Permaculture is a term developed and coined by Australian co-founders Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978 that stems from “permanent agriculture”.
There are several ways to define permaculture as it has been an evolving theme. In very few words, I explain that permaculture is a design science rooted in the observation of natural ecosystems and applied to create landscapes that are regenerative while providing for the needs of human settlements.
Similarly, on his website, permaculture co-founder David Holmgren defines permaculture as “consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways in which they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus, the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture.” holmgren.com.au
And as Bill Mollison explains, “The aim is to create systems that are ecologically-sound and economically viable, which provide for their own needs, do not exploit or pollute, and are therefore sustainable in the long term […]” – Introduction to Permaculture, 1991.
In practical terms, permaculturists observe and design your property by working with nature rather than against it, so that you can grow a lush, productive and resilient space both for people and other living beings.
Designs are based on the analysis of landscape attributes such as:
- existing infrastructures,
- local climate,
- sun exposure,
- prevailing winds,
- risks of fires, floods and frosts, etc.
– Permaculture Ethics & Principles
The design of permaculture systems is based on 3 ethics:
Care for the Earth
Care for the People
… and 12 principles:
– How does it work in practice?
1. Goal setting
The design of permaculture systems starts with defining the intended objective: what are we trying to achieve; what context do we work in; and what elements do we want: home, workshop, medinical garden, business area, meditation space, body of water, wildlife sanctuary, all of the above…?
→ This ensure everyone is clear on what type of landscape we are going to create and for what purpose.
2. Landscape observation and analysis
The process then follows with a thorough observation and analysis of the natural patterns of the landscape: what do the natural ecosystems of your bioregion look like; what climate are you in; are you on flat terrain or on hillside; what type of soil have you got; how much sun and rain do you receive seasonally; where do the winds come from; have there ever been any records of fires, frost or floods in the surroundings…?
→ This analysis allows us to recognise the influences we face, ensuring we work with Nature rather than against it.
3. Concept Design
Once we have gained a good understanding of the land, we can develop a proposed concept design. It includes the analysis, inter-connection and initial placement of elements. This is done according to the landscape analysis and passive flows of energy, such as gravity.
→ We thereby create closed-loop systems where the output of an element becomes the input to another one, avoiding waste and creating sustainable and resilient biosystems.
4. Detailed Design
The last step is to issue the detailed design. This is when we list a selection of plants (+/- animals) adapted to the project, develop a project implementation plan as well as a maintenance plan.
→ This provides clear guidelines for implementing the design and looking after the landscape until it reaches maturity.
– Veganism & Fundamentals of veganic permaculture
Veganism is defined as “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.” –
Veganic Permaculture therefore differs from traditional permaculture through avoiding the intentional use of animals and their by-products. It absolutely values and integrates the role of animals as part of a balanced ecology, but does not rely on the exploitation of domesticated or wild animals for our benefit.
Veganic permaculture design considers plants and wildlife (and other free-living animals like rescue individuals, if applicable) such as in truly natural ecosystems, ensuring their needs for habitat and food are met. It replaces animal manure and other by-products with living mulch systems, permanent ground cover, green manure, plant-based compost, etc.
Feel free to read my blog post about practices in veganic permaculture if you’re interested in learning more.
Veganic permaculture is therefore perfect not only for vegans but also for any people who decide not to keep domesticated animals as part of their permaculture project. And it may be because of a lack of time, energy, skills, financial implications, or simply because they don’t want responsibilities or because they periodically travel.
– Veganism & Permaculture Ethics:
Veganism fully aligns with the 3 permaculture ethics:
Care for the Earth
Intensive animal agriculture is globally recognized as having major ecological impacts from deforestation to water and soil pollution, to greenhouse effect through methane emissions (21 times more potent than CO2), to loss of wildlife habitat, etc. Unless you possess enough land to integrate domesticated animals as part of your permaculture system and use their services and products sustainably, you will otherwise need to rely on purchased manure, blood-and-bone fertiliser and food products which often come from standard animal agriculture. Therefore, by excluding animal products, you can significantly reduce your environmental footprint.
Care for the People
A properly planned plant-based diet has been demonstrated as far healthier than the conventional western diet. Many people nowadays develop cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, hypertension and other cardio-vascular diseases as a result of their poor dietary choices and excess consumption of meat and dairy; while fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds bring all the vitamins and nutrients that humans need to thrive without the toxins and unhealthy fats. The mental and spiritual health of factory farm and slaughterhouse workers is also to be considered; as slaughterhouse work has been connected to various disorders such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and increased crime rates including domestic violence as well as alcohol and drug abuse.
Academic studies have compared the land and water use in meat-based versus vegetarian and/or vegan diets; and it concluded that significantly more cropland and water were required to raise livestock and produce the meat-based diet compared to the vegetarian and/or vegan diet [1,2]; with vegan diets having the lowest impact . So by adopting a vegan diet, one reduces the need for cropland and water. These resources are hence available for other usages that could benefit humans, plants and wildlife animals.
Veganism covers an additional ethical dimension: Care for all Living Beings.
I will here quote Reisha Marris of Peace, Love and Dragonflies: “Animals suffer immensely at the hands of humans. We have enslaved certain species of animals and bred them for us to use and exploit, along with the many wild species that we have also hunted or captured. […] All animals are our fellow Earthlings and have the right to live their lives free from harm or exploitation […].” – www.veganaustralia.org.au. By adopting a vegan lifestyle, one makes kinder, more compassionate choices and causes the least harm possible to animals.