Everything is connected.

Greenhouse Aquaponic Garden

Abundance, health and happiness come not from things, but relationships.  Money can’t buy me love!

As designers, we look at connections in space and time.  If we put things in the right place, do things in the right order and at the right time, we save work, money and energy.

“To every thing, there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

We look at flows between things—flows of water, energy, nutrients, information.  Every time we link things together, we create more abundance than when they are separated.


Nature Moves in Circles

Birth, growth, death and regeneration—everything in nature is part of a cycle.

Waste is food—one thing’s waste is another things’ resource.  So—produce no waste, re-use, recycle, and look for places where we can close loops—find a use for a former waste product.  Pollution is an unused resource.

To maintain the cycle, we must give back.  If we use a resource, we must replenish it.


Energy is abundant but not unlimited

Every day the sun shines down on the earth, showering us with energy.  The sun’s energy gives us our solar budget—that extra that creates growth and abundance.  But we must use it wisely.  So—catch and store energyCycle energy and resources multiple times.  Use renewable energy. 


Do more with less.

Dignity Verdant Gardens

Make a way out of no way.  Kill two birds with one stone (sorry for that!).  Every element serves more than one function—so choose and place it carefully.   A climbing rose, in the right place, might produce a bouquet, filter the wind, and keep out intruders.

Use on-site and local resources whenever possible.

Let nature do the work—if you can use a biological resource, chances are it will be cheaper, easier and more effective than chemical or mechanical means.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Work smarter, not harder!  Use your eyes and your brains more, and your money, your muscles and your fossil fuels less.  Look before you leap.   Observing, thinking, designing and planning can save you time, sweat and money.


Resilience is true security.

Dearborn Community Garden

Value diversity—for diversity creates resilience.  This is true for ecosystems, gardens and humans!   Give your plants the right companions in guilds, polycultures and crop rotations.

Edges and margins, where two things meet, are often more dynamic and creative than either one alone, so make use of them.

Have more than one way to fill a need—don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Have more than one source for food, energy, income, etc.

Make mistakes—carefully!  Start slow and small so you can try new things and tweak what doesn’t work.

Weak links and constraints—design for the limiting factors.  Design for catastrophe—the hundred year flood could come tomorrow!

Small-scale, intensive systems are more diverse, creative and resilient than giant megasystems.


Build from the ground up.

First things first.   Prepare the soil before you plant the seeds.  Respect the roots of culture, place, and people as well as plants.

In nature, there’s a succession of evolution—pioneer plants prepare the ground, grasses move in, then trees….work with those patterns to speed them up or hold them back.


Take responsibility:

Tashi at Hayes Valley Farm, San Francisco

Feed what you want to grow.  Create the conditions that will favor the things or behaviors you want, rather than making war on what you don’t want.  Trying to kill the pests simply breeds resistance.

You break it—you bought it.  If you change something, you become responsible for the consequences.

Monitor and maintain what you create.  Permaculture systems rarely work perfectly at first—they are living things that need adjustment.


Get some!  Obtain a yield.

You’ve got to get back for what you put in.  You have a right to a life of health, abundance, joy and beauty—and that’s why we’re doing this.

Grow what you want to eat.  Decide what yield you want, and plan for it.

Get the biggest bang for the buck—observation, creativity and planning will let you use the least amount of time, money and energy to get the benefits you desire.  Don’t use a chainsaw to cut your cheese.

Kyra fills a flower to make a drinking cup for Starhawk.

The gift multiplies.  Nature is generous—when we give freely, we create more abundance for everyone.


Creativity is an unlimited resource.

Nurture creativity in nature and in people, and you will reap rich rewards.

Focus on solutions rather than just complaining about problems.  The problem is the solution.

Look for ways to add creativity and you will add value.

6 Responses to Starhawk’s Common Sense Permaculture Principles

  1. I request permission to reprint this article in Terra Mandala’s e-newsletter which features articles on spirituality, gardening, ecology and voluntary simplicity.


    • Starhawk says:

      Hi Irene, you’re welcome to reprint articles from the website, just please be sure to link back to us and credit the authors. Thanks!

  2. Ellemeno says:

    Thank you! I plan to share this page on facebook, and I’m pretty sure it will be shared many, many times.

  3. Moira says:

    Nice to have such a great summary of the permaculture part of the workshop! Thank you!

  4. richard richards says:


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