Guideposts might be the perfect word to describe what are the foundational ethics of permaculture. And while that is a general term, it clarifies the ultimate purpose for their existence. However, in order to uncover the collective value of the expression, it becomes necessary to be specific.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of Ethics is: The discipline is dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation. The principles of conduct governing an individual or a group. A guiding philosophy. A consciousness of moral importance.
What is most unique about permaculture is that it borrows from many design systems, yet has integrated those practices based upon the ethical considerations permaculture dictates as governing principles. Herein, we will discuss what importance those principles represent in modern permaculture design.
Borrowing from other systems in an effort to integrate those into a new, different, and more efficient system is a process referred to as ‘whole systems thinking’. *The whole-systems understanding of the world acknowledges that a whole is always more than the simple sum of its parts.
Our society widely recognizes ‘haves’ versus ‘have nots’ as social classes. That fact alone shows how we fail far too many on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum.
Conscious Design –
As the primary ethic of permaculture systems is Care for the Earth, we can clearly understand that our role is that of a caretaker! As humans, we are just beginning to understand the basics of the foundational knowledge of life processes. In the last 10,000 years, mankind has shown an uncanny ability to destroy our earth. That reality stems from the fact that very few people feel connected to the earth or its ecology.
According to Scott Pittman of the Permaculture Institute, the second and third ethics of permaculture are really just a furthered definition of the first. Given Western society’s focus on individualism and narcissism, the magnitude of a task such as Care for the People is enormous. Our society widely recognizes ‘haves’ versus ‘have nots’ as social classes. That fact alone shows how we fail far too many on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. Poverty, homelessness, addiction, and unemployment are rampant within ‘the richest country on earth’. Sadly, social parity doesn’t exist.
Assuring Equality –
A Redistribution of Surplus is how to best describe the third ethic of permaculture. It is a return of the surplus to the care of the earth and people. It is very often called Fair Share. *Our society is driven by the idea of consumer capitalism, driven by a belief that continuous growth is possible. Proposing that infinite growth is possible in a system of limited resources is simply untrue.
Creating an implied need for material possessions has obscured our focus on a reality! The simple fact remains that all our basic, human needs are met by the Earth herself. Higher needs are met through community with each other. As a whole systems process, Permaculture is based in morality and governed by ethics. Hence, permaculture offers what might be humanity’s most conscious approach to building sustainable communities.
** In Part Three of our Series, we look at examples of Permaculture in application.