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The Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC)

Jesse Lemieux is a full time permaculture educator and design consultant, operating from Denman Island BC. He teaches a range of different permaculture based workshops and course, drawing on practical experience that spans 10 years and 3 continents. He is always on the look out for the next garden project or chance to share experience. If you would like to contact Jesse please send him a message: jesse (at)

What is needed to design a sustainable human society full of abundance and security for all living systems? Information, empowerment and ethics. The Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) teaches students how to use information, resources and ethics to meet local needs on a limited land base. There are no “bad guys” and nothing is inherently evil. It is the designs of the systems we use that are the problem. A large machine can be used to bring down a forest, or it can be used to repair damage and degraded landscapes. In the same way, I can either use a hammer as weapon, or to build a house for a friend. The difference in outcome is one of intention and design.

The fact is that we are working with a system that was never designed to provide a sustainable or secure place for life on this planet. The system we are working with was designed to concentrate wealth, resources and power into the hands of a few. This system produces elite classes, sickness and environmental degradation.

The justification for such destructive ways was one of service to the larger whole. In other words, we tell ourselves that while the present way of doing things does not provide all people in all places with a secure livelihood, it can maximize happiness for a maximum number of people.

A great many good things have come out of this system, like this computer I type with. But it is obvious that the time for change has come. The planet is raising alarm bells. Fancy technological adaptations may give us some extra time, but if we are concerned with the long term survival of the human species, then we had better start evolving and designing our systems using more sustainable models.

At the very core of our problems are the assumptions we make regarding human nature.

We design and build our systems with the underlying belief that human nature is dominated by greed. As a result, we see human interaction with other humans and the environment as brutal struggle, domination and conquest.

Nothing could be further from the truth. What makes us human is not how savagely we can treat each other. What makes us human is our large brain, and our capacity for abstract thinking and creative problem solving. Human nature is one of choice. We as a species and as individuals are capable of just as much positive action as we are negative. In my experience, 99 out of 100 people have good intentions and want to do the right thing. So what is the issue?

The issue is design. The Permaculture Design Certificate teaches how we can utilize today’s tools and technology to shape a more sustainable and equitable world for all species. Permaculture is more than just planting a garden. It is a sustainable design approach that is applicable to all human activities. An organic garden is one element in a total design. Permaculture is about where we place the garden in relation to the house, site topography, climate, water run off, capabilities of the users, where money comes from to finance it … etc. Using a designed approach we place the organic garden in space, time and form so as to gain the highest output for lowest input.

The PDC is an intensive 72-hour study in all things sustainable. It uses the 14-chapter text book “Permaculture, A Designers Manual” as its reference and works through the following topics:

  • Introduction to Permaculture
  • Concepts and Themes in Design
  • Methods of DesignPattern Understanding
  • Climatic Factors
  • Trees and their Energy Transactions
  • Water
  • Soils
  • Earthworks and Earth Resources
  • The Humid Tropics
  • Dryland Strategies
  • Humid Cool to Cold Climates
  • Aquaculture
  • The Strategies of an Alternative Global Nation

As you can see from the above list, permaculture covers all aspects of human life. It is grounded in practical real world design and extends into the complex realm of sustainable social design. It extends further into the invisible design of organizing energy exchange between people and communities. The PDC empowers, informs and trains people to be effective designers and agents of active change in their homes and communities. The PDC endeavors to teach teachers, in order to spread and localize this important information. Following this strategy, permaculture has spread rapidly to all corners of the globe without any form of centralized administration or governing body. As a result, there are many collectives and collaborations between different permaculture teachers and institutes, but all operate as independent entities. The permaculture community is unified by the common ethic of earth care, people care and return of surplus.

Permaculture does not ignore the massive challenges we face today. We maintain a healthy understanding of the challenges and difficulties of the modern world. We choose to focus our time and energy on a positive and active approach. Rather than spending a Saturday at a rally protesting something I don’t want, I would rather spend the day with a group of friends and strangers installing a food garden in the community. In this way we actively change the world one garden at a time.

Many of my students quickly move on to be involved in all levels of change from local to global, some for private business, others for NGOs.

Adrian Buckley of Calgary took his PDC in August 2009. This course was taught by Pacific Permaculture on behalf of Ravis Sustainable. Since that time, Adrian has started a small permaculture business called Big Sky Permaculture, which recently hosted its first Introduction to Permaculture Workshop this past January. He is a great example of how quickly a PDC can change the direction of one’s life.

Angela Gentili of Toronto attended the Pacific Permaculture part time PDC in Vancouver in the spring of 2009. She has recently co-founded a non-profit community organization in Toronto known as They are involved in all kinds of great community agriculture initiatives using permaculture in their work.

Aaron Elton of Vancouver is yet another student of ours, from the PDC course that Pacific Permaculture hosted last summer on Denman Island. Aaron has initiated a permaculture aid project known as Our Mother Earth Villages, which will be operating in Uganda and teaching its first PDC to local and international students in late 2010.

There is no doubt in my mind that a full education in permaculture design is a positive experience. It’s an investment that anybody can make regardless of profession, background or age.

Pacific Permaculture is offering a second annual installment of a Vancouver part time course starting April 3. If you are interested in the 2-week intensive format, we are hosting a course on Denman Island July 4-17, and teaching another in Saskatoon in the middle of August.

Please visit our website for more info.

