The Ethics of Permaculture


The system of Permaculture embraces an ethical framework that recognizes and understands the intrinsic worth of every living thing.

The three basic ethics are –



In the words of Albert Schweitzer,

‘Let me give you a definition of ethics: It is good to maintain and further life, it is bad to damage and destroy life’.

The ethics of Permaculture can give us a foundation for being able to better understand the choices we make towards our environment and each other. Permaculture is a holistic design system for creating sustainable human communities, by working harmoniously with our natural environment.


 If we are to thrive, our actions need to be focused on the good of the planet and all living things. You might think that the perception of right and wrong can be relative, and ethics are irrelevant here, but when dealing with biological systems on a scientific level, it can be quite clear.


Any living system requires input to sustain life and if these are not adequate or even detrimental, life can be harmed. If we don’t look after this world that sustains us, life is damaged and destroyed. As a species we rely totally on this Earth and on each other, so it’s in our best interests to find ways to repair and renew this wonderful planet.Let’s take a closer look at the 3 Ethics that form the foundation of Permaculture…


1477960562Our earth is the only source we have to provide all the essentials for life – air, water, food and shelter. We are interconnected with all the elements of the planet, both living and non-living, in an intricate web of life that we depend on for our survival.

The Earth is a living, breathing entity that needs ongoing care and nurture. Permaculture recognizes that all life forms have their own intrinsic value and need to be respected for the functions they perform, even if we don’t see them as useful.

arthur-river-rainforests-ted-mead_origCaring for the soil, the living ecosystem on which much life depends, ensures our source of food. Caring for our forests, the lungs of the earth, ensures a supply of clear air and plays a key role in our supply of fresh water. Caring for our river systems, the earth’s veins, provides our sustenance as well as that of many diverse life forms.

Taking care of the Earth is in our own best interest! Just taking what we need can give our planet time to rejuvenate itself and restore its systems to health.


We are by nature social and communal beings, and are interdependent on each other.
We enjoy and desire good experiences of community which are beneficial to our mental and physical health.
Looking after each other with compassion, working collaboratively and recognizing the need for companionship and community are all part of caring for people.

Care of People begins with ourselves and looks outward to include our families, neighbourhoods and the global community. It’s about sharing and supporting one another through basic physical needs, knowledge, skills and experience. This creates stable, supportive and emotionally healthy communities, which can in turn care for the planet.

Building self- reliance and accepting personal responsibility is our own part to play. We empower ourselves and others by recognizing and affirming abilities and contributions. Strength is gained by encouraging accountability, focusing on the positives and opportunities, rather than the obstacles; working together for the good of humanity.



(Return of surplus to Earth and people)

fruit-and-vegThis ethic involves setting limits on how much we can take and gives us an opportunity to share our surplus.All our basic needs are met by our planet and our next higher needs are met through community with each other. When we reconnect with nature, we develop a respect for our Earth and for what is freely given. There are wonderful times of abundance in our lives and our environment which enable us to redistribute to others and back to the Earth.Sharing our skills, knowledge and experience can build community with others. We can take some responsibility in how much we consume with our lifestyles, look for other ways of providing for our needs and provide a positive model for others, including our children.The world’s resources are definitely finite and at the moment we are using more than is sustainable. We need to make some hard decisions and consider what we can ethically consume if we are to continue as a species and leave something for the generations to follow. We need to find the right balance in our own lives.

Our response can then be to take only what we need and to share all the resources with others so we can all thrive. We can live sustainably, and actively care for the Earth’s living systems that sustain our lives, contributing to a sustainable human future.
This is the ethic of Fair Share.



In a nutshell…

  • Permaculture promotes a system that affirms and respects life and creates a sense of reverence for all life on the planet.
  • We can help to ensure the continued survival of our species and health of the planet.
  • Permaculture builds up and gives, instead of using up and diminishing.
  • Anyone can take part! This is one of the most exciting things about Permaculture. There are no barriers of age, sex, religion, education or culture. No size restrictions or dependence on particular circumstances.
  • Permaculture principles can be applied to any lifestyle, situation and budget.
  • Permaculture supports life and gives back in abundance! When we care for the world around us, nature gives back in spades.
  • By working with nature instead of against it, work becomes less of a struggle and more fun!
  • Sharing with others brings great fulfillment, enjoyment and sense of community.

I hope this has encouraged you to look further into the wonderful system of Permaculture and perhaps add some of the principles to your life!

Cheers and happy gardening!