You don't need to be a religious person to understand that there are those that believe in an intelligent creator, and the majority of those people believe that that creator invented gardening. In the beginning, that creator set within the soul of mankind the yearning to the task of tending plants; a task which I believe is built-in to every human. At least it is for me.
Religious beliefs aside, there is nonetheless, that inherent deep yearning for us as humans to start, tend, nurture and ultimately harvest our own food, medicine, fiber and tools.
Over the centuries, I believe man has perverted the original intent of raising our own food into unrecognizable and definitely unsustainable methods of scraping, over-planting, over-fertilizing, overwatering, chemical-bathing, corporatizing, subsidizing, hybridizing, GMOing, and ultimately diminishing the nutritional value of our foods into something less nutritionally valuable than goat vomit.
Imagine a micro-ecosystem, assembled by you and me that can take us back to the way food production was in its earliest, purest form. Imagine planning and planting in such a way that invites beneficial creatures naturally.
Here's a visual that helps me understand permaculture in its purest form. You set up a grove of various fruit and nut trees. Around that grove, you have created trenches in such a way that excess rain water is diverted into the grove and to the roots of those trees. Under those trees and in the trenches are the leaves that have fallen over the years that you don't rake up and throw away. Those leaves naturally compost into mulch which helps retain nutrients and moisture in the soil, so no matter how hot and dry it may be outside the grove, it's cool, moist and refreshing inside. Within that grove are smaller shrubs, bushes, perennials and annuals that take advantage of the filtered light through the trees, the moisture held in the soil by the naturally occuring composted leaf mulch. Those plants are not in rows, but in spirals, keyholes and other shapes that help to maximize space. Some are even growing right out of fallen, decomposing logs that you have stragically placed in various locations around the grove. Imagine birds, eating some of the fruit and nuts, not as pests, but rather as purveyors of future crops providing natural seed starting fertilizer and dropping new seeds wherever they may find themselves.
Now...remove yourself from that environment for 50 years. Nobody comes to visit the grove, nobody tends the grove. It's as if human existence has ceased. What do you find when you return? If done correctly, after 50 years, that grove will support you again. Most of the species of plants, yes even the annuals, will continue on without you. Why? Because it has been set up to self-sustain as it was intended in nature. They have everything they need within the system.
This is permaculture. Nothing gets wasted. No landfills are created. No combines are run through to rape a hundred thousand acres of a single crop. No soil is amended.
Oh, and about that goat vomit? It's useful too.
Forest Garden diagram by Graham Burnett, if used elsewhere a credit would be appreciated, thanks! Released under the GNU Free Documentation License.