Permaculture — where is it now and how is it being used?

robynBy Russ Grayson and Robyn Francis, August 2014

Here you will find a summary of the findings of a recent survey sent out to find out how many people are teaching permaculture, what they’re teaching and what people are doing with permaculture in their personal, business, employment and community life has been launched by Permaculture Australia’s Accredited Permaculture Training (APT) team.

But first, how did we get here...

Birth

The call was perceived rather than heard and, like so many things that start small and then grow, it was the work of more than one person.

It started as the decade of the seventies drew to a close when Tasmanian, Bill Mollison and then-student, David Holmgren, realised that to resolve the growing disconnect between modern society and the natural environment it was immersed in, and to bring to fruition the innovative ideas coming from the 'alternative' culture of the time, a comprehensive and integrated framework would be needed. Their collaboration produced what we know as the permaculture design system.

Into the world

With the first book, Permaculture One, now written, they faced the challenge of getting its ideas into receptive minds. Like any new idea it met with skepticism. Attempts to put it into existing conceptual pigeonholes stumbled at the foot of its cross-disciplinary content. It puzzled many people just as it inspired others, those who were to become its early adopters.

Carried by those early adopters, permaculture now set out into a world where, fortunately, there were people seeking, sometimes unknowingly, some new approach to creating those things they wanted to see become reality. So it was that as the eighties grew into the nineties more and more people came into the embrace of this new way of thinking and making things happen. Permaculture was coming of age.

Acceleration

Now adopted by a growing number and fast becoming established as an individual and community-based practice, permaculture practitioners ran into the barrier of professional and official acceptance. Something was needed to give it the status of a professional practice and to open opportunities in using the permaculture design system as a component in earning a livelihood. The response came, after much hard work and a matching quantity of patience, in the form of a three-letter acronym — APT. Accredited Permaculture Training was birthed to go beyond the established Permaculture Design Certificate into the new area of workplace training. Something new and good was loosed in the world.

Discovering

Now, it's time for changes in APT, changes being handled by a team at Permaculture Australia, the training system's owner. As part of that change, one of the veterans of setting up the training package, Robyn Francis, has reported on a survey she distributed to paint a word picture of permaculture training and how people are using their permaculture.

The survey goes some way to answering that repeated question: "If so many thousands have done a Permaculture Design Certificate, just where are they?". More importantly, it provides the information, the feedback, upon which permaculture educators, practitioners, writers and popularisers can base their future actions. The survey is permacultre telling us where it is at, and where it could go next.

Learnings

[button_link url="http://permacultureaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Permaculture-in-Australia-Survey-April-2014.pdf" target="blank" style="blue" title="" class="" id="" onclick=""] Download summary report by Robyn Francis (pdf 164kB) [/button_link]

[button_link url="http://permacultureaustralia.org.au/2014/04/06/profiling-permaculture-survey-april-2014/" target="blank" title="" style="blue" class="" id="" onclick=""] View survey webpage [/button_link]

permaculture australia survey

Permaculture Survey Summary by Russ Grayson

So, what do we know of the trends shaping our design system?

I'm not going into detail, nor into figures, as you will find these on the associated survey report that Robyn has produced. Instead, I'm going to make just a few sweeping and quite general statements based on what I read in the survey.

Slightly more than half the survey respondents initiated community-based projects themselves, while around three quarters of them joined existing projects after completing their permaculture training. These are good figures and show that permaculture courses continue to inspire and motivate people.

Just under half established their own permaculture-based enterprise or purchased land to pursue a rural implementation of the design system, while a little more than a fifth of respondents said that their permaculture studies assisted them find employemnt. That's a good figure too, as it demonstrates that there's a market, though still small, for the skills and the integrated design approach that people pick up in permaculture design courses and APT.

Of those graduating from a course, around a third have gone on to teach permaculture, mostly introductory courses. Others, a significant number, have chosed to go into plant production-based areas such as gardening and conserving our botanical heritage through use, through seed saving.

Activity in Transition Towns groups, local food security initiatives, Permablitz garden makeovers and local permaculture associations also figure in what people do in the world of civil society after their permaculture education. A reasonable number have become Permaculture Australia members though the number of those playing an active role in the organisation remains small.

Robyn's report has the details, so I direct you there to learn more.

One more thing

Permaculture is coming home. By that I mean that the design system emerged from a society in change and not a little turmoil and, according to the survey, it is now returning to play a role in that society's modern day manifestation in which change and turmoil are constants. That's thanks to all of those Permaculture Design Courses, to the work of those seeking a permaculture future through offering introductory courses and, in recent years, to those uplifting permaculture education through the APT.

So, let's offer our congratulations to the visionaries, the triers, the stubborn who persisted with a new idea log before it gained any social traction... to the makers and the imaginative... those who, down the decades since the design system's inception, have worked to make it what it is.

Following is your update on the status of, and trends within, the permaculture design system. Thanks to Permaculture Australia for initiating this and thanks to Robyn Francis, ensconced down there on Showground Road on the outskirts of Nimbin at Djanbung Gardens, for making it happen.

Downloads...

[button_link url="http://permacultureaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Permaculture-in-Australia-Survey-April-2014.pdf" target="blank" title="" class="" id="" onclick=""] Download summary report by Robyn Francis (pdf 164kB) [/button_link]

[button_link url="http://permacultureaustralia.org.au/2014/04/06/profiling-permaculture-survey-april-2014/" target="blank" title="" class="" id="" onclick=""] View survey webpage [/button_link]

 

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