A workshop to introduce to Permaculture and Social Permaculture. What does Permaculture mean? Where is it born? What objectives does it set itself? In what situations is it used? Why “Social” Permaculture? These and many other questions were answered by Massimo Candela during the meeting with the students of the Department of Human Sciences of the Territory and Landscape in collaboration with the University of Milan.

With the kind translation by Mark Bruno

In collaboration with the Department of Human Sciences of the Territory and Landscape, University of Milan.

1 november 2019

Lecturer: Alice dal Borgo Teachings on regional Geography and Geography of the Environment and Landscape. Department of Cultural and Environmental Heritage. environmental – University of Milan https://www.unimi.it/it/ugov/person/alice-dalborgo

Coordinator of the project: Graziano Consiglieri

Speakers: Massimo Candela (Permaculture); Lucilla Borio (group dynamics) https://php7.torri-superiore.org/en/ecovillage/the-resident-community/

Permaculture and social Permaculture

In these brief but intense days spent with the students of the Department of Human Sciences of the Environment of the Territory and Landscape of the University of Milan, https://www.unimi.it/it/corsi/corsi-di-laurea/scienze-umane-dellambiente-del-territorio-e-del-paesaggio here at the ecovillage, we have deepened some key themes central to the daily life of a residential community. The first topic is about Permaculture, a field of design that seeks to plan sustainable human settlements.


What is Permaculture?

Massimo gave us an introduction to help us understand this complex and fascinating metadiscipline.

The permaculture born from the reflections of two scholars, the Australians Bill Mollison:

Bill Mollison https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Mollisonn

David Holmgren https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Holmgren

It incorporates numerous other fields of study: geography, agronomy, geology, the study of the landscape, architecture, but also strategies to gain access to land for varying levels of economic resources…different disciplines put into relationship through effective organizing schema.


To realize sustainable settlements

Where did this interest for a more sample, interconnected, and deeply local vision for the creation of sustainable settlements begin?

In a crisis! During the 1970s, many young people in Australia were involved in the modern Back-to-the-land movement, a return to the countryside by those who did not grow up there.

The available land at the time was largely of marginal quality.


Bill Mollison, professor at the University of Tasmania at the time, thanks to the reflections of David Holmgren, one of his students, understood that it was useless to teach young people to repeat the model of industrial agriculture. Instead, he believed it better to redesign an agricultural settlement, to better utilize the available resources.

And so goes the story…a story that is intertwined with the history of the human being, creator of Culture, itself part of a more longer history (at least for now!), that of Nature.

Perma-agri-culture: between Nature and Culture

And it is precisely through the observation of systems at vast time scales (such as forests, for example) that human beings can model their own, more limited, systems, to make them more sustainable for the long term.

The guiding principles of permaculture, understood as a permanent, and therefore functional, culture and agriculture, revolve around: biodiversity, the different functions an element fulfills in nature, the border effect, relative positioning, the conservation and efficient use of energy, creativity, and much more.

Above the principles there are the ethics of permaculture, which guides and surrounds everything: earth care, people care, and fair share.

Creating a culture is always done by people. The respect, or lack of it, for ethical principles can only be the result of responsability, both individual and social.

What is the dream of permaculture? It’s called a *Forest Garden*: a forest designed by humans that does not need human intervention to flourish in the long term.

Is this a way of designing that pushes the limits of possibility? Maybe. Certainly humans will always try to surpass their limits, but meanwhile permaculture also teaches us to observe our own human limitations. In this way, we understand that we cannot just imitate the laws of nature but we must also create a culture that is capable of living in harmony with other human beings on this Earth.

Observing Nature to design Culture

Permaculture, then, gives us the keys to observe the same models in the social realm. Nice, but be careful! If in observing nature we find solutions to adopt, we need to learn not to imitate…everything!

What would happen to a group of people if they did not take care of their own members? The same thing that happens in nature: uncontrolled (but free and creative!) vegetation would take over cultivated areas, just as lack of understanding from the distance created by a lack of communication would prevail over human collaboration. In both cases, cultivation (nature) and culture (human) would be suffocated. https://www.permacultura.it/index.php/english-2

Cultivating culture, as much as our physical settlements, becomes a part of the process of human sustainability.


Follow me with Lucilla to find out!

course permaculture at the ecovillage of torri superiore
Pic1. With Daniel to build dry stone walls. Pic 2. Returning from gardens with..Zumba!! Pictures by Anja Rampoldi
Work in the garden at the ecovillage torri superiore

The open air work the day before in Antonella’s garden and with Daniel https://php7.torri-superiore.org/en/ecovillage/the-resident-community/ between the paths to rebuild the dry stone walls (which the area’s wild boars daily demolish) and Massimo’s lesson, accompany us towards a good, restoring sleep, this night.


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