In fact, permaculture has much in common with human ecology in that it is focused on understanding and improving human beings’ relationships with our environments from an interdisciplinary point of view.

The core ethics of permaculture are earth care, people care, and fair share. Earth care involves preserving and encouraging the natural systems we depend on for life. Practices such as agroforestry, rainwater harvesting, natural building, composting, and more, are a part of this. People care evokes social justice, so that all people can have access to the resources required to live full and healthy lives. Activist groups such as the Seed Freedom movement, which seeks to protect seed biodiversity, are a part of this. The Fair Share principle emphasizes living in community. Through designing healthy systems that create abundance, we can meet our own needs while simultaneously caring for each other. Thus is the ethical foundation of the permaculture philosophy. These three ethics are supplemented by twelve principles, which can be seen in the permaculture flower image below.

 the principles of permaculture, explained in one easy image

Many people practice permaculture in different ways. Prime examples of permaculture in action can be seen in various demonstration sites throughout the world. One such place is the Punta Mona Center for Sustainable Living and Education in Limón, Costa Rica. Here, and in places like it, people live off-the-grid and with the land. Electricity comes from the sun, water from the rain, and shelter from renewable bamboo. Food comes from garden systems that mimic the way a forest naturally functions. Every aspect of the community is designed to work with, rather than against, natural systems.

Permaculture is most commonly associated with agriculture and food systems. It is easy to see how these principles can be applied to designing a garden or a farm, and countless people throughout the world have found great success in doing so. When applied in this way, permaculture enables us to meet our physical needs in healthier ways. However, we can use the permaculture ethics and principles in not only designing our gardens, but ultimately our lives. Much like an education in human ecology, the most profound thing gained from studying permaculture is not necessarily the specific skills, although these are certainly valuable, but rather the perspective. Permaculture philosophy can be applied to anything, from farming to education, from city planning to governance, and much more.

What do permaculture and human ecology have in common? They are both interdisciplinary philosophies that focus on human-environmental relationships. They both aim to create a more just and sustainable world for us as well as future generations. They both value a holistic and compassionate approach to understanding problems and creating solutions. So, if you consider yourself a human ecologist, you just may be a permaculturalist as well.