Permaculture is a global movement for justice. It uses an extensive system of design principles, based on proven ecological science, highly effective traditional knowledge, and much empirical practice, that empowers individuals and small groups to address the multi-faceted global energy and resource crises in a positive and productive way. It uses these principles to make decisions and create designs that are proven to work in achieving long-term success and often short-term benefits as well.
The ethical foundation of permaculture is a commitment that the planet’s living systems and their future wellbeing shall not be jeopardized. This criterion—no jeopardy—must take priority over the wants and short-term, perceived self-interests of anyone or any group. We design for enduring success. Because dominant political and economic systems do not place a paramount value on the wellbeing of living systems—Earth and People—and because they gravely discount the Future, there is plenty of evidence that all life systems are at increasing risk. Without a focus on long-term health, human actions will defeat both the short-term and long-term wants of most or even all of us.
Because of its ethical commitments and effective methods, Permaculture has a track record of proven successes: it has spread rapidly through more than 100 countries in the last 40 years. Based on a grand vision of humans living in harmony with nature, it has developed accessible solutions to most problems of ordinary living, settlement design, and appropriate technology in tropical and temperate regions. Many aspects of the original program, like renewable energy, carbon-capturing agriculture, waste reduction, and water harvesting are now widespread, but permaculture’s method for achieving a better world is still not widely understood. Much more needs to be done.
Permaculture Institute of North America (PINA)
What We Have Done
PINA builds value for the permaculture community by supporting education and professional development. It harnesses our successful history of grassroots training and activism to encourage informed cooperative efforts.
On behalf of our members, we promote the integrity, usefulness, and economy of permaculture design for resolving ecosystem challenges through public policy and private action.
We are developing a network of regional hub affiliates, allied organizations, diplomates, field advisors, and members over 31 regions in 23 countries across the continent. We thus encourage knowledge sharing and cooperation throughout North America, building on the empirical and scientific ethos of the Permaculture movement.
What We Hope to Do
Large-scale collective action is urgently needed to address climate threats while also transforming our economy. The means for achieving this are as yet dimly grasped and poorly organized. Permaculture has many of the answers that will be required to address such perils, yet it has no effective voice.
We therefore want to recruit, train, fund, and employ skilled permaculture designers, educators, and organizers to move the many aspects of our planetary predicament: climate chaos, land degradation, economic dislocation, and community distress, toward positive outcomes.
The Problems PINA Solves
Permaculture is Poorly Understood
- Permaculture is widely though incompletely known among progressive, educated, and urban audiences, and much less well understood by the public at large.
- Permaculture has historically been at the forefront of societal change. It has been adopted by avant-garde thinkers and activists who can embrace and connect many disciplines such as horticulture, architecture, and energy. As a result, it has made limited inroads among those with narrow specializations in academia, government, business, and the professions. As well, permaculture’s critique of institutions plus its orientation toward individual action, together with the need it poses for extensive course work, study, and research not found in schools and universities, has limited general awareness of its value. PINA hopes to make permaculture far more widely understood and used.
- Professional and focused activity identified with permaculture design remains uncommon, though we know such design has played important social roles over the past four decades.
- Recent growth in permaculture interest in some areas of the USA has unfortunately led to the emergence of a few unscrupulous promoters seeking to profit by offering expensive courses and events of questionable value. This has degraded the merit earned by many years of hard work from reputable teachers and called into question the integrity of permaculture as a brand. This echoes the proliferation of poorly qualified teachers of the PDC that occurred in Australia in the 1990s but goes well beyond it here. Some teachers have been naïve or ignorant, but a few have engaged in openly unethical business practices. These have led to many complaints, real harm and ill-will, and have made widespread understanding even more difficult to achieve.
- The global environmental and economic crisis is deepening, yet there is little apparent vision or effective response by governments, businesses, or other organized groups with political and economic power. Climate chaos is spreading, destabilizing society, yet permaculturists with practical solutions are too often sidelined or ignored.
