8th Life Panama

Integral Permaculture Academy iPDC Curriculum

Integral Permaculture Academy IPDC Curriculum

Like all of our courses, this is an Action-Learning program
which means you are encouraged to share your designs from day 1,
And  it is based on the Permaculture Designers Manual,
with important additions from the Integral Sciences.

This Course is ideal for people who want to study Permaculture formally for the first time.   It is also ideal for people who have taken one or more of the traditional PDCs & would like to both widen & deepen their theoretical knowledge & move on with their practice, on their own projects, with some steady support.

Also ideal for people who are considering starting on their Permaculture Diploma pathway – you can easily move up levels from here, & start to build your design portfolio.

Quick Overview

This course consists of 20 classes that you can attend over 2 to 6 months (or during an on-site facilitated intensive).
Our content-rich multimedia classes are between 1:30 to 2:30 hours long on average.

You take the classes whilst you develop your own designs with our support in applying the basic principles of design given in the classes, to your real-life experience.

It includes sharing & interacting with other students on the same path & live meetings with tutors & course colleagues to put questions, present designs & sharing of learning & experience in real time.

You can also take this option in the practical intensive format, & there may be internships available at 8th Life Panama or 8th Life Canary Islands.

The Permaculture Design Certificate is awarded after the course on presenting two of your own design projects, which demonstrate that you have understood the basic principles of design.


Class Program

You can see the content of each class in detail in our Manual, PermaCultureScience.org

This below is the programme of the theory part of the course, which we will expect to see reflected in the practical work which will consists of a minimum of 2 designs: a personal and a group design (or project).

It is most useful to embark on the course with an idea of what project you wish to move forward for yourself and your group, but you can also decide once you’ve started, with our help, if you don’t have any clear ideas about this yet.


Module 1 – People Care

People Care is one of the 3 ethical bases of PermaCulture … but how do we put this into practice?    People are, as well as the context, without doubt also the most difficult aspect when it comes to realising truly sustainable projects.

The greatest challenges for humanity are not hunger, poverty, peace, public health, education, the economy, natural resources, nor a combination of these or other issues … but our capacity to build new social organizations capable of providing the solutions.  Our greatest challenge is collective intelligence.

(F. Noubel)

 1.1  Why are we (as humans) so slow in learning about Sustainability?  

Here we will delve into the issues of thinking in a systemic way, Action Learning, how to study more effectively & we look at really understanding what Sustainability is.

1.2  What are the Basis of Permaculture Design?  

Here we explore for the first time the Design Ethics, Directives & Principles & we place them in the wider context of Permaculture.

1.5  What is Collective Intelligence?  & can we design for increasing it?  

Possibly the most crucial issue of our times of change: if we don’t manage to work together, we will not achieve a more rational society.   (Or the other way round …)

1.6  What are ‘Models’ & why are they so important for Permaculture Designers?

In this class we study the basic nature of the Scientific Method & it’s problems, taking as an example of our difficulties in changing paradigms a revolutionary model of the human mind.


Module 2 – Design Techniques

PermaCulture is based in understanding the process of a good design in order to use this in a more conscious, effective & powerful way.   We are all designers, but what characterizes  a notable design or designer?  What works?

In this module we study the criteria of functional design & the true meaning & the conditions of the design of integrated ecological systems.

Permaculture has quite particular ways of thinking about design, about resources, human interventions in the system & of integrating the social aspects with the physical, energy aspect & the abstract.

We learn to look & think in a new & different way.

 2.1  What is Design? & Can we Re-Design a whole Society?  

Permaculture is a holistic science based in design & that is not something easy to understand in a society where we are taught (mostly) to follow recipes & copy things, or consume instead of truly create & think for our selves.      In this class we explore why learning to design, from first principles (which we always question) is so vitally important, & we look at what design is all about & how it can be applied at every scale.

2.7  How do we apply the fundamental principles to Permaculture Design?

It is easy to design if we are clear about the design principles, but much more difficult to really understand & integrate these principles in our practice.   In this class we go into more depth about the design principles, with lots of examples of each in order to understand them better.

2.9  Which Design Techniques do I have at my disposal and how when to apply them?  (PART 1)

There are a great number of design methods & it is important to choose those that are best suited to your particular circumstances & objectives.    In this class we look at some of those methods & talk about the criteria to take into account for their use.

2.10  Which Design Techniques do I have at my disposal and how when to apply them?  (PART 2)   

Here we continue deepening on the various methods of design and their use, with more examples.  See above.


Module 3 – Earth Care

Permaculture started as “Permanent Agriculture” & although very soon we realized that an ecological agriculture cannot work longer-term inside an exploitative economy or an un-just society (we need to design systems that integrate it all), the bio/ecological aspect of permaculture keeps being of central importance.

Not only because there are great design lessons in all natural systems (it’s advisable to study them in great depth), nor because it’s the historical origin of Permaculture (and perhaps the most develop facet), but also because it’s a level on which we can act most easily, changing our economy in an immediate form, & where we most easily learn the lessons of nature &, on the way, also of connexion and self-esteem.

