Permaculture is an approach to land management and settlement design that adopts arrangements observed in flourishing natural ecosystems. It includes a set of design principles derived using whole-systems thinking. It applies these principles in fields such as regenerative agriculture, town planning, rewilding, and community resilience. Permaculture originally came from "permanent agriculture", but was later adjusted to mean "permanent culture", incorporating social aspects. The term was coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, who formulated the concept in opposition to modern industrialized methods instead adopting a more traditional or "natural" approach to agriculture.
Permaculture has many branches including ecological design, ecological engineering, regenerative design, environmental design, and construction. It also includes integrated water resources management, sustainable architecture, and regenerative and self-maintained habitat and agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.
Permaculture uses creative design processes based on whole-systems thinking, considering all materials and energies in flow that affect or are affected by proposed changes. In practical terms it means that before, for example, modifying overland water flow, one fully considers both upstream and downstream effects in the short and long terms. Or, when looking at a "problem", such as brushy vegetation, one considers how removing or altering it will affect soil and wildlife, and how these interacting forces would evolve over time and space.
Permaculture has been criticised as being poorly defined and unscientific. Critics have pushed for less reliance on anecdote and extrapolation from ecological first principles, in favor of peer-reviewed research to substantiate productivity claims and to clarify methodology. Peter Harper from the Centre for Alternative Technology suggests that most of what passes for permaculture has no relevance to real problems.