Permaculture: More than Planting, Eating and Managing Waste

Permaculturists sometimes forget, or don’t realize, that practicing permacuture is more than creating food forests, rehabilitating land, planting trees, managing resources and using ducks to eat pests on Swiss chard . Anyone with a shovel, a computer, a notebook and a pen could do that.

If there’s anything I learned by reading Masanobu Fukoka and the works of Mollison, it’s that it’s not important WHAT you do, or WHEN you do it,  WHICH methods you use or even HOW you go about it. What really matters is WHY.

The WHY is the most important part of permaculture because from there comes the how, when, with what, with what goal, etc. It’s not the same to try to create a permaculture system or a self-sustaining system with the goal of enjoying the creative process or creating a finished product. It’s not the same to create (a permaculture garden) for personal enjoyment, profit or rehabilitation of the land. It is not the same to serve the land and learn from her as it is to work the land for personal benefit.

It’s just not the same.

The WHY has a direct impact on the manner in which one creates the design, Depending on the why, the priorities of the project and design change. This same WHY determines the methods, resources and effort necessary to realize the design and all further work.

There are many ways to do permaculture:

To be a theoretical permaculturist  to be caluclating, rigid, slow, over-analytical, unwilling to take risks,  and bureaucratic. In other words, it is to have a great mental library of thousands of facts and rules that are so heavy, complicated and difficult to manage that execution becomes tedious. This is how spontaneous exploration and freedom of nature are lost. It is because of these tendencies that things that cannot be seen and measured (mastered intellectually) are ignored.

To be a profit-driven permaculturist is to be a prostitute but one who dresses in fig leaves like Eve instead of a polyester skirt, who perfumes herself with pachouli oil instead of Chanel.

To be a servant permaculturist in search of a way to alleviate the sufferings of the environment and heal the imbalances caused by humans is to be a sacrificial permaculurist and servant of the land.

To be a conceptual permaculturist is to be one who preforms the task of devising systems conceptually and even creates art,  functional,  beautiful and useful art. If it’s not useful, the artist is just capricious and egocentric.

To be a permaculturist at heart is to be connected directly to nature, the source of everything that surrounds oneself. The permaculturist who listens and designs from the heart, really creates.

What is the difference that distinguishes one way of doing permaculture from another? The WHY leads a permaculturist at heart to listen directly to the language of nature. In my opinion, permaculture is a word that is used to describe a state of being, not a science of design, where one looks for connections more than uses, where the design itself seeks to evolve. Thus, the result is not only a natural work, but also a direct connection with Mother Earth.

Because of this, i insist that doing permaculture is not only seeking to save water, develop self-sufficiency, sustain life, etc. Doing permaculture is a state of being. 

I hope that someday this will be read by future generations of permaculturists, so that they can be better permaculturists than their predecessors.


Another permaculturist at heart

Rodrigo Lañado Cruz.

Translated from a letter by Redrigo Lañdo Cruz published on the website Hombres de Maiz (in Spanish only). The original can be read on IMAP’s Spanish site at or at Hombres de Maíz at