Evolution of Permaculture

Anybody who has taken a PDC course or read material on the net would have learnt basic principles of Permaculture. There are 12 principles from David Holmgren and Bill Mollison’s principles scattered throughout the Permaculture Designer’s Manual. Courses around the World usually follow only one of the founder and base the 72 hours PDC course on him.

Learning is an experience and never ends. Especially with permaculture, where the application differs from culture to culture and takes shape using the surrounding seasons and natural resources of the place that is implemented. If you tie yourself to one book, one method, though it may work for implementation, it may not work for teaching.

You see a translation of Bill Mollison’s PDM book and wonder where all those pages went as the translation seems short. If your second language is English like me and looking for a book to help you in your permaculture journey, you might have been puzzled by the options. You want to buy David Holmgren’s books but you need Shakespeare English to follow. You think about Bill’s books but worrying about what you would be missing by not buying Sepp Holzer’s or Mark Shepard’s book. If you don’t have financial problems and have time to read all, of course the best solution would be to buy them all but this is not viable for many.

Well my friend, if you are reading this article, you are using the internet better than 85% of the population and once you weed out the rubbish, the available information on Permaculture down to cultural and local implementation mostly available in video, audio and written format; you just need to search them.



Would permaculture require evolution? Purists would say a big `NO` as they would be afraid of corruption and no matter what, corruption will happen somewhere along the line. And surely it is happening as you read this dear reader. May be I should’ve called it “bettering” rather than “evolution”. I am not saying that we twist and change the “meanings” or come up with totally different principles and so on.

Newgen permies like me have more interpretations to study then Geoff Lawton when he was taking his PDC course back in 1983, back then there were handfuls of global practitioners – today, it is safe to say that they are everywhere, almost everything that can be done, in any climate or condition, has been done and that information is readily accessible and I think this is a bonus for us rather than a disadvantage.

Globalisation opens permaculture up to the new nations, cultures and implementations. If I understand different point of views, I can then transfer all that knowledge to my students in the future or use it in the projects I am doing because I have now more than one way of telling the same thing and can choose the suitable one according to my audience.

I am writing a Permaculture book in my own native language at the moment. My engineer/sceptic mind forces me to dig the different views, implementations, understandings of the permaculture as well as traditional applications in the name of collecting data. I first translated Bill’s principles and moved onto David’s principles. Although 2 founders are different than each other, their essence is revolving around the same base. Then it dawned on me that it is my job to combine these two views and bring out a combination which still supports the Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share and explains the principles in a big picture that would suit my Turkish readers.

As the Turkish culture is vastly different, I can’t leave likeminded people to just `translations`, I feel, I have an obligation to teach permaculture in the future with its full meaning, philosophy, techniques and implementation. And the only way to teach it fully is to understand, learn, implement different views, give credit with respect and tell the students that one PDC course is not enough but they should widen their horizon by looking at others with an open heart.

In my humble opinion, new generation permaculturists should all take notes, read as much different material as they can, understand the local, cultural, spiritual differences of different authors to see the big picture so that they can tailor their teaching. Because sooner or later, you will be giving a course somewhere or taking up a project in an area different than your locality and you need all the tools to accomplish the project.

I am in the belief that permaculture should be secular, that is spiritual affairs and permaculture should be separated but this does not mean that I will disregard permaculture knowledge that is mixed with spirituality or religion or green and brown views etc. Permaculture is whole and uniting. It is also a science bound by laws of physics. Different teachers, leaders come up with their own implementations and interpretations or mixing the traditional methods with it and that is totally cool. I will read them, understand and accept them as much as I can based on my experience, background, climate I live in and my belief structure etc. Only then, I can make the connections and see the big picture and still tie them up to the 3 basic principles to verify their existence.

So what do you think dear reader, if you were writing a book, would you translate the principles word by word (with proper citation of course) or come up with your own distilled understanding and tailor it according to your prospective audience?


  1. Thank you Gurkan, I find your article a beautiful expression of change, evolution growth… yet holding the principles, like the tree that grows into a new and greater being, all from the same trunk and roots. I appreciate what you have said – and can there be any other way than to express the great tree, in all its changing colours?

  2. Interesting point, I like the importance you put in relocalising permaculture understanding traditions of the place where one designs or teaches. I laugh when I see people wanting to do a banana circle in central europe, think local/climate, design a fertility system suitable for you region, be creative not simply replicative.

  3. Great article! I would do all three things you mention at the end of the article, ie

    — quote the principles of Bill Mollison, word for word.
    — quote the principles of David Holmgren, word for word
    –create your own version of those principles, with what you believe to be the necessary adaptations for your own language and culture.

    This way, all readers can have the original principles and your ideas about them and they can make their own intelligent decisions about what works for them.

    For my permaculture introductory courses I have adapted Mollison’s principles and organized them in a manner very similar to Toby Hemenway in his “Gaia’s Garden”. I am not a fan of David Holmgren’s version of the third ethic (“Fair Share”) due to the subjective (human-centered) nature of the interpretation of those two words and prefer Mollison´s more objective “Law of Return” based on returning all surplus to earth care and people care, based in turn on the well-documented biological effect of stabilization and balancing of living and bio-diverse populations (including humans) when ecosystems and their elements are healthy, functional and not stressed.

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