The term permaculture is a contraction of the expression “ permanent culture” , introduced by two Australian ecologists - David Holmgren and Bill Mollison, to synthesize an integrated system conceived to answer the serious challenge of the survival of the whole of planet and its inhabitants. Largely exceeding the concern to develop and apply methods of sustainable food production, permaculture has to do with with all the aspects of human activity which jeopardize the dynamic balance of the relations and interractions allowing life on earth -- it is the CULTURE of Permanence or “the sustainable creation of habitats following nature's model”
 Origins of permaculture
Permaculture, or similarly oriented approaches, has been in practise since thousands of years in various parts of the world, even though people use the word “permaculture”. For example, the Chagga people in the north of Tanzania and the inhabitants of the area of Kandy in Sri Lanka cultivated gardens which are in fact modified versions of the vegetation found in the natural forest. These copies of natural forest enable those which maintain them to feed (cereals, fruits, vegetables), to get dressed (natural fibres), to be cured (medicinal plants) and to keep warm thanks to wood. Masanobu Fukuoka (a Japanese inspirer) initiated natural agriculture in the 1940's, his principles were quite akin to those of permaculture. The idea of “permaculture” was formulated by two Australian ecologists, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, in the 1970's. They transcribed this idea in their book Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements .
 Ethical principles in permaculture
Permaculture is based on three ethical principles:
- Taking care of the Earth.
- Taking care of people.
- Limiting consumption and redistributing surpluses. Permaculture consists in designing sustainable human environments in harmony with nature. Permaculture concentrates on the relations between the various elements of a system (house, property, village) and their place in the landscape. It aims at creating a diversified and stable food system, similar to natural ecosystems whose diversity seems to be the best asset against diseases, with perennial plants, fruit trees, animals.
 Permaculture : the design
Twelve principles were developed by David Holmgren in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (see excerpt):
- Observe and interact
- Trap, store and recycle energies
- Get yields
- Apply self-regulation and accept feedbacks
- Use and make the most of renewable resources and services
- Don't generate waste
- Design a structure through its details
- Untegrate rather than separate
- Recourse to small and slow solutions
- Use and respect biodiversity
- Use borders (e.g. edges) and mind the marginal
- Use change with creativity. But also:
- Conceive relative positions the elements of a given ecosystem (fauna, flora, energy, etc)
- Each element has multiple functions (e.g. wind-shield, natural manure, forage, food, rampant plants, etc)
- Each need is satisfied by multiple sources
- Conceive the establishment of the elements according to the frequency of use, microclimates, biological particularities etc
- Use available resources
- Build vertically the components of an ecosystem (e.g. trees more or less large, bushes, grass, roots, rampant plants)
- Anticipate and think of the natural succession of species in the long run
 The method
A long-term process
- Observing (at least a full year)
- Borders and limits
 Common characteristics of permaculture
- important use of mulching (cover the soil with vegetable waste in order to keep moisture, to stifle weeds, to bring manure…)
- Major role of the trees and perennial species (nut, fruits, etc)
- Low density of forests to develop the lower levels
- Creation of edges and hedges (diversity of the existing species and better productivity)
- Establishment of microclimates (by wind-shields, ponds, topography, shadow…)
- Importance of bee-keeping and of farm animals * Planning of course for the animals (so that they only feed and produce manures)
 Examples of innovative practical solutions
 See also
- In English
- 15 pamphlets based on the 1981 Permaculture Design Course given by Bill Mollison (or pdf version one only pdf)
- with an illustrated introduction
- http://www.permacultureactivist.net Les pages du Permaculture Activist magazine (the magazine turns 20 in 2004 !)
- http://www.permaculture.org.uk Permaculture : the British Association
- http://www.permaculture.portal.com Permaculture in Costa Rica
- In French
- http://www.geocities.com/nesdelaterre/accueil.html : Association Nés de la terre.
- http://www.geocities.com/nesdelaterre/article4.html Confusion autour de la Permaculture, par Elsa Coslado
- Permaculture : Agriculture de fainéants ou agriculture de pointe ?
- Plenty of open source documents
- "Permaculture : A Designers Manual", par Bill Mollison, Tagari Publication, Tyalgum, Australia, 576 pages, 1988.
- Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability par David Holmgren, 2002, ISBN 0646418440.
- "The Permaculture way, Practical steps to create a self-sustaining world", par Graham Bell, Thorsons, 1992.
- "The Earth Care Maunal, A Permaculture Handbook for Britain and other Temperate Climates", par Patrick Whitefield, Permanent publications, 2004.
- "Permaculture in a nutshell", par Patrick Whitefield, Permanent publications, 2000, England.
- Permaculture Magazine Solutions For Sustainable Living
- The Earth Repair Catalogue Online -Un catalogue en ligne qui ressence plus de 500 livres, magazines, vidéos, CDs, outils...