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Environmental Anthropology Engaging Permaculture: Moving Theory and Practice Toward Sustainability



Using a variety of theoretical rubrics, recent work in ecological and environmental anthropology has revealed that human–environment interactions within the context of global capitalism are complex and have increasingly unjust and unsustainable outcomes. As globalization proceeds and associated socio-environmental problems become clear, it is important that ecological and environmental anthropologists use empirical research to develop both theoretical and practical approaches to addressing the sustainability challenge. We suggest that an anthropological engagement with permaculture represents an especially timely opportunity for anthropologists to move toward sustainability in ways that complement and enable us to extend our traditional areas of theoretical and practical expertise. Permaculture is a development strategy that has a history of grassroots application, but it has been largely ignored by mainstream development practitioners and anthropologists alike. We argue that permaculture deserves a closer look. In this article, we trace the historical development of permaculture, provide examples of permaculture in practice in an ecovillage context, identify compatible areas of research within environmental anthropology, and make suggestions for engagement.