The Wikipedia definition of Permaculture…

…for all those who’ve recently asked me and to whom I’ve given a vague and muddled answer.

Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that are modeled on the relationships found in natural ecologies.

Permaculture is sustainable land use design. This is based on ecological and biological principles, often using patterns that occur in nature to maximise effect while minimizing wasted energy. Permaculture aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants. The ecological processes of plants, animals, their nutrient cycles, climatic factors and weather cycles are all part of the picture. Inhabitants’ needs are provided for using proven technologies for food, energy, shelter and infrastructure. Elements in a system are viewed in relationship to other elements, where the outputs of one element become the inputs of another. Within a Permaculture system, work is minimised, “wastes” become resources, productivity and yields increase, and environments are restored. Permaculture principles can be applied to any environment, at any scale from dense urban settlements to individual homes, from farms to entire regions.

The first recorded modern practice of permaculture as a systematic method was by Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer in the 1960s, but the method was developed rigorously by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications.

The word permaculture is described by Mollison as a portmanteau of permanent agriculture, and permanent culture.

The intent is that, by training individuals in a core set of design principles, those individuals can design their own environments and build increasingly self-sufficient human settlements: ones that reduce society’s reliance on industrial systems of production and distribution that Mollison identified as fundamentally and systematically destroying Earth’s ecosystems.