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What is Permaculture?

Design is a connection between things.

It is not water, or a chicken or the tree.

It is how the water, the chicken and the tree are connected.

It's the opposite of what we are taught in school.

Education takes everything and pulls it apart and makes no connections at all.

PermaCulture makes the connection...

... because as soon as you have the connection you can feed the chicken from the tree.”

(Bill Mollison)

Sustainability or "Harvest only Sunshine"

PermaCulture - Utopia, Science, Practice and Movement

It's interesting to consider and describe what is permaculture and how it has advanced, in these times of economic, energetic and climate crisis, because far from being a type of agriculture (as it is often classified), permaculture is something dynamic and in constant flux and change that now covers all areas of human knowledge, focused on creating sustainable human societies: that is, crisis-proof.

In this short introduction we'll give an overview of the heart, mind, hands and legs of this creature.


Permaculture is above all a vision, a utopia ("for walking")* described in the word itself, perma-culture: term invented in the late 60s which means permanent culture, or sustainable culture.

The ultimate aim of PermaCulture is to create self-sufficient dynamic systems in the longer-term, that are ecologically sustainable, economically viable, that satisfy all needs and don't pollute or contaminate.

This ideal is also expressed in the ethics, which are explicit and are summarised as "Care of People", "Care of Earth" and "Design Limits to Population and Consumption".


“... yet evil remains,
& while it hides in the secret places of the heart,
utopia is only the shadow of a dream”
N. Hawthorne

We already know what happens with many utopias and for this reason PermaCulture is also a very practical science, in the sense that it seeks to figure out how the laws of Nature work (including human nature) and imitate them, or at least synergise them & apply them in designing society: native ecosystems in particular are masterpieces of sustainable design.  Especially it has always sought to unify all that is useful in any of the sciences and so became possibly the first ever truly holistic science, which is in constant evolution.

The australians Mollison and Holmgren* gave the name and a very practical shape to these ideals, creating a design language that facilitated its rapid adoption in the whole world.  As a science it is based in observation and experimentation, including from all other fields of human endeavour: there are no dogmas, all has to be checked out with experience.


After figuring out that the basic principles, models and design techniques worked very well (by helping put into motion many farms, organisations and businesses), the founders started to teach others how to create sustainable systems, publishing various books although primarily through demonstration and orally, encouraging their students to do the same. 

In Spain the Iberian Permaculture Network was woven and from this Node of the Permaculture Academy we have created a complete training programme that includes online and live courses.   As a very fertile evolving branch of the Academy we are now pioneering with Integral Permaculture, another step in synthesis of the best that is emergent and practically applicable now, to co-creating vibrant systems that are in tune with and foster evolution.

The Integral Permaculture Online Manual is a bilingual project under construction & an extensive e-book showcasing the extent & depth of this science, from which anyone can study for free.
It is also the supporting information resource for a most ambitious international training event, the PDC +++
At global level there is a Chaordic Permaculture Institute under construction which compiles the profiles of pioneers and practicing permaculture designers in order to facilitate collaboration and with access to current examples & experiments.

& Legs

Permaculture is also a great and dynamic movement, diverse and extensive. As well as international conferences there are regional meetings on five continents, from 1985.

Its most modern, concrete and holistic version in the west is expressed nowadays as the Transition Movement, a network of citizen initiatives started in 2005 from the students of a permaculture course, which combines good design to create crisis-proof communities (climate, economic and energetic crisis) with a good design for real "grassroots" participation, which is now 'going viral' and expanding rapidly all over the world as probably the most practical, coherent and hopeful answer to the most urgent planetary problem today, climate change.

In uncertain times it's comforting to remember that, as Buckminster Fuller said: 

"The best way to predict your future

... is to create it". 

Stefania Strega Scoz

Permaculture Diplomat & 

Coordinator of the Integral PermaCulture Academy



Local Agenda 21 is the theory, Permaculture is the practice

Permaculture design is the set of knowledge, philosophies & known techniques (from the millennial to the most modern) to get to build a Permanent Culture:

how to take the ideals of Local Agenda 21 & Sustainable Development (Economic, Social & Ecological) to practice.