Permaculture Graduates are Poorly Organized and Poorly Served
- Permaculture-identified and -informed organizations, whether businesses or civil society groups, are thinly scattered and do little to coordinate their programs, marketing, or outreach.
- Graduates of the permaculture course, and especially younger people among this group, seek gainful employment aligned with permaculture ethics and their values of land and people care, yet find only very weak or non-existent frameworks for advancing their careers, locating mentors, and establishing their reputations.
- Since 1980, an estimated 50,000 North American graduates of the basic Permaculture Design Course (PDC) have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their own training, education, and personal capacity building, yet this reservoir of talent, motivation, and capability is dramatically underused and undervalued. Its widespread and often fruitful personal expression is largely diluted among thousands of communities. Lacking organization or even effective networks, this community cannot yet mobilize its resources for action or influence on a larger scale.
- Beyond the familiar framework stemming from Mollison’s proselytizing and the Permaculture Design Course (PDC), knowledge derived from on-the-ground experience, whether agronomic or other technical research, business or organizational savvy, is siloed more than shared, so that the accomplishments of permaculture as a body remain singular and modest rather than collective and dynamic.
Permaculture’s Knowledge Base Urgently Needs Organized Collection and Transmission
- The early vanguard of permaculture activists, those with the longest careers and the most experience, are aging into retirement or disability; some of the most prominent have already died. Their knowledge represents a valuable legacy with no coherent plan of conservation. The values at risk include developed sites, organizations, businesses, teaching materials, networks of connection between teachers and students, ongoing research, and a vast range of knowledge of land and social conditions.
- Some of permaculture’s leadership cadre have recorded elements of their work in books, journal articles, and in other media, but many are not writers or filmmakers, and most are not archivists. There is a short window of about a decade to organize and transmit this legacy.
What PINA Does for its Members
- PINA protects legitimate practitioners of permaculture education and design by publishing and upholding international standards.
- PINA’s efforts build brand recognition and a positive public perception of permaculture as a profession germane to planetary and local problems.
- PINA’s educational structure completes the traditional apprenticeship model of learning begun by Bill Mollison through the PDC, anchoring this initiatory training into years of practice, while structuring and making sense of a seemingly inchoate pursuit of holistic knowledge. This formation builds confidence in practitioners that they are able to meet professional challenges and bolsters the authenticity of working designers and educators.
- PINA’s professional diploma recognizes excellence and accomplishment, while its efforts to award these credentials to veteran practitioners have identified and celebrated noteworthy and talented individuals.
- PINA’s diploma program provides access to mentorship for professionals seeking to advance into uncharted terrain between and beyond traditional fields of knowledge.
- We fund earth-, community-, and climate repair projects promoted and designed by our members, as well as those which employ them in righteous work.
- PINA provides an umbrella of legitimacy and authenticity to advance its members’ career ambitions.
- PINA creates forums online and in person for the exchange of valuable information and learning in the field of permaculture design and related arts.
- Our web platform offers diplomates the opportunity to promote their work, recruit students and clients, and allows members to find work, service, and learning opportunities with qualified providers.
- PINA encourages continuing education and sponsors a range of programs that support this among its members, seeking to offer social and ecological knowledge at the edge of theory and practice.
- PINA provides inspiration that the ethical life commitments of its members have enduring value and will advance in the world.
What PINA Does for the Public
- PINA provides guidance about permaculture design and education that supports purchasers of services.
- We highlight superior practitioners so the public can make confident and informed choices.
- PINA brings action learning opportunities in permaculture to the broader public through its online exchange.
- We direct researchers and field inquiries into permaculture design and practice, improving access to useful but hard-to-access knowledge.
- PINA offers webinars, courses, and conferences that enable members of the public to interact with trained and professional permaculture designers, promoting dissemination of vital understandings.
- We demonstrate the possibility of effective citizen-driven action for climate mitigation, land repair, and community development.
- PINA offers hope that accessible solutions exist to the global crisis and that they might be deployed in time to mitigate its worst consequences.
