This summary is taken from Wikipedia and provides a good overview. As permaculture is quite complex since its been around for over 20 years, learning about the basics can be found below. 

Permaculture  is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in natural ecologies.

Permaculture is sustainable land use design. This is based on ecological and biological principles, often using patterns that occur in nature to maximise effect and minimise work. Permaculture aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants. The ecological processes of plants, animals, their nutrient cycles, climatic factors and weather cycles are all part of the picture. Inhabitants’ needs are provided for using proven technologies for food, energy, shelter and infrastructure. Elements in a system are viewed in relationship to other elements, where the outputs of one element become the inputs of another. Within a Permaculture system, work is minimised, “wastes” become resources, productivity and yields increase, and environments are restored. Permaculture principles can be applied to any environment, at any scale from dense urban settlements to individual homes, from farms to entire regions.

Permaculture as a systematic method was first practised by Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer in the 1960s and then scientifically developed by Australians  Bill Mollison  and  David Holmgren  and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications.

The word  permaculture  is a portmanteau of  permanent agriculture , as well as  permanent culture .

The intent is that, by training individuals in a core set of design principles, those individuals can design their own environments and build increasingly self-sufficient human settlements — ones that reduce society's reliance on industrial systems of production and distribution that Mollison identified as fundamentally and systematically destroying Earth's ecosystems.


While originating as an agro-ecological design theory, permaculture has developed a large international following. This "permaculture community" continues to expand on the original ideas, integrating a range of ideas of  alternative culture , through a network of publications, permaculture gardens, intentional communities, training programs, and internet forums. In this way, permaculture has become a form of architecture of nature and ecology as well as an informal institution of alternative social ideals. 


Mollison and Holmgren  


In the mid 1970s,  Australians  Bill Mollison and David Holmgren started to develop ideas about stable agricultural systems. This was a result of rapid growth of destructive industrial-agricultural methods. They saw that these methods were poisoning the land and water, reducing  biodiversity , and removing billions of tons of  topsoil  from previously fertile landscapes. They announced their permaculture" approach with the publication of  Permaculture One  in 1978.

The term  permaculture  initially meant "permanent agriculture" but was quickly expanded to also stand for "permanent culture" as it was seen that social aspects were integral to a truly sustainable system.

After  Permaculture One , Mollison further refined and developed the ideas by designing hundreds of permaculture sites and organizing this information into more detailed books. Mollison lectured in over 80 countries and taught his two-week Design Course to many hundreds of students. By the early 1980s, the concept had broadened from agricultural systems design towards complete, sustainable  human habitats .


By the mid 1980s, many of the students had become successful practitioners and had themselves begun teaching the techniques they had learned. In a short period of time permaculture groups, projects, associations, and institutes were established in over one hundred countries. In 1991 a four-part Television documentary by ABC productions called "The Global Gardener" showed permaculture applied to a range of worldwide situations, bringing the concept to a much broader public. Excerpts are available online through  YouTube .

Further developments

Permaculture has developed from its Australian origins into an international movement. English permaculture teacher Patrick Whitefield, author of  The Earth Care Manual  and  Permaculture in a Nutshell , suggests that there are now two strands of permaculture:  Original  and  Design  permaculture.

Original permaculture attempts to closely replicate nature by developing edible ecosystems which closely resemble their wild counterparts.

Design permaculture takes the working connections at use in an ecosystem and uses them as its basis. The end result may not look as natural as a forest garden, but still respects ecological principles. Through close observation of natural energies and flow patterns efficient design systems can be developed. This has become known as  Natural Systems Design . (Dr. M Millington and A Sampson-Kelly)

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John Stuart Leslie John Stuart Leslie, MLA, Licensed Landscape Contractor holds a Masters in Landscape Architecture where he studied Xeriscape, Permaculture and Natural Ecosystem Design and Planning.