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Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability
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Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  555 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
David Holmgren brings into sharper focus the powerful Permaculture concept be pioneered with Bill Mollison in the 1970's drawing together 25 years worth of ideas into twelve simple design principles. David Holmgren brings into sharper focus the powerful and still evolving Permaculture concept he pioneered with Bill Mollison in the 1970s. It draws together and integrates 25 ...more
Paperback, 286 pages
Published December 1st 2002 by Holmgren Design Services
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Stephie Jane Rexroth
Apr 15, 2013 Stephie Jane Rexroth rated it it was amazing
The only book I've read that makes sense of the world; continually recognizing and reinforcing "the problem as the solution." Dense, paradigm-shifting, comprehensive, though-provoking. Deserving of multiple re-reads.


"Bill Mollison has described permaculture as a 'positivistic' response to environmental crisis. That means it is about what we want to do and can do, rather than what we oppose and want others to change. This response is both ethical and pragmatic, philosophical and technical."

Heather Tomlinson

This is a fairly academic look at the principles behind permaculture. I found it quite alienating, because it bases its philosophies on very secular ideas, and I don't think like that. It's also a tad dry.
If you're interested in permaculture I wouldn't recommend this be your start in the subject - the practical stuff is much more interesting.
Dec 26, 2009 Dave rated it it was amazing
Shelves: all-time
This is one of the smartest books I've ever read.

It covers all the scales: from the ideal mineral composition of garden soils to the pulses of biological expansion that flourish between ice ages. How the high productivity at the edge of a garden bed is analogous to the high productivity at the fringes of culture. It's a book of theory and philosophy in one sense, but this is philosophy that feels like a supple tool in the hand. Holmgren never lets you forget how the details on the ground are exa
Apr 28, 2008 Jenn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: humans
Shelves: nature, social-change
Very thorough and readable. Permaculture seems like a cohesive, functional philosophy on how to live in the world, especially post-fossil-fuel. Lots of these ideas are common sense, but how many people really use common sense? This kind of common sense requires being still and watching nature (for a long time)...even if you are doing that, you should read this book. It is very helpful.
Nathan Ryan
Jun 02, 2013 Nathan Ryan rated it did not like it
You'd expect an awesome book from one of the founders of the Permaculture movement. Not so. This is a really annoying read.
Jan 04, 2010 Anna rated it it was ok
This book bogged me down and I didn't make it through. Which is saying a lot since I adore permaculture!
May 17, 2012 Darlene rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A thought provoking book. Basically a tour of the design solutions most likely to create a sustainable society in the long-term. While I disagree with the approximate timeline of energy decline presented in the book, it is something we'll have to face eventually. (The author obviously doesn't think we'll go nuclear in a major way.) Designing for an energy efficient, sustainable future has to be a good idea regardless. The book is generally well thought through, with a few out of place rants near ...more
Jul 14, 2011 Marty rated it it was amazing
David Holmgren is, along with Bill Mollison, the founder of the Permaculture movement. This is David's magnum opus (at least to date), focusing on the ethics and principles of permaculture with a emphasis on energy decent.
As we reach 'peak oil/soil/minerals' we need to start considering a world without cheap fossil fuels and how that will effect us, our children, and our communities. Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability offers hope for the future if we all live to care fo
Avrel Seale
Mar 18, 2008 Avrel Seale rated it really liked it
This is not light reading, and not for those looking for practical advice about what to plant where in the home garden. It is an extremely high-level analysis of everything from agriculture to politics to religious fundamentalism. Holmgren, one of the co-founders of the permaculture movement, also makes extensive use of charts and graphs, for which I'm a sucker. This is written in a textbook style and will require multiple readings to really grasp the depth and breadth of the subject matter. Lov ...more
Jul 08, 2008 Alice rated it liked it
This is a thick, slow read. That's partly because I keep hoping to get to a part that's actually about gardening, and haven't yet. Don't think I will, either.

This book is more about the theory and reasoning behind permaculture, which isn't a bad thing to know. That said, you can probably get the gist of the concept reading one of the more hands-on books while also getting concrete examples of how to permaculture your own space.

