Permaculture principles “thinking tools for an era of change”

David Holmgren is one of the co-founders of “permaculture”. He spoke with Australian author Bruce Pascoe, and it was recorded on video (above) and audio (below). I was really happy to find this, because I am interested in permaculture as a philosophy and also a technology to be utilized when cultivating land and growing things, but I worry that contemporary white or settler movements towards “sustainability” could be unproductive projects of resettlement and that decolonization is the direction we need to go. And that decolonization must be led by and for Indigenous people and nations. I do not think it is generative to try to go “back to the land” in a way that does not build Indigenous solidarity, and I worry that many projects of this nature pushed by settlers could marginalize Indigenous people who could be displaced or not permitted access or sovereignty over their territories by people who “own” land they want to cultivate through permaculture. Or be a project of imagining a future that is still settled. Even if it is generative on the land, if it does not build community and solidarity with Indigenous folks, I see it as a failed project.

Being able to buy land as a settler means benefitting from colonial systems in place that make this possible. If someone does have privilege to buy land, I believe that there are ways to make it accessible to Indigenous people and Nations, to build relationship, or to give land back and request to lease it (I mention this last option because I have specifically heard of someone working out this kind of relationship). To use that privilege for decolonization.

I would like to see more connections made between white settlers who would like to find a more generative way to live, with Indigenous communities. Or Elders and youth. But only if Indigenous people want it. If not, then that should be respected too.

Again it goes back to the Cree term wahkohtowin and making kin outside what westerners consider to be the family. Making good relations with the land and with people whose traditional territory it is, and maintaining these good relations through reciprocity and probably also ceremony. Which is also demonstrated in the video with Bruce Pascoe, an Aboriginal in Australia, and David Holmgren, who collaborated with him. It might not work for everyone, but if people have common interests then I believe they are stronger working together and building solidarity, sharing and learning from each other, and in the colonial context, I believe this can only happen if Indigenous sovereignty is recognized and respected.

With this in mind, I would like to look at the permaculture principles. I think they offer an interesting framework for responding to needs in the Anthropocene.

I will pull information from this website: which calls the permaculture principles “Thinking tools for an era of change.” Which sounds appropriate for the epoch we are apparently living in.

Before getting to the principles themselves, permaculture rests on a set of three ethics; earth care, people care, and fair share. The website states that “Ethics are culturally evolved mechanisms that regulate self-interest, giving us a better understanding of good and bad outcomes. The greater the power of humans, the more critical ethics become for long-term cultural and biological survival.” (

Now here is a quick video of both the ethics and principles of permaculture with the co-originator, David Holmgren (handy tip: skip to 1:00 if you don’t care about an agricultural montage) :


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