Permaculture is applied systems thinking

by | December 30, 2023 | Permaculture Education | 3 comments

Permaculture is applied systems thinking – a practical way to explore how we can live every day in ‘right relationship and transition to regenerative practices.

Watch my seminar: Applying Systems Thinking through Permaculture

With Fritjof Capra and his course alumni in December 2024, I presented a session weaving together permaculture and systems thinking. I explored the big picture of permaculture, how systems thinking led me to permaculture, the relationship of climate action, peace and permaculture, and responded to the questions ‘How are we to live?’ and ‘What is a sustainable community?’. I also shared the insight of ‘becoming the garden gardening’.

To me, an everyday permaculture lens helps us myceliate a transition to a culture of regeneration, reciprocity, respect and responsibility.

CLICK THE IMAGE TO WATCH my presentation, followed by conversation with Fritjof . Thanks to the Capra Course for making this available to share with you.

How are we to live?

“What is a sustainable community?”

“How are we to live?”

These are the questions that I have been exploring and living into since I first met Fritjof Capra – scientist, educator, activist, internationally best-selling author – way back in 1992 at Schumacher College. In 1991, trying to understand the global ecological crisis, I began binge-reading all Fritjof’s books and headed down every linked reference.

Everything began to make sense. Seeing in wholes is natural. Noticing the interconnectedness re-awakens awe and wonder. New possibilities emerge.

Honestly, as an undergraduate I was feeling pretty empty and hopeless. I had become increasingly disillusioned with the state of the world and the lack of ecological perspective and deep consideration for life. I was studying Ecological Planning and Design and Landscape Architecture at the best university in my city. Sounded right up my alley. But essentially I found myself in a world of developer-led planning, design for show (not purpose), and an exploration of how to offset environmental harm, rather than create ecological cohesiveness. It was not where I wanted to pour my life’s energy. I am thankful however that a co-student handed me a copy of Re-enchantment of the World by Morris Berman, which referenced Fritjof’s books.

In discovering these holistic ways of perceiving the world and getting to know the ecological paradigm and perspectives, I felt hope. I found ‘home’.

Schumacher College

So, when I discovered that Fritjof was about to teach an intensive 5 week residential course about Systems Thinking in 1992 at the then new ecological university, Schumacher College, I signed up immediately. I was meant to be there for 5 weeks. I stayed for a year and met with other so many other incredible people – participants from around the world and scholar-activists such as Satish Kumar, Vandana Shiva, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Stephan Harding, Arne Naess, Victor Papanek. I’d found a place filled with people that the lifted my soul, nourished my mind, and grounded my purpose.

Morag Gamble and Fritjof Capra at Schumacher College in 2001Choosing to go to Fritjof’s course was a turning point in my life. It’s when I realised I had to shift from the conventional design world I was in to an ecological and generative approach  – and the most accessible way to do that is through permaculture design. Thirty years on, I am still deeply and absolutely engaged with this field, and deepen my understanding and practice every day. My focus now is particularly in teaching permaculture teachers, and hosting conversations that open to this life-centric way of being.

I’ve returned to the college a number of times, a Capra reunion course in 2000. In 2003, I was invited to teach a 3 week intensive course, Design for Life, with the founder of Biomimicry, Janine Benyus. And in 2018, I contributed to the Ecological Economics masters program.

Fritjof Capra’s Systems Thinking Course

The presentation I shared last week was to the alumni of the Capra course alumni – people who’ve attended Fritjof’s online systems thinking course.

Ever since Fritjof began his online course in 2016 I have been involved. Twice a year this course happens and alongside my teenage daughter (a Capra Course graduate) I host study groups with youth. Fritjof most generously gifts 10 places. Contact me if you would like to nominate a young leader. Fritjof also personally meets with the youth to answer questions and discuss ideas – it’s a life-changing opportunity for young thinkers-activists. And of course, we have the applied systems thinking-permaculture perspective to share too.

Systems thinking in the Permaculture Educators Program

Ecological systems thinking is deeply embedded in all our programs. Fritjof has joined us for a masterclass and podcast episode at the Permaculture Education Institute. Learn more about how Permaculture and Systems Thinking connect in our Permaculture Educators Program.

Morag Gamble and Fritjof Capra in conversation via zoom

Links mentioned in the session.


  1. Gayle Olander

    This was an excellent presentation! Engaging and informative. Has peaked my continued interest in permaculture. More to learn..

  2. sight care

    Thanks for thr great article!


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