When teaching permaculture, we encourage students to create their own definition. This can be a struggle, and students are encouraged to embrace it.
Our current definition is:
“An ethical design system for meeting human needs while regenerating the ecosystems in which we are embedded. “
The ethics of ‘Earth Care,” “People Care,” and “Fair Share” are at the center of permaculture, and the standard by which we examine our actions.
The principles in permaculture are derived from scientific understanding of the way nature works—as interconnected systems. By learning from nature, we reclaim our innate ability to understand systems, and hone our systems thinking skills. By designing with nature, we not only save time and energy; we sequester carbon and water, build soil, and regenerate degraded ecosystems and communities—all while meeting our needs and creating new possibilities.
Design is creative energy. When based in ethics and nature’s principles, design helps us to co-create regenerative and synergistic outcomes. It helps us visualize what’s possible and make it happen.
In the 1970s, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren coined the term “permaculture” to synthesize the emerging bodies of ecological and systems science with indigenous ways of knowing. As a result, it often feels at once both like a new paradigm and a very familiar way to reconnect with oneself, other humans, and the Earth.
In the video below, Penny Livingston-Stark shares her definition of permaculture: