First permaculture bookThe permaculture philosophy of farming and sustainable living was developed by Bill Mollison and David Holgrem in Tasmania. It grew out of an increasing interest in biodynamic and organic farming during the 1960s and 1970s. Their first book, Permaculture One, was published in 1978.

Mollison and Holgrem defined permaculture as ” “integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man.” The initial aim was to develop a self-sustaining system that mimicked nature, providing food, fibre and energy.

The concept expanded to encompass social as well as agricultural aims. It included seven main streams: land and nature stewardship; built environment; tools and technology; culture and education; health and spiritual wellbeing; finance and economics; and land tenure and community governance.  Whew!  In other words, a completely reformed society.

The agricultural aspects of permaculture included: agriforestry and nature-based forestry; oraganic agriculture; wild harvesting and bush tucker; forest gardening; and seed saving. Of course passive solar, bicycle transport and a commitment to renewable energy and reuse/recycling were also integral to the philosophy. But the overall concept also embraced social ideas such as home birth, home schooling and owner-building.

The core principles of permaculture are:

  • Care for the earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
  • Care for the people: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence
  • Fair share: By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further these principles.

Mollison went on to deliver courses and found Permaculture Institutes in Australia and the USA. He made several attempts to copyright the term Permaculture but was unsuccessful.