Permaculture is a combination of the terms “permanent” and “agriculture”. It is a concept about approaching human agricultural systems and settlements as a part of the natural system and not in conflict with nature; imagine an edible and sustainable infrastructure. The goal of many people who practice permaculture design is to introduce sustainable agricultural and landscape design in order to remove human beings reliance on problematic industrial agriculture, its wasted energy, and its associated pollutants.
Permaculture uses biological and ecological principals observed in natural systems to harmoniously integrate people and landscape. The key concept is that human systems should mimic natural systems and to minimize the cost and use of resources. The ecological processes of plants, animals, their nutrient cycles, climatic factors and weather cycles are all part of permaculture’s infrastructure. What would normally be considered waste products are viewed as resources: chicken manure is used as garden fertilizer; used yogurt containers are used to start seeds; cardboard is used for mulch.
Observation of surroundings is a primary component of implementing permaculture concepts. Identify and keep what is best about the area and improve upon what is lacking. For example, locate the part of your home or yard have the most sunlight; locate and remove the habitat of the yard that are a haven to pests such as snails or slugs; find new uses for items that would normally be thrown away; locate.
Only after the natural and the build environment has been adequately observed can a system of permaculture be designed. Careful design to appropriately use the available natural resources is how permaculture is sustainable. Permaculture looks at the whole of a system and then designs a process to efficiently use and coordinate all of the parts of a landscape, and perhaps adding some additional components, into an ecologically optimal system.
Individual responsibility is another key aspect to permaculture. Anyone at the most personal level can choose to make sustainable choices and implant the concepts of permaculture. It is a grassroots movement to improve agricultural practices and the health of the environment and the people within it. Those involved with permaculture desire to a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Their core values include care of the earth, care of people, and ensuring fairness throughout; these are usually summed up by the terms “Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Shares.”
The hope of permaculture is that through local implementation the ideals and practices of this sustainable system will trickle up to modern agriculture and transform industrial agriculture into sustainable agriculture.