Permaculture is an observation-based land use system that echoes the principles of centuries-old systems of sustained agriculture. In the 1970s it hit Australia with Mollison and Holmgren's Permaculture One (1978) and Mollison's subsequent Permaculture Design Course.
We had an article in On Site 7 by Sam Smith, from Australia, who had taken the course and then took permaculture concepts to the rebuilding of rural community buildings in Bosnia after the war.
Permaculture is more than just the ecological use of land, it aims for stable agricultural use that is able to sustain itself for generations involving human agency and products, animals both domestic and wild, and the specifics of geology, climate, weather and culture.
Underneath the principles of permaculture is the idea that an environment will reach maturity and all will be in harmony at that point. Anyone who has lived in a forest might realise that maturity is perhaps a euphemism for old and that is not an end point, as forests are in a constant state of renewal. However, permaculture's value is in healing monocultural agricultural land, abused for several generations with chemicals and such.
Transition towns - big in Britain. Urban agriculture - big in Cuba. Permaculture - huge in Australia. Islands all, and islands missing at least one key ingredient we in the large continents take for granted: space, water, money.
I wonder if a city such as Calgary in a country such as Canada will ever feel any sort of a pinch that leads to cultural change. The recent recession glanced off it. The agricultural land it keeps expanding into are either grain crops or cattle, neither of which are particularly intensively farmed and so are considered, in the public mind, as pretty much empty. There is a distinct lack of urgency: we have space, water and a lot of money – why would anything need to change. There is a kind of meanness of spirit in this, especially when one knows that in other places in the world, including in Canada, real social, cultural and agricultural revolutions are happening, out of necessity.