Book Review – The Permaculture Way


This is an immediately impressive book, written by Graham Bell. The cover tells us that the foreword is written by David Bellamy and the introduction by Bill Mollinson, who with David Holmgren, coined the word permaculture and gave the world a vision for ‘rebuilding sustainable and ecologically benign human settlements’ in 1974.

The book was first published in 1992 and although could benefit slightly from being updated, this is only a very minor criticism as the book has largely stood the test of time.

I have become interested in permaculture in recent times and so far all the books I have read have been very interesting and informative. The difference with this book is that while it stays true (from what I know) to the spirit of permaculture, Graham writes with an ease, which makes it very accessible. His writing is engaging because it is entertaining and informative in way which is erudite, but not in any way didactic.

He makes it feel possible, from early on in the book, that we can all do our bit. At the end of his introduction, he hopes that we can use the book to “..realise your power to change the world from your own doorstep.” Then he goes on to tell us how.

Graham spends some time telling us about how we underestimate our most valuable resource – people! He believes that we need to revalue ourselves and recognise that pay scales don’t always reflect the importance of the work that some of us do. I immediately though of care work when this came up, as I believe that it is a sad indictment on our society that we do not value those (predominantly women) who look after our elderly and then finish work and do more of the same at home. He also suggests that the so-called ‘experts’ or professional, should enable the rest of us, by being more open and involving in how they deliver their services.

There are lots of practical suggestions of how we can make the best of ourself, our home and our community.

There is an interesting chapter, amongst other things, on landscape. Not only does this cover different types of soils but also soil erosion, impact of wind, water storage, etc.

There is a lot of useful information about gardening and orchards. Graham has also written a separate book called The Permaculture Garden which goes into a lot more detail on these topics. He also touches on agriculture and aquaculture.

The last chapter explains that permaculture is about design and Graham explains how we do this, in some detail and includes a useful design check-list, and because permaculture is not just about gardening, but rather is a way of life, this check-list can be used for a variety of situations.

However the book does not stop there. There is a useful appendix which provides species lists for trees, wild perennials and annuals, fungi, domestic plant crops, legumes, freshwater fish, salt water fish, wild stock, birds and domestic stock. Have I missed anything. There is a generous book list and useful contacts section.

This book, more than any other I have read, did not leave me feeling overwhelmed and wondering where to start. Rather, it provided the necessary impetus that we all need, to take charge of our lives so that we can provide for our basic needs without causing the planet any more harm.

Click on the image to buy from Amazon

2 Comments on Book Review – The Permaculture Way

  1. Philip A Birch // September 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm // Reply

    I am currently reading this and am absolutely certain that more of the same will follow. My message is simple; if you are interested in positive, sustainable, ecological and personal change, READ this book!

  2. A phrase I often hear in permaculture (permanent agriculture) is “let the problem be the solution”. The problem with most permaculture is that there is too much hippy shit. The solution is the philosophy outlined in this book. Graham is an intelligent, civilised human being who draws on historical example and practical thinking, rather than crystals and reiki, to address the issue of how we can live together fairly, each having a fair share of the abundant resources nature can provide. I agree with Phil, go buy the book!

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