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Permaculture is a Design Methodology

That uses ecosystems as models to create regenerative and sustainable human systems. Its holistic approach can be applied to land, social and economic systems. Permaculture is also considered a philosophy of life and a global grassroots movement, being recognized as one of the most powerful ways of creating positive change in the world. 

Permaculture Design

Permaculture is a design discipline. Prmaculture design is the practice of designing sustainable human systems, designing a “permanent culture“.

Designing a permanent culture includes rethinking and redesigning several human systems and therefore permaculture design is a whole systems design discipline. It includes: land and nature, buildings, tools & technology, education, culture, health, well being, finances & economics, community…

Permaculture design is a creative process, based on observation and good science and therefore it can never be prescriptive! 

All men are designers. All that we do, almost all the time, is design, for design is basic to all human activity. The planning and patterning of any act towards a desired, foreseeable end constitutes the design process. Any attempt to separate design, to make it a thing-by-itself, works counter to the inherent value of design as the primary underlying matrix of life... Design is the conscious effort to impose meaningful order. - Victor Papanek
General diagram ilustratiing whole systems design
Permaculture Flower, "Principles and Pathways Beyond Suatainability“

Design ethics and Principles

Besides its wholistic application permaculture design is innovative in applying ethics and principles to design.
The ethics (care for people, care for the earth and fair share) are the foundation of permaculture design and underpin every design decision in the creation of a sustainable system. They make us feel good and align us with reality.

The design principles are guidelines for sustainable design. They are principles found in nature and for that reason are ingrained in us. Ecosystems are the best examples of energy efficiency and resilience that we can observe and using their principles as guidelines to design our “human systems” is the best may to ensure sustainability and resilience.

At the end, there is something very satisfying and meaningful about applying ethics and principles to design. It makes sense, it feels good and the results are impressive!

Design Thinking

Design thinking is the capacity of inter-relating elements in space and time in a functional and cooperative way. It is a method for practical, creative resolution of problems and creation of solutions, with the intent of an improved future result.

When designing systems (land systems, financial systems, social systems) there are many elements and factors to take in consideration, some variable, some unvariable. So following a process is the best approach to deal with systems complexity and make sure we take the right steps and keep track from the beggining till the end.

Design process

Imagine you have the task of designing your farm. Independently of its size, a farm is a complex system because it includes various elements and even systems inside the main system. To come up with a design you will also have to consider many factors (biotic and abiotic, natural and human, etc). In general you will be working with a complex diversity of variables and unvariables and that’s why following a design process can be very helpful in guiding your design work and ensure its success.

Basically, at this moment in time, if we want to accelerate regeneration and create sustainable systems we can’t afford to act randomly. We better follow a process (a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end) to get quickly, accurately and efficiently to the solutions we need and the goals we want to achieve.

Design is complex and to go through a design process leads you to think (consciously or unconsciously) in terms of design. The design process informs the pattern of thinking that enables design. Going through the process makes us designers and being designers we start to think design and we start applying it in many things we do.

There are many ways of designing. Some people design through thinking, some design through doing, some design through collating experiences and references. You can design through your hands, you can design through your mind… All is fine, as long as we don’t skip steps.