Permaculture ethics series: Fair shares

Welcome to week three of the permaculture ethics series, and this week we are going to discuss ‘Fair shares’ which is the final permaculture ethic along with Earth care, and people care which underpins and informs permaculture design and practice.


“Live simply so that others may simply live.”

Mahatma Gandi

Fair Shares

The phrase ‘Live simply, so that others can simply live’ is a powerful statement that resonates through the fair shares permaculture ethic. This ethic covers a number of considerations, firstly we have to accept that we cannot continue to increase and also sustain the planet, we have to accept that we need limitations to the number of people living on the planet and the resources which we use.

We need to curb population and consumption because of the carrying capacity of the planet; the carrying capacity simply refers to the number of organisms that an ecosystem is able to support. The fair shares ethic also means that we need to redistribute surplus resources and the well being that comes from having access to these resources.

For the fair shares ethic to work and function properly, it requires that we interact and cooperate with others through, networking and sharing, community development and offering a fair price for our produce that is affordable to all, , within the fair shares context we should treat others as fairly as we treat ourselves.

In Practice

For those of us who grow food and have experienced gluts in particular produce during the height of the season, this is the perfect situation where the Fair shares ethic naturally appears. When I have gluts of certain types of produce, it means that I have an excess or an abundance of a certain fruit or vegetable, this excess goes beyond what I can take and utilize for my own sustenance and well being so the natural thing for me to do is to give some of it away to those who do not have any of it or trade it with people who have an abundance of something else which I have little or nothing of.

On a wider social level, allotment and food growing collectives and cooperatives are a good way to ensure that resources are fairly distributed amongst members and their families. And for the people that we know that exist outside of these collectives and cooperatives we should really help and encourage them in any ways we can to set up their own groups in their respective areas.

For this ethic to work in practice it requires that we come together with those around us to formulate our ideas and plans before putting them into action, if we move alone on this we will really struggle and would not benefit from the mutual bonds and friendships that would develop from our collective efforts to distribute any surpluses that we may have, and if we move alone, there wont be anyone there for us when we have a shortage of resources.

Fair shares and a future permanent culture

Without the limitations and redistribution of the fair shares ethic put into practice, we will see little in the way of any change in the world, as the world that we are living in is the complete flip side of the coin to the fair shares ethic.

As we begin to incorporate the fair shares ethic into our lives, let us do so with everyone that we come into contact with from friends, to family, to work friends, and to the wider community, as we do this and begin to get used to sharing what is surplus to our needs, the collective welfare of everyone suddenly begins to come into play, and the more that people see sharing instead of self gain as the way forward, the quicker we can develop a more permanent culture for the future of our selves and the planet that sustains us.

I have noticed that when ever I have shared any of my excess resources with people, that they have always shared there’s with me, even if they have had none to share at the time, sharing is an unconditional act of giving that exists outside of the capitalist way of doing things and it gives people the chance to see giving as something positive that goes beyond the narrow confines of personal individual gain.

Once people begin to share what they have, the divisions of capitalism will begin to fade away as strong and resiant communities begin to form and work together to create local food and other resource security, and for a permanent culture to develop, this independance from the control of those who only have their own material interest at heart is a big leap into a possible egalitarian future.



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