There is little doubt that the environment has pushed its way near the forefront of political, social and, to a lesser extent, economic thoughts. It appears that people are generally becoming more aware of the impact they have on the environment, if the proliferation of "environmentally friendly" products due to their increasing demand are an indication. However, buying "green" products is only a small contributor to the solution. With the use of economics, one could conceivably find environmentally-friendly ways of production.
There is a growing realisation, backed by the statistics about chemical contaminants and how they affect humans, that modern, and predominantly Western, agriculture does not employ practices designed for sustainability, either ecologically or economically. One method which has the sole purpose of permanence through the sustainable and economical use of land is permaculture (permanent agriculture). Despite having an "alternative" flavour about its view to agricultural practices, permaculture fits into the definition of economics perfectly:
Economics is the study of how people choose to allocate their scarce resources
to produce, exchange and consume goods and services in an attempt to satisfy
their unlimited wants (Quayle, et.al. 1994).
It is for the reason that permaculture enables one to "live better on less'" that it demands attention from an economical viewpoint.
Permaculture is a practice which combines hundreds of species, plant and animal, into a fertile self-regulating ecosystem rather than planting large tracts of one crop. By attempting to reproduce the ecology of natural areas in a planned and managed way, without the aid of artificial inputs, permaculture has the potential to provide an economic solution to environmental problems.
This thesis will attempt to show the economical side of permaculture. The economics herein does not necessarily implicate money, however. In permaculture, economic choice and rationalism is extended to fellow human beings and the ecology for the economic benefit of all. Through good design and efficient management, a permaculture farm can provide a stable system which is both environmentally and socially responsible. The major conclusions of this study have been that permaculture is economical in the medium- to long-term, but perhaps not so in the short-run -primarily because of the high costs of establishing a productive practice. However, certain inherent structures which surround permaculture and the ethics it espcnises show that the costs borne in the short-run can be reduced considerably. Permaculture is a community-based practice which works very well with surrounding practices, such as community based credit unions which have ethical investment opportunities, and appears to have great success working within the informal economies of local regions. If the network of available organisations is used to its potential, costs can be reduced dramatically.