Permaculture’s Principles

When Bill Mollison and David Holmgren developed Permaculture over 32 years ago they had tapped into something new, unique and synergizing. When I was working at Holmgren’s Melliodora I had the good fortune to ask him where the idea came from (as he had the original idea and Bill developed and expanded it). David summed it up as the synergy of Ecology and Agriculture brought together using Design thinking. This is where the Principles came from, followed by Design Methods and Directives. Mollison developed many Principles based on this which are summed up below. Holmgren’s Principles, that he published in 2003 in “Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability” precede Mollison’s in this article as they are a bit more concise and to the point, yet Mollisons are much more in depth and require more time to contemplate and see the depth to them:

Reviewing Melliodora with David Holmgren

Holmgren’s Principles: Adapted from: Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability: 2003 by Holmgren

  1. Observe & Interact
  2. Catch & Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self Regulation & Accept Feedback
  5. Use & Value Renewable Resources & Services
  6. Produce No Waste
  7. Design from Patterns to Details
  8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate
  9. Use Small & Slow Solutions
  10. Use & Value Diversity
  11. Use Edges & Value the Mariginal
  12. Creatively use and Respond to Change

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Holmgren’s Graphic of his Principles

Mollison’s Principles (from “Permaculture: a Designers Manual” 1988):

Prime Directive of Permaculture: The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our Children’s

Principle of Cooperation: Cooperation, not competition, is the basis of future survival and of existing life systems

The Ethical Basis of Permaculture:

1. Earth Care: Provision for all life systems to continue and increase

2. People Care: Provision for people to access those resources necessary to their existence

3. Fair Share: By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles

Mollison’s Principles (which are extensive)

1. Work with nature, rather than against the natural elements, forces, pressures, processes, agencies, and evolutions, so that we assist rather than impede natural developments

2. The problem is the solution; everything works both ways.  Everything is a positive resource; it is just up to us to work out how we may use it as such

3. Make the least Change for the greatest possible effect

4. The Yield of a system is Theoretically unlimited. The only limit on the number of uses of a resource possible within a system is in the limit of the information and the imagination of the designer

5. Everything gardens or has an effect on its environment

6. Policy of Resource Management

7. Principle of Disorder: If resources are added beyond the systems ability to absorb them the system will chaos and pollution results

8. The Role of Life in the Yield

9. Limits to Yield

Principle of Cyclic Opportunity

Types of Niches:

Principle of Stress & Harmony

Principle of Stability

Information as a Resource


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