The Pillars of Permaculture: Nurturing Our World and Ourselves

The first directive by Bill Mollison, “The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children,” forms the cornerstone of permaculture’s ethical framework.

This directive emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility and foresight in shaping a sustainable future. Here’s an explanation of its key aspects:

Personal Responsibility

At the heart of this directive is the concept of personal responsibility.

It suggests that individuals must actively participate in making decisions and taking actions that directly impact their lives and their environment.

This approach moves away from dependence on external systems and encourages self-reliance and accountability.

Sustainability of Existence

Mollison’s directive underscores the need for sustainable living practices.

This means adopting lifestyles and methods that do not deplete resources or harm the environment, ensuring that both current and future generations can meet their needs.

Caring for Future Generations

The inclusion of “and that of our children” extends the scope of responsibility to future generations.

It’s a call to consider the long-term impacts of our actions on the environment and society, ensuring that we leave a livable, thriving planet for our descendants.

Ethical Decision-Making

This directive places ethics at the forefront of decision-making.

It implies that the choices we make should be guided by considerations of fairness, sustainability, and the well-being of others, rather than short-term gains or self-interest.

Holistic Approach

Mollison’s directive encourages a holistic view of our existence, where the health of individuals, communities, and the planet are seen as interconnected.

Decisions and actions should therefore be made in a way that benefits the whole system.

Education and Legacy

Implicit in this directive is the role of education and passing on knowledge.

By educating ourselves and our children about sustainable practices and the importance of taking responsibility for our impact on the Earth, we create a legacy of stewardship and respect for the planet.

In essence, this first directive by Bill Mollison calls for a conscientious and proactive approach to living, where each individual’s actions are guided by a deep sense of responsibility towards themselves, their community, and the Earth, ensuring a sustainable and equitable world for present and future generations.

The Three Core Ethics of Permaculture: Earth Care, People Care, Future Care

Permaculture is built on three fundamental pillars: Earth Care, People Care, and Future Care.

Each represents a covenant, not only with our planet and fellow humans but also with future generations, ensuring a legacy of sustainability and harmony.

Earth Care: The Covenant with Our Planet

Earth Care, as a permaculture ethic, emphasizes our responsibility to maintain and enhance the health of the Earth.

This involves practices that respect and nurture all forms of life, aiming to create a sustainable environment where ecosystems can thrive and regenerate.

Key elements of Earth Care include sustainability, biodiversity protection, holistic health, responsible resource use, active ecosystem restoration, and environmental education.

People Care: Our Commitment to Humanity

People Care focuses on fostering the well-being and welfare of individuals and communities.

This ethic calls for creating supportive social structures that ensure access to essential resources such as food, water, shelter, and healthcare.

It’s about building strong, resilient communities where individuals can thrive in harmony with their environment.

People Care promotes social justice, community engagement, and mutual support.

Future Care: Sustaining Generations to Come

Initially characterized by Bill Mollison as “Set Limits to Population and Consumption” and later articulated as “Future Care,” this ethic is about sustaining resources for future generations.

It emphasizes equitable sharing of the Earth’s resources, ensuring that all living beings, present and future, have the opportunity to lead healthy lives.

Future Care involves generating abundance, sharing resources generously, and investing in Earth Care and People Care to maintain a balance between human needs and ecological health.


Permaculture is more than a set of practices; it’s a way of life that fosters a symbiotic relationship between humans and nature.

By adopting its ethics, we commit to a path of sustainable and harmonious living, ensuring the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants, present and future.

As we turn the page, let’s embrace these principles and embark on a journey towards a more sustainable and caring world.

Go to the Next Page: Permaculture principles