Characteristics of Permaculture:
Permaculture is one of the most holistic, integrated systems analysis and design methodologies found in the world.
• Permaculture can be applied to create productive ecosystems from the human- use standpoint or to help degraded ecosystems recover health and wildness.
• Permaculture can be applied in any ecosystem, no matter how degraded.
• Permaculture values and validates traditional knowledge and experience.
• Permaculture incorporates sustainable agriculture practices and land management techniques and strategies from around the world.
• Permaculture is a bridge between traditional cultures and emergent earth-tuned cultures.
• Permaculture promotes organic agriculture which does not use pesticides to pollute the environment.
• Permaculture aims to maximize symbiotic and synergistic relationships between site components.
• Permaculture is urban planning as well as rural land design.
• Permaculture design is site specific, client specific, and culture specific.
†Source: Pilarski, Michael (ed.) 1994. Restoration Forestry. Kivaki Press, Durango, CO. pp. 450.
The Practical Application of Permaculture is not limited to plant and animal agriculture, but also includes community planning and development, use of appropriate technologies (coupled with an adjustment of lifestyle), and adoption of concepts and philosophies that are both earth-based and people-centered, such as bioregionalism. Many of the appropriate technologies advocated by permaculturists are well known. Among these are solar and wind power, composting toilets, solar greenhouses, energy efficient housing, and solar food cooking and drying. Due to the inherent sustainability of perennial cropping systems, permaculture places a heavy emphasis on tree crops. Systems that integrate annual and perennial crops-such as alley cropping and agroforestry-take advantage of "the edge effect," increase biological diversity, and offer other characteristics missing in mono- culture systems. Thus, multicropping systems that blend woody perennials and annuals hold promise as viable techniques for large-scale farming. Ecological methods of production for any specific crop or farming system (e.g., soil building practices, biological pest control, composting) are central to permaculture as well as to sustainable agriculture in general.
Since permaculture is not a production system, per se, but rather a land use and community planning philosophy, it is not limited to a specific method of production. Furthermore, as permaculture principles may be adapted to farms or villages worldwide, it is site specific and therefore amenable to locally adapted techniques of production. As an example, standard organic farming and gardening techniques utilizing cover crops, green manures, crop rotation, and mulches are emphasized in permacultural systems. However, there are many other options and technologies available to sustainable farmers working within a permacultural framework (e.g., chisel plows, no-till implements, spading implements, compost turners, rotational grazing). The decision as to which "system" is employed is site-specific and management dependent.
Farming systems and techniques commonly associated with permaculture include agro- forestry, swales, contour plantings, Keyline agriculture (soil and water management), hedgerows and windbreaks, and integrated farming systems such as pond-dike aquaculture, aquaponics, intercropping, and polyculture. Gardening and recycling methods common to permaculture include edible landscaping, keyhole gardening, companion planting, trellising, sheet mulching, chicken tractors, solar greenhouses, spiral herb gardens, swales, and vermicomposting. Water collection, management, and reuse systems like Keyline, greywater, rain catchment, constructed wetlands, aquaponics (the integration of hydroponics with recirculating aquaculture), and solar aquatic ponds (also known as Living Machines) play an important role in permaculture designs.
The Ethics of Permaculture:
Permaculture is unique among alternative farming systems (e.g., organic, sustainable, eco-agriculture, biodynamic) in that it works with a set of ethics that suggest we think and act responsibly in relation to each other and the earth. The ethics of permaculture provide a sense of place in the larger scheme of things, and serve as a guidepost to right livelihood in concert with the global community and the environment, rather than individualism and indifference.
1. Care of the Earth ...includes all living and non-living things– plants, animals, land, water and air
2. Care of People ...promotes self-reliance and community responsibility– access to resources necessary for existence
3. Setting Limits to Population & Consumption ...gives away surplus– contribution of surplus time, labor, money, information, and energy to achieve the aims of earth and people care.
Permaculture also acknowledges a basic life ethic, which recognizes the intrinsic worth of every living thing. A tree has value in itself, even if it presents no commercial value to humans. That the tree is alive and functioning is worthwhile. It is doing its part in nature: recycling litter, producing oxygen, sequestering carbon dioxide, sheltering animals, building soils, and so on.
This page is adapted with permission from documents from the PermacultureActivist.net http://PermacultureActivist.net as adapted from documents by Steve Diver's "Introduction to Permaculture: Concepts and Resources" http://www.attra.org/attra-pub/perma.html at Appropriate Technology Transfer to Rural Areas (ATTRA) http://attra.org... and TheFarm's Permaculture Page http://www.thefarm.or...
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