I get asked all the time to define Permaculture and I struggle with how to concisely describe something that can be so many things. The shortest answer I've found is that permaculture is how we fix "it". The "it" can vary - food systems, energy efficient living systems, social systems...the list goes on. Whatever the "it" is that needs to be made better, the approach taught by permaculture will lead you to a solution. It does this by:
- Focusing on a whole system, not any single element. This way all effects of an approach are looked at and considered.
- Solving problems based on a higher set of ethics to care for the earth, its people and ensure fairness to all living things.
- Using a well defined set of steps to evaluate a problem and find solutions. Applying the process to any problem will lead you to a solution, but that solution could vary widely based on the specific situation you're looking at.
So what does that really look like? It looks like living systems where a house is integrated into the area around it to recycle energy, grow food and nourish human spirit. It looks like social systems that are fundamentally just and equitable by being based on deep self awareness and humility. It looks like a forest full of fruit ready to feed the community. It looks like a community garden or a backyard rain barrel system or a set of solar panels on the roof. It looks like Eden.
So how do you learn Permaculture? There are a lot of ways. There are many hours of you tube videos where you can see all kinds of permaculture projects and concepts. There are libraries of wonderful books too! I would encourage anyone interested in learning more to explore some of these free resources. Then, if it seems like something you really want to learn how to DO, take a Permaculture Design Course (PDC). A good PDC will pull together all of the miscellaneous information out there and show you how to go through the steps of designing a permaculture system. It will walk you through a design project so that you can get hands on experience with the concepts and it will teach you a variety of hands on skills to use going forward. In my opinion, there is no substitute for the in person interaction with someone who has been doing this work to give you a fuller understanding of what the permaculture design system really is.