Three Simple Things – Thinking about the Permaculture Ethics

At the heart of Permaculture sit three deceptively simple ethics:

Earth care.

People care.

Fair share.

I say deceptively simple because for many people their instinctive response when they first encounter them is:

“Well what’s so radical about them?”

On paper I guess maybe that is a fair reaction, but when you really start to think about the ethics more closely you realise how differently they can make you think about the things that you do or the decisions that you make. As a lens through which to think about your life and work they do genuinely have the capacity to inspire truly radical change.

The first way that the ethics begin to challenge you is as you try to decide individually and collectively what these things actually mean to you in the reality of day-to-day life. What does care mean and how may it manifest itself as you go through life? What does fair share mean when we think about it properly in terms of social justice and equality? And what do these three things mean when we think about them in relation to the projects that we are involved in, the things that we buy, the journeys that we make… Acknowledging our own unique position of privilege and our level of influence, how can we enact these simple ethics as catalysts for positive change in the world?

Further to this, the ethics can be taken on many levels; as a declaration, a set of values, an aspiration, a check in, a measure of quality… These ethics are not set in stone and it is up to each of us to see decide upon the parameters and to discover what they mean in our own lives. For me a big part of this process was creating a specific design to clarify what the ethics currently mean to me at this moment in my life.

So would you like to think about the Permaculture Ethics in relation to your own life but you aren’t quite sure where to start? A good place to begin is by considering which each one means to you, then think about how they overlap and interact with each other. You could also think about where there are gaps and then think about what things may be missing. Finally you could think about how they may serve as a starting point for enquiry, and how you may use them as a provocation to open your thinking, to ask questions and to pay attention. It’s when we take the leap to truly do these things that these three simple statements will spring to life as the beating heart of Permaculture.