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The 14 Principles of Permaculture and Its Ethics

by | Sep 27, 2022 | Sustainability

Homesteaders want to break free of the constraints of conventional agriculture and build gardens that are not only organic but also resilient to seasonal changes and able to feed their families without relying on outside resources like grocery stores or large corporate farms.

All over the world, people are moving from the broken society and way in which we are living to more sustainable, self-sufficient communities. To accomplish this they’re looking for ways to incorporate elements of permaculture design into their new farm layouts.

Permaculture is an integrated system of designing and growing food that will produce more with less effort than conventional methods. It provides a set of principles and ethics to cater to human needs rather than producing one size fits all output.

The principles and ethics of permaculture design provide a platform for decision-making related to landscape and ecosystem restoration. These principles can be applied when designing the landscape, habitats, and agricultural systems of farms and communities. So what exactly is permaculture?

What is permaculture?

The term “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture”, was coined and defined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, founders of the international movement known as permaculture.

It is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in nature. It is an ecological technique for sustainability and resilience.

Permaculture farming is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs sustainably.

It is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature, which can be applied to any aspect of our lives. Permaculture is a science that aids in designing and managing sustainable human habitats by studying the environment.

Permaculture principles entail the use of appropriate technologies and renewable resources, the design of efficient buildings, the recycling of human and food wastes back into our healthy ecosystems, the construction of regenerative agricultural systems, and the reintegration of what we consider ‘wilderness’ into our lives.

Permaculture design

Permaculture gardening is an ethical design science that combines ecological design, organic farming, and appropriate technology. It seeks to mimic natural ecosystems to create sustainable human habitats.

It is an indigenous approach that aims to create sustainable human settlements and ecosystems with minimal impact on the environment. It is a science based on the concept of working with, rather than against nature.

Bill Mollison, one of the founding fathers of permaculture, explains that it’s most appropriate and sustainable to observe “the natural laws of self-organization, rather than fighting them and trying to substitute our own will in place of evolution.”

Permaculture uses a set of principles and techniques to develop self-sufficient human habitats. These include using natural energy flows, mimicking environmental ecosystems, and using renewable resources.

It is a system of agriculture that focuses on creating sustainable food production by mimicking natural ecosystems in an agricultural setting. It is a way of creating a self-sustaining agricultural process without the use of synthetic chemicals.

Permaculture design is not just about growing food but is also about creating stable and ecological human habitats that can be replicated anywhere in the world. Its practitioners, known as ‘permaculturists’, apply principles integral to ecology and systems thinking to all facets of our lives and home landscapes.

Permaculture farming is a practice that promotes an increased diversity of plants and animals to create a self-regulating system and self-sustaining agriculture. It is based on the observation that most ecosystems are stable, self-sustaining, and productive.

It is a biodynamic practice of designing human habitats that mimic the ecosystems of nature, to increase self-reliance and create a self-sustaining agriculture system. Its design principles are based on patterns observed in nature. These principles can be applied to all aspects of life.

14 principles of permaculture

Permaculture is a collective principle that focuses on systems of agriculture, horticulture, and land use planning and design, which includes the standards of ecological food production, building, and design.

The principles of permaculture are a set of beliefs that guide the development of ecologically-conscious human settlements. They are the foundation for designing and teaching ecological processes in courses, projects, and organizations. Here are the principles of permaculture:

Observe and interact

Observing and interacting is an important process in permaculture farming. It is the process of observing what’s happening around us, and then interacting with the environment to see what we can do to improve it.

This low-impact agriculture is all about observation and adjusting human response to the natural system. To implement the permaculture principles, people need to observe the natural cycle of their property.

This process can be applied to everything from gardening, to design, and even our relationships. This involves noting when specific flowers bloom, when birds arrive, and when weeds creep up.

Observation is the first step of permaculture design, and it should precede site analysis. This process helps to develop homes garden into a more eco-friendly ecosystem.

