With permaculture, mankind and nature go hand in hand

With permaculture, mankind and nature go hand in hand

April 24, 2018

With permaculture, mankind and nature go hand in hand

It is not simply a different way of farming: permaculture is an alternative relationship between men and nature, which is based on integration, sustainability, resilience and mutual respect.


Permaculture can be defined as a synthesis of ecology, geography, anthropology, sociology and planning. It is a planning process that applies the principles of ecology to production systems that are able to maintain the biodiversity, flexibility and resilience of the natural environment. The term is a combination of the words 'permanent' and  'agriculture' but the broad scope of this approach explains why agriculture is substituted with 'culture'. Inspired by the work of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, two Australian naturalists who published its principles already in the 1970s, permaculture originates from the idea that mankind would not survive very long without sustainable agriculture and ethical land management, and it is applied in every continent today. 

Planning respectfully 

The biggest difference between a cultivated ecosystem (designed by men) and a natural system is that, in the former, most species and biomasses are designed to address the needs of mankind, in an anthropocentric vision of the world. "Humans are just one of the many living species, and in a natural system only a small fraction of the returns from nature is at our disposal. On the contrary, our gardens are designed in such a way that all its species are available for mankind", explained Mollison and Holmgren. This example, reported by the Australian Permaculture Research Institute, is useful for a better understanding of the idea at the root of permaculture: respect for all elements of the ecosystem, in a vision that puts nature, not mankind, at the center. 

This translates, for example, into farming that makes use of no chemical fertilizers and pesticides, like organic farming, but with a substantial difference: its main objective is to integrate mankind with nature, rather than using nature at men's service, as is the case in the current agro-food system, whether organic or traditional. 

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It also means planting native species, or integrating various species, that can maintain balance in the ecosystem and not exhaust the soil, as is the case in intensive farming

Learning permaculture

From the Permaculture Research Institute mentioned above, to the European Permaculture Network, there are many organizations and associations teaching the basics of permaculture through dedicated workshops and seminars. The basic principles are those reported 40 years ago in “Permaculture One”, the Mollison and Holmgren book, and they are about observing the world surrounding us in order to capture its essence, and designing systems that can integrate all organisms in one single community, where each has a specific role for the whole to work together. It is all about sustainability and resilience, adapting to change, mindful of waste production (re-using and recycling as much as possible) and renewable energy, which are essential when designing homes and human activity. 

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