Multifunctional Landscape Analysis and Design

Permaculture Farming

Design, Movement, Practice, Worldview

Transition to sustainability is a complex process, that requires the active participation of all sectors of society. Ecologists working in human-centered disciplines, such as agroecology, have often directed their attention outside of scientific institutions, in order to understand the contributions of traditional practices and popular movements. Permaculture is one such sustainability movement, with a distinctive approach to sustainable design, a broad international presence, and a high public profile. Permaculture, however, has remained relatively isolated from scientific research. The potential value offered by permaculture to the transition to sustainability is constrained by this isolation. We take a broad interdisciplinary approach to understanding the distinctive ideas of permaculture, and the ways in which the movement is influencing behavior and livelihood strategies, both internationally and on farms in the US.

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Systematic Review

Research on permaculture faces a bottleneck in approaching the peer-review process - namely, that published research on permaculture is extremely scant, particularly in the natural sciences. In order to establish a foundation for agroecological research in permaculture, we conducted a systematic review of 230 permaculture publications, including scholarly and popular works. We examined this bibliography quantitiatively and qualitatively, examining the disciplines of authors, geography of publication and of topics, and keyword content analysis using a 'text network' approach, before assessing themes and proposals emerging from the the literature.

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Survey

We conducted what we believe is the first international survey of permaculture participants. Despite the limitation of English-only availability, the participation/impacts survey received 1055 responses from permaculturists in 42 countries. Analysis of responses indicates signficant and complex impacts on worldview, sustainability-oriented behaviors, and multiple dimensions of ecological literacy.

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Field Research

From July to December of 2013, graduate researcher Rafter Ferguson is visiting 50 permaculture-identified farming operations throughout the US. Generally less than a day is spent at each farm, where intensive data collection is carried out using a participatory and mixed-methods approach. This approach is well-suited to exploratory research, and is driven by questions concerning the social, economic, and spatial characteristics of permaculture-influenced agroecosystems. Regular updates on the field research can be found at liberationecology.org


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