What is Permaculture?
Permaculture aims to bring systems that humans have created, within which they have built their lives, into harmony with nature.
Mmh – what comes to mind and why should we do this?
The houses we live in will be hazardous waste when they are demolished. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts that we can only use our agricultural land for another 60 years if we continue to treat and damage it the way we are currently doing. The last 11 years have been the warmest since weather records began, resulting in ocean acidification, loss of soils, loss of biodiversity, and more. The list could go on and on, and most people probably realize that we should have strategically addressed these global problems long ago.
The fact that they are very close to us is shown by the house example, which I will discuss again below in a solution-oriented way, in case the curious reader wants to skip a few paragraphs (keyword: earth ships).
The overarching goal here is to revitalize ecosystems. In the first place, this means nature and its protection. Since humans now play a major role in the use and modification of natural systems and resources, and have thus long acted as ‚designers‘, permaculture explores and implements a harmonious combination of human needs and the natural environment. A full circular economy is sought and humans use patterns from nature and natural processes to have a healing, rather than destructive, effect on nature.
Derived directly from the word ‚permaculture‘, this means: How can humans create permanent systems or cultures, that is, systems that are suitable for a lasting future. The task of a permaculturist is to design such systems. This can be, for example, a garden with a circular economy by closing cycles with organic waste through a compost economy by applying it to the beds where the vegetables grow that the inhabitants consume.
The concept of permaculture was founded by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, two founding fathers from Australia. Bill Mollison was trained as a biogeographer and worked in many different professions such as an environmental psychologist. Among other things, his research on Aborigines and a preoccupation with the destructive factors of the global ecosystem led him to develop the concept of permaculture with his student David Holmgren. In 1981 he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for this.
Permaculture is based on 3 fundamental maxims: ‚Earth care‘, ‚people care‘, and ‚fair share‘.
These 3 maxims have been further expanded by David Holmgren into 12 different principles such as ‚Observe and interact‘, ‚Use and value renewable resources and services‘, ‚Don’t create waste‘, etc. They are used to guide projects. Questions can always be asked, ‚How can I further reduce my waste and use it as a raw material for other systems?‘ or ‚What would nature do?‘ This can be found out by observing animals, plants, natural processes, while also being a very enjoyable and relaxing pastime.
Permaculture is a holistic system to revitalize degraded ecosystems and restore our natural livelihoods such as water cycles, soil fertility, food chains, resource deposits, etc., as it is applicable to all areas of human life and the approaches of each intertwine.
These sectors are finance and economics, health and spirituality, culture and education, technology and human tools, architecture and building culture, agriculture as well as land ownership and community. The sectors can obviously not be separated from each other like land ownership and agriculture or even architecture and therefore solutions can only be found within an overarching approach. In Germany, to put it mildly, farmers and large corporations are already fighting over land. Another example of an unfavorable overlapping is that human tools to generate e.g. energy are today not always beneficial to human health like e.g. nuclear power.
Permaculture systems, taken to their logical conclusion, can provide solutions to the global problems we are currently facing, such as soil degradation and desertification, air and water pollution, impending resource depletion, climate change, ocean acidification, declining biodiversity, etc. Nature-based methods and multifunctional elements are being sought.
A nice example of this are earth ships. These are houses that, thanks to renewable energies, generate themselves all the energy needed for their inhabitants. They are built entirely of natural materials, so they store heat or cold when needed, produce a good healthy indoor climate, and do not pollute the natural environment when they or parts of them need to be disposed of. The use of water for human needs such as showering, washing clothes or dishes, etc. as well as for watering the garden is done through a cascade in which the collected rainwater can be used 4 times, while in intermediate stations it is purified in a natural way, for example by plants in reed basins that can use the nutrients it contains. All the leftovers that we would call waste are used because they are also resources. Thus, kitchen waste, as well as human excrement, is composted and returned to the vegetables in the garden, creating a closed cycle.
Permaculture seeks to empower each individual to be self-effective in finding solutions to pressing global problems by inviting hands-on, small-scale, collaborative projects. Creatively figuring out how to best manage local resources by observing how nature works and using it to meet one’s own needs while restoring natural systems can be achieved. By being simple and applicable on a small scale, permaculture practices can motivate each individual to apply them to everyday life.
 Holmgren, David (2018): „Permakultur – Gestaltungsprinzipien für zukunftsfähige Lebensweisen“, Drachenverlag, Klein Jasedow
 There are several sets of permaculture principles. David Holmgren’s principles are the ones that are most commonly used.
Fotos: C.Heybl, except permaculture-principle: http://greenlounge-permakultur.de/was-ist-permakultur/