Permaculture Ethics in Action

Last week I wrote about permaculture as one type of eco-design that is unique because it is built around three central ethics: Care for People; Care for the Earth; Share Surplus Resources. The first time I learned about permaculture I was told “it is a system of science and ethics.” That resonated with me.

While there may be ample debate around personal ethics, there is somewhat less disagreement about science with the possible exception of the Chronicle’s Letters Page.

From personal experience, basing my design decisions on physics, chemistry, biology, geology and hydrology has proven to be very successful. Additionally, centering eco-design projects around helping people and the planet in a mutually beneficial win-win strategy has resulted in benefits far beyond expectations.

Sharing surplus resources can take on surprising forms and flow in strangely cyclical patterns. Here are some examples that we have experienced in the last few years among the small but dedicated permaculture community in Whanganui.

Two years ago we started a community garden in front of our Castlecliff home. One friend gave us a piece of slab wood and another one leant his router. With a few pieces of native hardwood washed up on the beach I was able to make a welcoming sign. Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 6.56.36 PM

Some other friends donated fruit trees and seeds. We, in turn, were able to share surplus building materials, some calendars we ‘won’ in a photo competition, and looking after a friend’s daughter while he was working on his house.

Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 6.56.46 PM

Many months later I was able to use a second piece of slab wood to make another sign for those friends who had shared their surplus fruit trees with us. I had to borrow the router again, but that was ok because we had just hosted that friend’s children for a morning of puzzles and baking in our home while he was otherwise engaged. Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 6.58.48 PM

Meanwhile, another friend offered to help me organize the second annual Whanganui Permaculture Weekend. She had a surplus of her time to share and has willingly given it to our community to help make us more resilient. One day when she came to our home to meet with me about the schedule for the weekend she complained that all of the firewood she had recently purchased was still green and not heating her home efficiently. I immediately told her we had a shed full of seasoned wood and that she should help herself.

One might call this a positive version of “what goes around comes around.” I could fill weeks of columns with similar examples. Please be aware, however, that these are not straight barter arrangements, but simply generous people “spreading the wealth.” It just happens.

Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 6.58.41 PM

From a permaculture perspective, “spreading the wealth” can take many forms as described above, or something as simple as an individual sharing his or her experience, expertise or enthusiasm for a certain topic. That’s what this weekend – the Whanganui Permaculture Weekend – is all about.

Today and tomorrow are filled with events that are free and open to the public. Printed schedules can be found at many locations around the city, including the libraries, I-Site, River Market, and some local businesses.

Events schedule can be viewed online at:


Peace, Estwing

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