This principle is a core concept in a perma-culture garden. By observing and interacting with the environment, we can be more creative in our gardening and farming practices.

Catch and store energy

Catch and store energy refers to using organic resources like the sun, water, wind, and heat to power a home or business. This can be done through passive solar design for heating, harvesting water for irrigation, utilizing wind power to generate electricity, or pumping water uphill to create hydroelectricity.

Water is energy. It is both a life-giving force and a destructive one. You want it to stay where it is needed. Water can also destroy property in a flood-prone area. It is essential to catch and store this energy.

Permaculture teaches you how to do both. It also provides you with a more sustainable way of growing food. It helps you create a self-sufficient home by using organic resources and making the best use of them to power mechanisms.

Obtain a yield

In a permaculture garden, a yield is a valuable output from a system. This output may feed the owner, animals, or other systems. The yield could also be sold or traded for other items.

Obtaining a yield is a basic rule of this gardening approach. It is the process of harvesting and using the resources that have been grown. It is also the process of using natural cycles to produce more food for humans and animals.

The best way to obtain a yield is to plant perennial crops that are harvested over many years. This will ensure that there will be plenty of food available for many years to come, while still leaving some space for other plants and animals to grow.

Use and value renewable resources and services

This biodynamic agriculture process promotes the use of renewable resources and services in place over non-renewable ones. The idea is to create a self-sustaining system that can feed and provide for humans.

The use and value of renewable resources and services in permaculture farming are the foundation for creating sustainable human settlements. They are the basis for food production, water harvesting, waste management, and energy production.

This principle is key because it teaches us to use and value the riches in our environment. For example, we should be aware of our waste and compost products. These products should be recycled or returned to the earth.

Renewable resources are an important part of any low-impact agriculture system. They can be applied to produce food, fuel, building materials, and more.

For example, you can use solar energy to grow vegetables in your garden and for heating. You can also utilize wind energy to power your home or farm.

Produce no waste

Zero waste is a core principle of any low-impact agriculture technique. It encourages us to ask ourselves: what can I reuse and what can I throw away? This is particularly important in the face of climate change.

We are all guilty of throwing away food, but what about the trash that we create? How can we reuse plastic bags or silverware? Permaculture aims to develop sustainable systems that recycle resources to provide goods and services that are both useful and enjoyable for people and the environment.

Producing no waste means that you try to use all of the resources that your site or farm produces. You can reduce your waste by composting, recycling, and composting again. Permaculture design is all about reducing, reusing, and recycling.

Design from patterns to details

Rather than getting caught up in particular details, you should think about the big picture or the “design from pattern to detail.” Permaculture is divided into four sections: “Patterns”, “Principles and Processes”, “Details”, and “Practices”.

Patterns are used for designing sustainable human settlements. Principles and Processes discuss how to lay out a food forest or other type of integrated ecosystem.

Details discuss what goes into designing an individual element and then putting everything into practice. The principles are to design with patterns, to use nature to its fullest, and to use plants and animals to build soil and regenerate soil fertility.

Natural systems have a systematic, organic pattern and rely on this to function optimally. You can apply this same principle to create your systems, based on the basis of nature.

Integrate rather than segregate

The concept of integration is part philosophy and part practice of permaculture farming. Basically, it moves the emphasis away from competition and segregation to a harmonious balance of parts.

Instead of focusing on competition and segregation, it aims to integrate all aspects of life into a single system. This includes design, time, and space, which are not exclusive.

Indigenous food production processes are all about integrating rather than segregating. It is about creating a symbiotic relationship with nature instead of trying to control it. This means that you should not be trying to control nature, but instead should be using it to your advantage.

You should be taking advantage of the natural resources that are abundant on your property. You should be harvesting trees to make use of the wood, using the water to your advantage, and utilizing the soil to create a healthy and productive garden.

It is also important to make sure that you are using the facilities around you to the best of your ability. This also means that you should not be overusing water, soil, and other resources. You should also make sure that you are not overusing nature’s riches that you have available to you.