We are not the only group that is offering the PDC in western Canada. Below is a list of other groups and organizations that regularly teach the 72-hour PDC.

The term “permaculture” was coined by Bill Mollison and gifted to the college of graduates of the Permaculture Design Certificate. As teachers, we all agree to adhere to the design curriculum as laid out in the 14 chapters of the permaculture designer’s manual. Only graduates of this curriculum may refer to themselves as permaculture designers and permaculture teachers. However, anyone engaging in activities which relate the ethics and principles of permaculture may refer to their work as permaculture.

Before attending a PDC be sure that the whole 14 chapter curriculum from “Permaculture A Designers Manual” is being presented. The course must cover all the material over 72 hours and should not have extra material included. Good luck and we will see you out there.



  1. Considering the material discussed in the PDM, and by Mollison in the courses he gave, I would love to participate in a specialist course on setting up the organizational structures mentioned in chapter 14 of the PDM. The PDC I did in the UK some years ago did not really cover this in any detail.

    I “sort-of get the idea” what Bill is talking about here:

    in particular in chapter 13,

    However, right now, I could not do anything like that on my own. But I would like to know how. Having access to some documents that may serve as templates would be very helpful. Does anyone
    offer such a specialized course? (If it were internet-based, the better.)

  2. Hi Thomas,

    As with all other material in the PDC, I have never attended any specialist training in the social structures. I built my skills and experience by starting from the things I knew something about, my comfort zone, and then got my hands dirty. Bill has always said that we cannot do any worse than as already been done. As long as we are honest about our abilities and ethical in our decision making processes we can’t really go wrong. Mistakes made under these conditions are rarely disasters and often the best learning situations.

    Since taking my PDC I have set up and run a sole proprietorship, now a corporation and now a non-profit entity. I have never borrowed money from the bank and have funded all these processes by valuing my skills and experience appropriately and offering services to the community. I am not all that good with numbers. I find legalese just as difficult as the next person and I am happiest behind a shovel.

    Just give something a try ask advice when you need it an take a conservative approach.
    My first responsibility has always been and will always be my personal and family economics. When generate surplus, knowledge, money, resources, food we then return back into the community.

    Priority of Investment:
    1.) Things that produce a yield
    2.) things that save you energy
    3.) Things that cost energy

    take care

  3. Jesse,

    the problem I have is quite a specific one: If you want to systematically get people out of economic dependency, i.e. reduce their Need To Earn (“NTE”), and you are actually starting to make a significant impact on society in doing so, you are, basically (and, quite inevitably), destroying somebody else’s customer base. Therefore, you can pretty much expect to come under attack. And you then should be able to deal with such attacks.

    I know that Bill Mollison set up extremely cunning legal structures, and he did it in a way so that one, in principle, should be able to just take this as a template and set up many businesses that receive protection from the same mechanisms he used (e.g. for “Phoenix Seeds”), and which seem to have passed the acid test. From what I’ve learned so far, I get the impresion that setting up such structures (an unregistered association whose members qualify as directors for two companies that do nothing but to act as trustees for two trusts, a charity and an unit discretionary trust) is not really overly difficult, and Bill must have spend quite a lot of time explaining how they work on the PDCs he gave in the 80s (maybe he still does, don’t know). I’d love to learn how to do that – but so far, no one could teach me the details.

    Don’t get me wrong – It’s all right and fine to run a number of “conventional” businesses that make a lot of sense environmentally, economically, and socially, and I also get income in such a way. But making a serious impact on people’s need to earn by helping them to reduce their dependency on questionable economic structures can become quite a different ball game.

    I’m all fine with numbers and legalese. People around me claim that I seem to have a special gift to handle absurdly complex problems. So, naturally, it would perhaps make more sense for me than for many others to learn how to do that. After all, there should be some people who know how to do it, right? The problem is just: I have not yet found anyone who could teach me the details…

  4. Thomas contact Tagari the link is on this page and ask to purchase the trust deeds of XAF and XCD they are for sale as copies the Bill used to set up the legal structures you speak of.

    You have to use them as a legal frame work to set up in your location at this point in legal history.

  5. The details are explained in the recording of Bill’s course in 82 I think. I’m sorry to say this without being able to offer the mp3 of the recording (I don’t have it in Australia) but perhaps Craig can make that section available…?

  6. Tamlyn,

    yes, I know that course, and I studied it. Still, that leaves a number of questions open for me which perhaps could be answered by taking a look at the XAF/XCD trust documents…

  7. Thomas,

    Did you figure out how to set up these legal structures? I’m trying to do the same thing in the US and would love some guidance on the process.

  8. Does anyone know the US equivalents of the AU Unincorporated Association and AU Proprietary Limited Company (Pty Ltd)? I’m sure someone else has done this and I’m not keen to reinvent the wheel. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  9. If the world must be saved it have to begin with us(m.Ghandi)and I think Liberia is not excluded.Let me say this Liberia have a vast land that needs to be attended and if we can utilize the land it will held save Liberians from starvation and i’ve seen one place that is doing that RICKS INSTITUTE,PO BOX 114,MONROVIA,LIBERIA, WEST AFRICA.”THERES A NEED FOR U TO HELD ESTABLISH A BASE HERE”

  10. Hi There, did anyone find Tagari’s trust deed’s sample anywhere online? I checked their website and there is no mention of such documents. I also have the mp3 files, but as Thomas said, they are not enough as a step by step guide on how to set up such legal structures.

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