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So what is Permaculture all about?

Updated: May 21, 2021

These last few days my entrepreneurship and cycling trips companion has joined me in Montpellier. Ryan Matthews, from Cross That Continent, followed me on my travels and permacultural adventures.

Invested in charities and their local activities, I had to attend the board meeting of Humus Pays d'Oc, and, due to COVID-19, the crisis meeting of Perm'ACTE: the first spring permaculture popular university in the southern France.

Passing through Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert to pay an impromptu visit to my partner and beekeeper friend, and to meet a new local brewer, Ryan decided to send a postcard to his family in the USA.

I read "I discovered permaculture, an agricultural technique".

As a permaculator, I could only jump!

Along with a smile, here was a red pen held out to me. I then corrected Ryan's mini story and wrote adjectives here and there, "holistic", "human"...

So let me break some preconceived ideas

Permaculture :

  • is not only a gardening method

  • is not a thing for ecolo hairy hippies

  • is not only an agriculture technique

  • is not an utopia or even less a dogma

Permaculture can be defined in different ways, the simplest and the shortest: "it's common sense"! said Francisco, one of the volunteers during my Permaculture Design Course in 2018.

My definition ?

It is a design methodology based on biomimicry, which is applicable to any environment. We play with the complementarities and strengths of the elements that constitute it, in order to create a balanced and sustainable environment.

This environment can be agricultural, which is the most well-known area today, since it is easily identifiable in food production or in anyone's vegetable garden.

But that's not all !

Permaculture can be more generally applied to 7 areas:

  • land and nature stewardship,

  • building,

  • tools and technology,

  • education and culture,

  • health and spiritual well-being,

  • finances and economics,

  • land tenure and community governance

The whole thing being founded on 3 ethics and 12 principles set out by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, founders of the concept :

  • Earth care: rebuild natural capital

  • People care: look after self, kin and community

  • Fair share: set limits and redistribute surplus

And although Bill Mollison drew up a long list of principles to be applied in this methodology, David Holmgren summed them up in a dozen:

  1. Observe and interact "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" said Saint-Exupéry. Indeed, when we take the allocated time to observe and get involved with nature, it is possible to design solutions adapted to any situation.

  2. Catch and store energy By creating sustainable systems that collect resources when they are abundant, these can be used during scarce times.

  3. Obtain a yield At each stage of the work carried out, efforts must be optimised to obtain useful production and rewards.

  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback Pour assurer la continuité et durabilité des systèmes, on dissuade les activités néfastes. To ensure the continuity and sustainability of systems, inappropriate activities are discouraged.

  5. Use and value renewable resources and services By optimising the abundance of natural resources, we can reduce our consumptive behaviors and our dependence on non-renewable resources.

  6. Produce no waste Nothing is thrown away, all available resources are used and valued.

  7. Design from patterns to details "It is the tree that hides the forest" ... Taking a step back allows you to observe patterns and structures present in nature and in society. These form the backbone of the design concept, which will be filled in with details over time.

  8. Integrate rather than separate Having the right elements in the right places, the relationships between each element can develop and they support one another.

  9. Use small and slow solutions The maintenance efforts are reduced when slow and small-scale systems are favoured, as local resources are better used and the outcomes are more sustainable.

10. Use and value diversity By encouraging diversity, we are less vulnerable to many threats and the unique nature of a given environment.

11. Use the edges and value the marginal By encouraging diversity, we are less vulnerable to threats and the unique nature of a given environment. The most interesting events happen where there is an interface between the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in a system.

12. Use and react to change creatively By observing carefully and intervening at the right time, we can have a beneficial influence on inevitable changes.

But literally, how do I apply permaculture ?

In the middle of my commitments going from my hometown to Europe, I am invested in the development of an edible forest located in Montpellier, and above is my humble contribution to the construction of our chicken coop :)

After ten years in the construction industry, mainly in London, today I look at this exercise with new and fresh eyes.

I see that life, in the broadest sense of the word, is founded on an incredibly well-crafted natural design. And as a human, there is no need to reinvent the wheel, when the common sense of permaculture principles can indeed be applied to anything around us.

This is why the ethics ​​of permaculture and some of the principles naturally appeared evident during the development of Perma Social Club, the first permaculture travel agency in France.

Putting a fresh print in sustainable tourism as an alternative to mass tourism? Yes, but how?

Tourism relates to our spare time, habitat, transport, food, our actions... these elements are present in the life of everyone of us.

So why not create a space where we value and support the ethical actors of a local and tourist ecosystem?

Why not stand out by supporting my community, having a positive impact and showcasing the diversity already present?


So many thoughts, which lead me today to invite you on human and sustainable experiences and trips, which contribute to the local economy and promote the tourism actors and local producers applying the values ​​of permaculture.

So I wish you a good permaculture trip!

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