What is Liberation Permaculture?

Liberation Permaculture is permaculture that is being used for liberatory means, as a tool towards ecologically and socially just ways of living. It is a label coined from a permaculture design course that took place in North America in 2010 exploring how permaculture can be used in grassroots resistance & community organising work.

Having been inspired I interviewed the participants and wrote People and the Permaculture Edge: a tool for social change’ about liberation permaculture that featured in Permaculture magazine last year. 


After undertaking my permaculture design course via distance learning inside prison, I was like a wide-eyed puppy seeking at long last to connect with the permaculture movement in the UK on release. Having attended events, gatherings & courses this past year, I have been inspired and yet simultaneously disappointed by the permaculture movement.

This has led to an ongoing literature review of articles critiquing permaculture as well as recording my own observations and feelings from my interactions with others in various organising & permaculture settings, from the local transition group to anarchist gatherings.

A summary of some of the common criticisms of permaculture I collated can be found here.

Defining & Refining Liberation Permaculture

Using the design thinking of the organisers in the US I have worked on the liberation permaculture concept. A summary of the principles I have refined can be found here.

This has also been translated into a course design for a 4 day Liberation Permaculture Course which I intend to convene in the autumn or spring 2013 (as I am collaborating with others). I also led a liberation permaculture workshop at a Reclaim the Fields gathering last summer. Please see the workshop design here, accompanying notes & the handout from the day.

I have also used this output period to collate a ‘Liberation Permaculture Toolkit’ that includes:

  • Principles of Liberation Permaculture e.g applying systems thinking to social movements, applying holmgren’s principles
  • Liberation Permaculture Design Analysis tools e.g. spectrum of allies, PESTLE analysis
  • Campaign Design
  • Organisation Design
  • Growing Resistance – a toolkit for farmers & growers working for social change

(Please note these are still being refined for publication and will soon be uploaded to http://www.wildheartpermaculture.co.uk/)

These tools have emerged through my own design processes in undertaking design work for my paid project – Incredible Edible Somerset, organization designs e.g V-Gen an animal liberation youth-centred organization, a campaign design against Fracking in Somerset and my design thinking for the Vegan Organic Network.

Additional outcomes from my liberation permaculture work can be found here.

Celebrating permaculture & building on what we already have

In summary, it is clear that permaculture, as a concept in itself, challenges the foundations of modern industrial civilised society, simply from its premises of recognising ecological limits and its promotion of core ethics, such as caring for people, the earth and redistributing surplus. However many criticise permaculture because it doesn’t fully challenge the roots of oppressive systems, the relationships or power at play. If we are truly to re-design our lives for freedom and autonomy and respect for the land then we need to break the denial and get to the roots of understanding our current state of affairs.

If permaculture is all about relationships, then we need to consciously design for relationships without domination. This is the premise of liberation permaculture.