Permaculture and Philosophy by Angelo Eliades @ The Permaculture Research Institute

Permaculture and Philosophy
Angelo Eliades @ The Permaculture Research Institute

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We can teach philosophy by teaching gardening, but we cannot teach gardening by teaching philosophy. – Bill Mollison

permaculture has a branch of philosophy grafted to it in the form of a set ethical principles

…One point that must made be clear here is how the ethics of permaculture differ from other ethical systems. The ethical principles of permaculture are what I would describe as a ‘practical philosophy’ — one based on science and observation rather than theory, doctrine or belief…

By practicing permaculture and by that I mean really practicing it, applying it, doing something useful with it, living it, certain changes take place in your perspective and outlook.
 Through spending time working with nature in a nurturing, caring way — tending to plants, trees and wildlife — you develop a connection with it. When you spend time caring for nature, year after year through the seasons, watching the cycles of birth, growth, decline and death of all forms of life, you become attuned to its cycles. Through spending time and effort interacting with nature as an integral part of it, in the same way as all other living things do, as a peer and not a master, you develop a communion with nature — a sense of oneness with it. Through all this experience, you then finally truly appreciate all life and its worth, its sanctity, and how nature as a whole is truly sacred.
 Your personal philosophy then will arise from your deep experience of earth stewardship and communion, not beforehand! 1)↓

One sentiment frequently echoed around certain permaculture circles is that ‘something is missing from permaculture, they should teach about spirituality…’ (…) explore in depth our place in the world, the natural order of the planet, and our proper place in it.

Through a misunderstanding of the ‘inner need’ that arises through the perspective shift in permaculture study, some teachers have decided to do something about the feeling that ‘something is missing’ by blending their own personal spiritual belief systems into their permaculture courses.
 The second mistake some teachers make is to assume that because permaculture includes a life-affirming ethical system that makes it compatible with other life-affirming philosophies, spiritual systems and religions, then it is fine to add these to their permaculture courses.
 And this is, my friends, is where the confusion begins….
Just because the system of permaculture is compatible with possibly all positive belief systems does not mean they can be grafted onto it! It will only damage permaculture as a discipline if this is attempted.
 Simply because permaculture, being a science, is truly universal, but spiritual or philosophical beliefs are not.

In summary, we maintain the integrity of permaculture and teach it in its original form, for the following reasons:

  • Out of mutual respect for students’ own personal beliefs.
  • To be more open and inclusive to people of different belief systems in order to attract a wider audience.
  • To respect the aims and intentions of the founders of the system of permaculture, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, and to respect the hard work of countless teachers that have dedicated themselves to support and carry on the founders’ work.

We can conclude that due to permaculture’s unique nature as an applied science with its own scientifically validated ethical system, it can harmoniously co-exist with possibly all life-affirming philosophical, religious and spiritual systems in a supportive way, without changing them or needing to be changed itself.

„Permaculture is not a linear system. Philosophy may not teach one to garden, but it might be what gets them in the garden in the first place.” – Amanda

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1. niekoniecznie. równie możliwy jest ruch w przeciwnym kierunku, w sensie ku permakulturze wychodząc od przemiany wewnętrznej (bo przemiana wewnętrzna jest tutaj chyba punktem kardynalnym), począwszy od namysłu nad sytuacją człowieka na widok ogarniającego świat kryzysu i choroby cywilizacji, czyli ruch od filozofii ku permakulturze… do takiego ruchu konieczna jest oczywiście chęć działania, by po głębokim namyśle nie zasiąść w głębokiej medytacji i nie kontemplować już tylko upadku.

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