Permaculture in our daily lives

Have you heard the word “Permaculture” but aren’t quite sure what it means? Or perhaps you’re aware of the movement but aren’t sure how it can be applied to everyday life. In this guest post, Dr Charlie Brennan and Bridget O’Brien explain the key principles of Permaculture, along with some suggestions for how to bring its practices into your life.

8 minutes to read

by / 21st January 2022

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is the design and practice of living sustainably. It’s a set of principles and a guide to action. It is most effective when seen as a reflective practice rather than a rigid doctrine. 

We live in the most challenging of times. Earth’s self-regulating and self-making life systems are being increasingly challenged and compromised each and every day. Permaculture offers one of the few wide-ranging, realistic, intelligent, holistic and practical responses to this unprecedented scenario.

There is great beauty in this. Permaculture works with community and living systems. It is an enduring movement that motivates, brings people together, inspires, and offers a ‘to do’ approach to sustainability and the healing of people, communities, and ecosystems. What could be more important and beautiful than this?

Permaculture is a guide to living a regenerative life; designing and living life using and respecting principles of ecology, design, ethics, community, and cultivating healthy relationships. 

We are Garden Juju Collective – a team of designers, educators, and practitioners dedicated to sustainability, regeneration, and healing of people, communities, places, and ecosystems. 

Our motto is ‘Design. Heal. Grow’ and one of our main inspirations is Permaculture which we weave together with design, facilitation, gardening, conservation, rewilding, ecopsychology, traditional land stewardship, as well as a sense of place, and the design of perennial food systems and community gardens. 

Where and how did permaculture begin?

Permaculture, as a movement, originated in the 1970s in Australia, drawing from a range of sources and inspirations including Masanobu Fukuoka’s ‘One Straw Revolution’, Robert Hart’s amazing food forest project in the UK, and PA Yeoman’s work on water, vegetation and soil in Australia. 

The original magical texts by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren were a response to those times of 1970s protest and civil disobedience, counterculture, and ‘returning to the land’. Permaculture offered a guide to action at the intersections of design, ecology, and agriculture. 

Of course, sustainable and regenerative practices were not invented in the 1970s. Many of the ideas, practices, and inspirations of Permaculture have Indigenous and multicultural roots. It has become increasingly clear that an essential part of the Permaculture movement must be social inclusiveness, social justice, and acknowledging where ideas, practices, tools, plants, and materials have come from.

Permaculture is a set of reflective practices.

This means that prescribing practical actions alone is not enough. This also applies to ideas, ideals and inspirations – these alone are also not enough. All our decisions and actions take place in complex social, ethical, economic and environmental situations. So it’s vital that we take action, but for those actions to be effective we need to constantly review and reflect upon these actions. Some of these reflective questions that can be asked include:

  • What is the context?
  • What are the core needs?
  • What principles are useful here?
  • What action can be taken?
  • Is this action ethical and does it care?
  • What has changed during this process?
  • Has the action taken been effective?
  • What is in service of what here?

 

This is reflective practice or ‘Praxis’ in which actions and ideas feed each other in a continuous positive feedback loop. This is how to cultivate an abundant and just permaculture approach to life. Below are some daily and weekly actions that can be taken and some of the underpinning principles.

Practical everyday actions and the permaculture principles behind them

It is generally agreed that changes in lifestyles are most effective and sustainable when they are modest, incremental and realistic. If we set our targets too high there is a danger of ending up disappointed, depressed, or morally paralysed.

Below are eight ways to practically apply Permaculture to our everyday and weekly lives:

  1. Become Permaculture aware and connected by reading, watching videos,  joining a meet-up or similar group. Participate in a workshop or course. Hang out with like-minded, empowering Permaculture people. This is learning and being a part of a dynamic community of information, ideas, techniques and materials.
  2. Become skilled and practice: seed saving, plant propagation, foraging, and wild-gardening. Grow your own food at home, with friends, or at a community garden. Cultivate, harvest, process, cook, preserve and share. This is re-learning the vital crafts of cultivating abundant human food and gardens.
  3. Maintain, repair, reuse, and repurpose every day. Skill up and learn to maintain and repair things yourself or find community members who fix clothing, electronics, tools, and resources. Throwing things in the garbage should be a last resort. Invest in high-quality crafted tools rather than cheaply made goods. This is regaining power in respect to resources, tools, materials and making things.
  4. Compost organic ‘by-products’, returning them to the Earth thereby building the soil and the biosphere. Harvest and preserve healthy clean water through managing run-off and pollutants and minimising soil loss. This is thinking of the world in terms of interconnected systems – water, energy, soil, vegetation, ecologies, nutrients, even ideas, economies and social power. Are you happy with your role in these systems?
  5. Embrace the power of design – which in the challenging world we live in and using Permaculture approaches becomes ‘radical redesign’. Be imaginative and innovative in any or all aspects of your life including where you live, how you live, gardens, work, relationships, where you invest. Brainstorm or get your Adapt game and play a round or two! This is understanding that almost any aspect of our lives can be changed to be more sustainable through the application of conscious and proactive design techniques.
  6. Build a culture of cultivating places, habitat and community. Work on relating healthily with family, friends, community, plants, animals, land, water, wind, air, fire, stone, metals and things. Make mind-maps or keep a journal to consider this. This is focusing on your web of relationships – are they thriving and healthy or damaged and depleted? Are the places you inhabit and shape healthy, abundant and inclusive?
  7. Keep your ethical decision-making alive. Apply the ethos of Earth care, People Care & Fair Share to all that you do. The more this is done the easier it gets. Take this further by learning different ethical approaches to how ethical your choices are? This is thinking through the ethical consequences of your decisions and maximising how much you are making a positive difference. Ask this – what are your choices, ultimately, in service of?
  8. Be in wild places; embrace and touch big trees; sense flocks of singing birds; snooze in wildflower meadows; curate eccentric collections of indoor plants; spread compost and mulch wherever you go. Ultimately, we are nature being nature. Nothing more. This is easy to overlook in the midst of all our cycles of personal life pursuits, challenges and triumphs.  This is us remembering and revering nature. Without healthy nature in us, and around us, we are, literally, nothing.             

 

About the authors

permaculture experts Dr Charlie Brennan and Bridget O'BrienDr. Charlie Brennan and Bridget O’Brien are explorers, designers, and educators offering in-person and online consultations, design, project management and workshops worldwide through our design collaboration Garden Juju Collective.

Bridget & Charlie are the creative developers of ‘Adapt’ design game. ‘Adapt’ stimulates, supports and challenges you to think and act differently. It’s an exciting game, a teaching tool and a designer’s assistant all in one. ‘Adapt’s creative process can be, and has been, applied to anything and everything from the design of a garden, to how to live sustainably, to business ideas, to ways of caring for community and self. There are over 12 ways to use the 60 card deck to help you design the life of your dreams. To purchase a game or for more information visit www.playadapt.com

 

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