oak seedlings - CC0 via Pixabay
Earth Care, Future Care, People Care

What is permaculture?

Defining "permaculture"

There are hundreds of definitions of permaculture. Here's the one I use: Permaculture is an ethical system of design that integrates humans with the natural world. 

Let's break that down. 

Permaculture = "permanent agriculture" and "permanent culture"

Ethical = Care of the Earth (primary); Care of People; Care of the Future

System = working with an awareness of the interconnectedness of elements of any system we focus on. 

of Design = We are co-creating with the Earth and with other people in a way that is intentional and careful

Integrates Humans with the Natural World = we developed a civilization/society that has disconnected us from the Earth we depend upon. (This one if full of tricky implications if you think about it.) Further, we tend to be deeply disconnected from each other. 

We can do better, and we can keep improving. 

The Problem

I begin almost all of my permaculture design courses with the question: 

What is going on in the world? What's the news? 

It doesn't take long for the board to fill with "events" that, when we look at them, are systematically connected.  Just as the problems are interconnected, so are the solutions. 


The Solution

It is time to reintegrate our way of life so that we can heal the Earth, heal ourselves, and tend to the best possible future. We can return to a life which is deeply connected--one that allows us to express the best of the human journey on the planet. What can that look like? 

  • Growing more of our own food in order to have more nutrition, fewer costs, more food security, and a sense of accomplishment and connection. People mostly think of permaculture in relation to horticultural and agricultural techniques. 
  • Increasing the efficiency of our home -- providing for more of its energy, water, and material needs in order to cut costs, increase resilience, and be more productive. 
  • Participating in community-wide initiatives in a way that brings people together. Maybe you love time banks, or food pantries, or developing new products for your area that support the regional economy. 
  • Developing a neighborhood community or an eco village. Permaculture can thrive in these environments. 
  • Learning the plants, birds, insects, and mammals of your area so that you can help to tend and repair the landscape you all share. 

Most of all, this is about limiting our impact on the Earth and tipping the balance toward a way of life that will allow future generations to thrive. We can imagine, design, and enact that right now. 

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Future Care, People Care

Facing the Day

[Note: This blog first appeared as the initial section of my editorial for Permaculture Design magazine’s November 2019 issue. In that issue, several authors spoke to this moment in time, the need for Earth Care, and the connection to People Care–two core permaculture design ethics. Readers appreciated the editorial, and so I thought I would share the beginning here.]

The times we live in are both a challenge and an opportunity. Both are presented with increasing urgency. As the year winds down, I have been evaluating and clarifying to which challenges and opportunities I can effectively contribute. Do I put effort into teaching and facilitating? Designing? Collaborative projects? The local community? Regional networks? More? Each of us has different skills and capacities cultivated through our own personal visions of a better world. From where I stand, our task is to align ourselves with each other in work which allows us to contribute fully and which improves the lives of others (human and non-human). That is not the message of mainstream, corporate-driven society. 

When I was a young activist, I noted that if we did not do something our grandchildren would suffer. When I had my first child in 2001, I recognized that if we didn’t do something, my child would suffer. When my second child was born, seven years later, I recognized that we are all suffering. My anger at older generations for creating and enjoying systems and privileges I would never realize abated. 

We live in a world desperately challenged by the systems which have held power and sway for decades. The pain and suffering of millions, the extinction of our species, and the degradation of our lands demand retrofits to not only our over-consumptive households, but to our communities and regional economies. This urgency is spurred on by fear of a chaotic future and the grief we might feel when we recognize the trajectory we are on. 

Those of us who are aware hold grief in one hand and hope in the other. It is not hope for our civilization based on extraction and power over, but hope for lives well-lived in service to each other, based on power with each other and the work of setting to right much of what has been out of balance. Resting in that vision, we have every reason to take urgent action to start where we are and do what we can. We are not waiting for those mired in old paradigms and willful denial. Nor, I think, are we perpetuating negativity. Our work is founded in something more life-affirming.

Frances Weller on grief
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yellow daylily
Future Care

Vital Connection

I’ve decided to link my occasional writings with this business website and would love for you to peruse the archive here at Vital Connection. I’ll be adding more about the projects I have underway and insights here on Sheltering Hills Design.

monarch on child hand

Contact me to let me know how it resonates with you–and enjoy.

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