The History of the Permaculture Movement in North America – AN NAPC OPPORTUNITY

I am proposing a group effort to produce a permaculture history for the US and Canada. Initially I can think of three major parts:

1) Stories by permaculture elders. Their own history and their perspective on permaculture history. Written for publication as well as video interviews which can start at NAPC 1.

2) Histories of individual bioregions by collaborating authors who have been involved with the permaculture movement in their bioregion.

3) Youtube interviews with permaculturists about pc history. This of course can be open-ended and continuing. Videos can be made at NAPC 1.

Sections 1 and 2 can be published as an in-print book as well as an on-line book. There can be on an on-line forum dedicated to updating the history as more people want to contribute to the effort.


It is possible that someone else may be working on such a book already. Please let me know if so. Have any bioregional histories been published? Or started?

For my own part I can contribute to a history of permaculture for three bioregions; Hawaiian Islands (almost finished with edition #2), the Maritime Pacific Northwest (Cascadia) and the Inland Pacific Northwest (Columbiana). I have been involved in permaculture in both bioregions continuously since 1981. For some years I published a regional paper called the Pacific Northwest Permaculture News & Gossip. I recall that Peter Bane, in the Permaculture Activist, once referred to me as perhaps the biggest permaculture gossip in the USA. Flattering at the time, but that was some years ago and I am sadly out of touch with developments in most other bioregions.

Here are some bioregions which have a strong permaculture history. I am not listing all the bioregions here and of course each of these has subset regions within it. Let’s see who answers the call. I am not proposing a comprehensive history, nor a concensus viewpoint. But you gotta start somewhere.

Northeast US

Mid-Atlantic Region

Southeast US


Upper Midwest


Southern California

Bay Area, California

Hawaiian Islands (I put out A History of Permaculture in the Hawaiian Islands, Version #1on December 17, 2013.)

Maritime Pacific Northwest

Inland Pacific Northwest.

British Columbia, Canada

Canadian prairies

Eastern Canada


The Maritime Provinces

Etc, etc.

This is an initial attempt to find out who is interested and what has already been done. Of course there are voluminous reams of articles and publications from the Permaculture Activist, regional pc magazines, articles, conference proceedings, the 1998 American Permaculture Directory (online at, the 1st US permaculture directory by Guy Baldwin in the 1980s, etc, etc.

Let me know if you are interested and see what kind of team we can put together. There is room for varying levels of participation. Who would like to be on the coordinating/editing core team? Let’s meet at NAPC I.

People who have volunteered to help in this project thus far include Roman Shapla of Children’s Permaculture Guild in Eugene Oregon, Wesley Roe and Margie Bushman in Southern California, Jude Hobbs of Cascadia Permaculture, Michael Burns of Finger Lakes Permaculture and Northeast US, Lawrence London of ibiblio, and Bob Merrill, formerly of Lost Valley Center,

Michael Pilarski, Friends of the Trees Society


“Permaculture Pioneers” is a history of the first 30 years of permaculture in Australia. This is an inspiring book and I highly recommend it to all permaculturists no matter where they live. Of course unless/until it is translated it can only be read by English speakers. The book is composed of articles by 24 leading permaculturalists in Australia with an afterword by Stuart B. Hill. It contains many insights into the foundations of permaculture.

“Permaculture Pioneers: Stories from the New Frontier”. Edited by Kerry Dawborn and Caroline Smith. Melliodora Publishing, Hepburn, Australia. June 2011. Available in the US from Chelsea Green Publishing. $34.95 retail. Here is the review from Chelsea Green’s website.

“Permaculture is much more than organic gardening. Arguably it is one of Australia’s greatest intellectual exports, having helped people worldwide to design ecologically sustainable strategies for their homes, gardens, farms and communities. This book charts a history of the first three decades of permaculture, through the personal stories of Australian permaculturists. From permaculture co-originator David Holmgren, to ABC TV’s Gardening Australia presenter Josh Byrne, the authors span the generations and the continent.

These stories represent the scope, depth and diversity of permaculture in Australia and around the world. They explore some of the influences on those who have embraced it, record milestones and highlight recurring themes. The editors’ contributions and afterword by social ecologist Professor Stuart B Hill frame the stories in terms of transformation of the inner landscape of our minds and hearts, as the critical starting point for the outer change that is needed.

For those whose lives have been changed by permaculture, this book provides a context for articulating and celebrating their own stories and experiences. Even more, it invites each of us, permaculturists or not, to embrace our power in designing our world out of the best in ourselves, for the benefit of the whole earth community.”

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