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( Article Type: Explanation )

The concept of permaculture was developed in the 1970s by two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgrem. The two were concerned about soil, water and air pollution from agricultural and industrial systems, loss of plant and animal species, reduction of natural non-renewable resources and an insensitive and destructive economic system. By thinking about the consequences of humankind’s actions, combining this with old wisdom, skills and knowledge of plant, animal and social systems and adding some new ideas, they came up with permaculture.

One of the earliest definitions of permaculture comes from Mollison and Slay’s Introduction to Permaculture, ‘… Permaculture is about designing sustainable human settlements. It is a philosophy and an approach to land use that weaves together the microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, water management, and human needs into intricately connected, productive communities . . .’

The main features of permaculture can be summarised as:

  • It is a system for creating sustainable human settlements by integrating ecology and design;
  • It uses natural systems as a basic model and works with nature to design sustainable environments, which provide for basic human needs and the social and economic infrastructure that support them;
  • It synthesises modern science, and traditional knowledge, both of which are applicable to rural and urban situations;
  • It encourages the idea that people must become a conscious part of the solutions to the many problems we find at local and global level.