Permaculture also

is a wide & varied worldwide network of people, groups, associations, companies & projects of all kinds that share clear ethics & principles, with a set of tested traditions & methodologies, that we also keep developing collectively.

The Certificate course

is the basic training for our work



Bill Mollison to all the graduates of the Certificate in Permaculture Design:

"the way is clear; the path is open; don't wait for orders!"

All you have that you own is your life, and your work.

Both are worthy gifts to those less well informed.

We have the debt of privilege, and it will never be paid.

Go for it."

or creating solar economies,

"harvest only sunshine"

El objetivo es crear sistemas que sean ecológicamente sostenibles, económicamente viables, que satisfagan las necesidades, no exploten o contaminen y que sean autosuficientes a largo plazo.

The goal is creating systems that are ecologically sustainable, economically viable, that fulfill needs, don't exploit or pollute, and that are self-sufficient in the long term.

La Permacultura trata con plantas, animales, construcciones, infraestructuras (agua, energía, comunicaciones), pero no solo como elementos en sí mismos, sino como se relacionan entre ellos.

Permaculture deals with plants, animals, buildings, infrastructures (water, energy, communications) but not only as elements on their own, but how they interrelate.

La base es la observación de ecosistemas naturales, junto con la sabiduría ancestral de los pueblos primitivos y el conocimiento científico.

The basis is the observation of natural ecosystems, together with the ancient wisdom of primitive people & scientific knowledge.

Se trata de utilizar las cualidades inherentes de las plantas y los animales (incluso humanos) combinadas con las características naturales del paisaje y las estructuras para producir un sistema que soporte la vida en la ciudad y en el campo, utilizando la menor área posible.

Se trata de trabajar con la Naturaleza y no contra ella.

It's about using the inherent qualities of plants & animals (even humans) combined with the natural characteristics of the landscape & the structures to produce a system that supports life in cities & the country, using the least possible area.

It's about working with Nature & not against her.

La Permacultura aprovecha todos los recursos, y aúna la mayor cantidad de funciones en cada elemento del paisaje y la mayor cantidad de elementos que sean posibles en cada espacio vertical y horizontal.

El exceso o desecho producido por plantas, animales y actividades humanas es utilizado para beneficiar otras partes del sistema.

Permaculture makes the most of all resources, and gets together as many functions as possible in each element of the landscape & as many elements as possible in each vertical & horizontal space.

La implementación de un diseño de Permacultura requiere flexibilidad y una apropiada secuencia para que puedan realizarse cambios en la medida que la observación y la experiencia lo requieran.

The implementation of a Permaculture design requires flexibility & an appropriate sequence so that changes can be made as observation & experience require.

Crear un ambiente en Permacultura es un proceso largo y gradual, se utilizan técnicas y principios de la ecología, tecnología apropiadas, agricultura sustentable y la sabiduría de los pueblos primordiales aunque esencialmente está basada principalmente en la observación directa de la naturaleza del lugar.

Creating a Permaculture environment is a long & gradual process, where techniques & principles from ecology, appropriate technology, sustainable agriculture & the wisdom of primordial communities are used, although essentially it's mainly based on the direct observation of nature in that place.

Dos diseños en Permacultura o cursos de entrenamiento no pueden ser iguales. Desde 1981, miles de personas han participado en talleres de Permacultura, seminarios y cursos de diseño.

Two Permaculture designs or training courses can't be the same. From 1981, thousands of people have participated in Permaculture workshops, seminars & design courses.

El trabajo de los graduados de esta indefinida red global le ha dado alas y ha acrecentado la comprensión y apreciación de los patrones de la naturaleza y ha generado modelos para una vida sustentable que incluya máxima productividad con mínima tarea.

The work of the graduates of this undefined global network has given wings to, and increased, the understanding & appreciation of nature's patterns and has generated models for a sustainable life that includes maximum productivity with minimum work.


Sustainable = Permanent Culture

Permaculture could be literally defined as "permanent  culture".

The concept was developed in the seventies by two Australians, David Holmgren & Bill Mollison.

Consiste en el diseño y mantenimiento de pequeños ecosistemas productivos, junto con la integración armónica del entorno, las personas y sus viviendas, proporcionando respuestas a sus necesidades de una manera sostenible.

