In the early days of permaculture, Bill Mollison’s Designer’s Manual was the stated standard for most PDC’s. Sometimes a PDC description would state that it officially covered the "14 chapters" which are listed here:
Introduction (to permaculture)
Concepts and Themes in Design
Methods of Design
Trees and their Energy Transactions
Earthworking and Earth Resources
The Humid Tropics
Humid Cool to Cold Climates
The Strategies of an Alternative Global Nation
In a few places, these chapters can serve as a guide for a PDC that will wind through the maze of design concepts and supporting background material. The Daruma PDC definitely covers the topics in these 14 chapters but this is not the order (or format) it is presented.
Every PDC course here at Daruma begins with an orientation tour of the farm to give you an overall impression of how individual elements integrate with each other. This often generates a broad range of questions. We will, however, hold off on answering most of these questions initially but don’t worry, if the course material doesn’t answer them, they will be answered in time. We also spend some time getting to know each other and sharing our goals.
One reason for not answering all the questions in the beginning is the most common answer in permaculture courses is, "it depends." So it takes a little time to establish the basic foundations which we start on right away. That foundation begins with two important topics: The state of the world (why we need permaculture design thinking) and what is permaculture and where did it come from (a comprehensive overview). The overview includes a good discussion on ‘influences’ on permaculture.
Permaculture has been influenced by, incorporates and develops upon important and influential works new and old. These include classics such as A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, Keyline Design by P.A. Yeomans and One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka, as well as more recent works such as RetroSuburbia by David Holmgren, The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins and TheoryU by Otto Scharmer.
Incidentally, Daruma has an extensive library with literally (pun intended) thousands of titles about permaculture as well as many topics associated with permaculture design and what might be called the permaculture lifestyle. LibraryThing (an online library resource) lists over 800 works (less than half) of our print books. Feel free to see what is available: https://www.librarything.com/catalog/DarumaEcoFarm
So after introducing and discussing some of the influences, the real work begins. The PDC content can be daunting in its breadth and scale; it is both detailed, and diverse. We wind through an interconnected maze that on one side involves traditional sciences including ecology, biology, chemistry and even physics and on the other side, we learn the nature inspired patterning that can influence design thinking and create sustainable systems. The scientific aspects relating to ecology are very important to understand how the design principles and regional strategies actually create meaningful designs.
Permaculture design makes use of the concept of design principles. Bill Mollison introduced design principles as a way for designers to more easily pattern from nature in creating sustainable designs. Since then, many others have developed their own list of principles including Toby Heminway, Rosemary Morrow and also David Holmgren. David’s principles are explained in elaborate detail in his book, Permaculture; Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability." David’s 12 principles are listed here:
Observe and interact
Catch and store energy
Obtain a yield
Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
Use and value renewable resources and services
Produce no waste
Design from Patterns to Details
Integrate rather than segregate
Use small and slow solutions
Use and value diversity
Use Edges and value the marginal
Creatively use and respond to change
The PDC will discuss all of these principles, especially how they function creating sustainable designs.
Even though you are taking a PDC in the tropics, permaculture design principles are said to be ‘global’ in their application. But different regions (different climates) require different design solutions. In permaculture these are referred to as design strategies. We will look at the general strategies for a variety of regions around the world.
Many people are very interested in permaculture techniques. These, like strategies, are regional and possibly even local because of cultural influences. So while there is not enough time in a PDC (or even in a lifetime perhaps) to learn all the techniques we might employ in a design, we will discuss and also find some time to engage in practical sessions of some common permaculture techniques.
Calling these permaculture techniques is perhaps incorrect. Almost no technique used in a permaculture design is unique to permaculture. Rather the technique is considered an important practice for a particular design. These usually include things like composting, seed saving, natural building, preserving, and many more.
Finally, we discuss the eco-social aspects of permaculture. This includes the future of permaculture. Co-founder David Holmgren’s recent book RetroSuburbia illustrates ways permaculture design can make an even greater and more meaningful impact than was initially thought when permaculture was conceived more than 30 years ago. For many, this is a ‘most exciting’ part of the course.