Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Permaculture's Next Big Step

by Naomi van der Velden

The evolution is upon us!  The world around us has changed a lot in the last forty years, since Bill Mollinson and David Holmgren first described their permaculture principles. From those early beginnings our pioneers set out to show the world that change was possible; to demonstrate that we could create permanent agricultural systems that were both productive and sustainable. 

It quickly came to encompass the societies that form around food production, and drew on ideas and demonstrations from other observers of the natural world such as Sepp Holzer and Masanobu Fukuoka.  Now, it provides inspiration for all aspects of living from renewable energy and efficient resource use to nurturing societies and guiding self-development.  

As an ecological design system for sustainable living that helps its practitioners to become more self-reliant, permaculture is being used to aid us in exploring new directions and stepping up to new challenges. 

Our Permaculture Ecosystem has a new challenge – to better understand itself as a whole system and to explore its potential.  Each of us is a part of that ecosystem and it seems that our sum can be greater even than our (pretty amazing!) parts.  After many years of discussions, an agreement was reached at the International Permaculture Convergence (IPC) in Cuba in 2013 – to actively observe, understand, and (if needed) design for a greater level of global organisation in permaculture. Uniquely, this is a permaculture design to be done by everyone, quite a challenge! 

Will our wild and passionate growth continue unabated; spreading roots into new territory, planting new seeds in fertile ground and fertile minds?  Will we consolidate and grow upwards towards a shared purpose – like a mighty tree - that cannot go unheeded on the world stage?  Become something that is clearly defined in itself yet hosts and nurtures many other aspects; one being that supports great diversity?  Will we become something else; a new system; a new society? Together we will determine what happens next.

A global consultation is underway.  This seeks first to understand the needs and capacity of permaculture organisations around the world – where are our strengths? What are the obstacles to overcome? Where is the permaculture ecosystem heading? Next, the needs and desires of everyone in permaculture will be considered – we want views from as many people as we possibly can; from all the countries and regions that permaculture has reached. Your answers will determine our future – to understand where we share views and can work together, and where there are regional or individual differences that need more local consideration.  Proposals developed from these consultations will be showcased at the next IPC in the UK in September 2015.  From there, we hope, any momentum to change will develop into actions to make both our ecosystem and the world it exists within better places for all to share.

To see the IPCUK programme and to register:  http://ipcuk.events/


  1. 'A global consultation is underway.' How?, I wonder. I worry about the Permaculture Movement's growing reliance on the internet. 'Permaculture Online' is surely an oxymoron: sustainable unsustainability? Maybe Permaculture Online is Transitional - we use the internet, with its rapidly redundant devices impossible to make locally, streaming from datacentres goodness knows where on the planet, perhaps taking responsibility for carbon emissions..., just until we've persuaded enough people to re-build self-reliant local economies, but if so who amongst us is making that clear?

    1. Hi Chris,
      thank you for your thoughts. Yes, as you fear, a part of this consultation is via the internet. It's a great way to communicate with many people in many places without sending someone on a very long (and carbon intensive!) mission around the world.

      However, we are also actively engaging people to consult with their countries and regions. Asking them to feed into their local networks, to understand their needs, desires, and challenges. To listen to and understanding their thoughts on what permaculture can achieve, and to communicate this back to us. Much of this communication is face-to-face. It also, critically, helps give voices to those who do not have internet access.

      I agree, as suggested by Mike Berners-Lee (2010, How Bad are Bananas p161 "Global data centres), that internet communications footprints are reaching the same level of carbon footprint as paper-based ones. This is one part of the multi-faceted challenges to which permaculture may offer solutions. I also strongly believe that sharing knowledge, learning from each other, is a really important part of finding effective and efficient solutions. But it is not up to me. It is up to you, to all of us together, to decide what the future of permaculture might look like. Will it be to enhance local networks? Or strengthen globally? Or both? Or something else entirely?

      Our commitment in this project is to ensure that we hear the global voice, to really understand what is needed and what can be achieved. If it is that internet communications are a transitional step, then they are a transitional step. You decide.

      If you are reading this and would like to consult with your country or region, or offer translations to/from your language, please email me on international+coord@permaculture.org.uk or write to me at : Permaculture Association, Hollybush Conservation Centre, Broad Lane, Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3BP, UK.

      Kind regards,

  2. Sepp Holzer one of the greatest permaculture pioneers in Europe!

    Holzer Permaculture Tour | AUSTRIA

    August 24th to September 4th
    Experience what people call
    "Paradise on Earth"


    * The Krameterhof
    * The Holzerhof
    * Edible Communities
    * Practice and earthworks