Making the New


When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on Earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.”

Paul Hawken


The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if it is on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone”.

Bill Mollison – the Father of Permaculture

Permaculture is one of the most positively transformative influences in the world today. From ‘greening the desert’ to providing a home-based food system, permaculture design practice gives us a dance with nature in which we let nature lead. Maddy Harland, Editor of Permaculture Magazine defines it as:

Permaculture is…an innovative framework for creating sustainable ways of living; a practical method for deveoping ecologically harmonius, efficient and productive systems that can be used by anyone, anywhere.”

Permaculture Design Courses (PDC’s) are springing up in every country, giving people a new way to relate to the planet they live on. The ideas can be applied to all sorts of systems design, including government and financial structures. The principles are remarkably simple and clean. Central to permaculture are the three ethics:

  • care for the earth
  • care for people
  • fair share / future care

They form the foundation for permaculture design and are also found in most traditional societies. Here are the 12 principles of permaculture as described by David Holmgren.

1. Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder.” By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.

2. Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines.” By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.

3. Obtain a Yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach.” Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.

4. Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation.” We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.

5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course.” Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.

6. Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine.” By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.

7. Design From Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.

8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work.” By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.

9. Use Small and Slow Solutions – “Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.

10. Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path.” The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.” We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.

David Holmgren is best known as the co-originator of the permaculture concept with Bill Mollison, following the publication of Permaculture One in 1978. His passion about the philosophical and conceptual foundations for sustainability which are highlighted in his book, ‘Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability’ inspired the ‘’ website where you can learn more about permaculture and sustainable living.

Permaculture is principally about managing and working with nature and sharing a yield with her. Cultures such as the Amazon Indians do this already. Much of the Amazon is not just forest, but a huge, tended forest garden that the indigenous share with nature. Permaculture offers us a way to save humanity from its own stupidity, but not save our ‘civilisation’ – which is the cultural expression of that stupidity. We need new concepts of quite what ‘civilised behaviour’ actually entails.

Albert Einstein supposedly said:

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask. For once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

We often seem to be too busy looking for the answers to clearly define the questions. One of the key slogans of permaculture is ‘the problem is the solution’. Everything that you need to know in order solve a problem is there, waiting in a good definition of the problem. Permaculture provides not just a management system for lan, an integration with nature, it also gives us many tools for designing social and community based structures.

Before I get lost in enthusing about permaculture I will just ask you to go and look for yourself at this set of ideas which can transform everything from how you think about where you live to the management of national and global resources. It is happening now!

A person of courage today is a person of peace. The courage we need is to refuse authority and to accept only personally responsible decisions. Like war, growth at any cost is an outmoded and discredited concept. It is our lives which are being laid to waste. What is worse, it is our children’s world which is being destroyed. It is therefore our only possible decision to withhold all support for destructive systems, and to cease to invest our lives in our own annihilation.”

Bill Mollison

Our conscious evolution is an invitation to ourselves, to open to that positive future, to see ourselves as one planet, and to learn to use our powers wisely and ethically for the enhancement of all life on Earth.”

Paul Hubbard

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