The Permaculture Student

A resilient, abundant future starts with permaculture education.


"Climatic factors determine everything we do or place on a site we are designing. They will influence every decision. If you mix up your climatic applications, your system will fail: a Cavendish banana plantation cannot grow in the cold temperate zones, for instance. This section will acquaint you with what you need to know for each general major climate zone and for some minor climate zones. There are also the local climatic and orientational factors that strongly influence design specifics on-site: the slope, watershed orientation, distance from large bodies of water, elevation, wind, sun path, and fire dangers. Beyond strictly environmental factors of climate, there is also the social climate and our own emotional, physical, and mental climate. These factors can sometimes influence what we do on a site as much or more than ecological factors.

Climatic factors are very complex and influenced by both regular and irregular factors like longer-term cycles of the sun, moon, and earth, atmospheric factors like volcanoes and pollution, and extra-terrestrial factors like meteors and solar flares. There is an accepted, general consensus in the scientific community that there is an observable rise in more violent and erratic weather patterns like flood, hurricane, and storms, as well as an unprecedented rise in global temperatures. It is best to plan for variable weather and temperature patterns by designing with diversity; climate change is already here and disrupting the patterns that we’ve come to rely upon. We can mitigate these extremes and begin to restore our atmospheric systems to normalcy through large-scale land restoration projects.

Understanding the historical highs and lows, the extremes over time of rain, wind, temperature, flood, migration, etc., is vital. This gives us a clear list of things to expect or to investigate for their absence. For example, the largest historical rain event is used to design all roads, dams, catchments, sills, and swales; we need to know how much rain the swales or dams should be able to hold. We can source libraries, elderly members of the community, town record halls, local historians, or even the internet. The information is usually available in your area through one of those channels" (The Permaculture Student 2, p. 18-19).


"In permaculture, the term ”earthworks” refers to working with earth—literally! Working with earth is as ancient as humanity—we’ve used earth or soil in innumerable ways: from using clays to bond with toxins or poisons in our digestive tract, to using it as a building material, to a medium in which to grow all our food, and as a spiritual focus. It also should be noted that earthworks can be as damaging as they are positive. The strip mining, mountaintop removals, open-pit mines, and damage associated with most industrial earthworking operations makes most environmentally conscious folk concerned about disturbing the soils—and rightly so. Earthworks in permaculture are a powerful set of actions that can be taken to foster an amazingly positive and regenerative change; however, these works need thorough planning and consideration before implementation.Earthworks prevent erosion, manage excess water in flood events, provide areas for catchment, provide areas to grow food, shelter buildings from light, provide habitat and living spaces, dampen and block sound and wind, provide walls and insulation for building, and provide the structure for a sustainable site." (The Permaculture Student 2, p. 134).

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Here's an example of how you can find your climate analogs to compile a plant and animal list that is compatible for your climate:

Recommended Reading & Workbook Activities

The Permaculture Student Workbook p. 6-15

The Permaculture Student 1 p. 32-33, 40, 42, 48, 72-75

The Permaculture Student 2 p. 134-149, 228 (climate chart)