Permaculture and People

Isn’t Permaculture just about Growing Plants?

Although permaculture is thought at first by most people who begin a study of it, to be mostly related to plants, growing food, landscaping, and things of that nature, permaculture today is actually a much more broad subject and deals with facets of life as diverse and far away from those concepts, as social development, psychology, architecture, human ethics, philosophy, pedagogy, logistics, and many other streams of knowledge.

Permaculture was originally conceived by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in order to establish and develop new and better ways of growing food, and the term, permaculture, originally was a portmanteau of the two words, permanent and agriculture. However, since then it has evolved as a term and as a branch of activity, beyond that of solely being about growing food, and now can be said to encompass many other concepts and areas of activity as well, and was reaffirmed to now represent an embodiment of the words permanent and culture.

Permaculture since its beginnings has always been structured and taught to embody whole systems thinking, and even with its original focus on growing food, it quickly became evident and obvious that in order to fully grasp the whole picture of how to even just grow better food, that many other aspects surrounding that enterprise needed to be addressed and incorporated as well into what permaculture was created to address.

This led to the realization of both Mollison and Holmgren, along with those that followed them, that fundamentally, permaculture must actually be primarily centered around people, and it is this truth that places permaculture outside the regular scope of what most people expect when beginning a study of permaculture, when compared to the study of any traditional academic subject.

What is Social Permaculture?

Indeed, many people involved with permaculture are not mainly interested in growing food at all, and through an understanding that permaculture, beyond anything else, is actually a system of thinking, have thus been able to apply its philosophies and ways of thinking to many different aspects of human life and human thought, and have used permaculture to create and pursue a multitude of social endeavors that have nothing to do with growing plants or gardens.

Social Permaculture is an entire avenue of permaculture teaching and practice that has come out of this understanding, and has little or nothing to do with growing plants or food, focusing instead on addressing how to create and develop communities, on how social activities and events can be structured, on human activity and the dynamics involved in human societies, on business and economics, and many other social issues and systems, all from a perspective built upon the ethics, values, and philosophies presented in permaculture.

What are Some Examples of Social Permaculture?

Ecovillages come in a wide range of manifestations in different parts of the world, and exist for different but related purposes. Many of these intentional communities have adopted or have been built around the ideals and practices of permaculture, and represent an important step toward a study and experimentation of how humanity can live more sustainably on this planet, while still cultivating a positive and enjoyable way of life for all involved.

Permaculture networks can be found all over the internet, and also in communities, regions and countries around the world, and in permaculture as it is taught, these networks are termed as invisible structures, contributing to the ideals of permaculture by facilitating new connections and partnerships with people that wish to become involved or whom are already involved in and around permaculture.

Community development, through permaculture, has been created in a huge variety of ways, such as community gardens, permablitz lists, place-making, and through many other incarnations. Portland, Oregon, in part from the pioneering achievements of Mark Lakeman, has become a massive example of community development, much in relation to permaculture, and hosts an enormous amount of success stories of such enterprises.

Permaculture festivals are events, whether big or small, that bring together sometimes very large numbers of people throughout the communities connected to permaculture, to a physical place and time, in order to celebrate together and enable meetings and demonstrations of projects and people from across varying streams of knowledge and practice and a diversity of entrepreneurs, teachers, students, seekers and visitors who all want to have a great experience together, surrounded in permaculture ideas.

Ecovillages, permaculture networks, community development and enrichment projects, permaculture festivals, are all examples of social permaculture in action, and constitute an extremely important facet and branch of applied permaculture today. There are many other possibilities surrounding the still very new ideas behind social permaculture, and there is a growing number of people who are becoming very interested in what social permaculture might be used for next. Perhaps you will have the next big idea.

So is Permaculture really About People?

Even if your goal in studying permaculture is to create a wonderful garden or magnificent food-forest on your property or your backyard, you should take notice that even these very food-centered ideas, actually revolve around you, or perhaps your family, or your friends. Additionally, in whole systems thinking, which is a large part of what permaculture is, it is not only useful, but fundamentally required to engineer or analyze the system properly, to take into account all the elements that will be involved, and it should be obvious that people are deeply involved, if not always the center, of every system of human life.

It is in this way that permaculture really is about people, and is why permaculture should be considered to be about how to create and improve systems for people, and about imagining things as they are used or could be used, by people, whether they be industrial, financial, intellectual, or even agricultural.