What is permaculture? This is the sort of question that those who have known about permaculture for years can have a hard time nailing down. The problem is that permaculture is a multidisciplinary practice combining elements from fields such as ecology, geology, agriculture, anthropology, architecture, botany, landscaping, chaos theory, soil science, marketing, international aid, and community building.
See the problem? What is this thing called permaculture that combines the elements of all these disciplines and more?
A lot of people have an image in their head that permaculture is gardening. But gardening is one narrow element, not all of permaculture. Permaculture is used to design not only food production systems, but water-harvesting systems, appropriate building design, waste and nutrient-cycling systems, and non-tangible systems like community associations, trusts, and other organizations.
Well, what is it then? Permaculture was given its name by Bill Mollison who, together with his student David Holmgren, developed a system of sustainable agriculture. In order to express its sustainability, Bill Mollison christened it perma, as in permanent or sustainable ,and culture, meaning not only agriculture, but broader culture as well.
This, however, does not really give an idea as to what permaculture actually is. Simply put, permaculture is a system for designing sustainable human environments.
Permaculture is more than just gardening, more than just agriculture. One could be designing all of the human environment using permaculture principles. The potential is limited to the imagination of designers.
For more on what permaculture is, see our free Getting Started course.