Use small and slow solutions

Permaculture farming is all about creating self-sufficient systems that can adapt to changing conditions. The idea is to use small and slow solutions to create a resilient system that can handle whatever comes its way.

Using small and slow solutions encourages using small and slow solutions to a problem. By moving away from big-scale global thinking, permaculturist focuses on small, local solutions.

By using locally sourced materials and products, one can reduce their carbon footprint while boosting their local economy at the same time. They can benefit from all the convenience this technique offers without breaking the bank.

Permaculture is about mimicking nature as much as possible. This means using natural systems to create sustainable solutions. The idea of using small and slow is also about focusing on solutions that are less resource-intensive than traditional farming.

Use and value diversity

Permaculture is an approach to sustainable land management that focuses on utilizing diverse resources to create self-sufficient ecosystems. Diversity can be used to describe the many different plants, animals, and ecological elements that make up a healthy ecosystem.

In biology, diversity is the variety of genetic makeup within a population. It is the degree to which a population is characterized by its variation from other populations.

In ecology, diversity describes the variety of plants, animals, and microorganisms found in an area. It is the degree to which organisms are different in size, shape, color, and behavior.

Diversity in this farming approach refers to a variety of plants, animals, and approaches to life. It can be thought of as an insurance policy for the system, ensuring that it will always be healthy and productive.

Farming systems that are based on native plant and animal species are more sustainable and provide more food, water, fuel, fiber, and wildlife habitat than those that are not.

Use edges and value the marginal

Permaculture is used to create sustainable and productive ecosystems in any environment. Its principles are developed to make the most of the underutilized spaces around us.

Whether you’re designing a small garden, a windowsill planter, a school, a community space, or your whole property, you must include plants that produce useful elements.

Edge and value are to think about the edge as the point where an ecosystem meets its surroundings and think about the margin as the space between two adjacent ecotypes or habitats. Then think about the edge as the point where one activity transitions into another.

This close system creates sustainable landscapes and ecosystems in a way to get the best out of any environment. It is also a term that is used to describe an approach that is meant to mimic natural ecosystems.

Creatively use and respond to change

Creativity is the key to success in permaculture. Oftentimes, when there is a change in the environment, permaculture designers are forced to think creatively about how they can use and respond to that change.

Creatively using and responding to change means using the natural world to create and maintain a balanced and harmonious ecosystem. For example changes in water or land can affect what plants can be grown, which animals can graze on those plants, and so on.

When designing the system, it is important to take into consideration all of the factors that will affect the process. Permaculture professionals are constantly faced with the challenge of adapting their work to the ever-changing landscape.

This means adapting practices to take into account the new plants, animals, and geological features that are encountered in work. This principle helps to maintain the health of the system.

For example, if you notice that there is a change in the environment, then you should change your approach to the system. Moreover, if you notice that the weather has changed, then you should change the way you plant your crops.

When you change the way you plant your crops, then you can respond to the changes in the environment. If you don’t change your approach to the system, then you will be stuck in a rut and will not be able to adapt to the changes in the environment.

Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

In low-impact agriculture, applying self-regulation and accepting feedback is considered the holy grail. In traditional societies, people had to be aware of external negative feedback and explain why something happens.

It is important to be able to self-regulate and accept feedback in a permaculture garden. Observing the property and its natural processes will give a great deal of information.

Self-regulation is the process of changing one’s own behavior to create the desired outcome. Accepting feedback means that we are open and receptive to new ideas. Both of these skills are essential for sustainable design because they keep us from becoming stuck in our ways and help us grow.

Self-regulation can be applied by taking care of our own needs first, then those of the people around us, and lastly those of the environment. Accepting feedback can be done by listening with an open mind, asking questions when we don’t understand something, and being grateful for feedback.

Each component performs multiple functions

In a permaculture garden, each component performs multiple functions, and many of these components work together to make a whole. It is all about cooperation and maximizing the potential of all components.

