I get asked this question all the time! So here is an explanation with many interesting links for you to explore:
To say it in a really technichal way: Permacutlure is a collection of methods.
No no.. dont walk away now, permaculture is fun! A permaculture designer will use these methods to design /create sustainable and resilient systems.. Sounds technical, but doesen´t have to be! So lets look deeper:
Permaculture can be applied in all 3 life-dimensions:
That means permaculture is extremely manifold! Yes. Many "permies" (thats how you may call us permaculture people) are interested in ecology and aim to create carbon neutral and resilient power, solar systems, alternative heating systems, building carbon neutral and self-heating buildings or forest gardens.. .
Another group of us is more into the social aspects of permaculture, such as sustainable team buildung, or community leadership, etc..!
And another group of us find economy interesting. They explore alternative ways of making payments, start Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS) or think about organising a local neighburhood credit system.
Most of us permies are indeed interested in all the 3 areas which are all part of one whole. Life! All parts are interconnected with the other parts. Possibilities and application fields of permaculture are endless! And it is one of our principles to not put all your eggs into one basket only! We love intercropping and integrating everything!
Permaculture methods are nothinig new. Really! In fact, the methods we use are very old, some maybe thousands of years. Many of them have been forgotten due to our "modernisation" during the last couple of years. We try to use nature as our teacher and learn from its patterns by observation. We copy nature whenever possible and apply sustainable solutions. Sounds pretty simple right?
Bill Mollison, the first person to call this "permaculture" explains in his 1.st Lesson here that permaculture is a strange thing: What we have in common around the world, looking after life systems, looking after people, and returning any surplus we have back into the system.... During our permaculture meetings and gatherings we all know what we are talking about. However, its a little difficult to define what a permaculture community is: it has no hirarchy, no administration, theres no paid offices. It is bigger than the UN, WHO, and most of national aid agencies put together, yet it doesen´t cost anything.
-->> See videos of Bill Mollion with extremely interesting content: trees and rainmaking, water, soil knowledge, aquaculture, planting in drylands, etc..
Thank you for reading me!