25 Permaculture Maxims

Planting a macadamia nut tree in a public reserve in Bundanoon 2012

[These Permaculture maxims or general principles were originally written as a summary for a permaculture class I taught a few years ago. Permaculture is a philosophy and practice of applied ecological design originally formulated by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Australia in the 1970s. It is now a worldwide movement and can be applied at the backyard, farm, landscape or city level. It is primarily focussed on all aspects of sustainable food and energy production. It is now also an integral part of the global Transition movement for relocalisation driven by the great twin crises of Climate Chaos and Peak Oil.]


1. Think globally, act locally, feel bioregionally.

2. Observe. Observe again. Then observe again. (Then act).

3. Move from Ego to Eco. (Let your systems teach you to be their conscious part).

4. Find the leverage point, and avoid burnout. Work where it counts. (e.g. plant right tree in right place, work with the motivated…).

5. Be humble 1. Start at the backdoor. (Then move out bit by bit).

6. Be humble 2. Start at the bottom. (Understand and improve your soils).

7. Small is beautiful. (Small scale/low energy beats large scale/energy-intensive).

8. Run out of room? Go up. (Stack your plants from small to large).

9. Create edges. (Maximise diversity through zone overlaps: water/land, pasture/trees..).

10. Maximise species native to your area. (Have at least a third of your land wild).

11. Conserve endangered and heritage species/varieties. (Give thanks to eight millenia of global peasants).

12. Resist the commodification of life. (Grow your own, save seeds, organise…).

13. Landscapes can be beautiful and edible. (Integrate production and wild species).

14. Close the loops, as Nature does. (‘Waste’ is unrecognised use. Wee near a tree).

15. The problem is the solution. (e.g. snail problem = duck deficit).

16. One element, at least three functions. (e.g. chooks = eggs + meat + poo + pest control).

17. One function, three elements. (e.g. passive fire control = dam + road + fire retard veg)

18. Energy is the key factor. (Conserve by design. Maximise renewables, minimise fossil and nuclear energy. Reduce unnecessary energy via good design, decentralised production, regional self-reliance).

19. On-site ‘order’ can mean off-site chaos. (e.g. machine dependency = oil dependency = pollution = climate chaos = oil wars…)

20. Think total yield. (Not just crop yield. E.g. firewood, pollen/pollination, predator habitat, biodiversity/genetic storage, soil improvement, minimised off-site effects..
21. Maximise polycultures. (= pest/predator balances and resilience. Monocultures = pests, chemical inputs, imbalances, instabilities, vulnerabilities…).

22. Permaculture follows the logic of Nature and ecology. (Agribiz follows the logic of industry and capital accumulation).

23. Regreen the cities. (Current cities are unsustainable. Revive urban food production).

24. Leave good legacies. (Revegetate. Improve soil. Help local/global poor/oppressed).

25. ‘Only connect !’ (E.M. Forster).


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on April 25, 2012.

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