The term permaculture was first coined by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist, in 1978 as “a design system for creating sustainable human environments”. A contraction of “permanent agriculture”, the concept of permaculture started with a focus on ecological landscape design and food production systems, but also included focus on energy-efficient buildings, waste water treatment, recycling, land stewardship and other issues of environmental sustainability.
With much of my focus on the green building end of things, I have watched permaculture and green building follow a similar evolutionary path over the past 30 years. As green building began with a focus on energy efficiency and evolved to more fully integrate resource conservation and healthy materials, permaculture has evolved to more fully integrate its environmental focus with the social and economic aspects of sustainability. Now often referred to as a contraction of “permanent culture”, permaculture more fully reflects its original foundational ethics of “care of the earth, care of people, and fair share”.
My own interest in permaculture has evolved as well. Although I have always appreciated permaculture landscape principles and integrate them in my work whenever possible, it is the holistic aspect that takes sustainability to its logical conclusion that excites me the most. Inherent in its full application, permaculture addresses the importance of a new paradigm for how we live together in cooperation and collaboration, and how we restructure our failing economy with a foundation of sustainability and justice.