Is Permaculture for you?
Permaculture is ‘permanent culture’ and as a design science, can be learnt by anyone and is not restricted to any academic faculty. Learning Permaculture can be useful for all, whether you are an engineer, a student, a doctor or even a home-maker. It is about leading a sustainable lifestyle and the techniques can also be applied to designing a business strategy! Following the ethics and applying the principles of Permaculture by one enables them to move towards a sustainable and abundant future by conscious design. Also, since the science is based mainly on common sense, there is no restriction on age at which one could start learning.
It is very difficult for anyone to really advise on how to go about getting a Permaculture education. Permaculture is a design science and just like all sciences, has two components – theory and practice. And the learning can go on forever for an individual. There is no set formal degree or equivalent for Permaculture education that is certified formally by any existing institution or university of any country (though this is changing now!). In fact, Permaculture was deliberately designed to be decentralised to avoid stagnation and corruption. However, for one to be formally called a Permaculture consultant, designer or a teacher, he/she needs to go through a formal training to some degree.
All students/practitioners/teachers/researchers have their own way of learning which has worked for them. This is what would work as a general guide and can be tweaked by each newbie to his/her convenience.
As mentioned, there can be three components to Permaculture learning-
- Formal training in terms of theory and some basic techniques of design.
- Application of what is learnt formally, which is necessarily, practicing permaculture in real life.
- Walking the journey for exploring and evolving one’s own self.
The above three go hand in hand and one without the other might be rendered useless, or many times, even hazardous!
Before you start formal training, it is best to understand that,
No teacher can teach you all, he can only facilitate a part of your learning. A permaculture teacher also will do just that. Permaculture is mostly a self-guided learning journey and a permaculture teacher will lead you to the right pathway. It is up to you to follow the path and learn.
If you have only just heard about Permaculture, you will probably want to dabble a little bit on the internet and browse on the web, you tube and various websites of permaculture practitioners. There is a multitude of material available on the internet like books and articles (a lot of this is free). However, at this stage, you will need to restrict yourself to the ones that you easily understand and not delve too deep into the details you find difficult to grasp. Many senior practitioners still read Bill Mollison’s ‘Permaculture-A designer’s manual’ multiple times and there is always something new they seem to understand. So, for a newbie, as long as you stick to the basic literature, it is not confusing and will help you go a long way in getting the most out of the courses you decide to take up as formal education of Permaculture.
Training formally to be a Permaculturist
There are so many courses and so many teachers that facilitate learning of Permaculture that it will be a challenge for you to decide on which one will work for you. I would recommend that only after you dabble a bit on getting the basic idea on what Permaculture is about; take a Permaculture Design Course (PDC).
What is a Permaculture Design Course Certificate (PDC) ?
The PDC course is a seventy two hours (minimum) experience. Students who complete the curriculum earn the internationally recognised Permaculture Design Certificate. It is a basic course which provides an introduction to all the components of a Permaculture design. It is important to understand that a person does not become an expert Permaculturist after doing the PDC and his journey, in no way, ends there.
To date, thousands of Permaculture designers worldwide have been certified through this course and now are a part of a global network of three generations of educators and ecological activists who influence major corporations, individuals creating new business alternatives, and groups of committed people working together to change the way we still view and design our non-sustainable lives and landscapes.
This is recognised as the first step towards getting formally accepted as a Permaculturist by the related Associations and Organisations. If you think you found the right teacher for you, it could be helpful to take training from him/her on a one-day workshop or a short introduction course to understand his teaching style and to be confident about what you will learn in the PDC when you register. It is great to get reference from a friend who has done the PDC with the same teacher. However, please remember that each individual will have a different learning style and what might work for your friend might not work for you. Also, many people do multiple PDC courses, each with a different teacher because each teacher always has something he will specialise in. So, though you might end up doing more than one PDC, you would still want to get the most out of each one.
As a general rule, look for some basic things that the course has –
- That the teacher teaches theory but also that he has experience in applying permaculture in his/own life or at least a part of it.
- Make sure that the venue is a real permaculture farm or site, not just a hall somebody rented. That way you will learn a lot more than just looking at pictures of real farms or real permaculture work but sitting in a hall somewhere. Hands-on training is the most important factor in teaching people permaculture in a way they will understand and be able to take the skills home. Ensure that a great deal of the course is done in the field, building real systems. If it is social permaculture you are interested in, maybe you would want to see how a real life NGO or organisation works and do your PDC at such a site.
You could waste your 72 hour PDC sitting the whole time in a classroom! When students from such courses finally get home, they have a head full of information but they don’t know what to do. Information is not wisdom.
Click Outline for the standard 72 hour Permaculture design course for the outline of the PDC curriculum suggested by the Permaculture Institute Tasmania and edited by Bill Mollison himself.
There are many online courses offered today. And they can add a great amount of knowledge and guidance. However they are no replacement to a real life PDC in a real situation while you also do hands-on activities to learn the theory. Online courses can be a great addition to your understanding of permaculture that you got from a real life PDC.
Other courses and workshops for applied permaculture
According to your strengths and interests you could take up short/long courses that teach technical skills that you would require in your Permaculture journey. These courses might or might not be conducted by certified permaculture teachers.
The Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design
The diploma in applied permaculture design is offered by The Permaculture Association. It is not a taught course like a PDC and is a scheme for supporting an extended period of self-directed learning based around projects and activities that you are involved in and that you set yourself. You plan and carry out your own course of self-managed study, taking on projects of your own choosing and carrying out the permaculture design process with these projects.
You document your work and put it together in a portfolio. This work is assessed by diploma holders and accredited by the Permaculture Association.
Once you dive deep into Permaculture, it is very difficult to stop. In fact, one remains a student for the rest of their lives and it is the beauty of it all. There is so much to learn and Permaculture will change the way you view problems. You will start seeing the solutions as you identify the problems and analyse them. You will realise that we have so much to learn from Nature as our teacher.
Start walking your Permaculture journey now!