What was and still is new about Permaculture is the bringing together of all these strategies and techniques into a Functional Design system. But even then, defining Permaculture is a nigh impossible task.
Some colleagues and I were asked the question, "How would you explain Permaculture to a non Permaculture type person?" It is often said that if you ask five Beekeepers the same question, you will get six different answers, possibly more, and sometimes the same is true for Permaculturists. Discussing this it became evident that there are many viewpoints as to the make up of Permaculture, each predicated on an individual's needs and experiences.
This is of course as it should be. Permaculture is such a flexible design system that it presents what is needed to each situation and thus also presents differing experiences and perceptions to individuals. And therein lies the challenge - how to express such a versatile and powerful concept to those with no Permaculture knowledge or experience.
One of my colleagues then offered, "It's how you think". Hmm. Ponder.,,
And that is the key. Permaculture is a design system using Ethics and Principles to formulate a series of Tactics, Strategies and Techniques to achieve the desired result. BUT, it requires a different way of thinking. The world is still following one form of thinking; economy, fossil fuels, compartmentalisation, and so on. To change all that, we need to change our thinking. And that's where Permaculture comes in.
Permaculture is often seen as a way of gardening, something beyond organic gardening. This is quite understandable as Permaculture started out primarily as an agricultural design system based on observing and using nature's inherent design. Given that life on earth is dependant on energy that ultimately comes from the sun, plants and therefore gardening are a vital link in the chain of converting the sun's energy into a form that we can use - fruit, herbs, vegetables, and so on.
But the Permaculture Design System is capable of much more than that, it can also be used to design tangible structures such as houses, infrastructures such as transport and communications, and intangible structures such as communities and financial systems.
Permaculture is about design, and changes the way you think!
Warwick (Woz) spoke on this topic at BSFG's General Meeting on Thursday 14th December.