It consists on the design & maintenance of small productive ecosystems, together with the harmonic integration of the environment, people & their dwellings, providing answers for their needs in a sustainable way.

El principio básico de la Permacultura es el de trabajar "con", o "a favor de", y no "contra" la naturaleza.

Permaculture's basic principle is working "with" or "in favour of", and not "against", nature.

Los sistemas permaculturales son construidos para durar tanto como sea posible, con un mínimo de mantenimiento.

Permaculture systems are built to last as much as possible, with minimum maintenance.

Los sistemas son típicamente energizados por el sol, el viento y/o el agua, produciendo lo suficiente para su propia necesidad, como para la de los humanos que lo crean o controlan.

These systems are usually energized by the sun, wind and/or water, providing enough for its own needs, and those of the humans that create & control it.

De esta manera, el sistema es sostenible.

In this way, the system is sustainable.

A lo largo de los décadas (la permacultura 'nació' en el 1974 como movimiento ciudadano), nos hemos ido dando cuenta que aún que podemos diseñar y actualizar para hacer cualquier entorno (pequeño o grande que sea) más sostenible (o 'permacultural'), eventualmente nada puede ser sostenible si la sociedad en la cual estamos inmersos no lo es.

Through the decades (permaculture was "born" in 1974 as a citizen's movement), we've been realizing that although we can design & update to make any environment (be it small or big) more sustainable (or "permacultural"), eventually nothing can be sustainable if the society we're immersed in isn't.

Por lo tanto, la permacultura en su conjunto tiene que tratar de ese cambio.

Therefore, permaculture as a whole has to be about that change.

La definición de Permacultura es que es muy flexible, porque abarca tantas áreas y tenemos a tantas formas diferentes de entender las cosas.

The definition of Permaculture is very flexible because it comprises so many areas and we have so many different ways of understanding things.

Some examples of definitions are:

"Permaculture is about the design of sustainable human settlements.

In its philosophy, it's about making intensive use of the earth, microclimates, annual & perennial plants, soil, water management and human needs in a close connection."

"It's a productive design system based in the maximum relationship between all the elements of the system to solve our immediate needs and protect the resources for the future generations."

"Permaculture is revolution disguised as organic gardening."

"Truth will set us free, but it will first make us diabolically angry..."

(M. Scott Peck)

Permaculture is a design science
based in observation,
that integrates all human activities in a holistic system
based on natural patterns & ecology.
In one word
Permaculture = Relationship
(Penny Livingston, permaculture designer)

“Permaculture is about values and visions, designs and systems of management that are based on holistic understanding especially on our bio-ecological and psychosocial knowledge and wisdom. It is particularly about our relationship with, and the design and redesign of, natural resource management systems, so that they may support the health and well-being of all present and future generations.”

(David Holmgren, permaculture designer)

"Permaculture is a design science, and as other design schools that look for inspiration in aesthetics and beauty patterns, permaculture is inspired in the efficiency patterns verified in natural systems. It's the conscious design of productive ecosystems, that possess the diversity, stability and resiliency of natural ecosystems".

"Science must always be experimental.

The most brilliant idea can be wrong." 

(David Southwood, scientific director of the ESA)

"History is full of societies that overexploited their resources and became extinct.

We're rapidly approaching that situation.

However, thanks to a rational design, we can create the necessary systems to live correctly, without causing destruction or contamination.

Permaculture is the most coherent method conceived so far"

(Steve Read, Permaculture teacher & designer)

"Permaculture is a design system for the creation of sustainable human environments".

"Permaculture is

a way to reach sustainability

(energetical, ecological, economical & social)

for the planet. 

