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  • Rob Elgar

What is permaculture - A look at permaculture ethics

Updated: Aug 28, 2020



Permaculture is a term that any avid gardener or sustainable living enthusiast would have heard of at some stage. You may be new to the topic or just want to learn a little more about permaculture design.


So what exactly is permaculture and how do you create your own sustainable garden?


The following article is going to introduce you to permaculture by explaining what it is and going through the ethics that permaculture designers hold true.



What is permaculture?


Permaculture design is becoming a major factor in the decisions that farmers and gardeners make when working on projects.


The easiest way to describe permaculture living is to "follow nature". Now I know this is not the most descriptive explanation, so I will elaborate.


Sustainable living is not only about growing food and increasing yields (which it does do) but following the system of nature and the environment around us to mimic a natural circle of life.


This not only provides the best growing system but also uses the maximum potential of the land without the damage - thus land restoration becomes a major player in the permaculture design game.


The description of permaculture varies slightly from source to source because it is based on so many different principles such as "ecology, appropriate technology, economics, gardening, evolution, construction, energy systems, social justice, and a raft of other seemingly disconnected fields”, says Toby Hemenway, in his book Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture


The most important thing to remember is that nature is like a story - if we watch it, we will begin to understand how it works.



Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex,the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” -Bill Mollison


The leading law of permaculture


The leading law or directive of homestead design guides us through our thoughts and decisions.


If we are conscious about our choices, and act according to what our household needs in order to flourish, then we are living permaculture.


This sustainable lifestyle uses three ethics and seven principles to connect people to the potential of the earth, and create awareness of the ecology of a landscape.


The three permaculture ethics


The ethics of permaculture design are fundamental in practice.


Designing a permaculture garden or sustainable system will require a large understanding of the complex systems of nature.


Because of this, it is important to only move forward with a project if you agree with the ethics behind the design.


#1 Care for Earth


Earth is our home and we should treat it that way and care for it - if the Earth is healthy, then so are we.


Being respectful of the trees, rivers, animals, and all things natural benefits us as we have a symbiotic relationship with nature.


You should always work towards methods that regenerate the land and not just sustain it.


You can always ask yourself the question: Does this benefit the land, and is there something I could change to benefit it more?


#2 Care for people


Although many of the imbalances in the world can be blamed on humans, it is important to remember that people are still an immovable part nature.


It is important not to forget to care about ourselves.


In modern times many people in the world give their time and energy to outside factors such as their economic standing and the creation of large companies.


This behavior results in a system where we consume more and produce less.


When we care and love ourselves the opposite is true - we take a step away from companies that exploit people and allow ourselves time to give back to the Earth and our own lives.


This creates a system of abundance, love, and gratitude.


#3 Reinvesting abundance


The act of caring for and looking after the abundance of the land that we inhabit instead of seeing it as resource deficient, and looking for outside charities is an absolute must in the permaculture ethics.


When we look after the Earth, the Earth looks after us by giving us an abundance of diversity.


This works in a cycle that reduces the amount of outside influence we need.


Collecting rainwater and reintroducing compost from your own land are but a few examples of giving back to the land what already belongs to it.




When we care for ourselves we care for the world around us. When this connection becomes strong we find ourselves reducing consumption and increasing production through love and connection to the landscape around us.


This is the true meaning of abundance.


Where to learn more


Now that you know what permaculture is and a bit about its ethics, if it has sparked a fascination for permaculture design, or if you just want to get started on your first permaculture garden then the following books come in very handy.


Each of them follows different views and procedures towards a sustainable life with permaculture while all following the same principles.


#1 Edible forest gardens set

#2 Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual

#3 Introduction to permaculture - by Bill Mollison ( the godfather of permaculture)

#4 Permaculture design: A step by step guide


All these books can also be found on Audible - if you don't have an audible account you can sign up here for a huge variety of audio books (it's my favorite way to go through books while gardening).



To read further The 7 principles of permaculture design will guide you though the first thought processes in starting your sustainable garden at home.



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