Permaculture Ethics

Permaculture has three core tenets or ethics. The design principles are tactics and strategies to use within a design where as the ethics guide decision making. The ethics are not about morality of what is right or wrong but are about ensuring that we are actually moving closer to our goal, i.e. a permanent culture.
It is important for individuals to quantify their directive and to be driven by core values. Why? Consider the video below.

The people in this little experiment are readily conditioned to acting strangely. Social influence can easily direct our actions and before you know it you are defending absurd behavior. In meditation we bring ourselves back from our wandering thoughts to focus on our breath, so in permaculture we can take a step back and reevaluate ourselves with the ethics.

What if GMO research had been driven from the start by the core tenets of permaculture. How would it look today? How would the world look today if the industrial revolution had been driven by these ethics?

The Ethics

Earth Care

If we destroy our habitat we destroy ourselves. We depend on the ecosystem we live in for all of the things that are vital for our existence. Water, air, and food. In what system would it make any sense to render these basic needs, the needs without which we cannot exist, unusable? The most efficient way would be to keep these as clean as possible and minimize energetic inputs required to clean them. Thus we should cultivate and enrich our environment because it naturally provides these things.

People Care

Many have had the dream of living in the middle of the forest making everything they need. Over time I have realized that there would be no way to do this and still enjoy life. We are social beings and have always lived in small cooperative groups. The large cities of our time have eroded our community ties. Thus we should strive to create vibrant communities where everyone can meet their basic needs, participate in satisfying work, and enjoy convivial connections with neighbors.

Fair Share

Any excess in the system should be redistributed to the earth or people where it can be used to further the other two ethics. Imagine a fountain with the base made up of Earth Care and People Care. Fair Share would be the water fallomg down on top of the base, enriching it.

Permaculture Ethics Fountain
Fair Share returns excess to people and the Earth, enriching them.


To affect change you must first change yourself and be willing to embody that change. These ethics are to serve as a guide for individuals trying to live their lives more sustainably. Thus the prime directive of permaculture is “The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children’s” 1.


References and Additional Reading
  1. “Permaculture Ethics”,
  2. “Permaculture Ethics”,
  3. “Care For People Care For Planet”,

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