Misconceptions About Permaculture Design

Today, I thought I would take a moment to correct some misconceptions that seem to be common when it comes to permaculture design.

Firstly, and most importantly – permaculture is not a ‘cult’. Some people I have encountered mistake the zeal with which people talk about permaculture for some form of indoctrination or even ‘brainwashing’. But permaculture is all about thinking for yourself. It is not about blindly following a set of ‘rules’ or even a very strict belief system.

Yes, many permaculturists share certain ethics and beliefs. But they are not beliefs that are adhered to blindly, with ‘faith’ and without thought. There are people who share common permaculture values and goals that think very, very differently on a great many other things. They may work broadly towards the same agenda, but they may use very different methods and practices to meet those goals.

Another misconception is that permaculture is all about ‘money’. Yes, there is a strong strain in permaculture that encourages participation in paid learning, and allows practitioners to make permaculture teaching and design a part of their business plans. But that is by no means the ‘heart’ of the movement. It is simply that, working within a capitalist system (whether we agree with that system or not) we must work within it to create a better world.

Finally, I want to address a comment I heard once while visiting Orkney that ‘permaculture is great for some areas – but it does not work here’. That is a misconception based on the idea that permaculture is a series of practices that are employed on any site. (The person I was talking to was vaguely familiar with the permaculture concept of forest gardening, and believed that it was not suitable for his very windy site.)

Of course, if you have seen the case studies on this site and many others, you will recognise that permaculture principles can be applied very differently in different situations in different parts of the world. And when correctly applied, permaculture can find the solution in any problem (very windy sites included).

Permaculture is not ‘one size fits all’. It is a blueprint for sustainable design – not a rule sheet. We all need to bear that in mind when talking about permaculture, and when putting it into practice.

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