It's a design system

for the creation of sustainable human environments"                             

"Permaculture is a holistic approach to landscape design and human culture. It is an attempt to integrate several disciplines, including biology, ecology, geography, agriculture, architecture, appropriate technology, gardening and community building.".
(Guy Baldwin, Cortez Is, BC)

"Permaculture is a way of life which shows us how to make the most of our resources by minimizing waste and maximizing potential. Living ecologically doesn't mean giving everything up, but relearning the value of nature & understanding new ways of being wealthy...Conscious design of a lifestyle which is highly productive and does not cause environmental damage.....Meeting our basic needs & still leaving the earth richer than we found it.".
(Graham Bell, The Permaculture Way)

"“Permaculture” is a term used to describe the application of ecosystem design principles to design sustainable human habitation, including supply of water, food, energy, shelter, income, aesthetics, community & other needs, & amenities. Permaculture stresses careful observation & integration into natural design for each place as an alternative both to the drudgery of continually laboring & to excessive reliance on complex technologies, which are inherently unstable".
(Dan Hemenway)

 "Permaculture is the harmonious integration of people into the landscape in such a way that the land grows in richness & aesthetic beauty.".

(Patricia DuBose Michael)



"Permaculture is

producing food without laboring the earth,
not buying electricity, water nor gas,
not generating rubbish,
regional solutions
& harmony in the physical plane".



"Permaculture is a design system that works toward establishing productive environments - providing for food, shelter, energy, waste recycling, material & non-material need - as well as the social & economic infrastructures that support them. It aims to create systems that will sustain the present as well as future generations.".


"Permaculture integrates people into Nature's design. A permaculture design provides us with shelter, food, water, income, community and aesthetic and spiritual fulfillment within a balanced and healthy biological community."

(Dan Hemenway)


"Permaculture, or permanent (agri)culture, means working with natural forces - wind, sun, & water - to provide food, shelter, water & other needs with minimum labor & without depleting the land. Permaculture is a holistic approach based on traditional agricultural practices."



"Patterned after the natural & diverse systems of nature, PERMACULTURE is a design science that weaves together our individual human needs with the microclimates, plants, animals, micro-organisms, water & soil management, thus allowing us as individuals to take responsibility for our life-styles & design our way out of unsustainable cultural patterns while meeting the realities of the 20th Century.".

(Dawn Shiner)


  "Permaculture is the conscious design of 'cultivated' ecosystems that have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is a harmonious integration of people into the landscape in such a way that the land grows in richness, productivity and aesthetic beauty.".

 (Washburn TN PDC)



"Permaculture (PERMAnent agriCULTURE or PERMAnent CULTURE) is a sustainable design system stressing the harmonious interrelationship of humans, plants, animals and the Earth."

(Lee Barnes)

"Permaculture is an approach to agriculture & human settlement which seeks a harmonious balance among all forms of life in an ecosystem".

(Jamie Jobb, 84 PD)


"Permaculture is about self-reliance, growing food, & building creative, beautiful, energy-efficient structures from local materials." 

(Orcas Is PDC flyer)


"Permaculture is a holistic way of living on the earth; its core foundation is people working with rather than against nature. It's applicable to all aspects of human living, in one's home and garden, schools, businesses, community spaces, cities and countryside."

(Permaculture, A designers manual, by Bill Mollison)

"Permaculture is like a pair of glasses you put on which allow you to see possibilities:

that rubble-filled back yard as a food garden, your local community as a sustainable settlement, yourself as part of the hugely complex web of nature and the natural patterns which form the world around you".

(Rob Hopkins)


The Integral PermaCulture Academy is unique in the world in teaching the most advanced & comprehensive Permaculture courses you can find, which have been developed over decades of experience in teaching permaculture in different settings & countries, by many activists.  

We do this with action-learning (design portfolio-based, non-academic) methods, an evolutionary Integral Permaculture curriculum which adds from many other disciplines & in two languages, English & Spanish.

Integral Permaculture is a design practice 
based on a holistic & ethical science 
which includes all levels of experience, 
- internal & external, individual & collective,
ancient & modern - 
united into a coherent & systemic whole, 
with the sole purpose of designing healthy,
sustainable cultures & environments
for all species.

It is essential to include all levels because we need to create healthy communities, local economies, new cultures & effective organizations as much as we need to re-instate healthy ecosystems, create organic gardens & rational technologies

Integral Permaculture fully acknowledges that we cannot ultimately succeed in re-designing any EarthCare without re-designing the PeopleCare side of the whole system, at any scale.




All truth passes through three stages.

First, it is ridiculed.

Second, it is violently opposed.

Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Arthur Schopenhauer