Besides making our environment healthier, this approach will also help us become more self-reliant. For example, a tree can be used for shade, fruit production, and environmental protection (through its root system).

The idea is that no element should be used unless it provides more than one benefit. A chicken coop might house chickens as well as provide storage space for garden tools. This means less work for humans because they don’t need to maintain separate elements for each purpose.

Least change for the greatest effect

In a permaculture farm, the principle of problem-solution is used in many instances. This belief works well in the case of multiple problems, where addressing a single problem can solve more than one of them.

Likewise, addressing an underlying pattern can solve many problems simultaneously. This fundamental states that the underlying pattern is always the least change needed to create the greatest effect.

Oftentimes, there are multiple symptoms associated with a single pattern, and addressing the underlying pattern can solve more than one problem. As long as the underlying pattern is understood, least change for the greatest effects can be used as a design principle.

Least change for the greatest effect also means if something isn’t broken don’t fix it. If there’s a problem with your soil health then don’t just throw it. This means that you should always look for ways to make your changes as small as possible because if you make a small change, it will have a big impact.

The principles of permaculture emphasize the importance of integrating harmonious relationships between humans and the natural world. They seek to address the needs of humans, other species, and the environment.

Ethics of permaculture

The ethic of permaculture is a set of virtue that guide self-sustaining human habitats using systems thinking and a whole-systems approach to design. It is a philosophy and social movement based on the idea that humans can use methods derived from ecology to create self-sufficient and sustainable communities.

The ethics are based on the ethics of Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. These ethics have then expanded to Care for the earth, Care for people, Fairness towards other species and future generations, and also within ourselves.

Earth care

Earth Care is the process of caring for the earth as if it were our own body. It is the practice of taking care of the earth’s resources, soil, water, plants, animals, and climate in a way that sustains us and the earth.

Earth care is the ethic of caring for the Earth and its inhabitants. It is caring for the earth to ensure our own survival and that of other species. The ethic recognizes that the earth is our home and we are a part of it.

We have an obligation to care for our planet so that future generations can enjoy its beauty and abundance. We should strive to live in ways that minimize our impact on the environment while maximizing our positive impact on ecosystems.

The main goal is to use resources efficiently and produce as little waste as possible. The ethic of earth care emphasizes sustainability as relates to nature’s resources such as water, soil, and biodiversity and encourages us to avoid pollution and waste by being mindful of what we consume.

People care

People care means that the environment in which we live needs to be cared for and protected, just as people need to be cared for and protected. People care means taking care of each other by considering how our actions will impact others.

People care includes encouraging cooperation instead of competition among individuals and groups within the community. Caring for people means ensuring that they have access to healthy food, clean water, shelter, and energy without compromising the health of the planet.

Reinvest surplus

In permaculture, we are encouraged to return excess to nature. This is not only in an environmental sense but also in other aspects. For example, we may reinvest surplus funds in our permaculture project to ensure its long-term sustainability.

The idea behind this method is to create a sustainable environment that will last indefinitely. This is achieved by working with nature, not against it. One way to do this is to use the surplus resources from one area and reinvest them in another area.

For example, if you have more fruit than you can eat, you can save it for later, share or exchange them for other goods and use it as animal feed. Reinvesting surplus help grow the permaculture movement and create more resilient sustainable communities.

Fair share

The word “fair share” in permaculture is vague, referring to the distribution of surplus. It means returning a portion of the harvest to the local food bank, neighbors, or even birds and squirrels.

Fair share encourages us to share resources so that all members have access to what they need without sacrificing the health or well-being of others. It means applying principles of equity and fairness to ensure that no one person or group takes more than their share of the planet’s resources.

Fair share helps to address the problem of overconsumption in our society. If everyone lives by this ethic, we can all get what we need without taking more than our fair share from the earth or other people.

Future care

Future care in permaculture is a process of preparing for future events that can be predicted, or those that are inevitable. The idea is to make the best use of the resources available now by creating a sustainable environment that can sustain life not just now but also in the future.