What We Do to Accomplish Our Mission
- PINA upholds the permaculture design course curriculum, as derived from the work of Bill Mollison and teachers in his lineages, by publishing it at our website, ensuring that our diplomates in education teach it, and by recognizing courses that honor it.
- We hold our members to clear standards of ethical conduct in their work.
- We provide a structure for advanced study and professional recognition in a growing number of specialties within permaculture design: presently education, site design, community development, media and communications, site implementation and development, and regenerative land management. This structure provides formal guidance by professional counselors experienced in the field, as well as access to mentorship. It also encourages holistic personal development, and individual contributions to advancing knowledge.
- Following peer review, we acknowledge professional accomplishment through the awarding of diplomas equivalent to tertiary education in the arts and sciences.
- We maintain a website open to the public, with privileged access to special features for members, that answers common questions about permaculture.
- We maintain a web-based calendar of courses and events organized by our diplomates, and which we recognize as having merit.
- We offer a web-based exchange for jobs, internships, and other action learning opportunities; this supports our diploma candidates and is accessible to our members and the public.
- We actively support the organizing of regional hub affiliates across North America and Hawaii to strengthen the permaculture community and to bring our services to a wider audience.
- We promote excellence in design through annual juried contests that award cash prizes for specific projects advancing permaculture ethics and which demonstrate values consistent with our mission.
- We support conferences, webinars, and other forms of continuing education for the advancement of knowledge and the benefit of our members and the public.
- We publish a quarterly newsletter about PINA operations, its members and their career work, and which also provides information in support of professional practice.
What we have done in the past to accomplish our mission
- We have raised more than $80,000 in donations over four years and applied it to create an infrastructure supporting our mission in service to permaculture and the world.
- We identified more than 50 veteran permaculture teachers and designers in North America and Hawaii who had each worked more than 20 years in the field, and whose reputations established them as accomplished professionals. We invited this group to apply for diplomas and offered to waive application fees for those who acted by September 2016. Most of those individuals have qualified for and been granted one or more diplomas through a process of peer review.
- We catalogued the teaching work of those diplomates who applied in education and from this authoritative data, made reliable estimates of the scale of permaculture work in North America through the number of people who had trained with our diplomates.
- We have developed and published professional standards for diplomas in six specializations.
- PINA co-sponsored the 2014 and 2016 North American Permaculture Convergences in Minnesota and California respectively, sending members of its board and staff to meet our constituency at these events.
- We prepared and published a white paper on policy and best practices for establishing regional permaculture institutes, associations, or Hubs, as we refer to them. Our efforts to date have resulted in two regional hubs forming or affiliating, covering 13 US states and one-quarter of the US population. We expect a third hub to join PINA by the end of 2019, and we have been in conversation with groups in half-a-dozen other regions for similar purposes.
- We have created and are adding to a database of graduates of the permaculture design course (PDC).
- We have invited representatives of regional guilds and other organizations aligned with PINA to participate in our committee work where they are advancing their ideas and concerns within the organization.
- In 2018 and 2019 we received 42 design submissions from five nations and regions ranging from Alaska to Puerto Rico to Guatemala to Maine for small system installations in response to our call for contest entries. We awarded $5,000 to build out the winning design, and we published half of the rest to show the wide array of talent and concerns of PINA members. These designs ranged from complex, multi-functional earthworks that will rehydrate whole forested landscapes, through regional trust structures for stewarding land, to youth rehabilitation parks, training programs for high school designers, heritage farms using agroforestry to bolster local food banks, to co-working and business incubator spaces that bring together Central American migrants with volunteer farm workers from the North.
- We co-sponsored the Global Earth Repair Conference in Washington in 2019 which brought together more than 500 scientists and activists to address the complex issues of land repair and climate regeneration.
- We commissioned and are producing an educational film on the winning project from our 2018 Design Contest, and the lessons it offers about water harvesting and watershed regeneration.