing world.
  5. Use and Value Renewables - Renewable energy, such as sun, wind and water, can outperform many other sources of energy.
  6. Produce No Waste - Move closer to zero waste. Be cognitive of how much you need to buy, what you buy and how you can re-use any “bi-product” of what you consume. Composting is also a great way to move in this direction.
  7. Design from Pattern to Detail - Apply natural and social patterns to our designs.
  8. Integrate - Utilize diversity responsibly. Polyculture (or guilds) are a good example of how this can be done in the garden. Allow for co-creation and communities to work together, share their skills.
  9. Use Small/Slow Solutions - Taking it slow, 1 step at a time, can make the move to a more sustainable lifestyle much more reasonable and less stressful. Same goes with gardening, farming, water management and so much more.
  10. Use and Value Diversity - Piggybacking on number 8 but with an emphasis on the biodiversity of flora and fauna on your property.
  11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal - Make use of all your resources. Don't let one go unnoticed.
  12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change - Change is, and always will be, a part of all living things and their environment. Design with this in mind and your systems can and will adapt to the forever changing environment.

These ethics and principles are not just applicable to permaculture design but also to our personal, economic, social and political reorganisation. We hope this provides a clearer picture of what the intentions behind the permaculture movement are.