Future care is about designing systems that are resilient and can be adapted to changing conditions. This includes taking into account the needs of the people and the environment, as well as considering the potential for self-organizing systems.

One way to think about future care in permaculture is as a way of creating sustainable systems that can adapt to changing conditions and provide continued benefits to the people and environment.

This philosophy is a natural progression from the people care ethic and loops back around to future care. This ethic is also about preserving food for future generations. As a result, your food system will continue to thrive for centuries to come.

Importance of permaculture ethics

The ethic of people care is about valuing people’s well-being and encouraging their full participation in community decision-making processes. People need food security, clean water, shelter, and healthcare if they are going to reach their full potential as human beings. The benefit of permaculture is that it provides many practical solutions for meeting these needs at local levels.

The ethic of permaculture is that you take care of the earth and the earth will take care of you. If you have a garden, it’s not just a place where you grow food, but also a place where you can learn about all the different plants and animals in your area. You can learn how they interact with each other and how they live together.

The same is true for a farm or an orchard. A permaculture farm is a place where all different plants are growing together and where people are working with them in harmony to produce food and other products that they need.

When we look at our land as something that is alive, something that we are connected to, then we can begin to see how important every action we take is. We don’t want to do anything that harms our land or harms other living things because it will come back on us later on down the road when we need those resources again.

How does permaculture help

Permaculture is the development of sustainable human habitats. It can be applied to anything from backyards to entire cities, from farms to schools and businesses. It uses patterns of landscape and species diversity found in nature to create highly productive systems that require little maintenance.

This farming approach is a design system for sustainability. It’s a way of thinking about the world, designing systems, and seeing the patterns in nature. It is about creating abundant life in your garden, home, or community by mimicking nature’s patterns.

It’s about working with nature to create regenerative systems that work with natural flows and cycles. Permaculture can be applied to all areas of life, from food production to energy efficiency, waste management, water harvesting, building design, and more.

The goal is to develop systems that are sustainable, regenerative, and equitable. The word ‘permaculture’ comes from the words permanent, agriculture and culture. It’s an approach that considers the entire system in which people live, not just a garden or farm.

This closed-loop farming design makes the most of available resources and improves their quality so that they become more abundant over time. It uses concepts like succession planting and plant guilds to create self-sustaining ecosystems using plants and animals that have evolved together over thousands of years.

These relationships allow for more diversity within a system, increasing its overall resilience to pests, diseases, and other threats. In permaculture gardens, one plant does not take all the water or sunlight from another plant.

Instead, each plant has its own space with roots deep enough so that it can access nutrients from below ground without competing with other plants for moisture or sunlight above ground.

This allows for a greater number of plants per area than traditional farming techniques allow while also reducing the need for pesticides. It also tries to use less energy in the process by using organic methods of waste disposal and water filtration. And it’s not just about recycling but also about not generating trash in the first place.

Final word

Permaculture is a movement of solving problems through observing and micro-management. It is a branch of agroecology, a broad discipline that deals with agricultural ecosystems. While its principles are based on the natural world, it teaches about the environment to an equal, and sometimes greater, degree than general ecology does.

Unlike many environmental studies or conservation efforts, however, permaculture focuses on practical solutions for humans to live in balance and harmony with nature.

The ethic of permaculture is a way to live in harmony with the Earth. And its principles guide our interactions with the world around us. It is a philosophy that unites people and ideas, systems, and functions so that we can all work together towards common goals.

The beliefs of permaculture are constantly improved and refined by people around the world according to different climates and terrain. Hence this provides more development and technique that can be implemented in self-sufficient communities.

Permaculture looks at ways we can create sustainable systems like food forests and homesteads, which serves as a source of inspiration and guidance to help reshape our lifestyles and promote lasting change.

Hence with this framework, it is possible to get more out of life by using less. The approach encourages people to be more productive with less effort without affecting the environment and paying for the consequences. It created a culture where people and nature cooperate.