Permaculture: the ethics of gardening

A couple weeks ago  I took a class on soil, and I learned quite a lot. One definition of soil, pertaining to growing and gardening, is a “The unconsolidated mineral or organic material on the immediate surface of the Earth that serves as a natural medium for the growth of land plants”.

Did you know that plant roots “decide” the type and levels of microbial life in their symbiotic soil relationships?

The  form of gardening that I am becoming more interested in is called Permaculture Design. Permaculture is in fact more than gardening. The name permaculture is derived from “Permanent Culture” and “Permanent Agriculture”  The definition as  definition as stated put by Bill  Mollison:

“Permaculture is a system of assembling conceptual, material and strategic components in a pattern which in a pattern which functions to benefit Life in all forms. Its aim is to seek a place for organisms.”

“Intro To Permaculture” , B. Mollison

The design principles and methods of Permaculture include an eclectic range of ideas that mirror other important  philosophical systems

  • Taoist themes such  as patterning,  flowing with and harmonizing with Nature; and Wu Wei,
  • Holistic ideas such as diversity, long or self sustainability and self regulation,
  • Conservation concepts such recycling and renewing of resources, ethical concerns of environment-
  • Sciences  a wide range including Topography, Ecology, Biology; observation and data collection

Ethics in Action



I, personally  find it very  interesting , that certain philosophical principles and ideas found in   Taoism, Holism and conservation theory maybe empirically testable, observable and possibly provable, in the form of producing complex organic gardens.

Mollison states that “Everything Gardens”, I wonder if we could say everything IS a garden,metaphorically.

For some, permaculture is paradigm for solving societal problems;  scarcity and  economic problems,  and it serves as an Ethical base for humans regarding society and nature. It address the need for science to have ethics. Its an Ethic in action. Its ethics for  science and science gives it validity.

However, at its kernel, permaculture is a design system, incorporating ethics and problem solving, for gardening, horticulture  and agriculture.

Food for thought

Right now I am just interested in gardening and being creative.

but I can’t wondering: “can a diversified designed garden “make decisions” as whole? If so can I draw conclusion about self regulation and self autonomy in other non gardening systems? Perhaps I’m being a bit ambitious in thinking that gardening can answer age old philosophical questions about “Free Will” and “determinism”  by demonstrating relatively self-autonomic ecosytems.

I am barely a novice gardener anyway.

Bill Mollison is credited by many as the person responsible for kickstarting the permaculture revolution. His 5 core principles are:

  • Work with nature… rather than against nature.
  • The Problem is the Solution
  • Make the least change for greatest possible effect.
  • The yield of a system is  [hypothetically] unlimited.
  • Everything gardens.

These principles mirror Ancient Philosophies such as Taoism, Mollison conceptualized the core concepts after his years of studying organism and symbiotic relationships as a biologist and his study of Tribal farmers in the Pacific. Mollison and others draw upon the laws of physics, biology,  Natural Science with admitted affection for self-reliance, care fore the earth and Care for life,   Aesthetics and wisdom and the willingness to study and pattern other design theories objectively.

Food for Fact

Some real problems that real permaculture designers are working on:

File:20080708 Chicago City Hall Green Roof.JPG

A Green Roof in Chicago

  • Food Scarcity – Designers  use strategy to create long sustaining agricultures in many areas and reinvigorate  land for new areas of food growth. Permiculture has been used to grow orchards and gardens in desert climates and mountains, without the aid of heavy machinery.
  • Supply problems – With the growing cost of fuel to transporting food, Permaculturalist focus producing for local markets and consumers, growing food inside urban neighborhoods  and towns (even on roof tops!), with a diversity of produce. A designer always has community in mind.
  • Conservation – Permaculturalist Use and value renewable resources. A basic ethical  principle is “Care of Earth, Care of people, and the  Reinvestment of those Ends” . A designer wastes nothing if he can.
  • Teaching  awareness – permaculturalist teach and demonstrate a healthy relationship between people and ecosystem and ingenuity in solving problems that the layman can learn. The Teaching of  people to grow there own food Is the teaching of people to be more self reliant.

More thoughts

So right now I  have been learning about gardening and I have been learning about soil. It would not be surprising to me in the future if most people here in U.S grow their own  food gardens, whether they live in Rural, City, or suburban areas in the future.   Permaculture is a new way to use  old ideas . With the need for solutions for such problems as rising food price, as well as the need to fill the void of ethics, Permaculture  as a way of thinking, becomes one more tool for the consumer. One that is potentially here to stay.


About chris
I write because I'm not good at it. I share because, writing without sharing seems empty. Thus, I write and share what I think is meaningful.

One Response to Permaculture: the ethics of gardening

  1. Pingback: Suburbhomestead A Definition | Suburbhomestead's Blog

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