Why Permaculture?

Another Way of Learning

After thirty years of engagement with Permaculture, it never ceases to amaze me how the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) changes peoples’ lives.

This brilliant understanding of how to meet peoples’ needs, without working so hard, and at the same time learning to minimise waste was crafted by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren before I came along to connect with it.  I’m also hugely aware that it has always been a fantastic effort of trawling wisdom from all across the planet contributed by unknown numbers of people.

Across my engagement, I have noticed people being so enthused by the concept and the material that the first thing they wanted to do was rush out and teach it – something Bill encouraged.  I have a great deal of sympathy with his approach: the need for change is urgent.  We need to spread this message as quickly as we can.  The world may not be in danger, but we, the human species surely are.

David Holmgren took a more measured approach.  You could describe this as ‘Let’s prove this idea works before we preach it’.  I can see the value of that too.

I’m sure there are people out there who are much cleverer than me.  What I’ve spent my life trying to do is make these welcome solutions accessible to people.  You see, it’s not how clever we are individually; it’s about how effective we are.  And ethics sit at the heart of Permaculture.  Create surplus and share it.  So the surpluses we can create might be food… but what if they were happiness, insight or knowledge?

The point of the whole exercise for me is not about me being cleverer than anyone.  It’s about building a universal understanding of a better way to live.

The basis for this for me is the curriculum of the Permaculture Design Course.  A brilliant concept, which has meant that even newbies who just wanted to ‘spread the word’ without any great teaching skills could still contribute to growing the caucus of adherents. The reality is in the modern world, where we are all short of time, that you’re much better off to learn from people who have been there and done it and are trained as teachers.

The first thing to notice is that this is as much a process of unlearning as it is about learning.  Unlearning the misdirected concepts of how the world works which the conventional educational system has stuffed our heads with.  That we are only valuable if we are academic achievers? Well, that’s rubbish- we will die for want of vocational skills long before we miss any academics.  The people who grow our food and cook it.  The people who care for us and clean up after us.  The mechanics who make things work.  The people who make our transport work.  The servants.  Not the masters.

So one of our tasks is to correct this misbalance.  We need to recognise we are all servants of the greater good.

The PDC reconnects us with what is essential for good human lives.  It reconnects us to the importance of all living beings in making that possible.  It uplifts our souls as well as our bodies.  It teaches us about virtuous cycles of energy management including its conservation.  It spells out to us the value of well-designed buildings, our essential dependence on the land and our ability to make it more fertile.  We get a really good picture of the value of water and how to manage it.

We also realise that without clean air we are nothing.  And then we start to see the significance of trees in managing all these things.
So why is this another way of learning?


– It’s not all about doing stuff, it’s also about being
– You’re not being talked at, you’re being encouraged to find your own pathway
– It’s about the primacy of the living world
– It recognises lots of kinds of intelligence not just the ones of conventional educational systems
– It emphasises people skills in making a truly sustainable world work
– When you walk away from this course you will feel utterly at one with the natural world in which we all live
– You will know that you have a huge army of allies across the world to move our society to a new plane of understanding, trust, mutual self-interest
– You will see what you want to do, what you have still to learn and how to go about it

You see, if you ever felt the educational system let you down, then you will discover that you are the best educational system you have and you can let all that stuff go.  And at that point you will join the company of thousands, well certainly hundreds of thousands (or maybe millions) who have already discovered this pathway. And you will be part of creating a part of a much more positive future for the human race.  Everyone who joins this understanding adds to it.  The only cleverness we ever have is all of us acting together.

To Connect with Graham please visit: https://grahambell.org/permaculture-courses/full-permaculture-design-course/

Originally Puyblished: https://grahambell.org/another-way-of-learning/

Graham Bell

I live and work in the Scottish Borders. My wife Nancy and I have created a Forest Garden which is approaching its twenty-fifth anniversary and provides a great deal of food, fuel and company (wildlife). Our children Ruby and Sandy (now in their twenties) have also been great contributors to developing our house and garden as an energy efficient home place. I have written two books on Permaculture, the Permaculture Way and the Permaculture Garden which thousands of people have enjoyed as easy introductions to what Permaculture means in a Northern temperate climate and the society that goes with it. I have taught Permaculture on four continents. After many years engaging with business and politicians in my work to get these essential principles understood and used by people who govern and direct the world's economies I have returned (2012)to teaching courses and restarted a North Hardy Plant Nursery specifically designed to support Forest Gardeners. We welcome invitations to teach elsewhere, and visitors here by arrangement. Full details can be found on my website.

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