I'll eventually plow my way through this one, but I also bought Gaia'
May 20, 2008 Chris rated it liked it
Recommends it for: permaculture fans
Useful and interesting info in here, but hard to read. The writing is dense and often comes across as preachy and polemical. If you're into the permaculture thing then this is worth while, but if you haven't been introduced to those ideas before then this is NOT the place to start - read something a little lighter and more focused, like Gaia's Garden, to begin with and follow it up with this or/and one of the other denser books.
Danielle McClellan
Feb 17, 2014 Danielle McClellan rated it liked it
This is a philosophical macro-text which is both fascinating and utterly not what I am interested in right now. Right now I am trying to grasp the "what" of permaculture design. Once I wrap my head around some of this better, I know that I will return to this book to get a better sense of the "why." Like many big idea books, this one will require more focus, training, and commitment than I am able to offer it right now.
David Koblos
Jun 17, 2015 David Koblos rated it it was amazing
Very impressive, probably my favorite book on Permaculture. Instead of focusing on one certain aspect, this great work provides a wide overview and deep analysis of the Permaculture principles, both ethical and design ones. It is filled with excellent examples, showing how each theoretical point is applied in practice. Additionally, it offers lots of other interesting material for further reading.
Carole Stone
Aug 16, 2009 Carole Stone rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature, homestead
Look at the whole way you interact with your immediate environment and see it as a system. Live as if everyone in the world had your same carbon footprint and we would survive in harmony with the Earth for millions of years. Live as if you would die tomorrow and be held accountable for your stewardship of your small piece of the earth's resources.
Tom Winkler
Apr 11, 2007 Tom Winkler rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Shelves: sustainability
I was lucky to meet the author of this book and have a number of conversations with him about it. It is completely underecognised. It is a revolutionary dedication to the philosphies of Permaculture. A very important message about sustainability, systems ecology and an empowering vision towards our inevitable 'energy descent' future. The nature of the subject makes it a heavy going read.
Mar 20, 2016 Matte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very needed book if we would like to keep nature thriving. David Holmgren gives us a sustainable approach to how we should relate to the world around us. He shares the 12 principles of permaculture that if we follow them, can live in symbiosis and harmony with nature and ourselves.
I would recommend this book to everyone
Oct 13, 2008 Martinxo rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: transition towners
Recommended to Martinxo by: Rob Hopkins
An important book for anyone concerned with sustainability, peak oil and creative ways of living. Permaculture is an important element of the Transition Towns approach and tool kit.

I would have given it five stars if not for the overly dry writing style which turned some chapters into something of trudge.

Still, pretty essential reading.
May 08, 2009 Red rated it liked it
This is an excellent book on permaculture theory, as defined by permaculture’s co-creator David Holmgren. However, this is not the title that one should be picking up if they are interested in learning the specifics of sustainable horticultural practice. For that, I would direct you to works authored by the likes of Toby Hemenway and Eric Toensmeier


Mar 09, 2012 Darceylaine rated it really liked it
Such a great statement of principles for permaculture. Not quite as relevant for gardeners in this hemisphere as "Gaia's Garden" or "Forrest Garden" but the best statement of the principles I've seen. Wish I had started with this one.
Richard Telford
Nov 20, 2016 Richard Telford rated it it was amazing
A truly inspirational book. I've reread this book a number of times - initially I found it hard going, but now the concepts have been absorbed I've found it much more enjoyable, and continue to get a lot out of it. Highly recommended, essential reading if you're a permie.
Feb 21, 2008 Asa rated it liked it
dense read.
Duncan Sykes
Sep 06, 2012 Duncan Sykes rated it it was amazing
Great ideas bit of an awkward writing style...but great book even so...
Jan 18, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: permaculture
A deeply philosophical book. I enjoyed it, but was also depressed by it.
Feb 16, 2008 Kelda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: permaculture
Thank you David! how wonderful that this whole design system isn't just about plants, but about changing ourselves and our communities.
Paul Brooks
Mar 05, 2015 Paul Brooks rated it really liked it
another great book that all gardeners and community builders should have. great insight into whole systems design for sociological sustainability and more.
Jan 16, 2010 Betsy rated it really liked it
Shelves: garden, x2009
very dense explanation of permaculture
Aug 24, 2014 Benson added it
Text book to life
Apr 01, 2013 Amity rated it liked it
I'm actually somewhere between two and three stars with this book. I found many of the principles useful, but wished the argumentation and explanations were more well developed.
Paul Lehmann
Dec 04, 2015 Paul Lehmann rated it liked it
Needs an update!
Jun 15, 2012 Stan rated it really liked it
Most important practical design guild on earth.
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