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Permaculture: A Beginner's Guide

Emily Ingham |
Monday, 14th January 2013

Emily Ingham reviews the 2012 edition of Graham Burnett's Permaculture: A Beginner's Guide and finds it useful for urban dwellers wanting a succinct but motivational introduction

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Author: Graham Burnett
Publisher: Spiralseed
Publication Year: 2012
RRP: £8.99

Permaculture: A Beginner's Guide has a different approach to other permaculture handbooks, proving there is an introduction text to suit every reader. In this book Graham Burnett skirts over the issues faced by society today, favouring solutions over problems. What he provides, therefore, is a very concise guide to the topic of permaculture, with myriad examples of how it can infiltrate your life.

His audience seems to be an urban population willing to engage with their community and already aware of sustainability, and the need to do something. Although there are separate sections for the Home and the Garden, this is not a step-by-step 'how to do permaculture stuff' guide. Examples are used to illustrate a point, but are in no way exhaustive – but that's sort of the point. This book is about learning for yourself how you can let permaculture in

Ever practical, his section on the Home gives a table of actions to reduce our footprints. No time is wasted: the suggestions are not radical, and are presented in an encouraging and straight forward manner. Graham's approach is one of 'logic and common sense' (his own words). Permaculture: A Beginner's Guide remains succinct, with no waffling or dwelling to be seen anywhere. Schematics, tables and diagrams are used instead of excessive prose: saving valuable reading time whilst making the point quickly and efficiently.

Graham addresses the fact that getting started may seem very overwhelming to a newcomer. Although eliciting that it is very easy and effective way of (every aspect of) life, he is sensitive to the fact that an incremental approach may be less daunting and more practical, and gives ideas of how to put these in to place in the 'Rolling Permaculture: on your Land and in your Life!' section.

Although only touched upon briefly, Permaculture: A Beginner's Guide doesn't overlook Peoplecare like some other larger permaculture books. In particular, space is given to listing a few community ventures you can get involved in that are 'permaculture friendly'. This new edition is updated with a section on the Transition movement.

One complaint I had about the 2008 edition of the book was that it was a bit difficult to distinguish different sections of the book from the next, which I would put largely down to the use of capitalised headings, and capitalised subheads of about the same size and a fairly similar type face. The new edition is largely unchanged from its 2008 parent, but one alteration is that the book is slightly taller, and everything seems just a bit more spread out, larger and easier to read. This also goes for the legends on the excellent diagrams, which were a touch too tidgy in the earlier edition.

Despite the more-detailed-than-average author's profile in the front, Graham's book avoids being opinionated or using 'I', instead using vox pops of returning characters. This produces an easily accessible introduction to permaculture that is motivating rather than irritating. 

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