“You cannot teach anyone to be a philosopher, but you can teach anyone to be a gardener,

and from a gardener naturally grows a philosopher.”

(Bill Mollison)

 3.1  What is Soil?

We could say that the destructo-culture, based on industrialized agriculture, carries a basic dysfunction, which is to see the soil as an inanimate thing, a resource to be exploited, & even something that can be seen as ‘property’ of human beings.

This paradigm has to change because it is at the base of great injustices & of the destruction of the most important base for life on Earth.

In this class we meet the soil as a living being, an organism of enormous complexity & importance, studying how it works in detail, from the microscopic to the global level.

To know soil intimately is fundamental for any sustainable design & to have a direct & vital relationship with this great organism helps us re-connect, physically as well as emotionally, with the Planet.

3.2  How can we Regenerate Soils?

“Deserts are the footprint of civilization”, & this means that the most important work we have to do now as conscious human beings is to regenerate the soils that have been lost, & those that have been exploited & de-vitalized all over the planet, especially by agricultural activities.

Fertile soils are very important stores of carbon in the earth, & just with regenerating soils we could halt climate change stabilizing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.   It is vital for sustainability that we regenerate & improve the fertility of soils also because they are the support of biodiversity, important stores of water & indeed the base of all land-dwelling life & any civilization.

There are many techniques we can use, & many very inspiring examples of soils regeneration (& so of entire ecosystems) in the world.   In this class we explore several of those.

3.3  What are the Vital Cycles?

Gaia, the great living organism that is Earth, can be understood as a whole made out of millions of vital cycles that interrelate, each one continuously transforming & cycling the elements essential for Life (like oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, etc.) in order for these to be usable in their optimal form for each organism that needs them.

It is our great ignorance of these cycles, & of their vital importance for the equilibrium of the whole system, that has brought us to making great design errors, as humanity & as individuals.

In this class we get up to date with an essential aspect of the functioning of our home, the Living Planet & we get familiar with the most fundamental blocks that support the whole of Life.

3.6  How to Integrate Animals in a System?

In natural systems plants & animals form a single system, where all organisms are closely inter-connected, & give each other mutual support.

But normally in systems that we humans have designed, animals are excluded or separated from their vital environment, so creating not only waste & pollution but also terrible conditions for animals & their exploitation.

In this class we explore how to learn from nature & design systems that re-weave the whole web of Life, so creating environments which are ideal for plants, animals & humans, as well as giving much greater abundance of well-being, richness & also production.

3.7  Food Sovereignty

To return the control of food to each local community is something essential to creating sustainable societies.   Only installing this practice as habitual would change other systems a lot, amongst them the economy, soil regeneration & ecosystem & human health.

In this class we explore the importance of food sovereignty & how it works in practice.

Included in this class is an exploration in some detail in the various organic food-growing styles that can be used, in small & large scale, with examples of good practice in different areas of the planet.

3.8  How to Increase Biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the variety of life in all its forms, levels & combinations. To maintain the biodiversity of the Gaian organism is of vital importance because each species represents a node of connexion in the complex web of Life which sustains us. At the moment our industrial & highly consumerist civilization is responsible for the disappearance of some 200 species per day. These are converted into human biomass on a daily basis, but we’re destroying the foundation that support our own survival. So there is a big job to do. In this class we explore some direct ways of increasing biodiversity at a local level, like seed recuperation, habitat protection, & starting to change our diet in a conscious way so that it adapts better to the indigenous ecosystem of our region, instead of trying to adapt nature to our whims.

3.9  Trees & Forests (PART 1)

¿Why are trees so important?   If we all plant some 10,0000 trees each we can prevent climate catastrophe, regenerate lost soils, increase biodiversity and preserve vital ecosystems & cycles. Trees are the biggest and oldest living beings on Earth. But around 75% of the ancient forest have vanished due to human action. So it’s urgent for us to know and understand trees, how to plant them, how to care for them,how to return them to their most important place in nature.    In this class we will learn about tree biology and tree functions as well as their influence in our culture.

3.10  Trees & Forests (PART 2)

At about the time humankind discovered agriculture, forests covered about 50% of the land area on planet Earth.  Now they barely cover some 30%, & falling.   This is now the single most urgent physical repairing of the environment we need to engage in, as forests are so vital for every aspect of life on Earth, safeguarding the vital cycles of air, water, earth, stabilizing the local & global climate, creating soil & habitats for a huge number of species, sustaining entire economies & our health.  Forests play a key vital role on many levels as they are so basic & even primal for humans. In this class we get intimately acquainted with Forests, their make-up, how they work & especially we learn how to design Forest Gardens: our future human habitat, if we are to survive & thrive as humans.


Module 4 – Energy & EcoTechnology

Despite the fact that many ‘Technological Improvements’ haven’t managed to improve the quality of life for the majority of people, but have brought more problems & pollution, we still keep expecting the arrival of a more modern technology, perhaps more ecological, that will restore & reverse the damage made.

In fact, it is possible, but not without having more citizens with a better understanding & a wider vision of what technology is, & who also understand some basic science necessary in order to be able to think for ourselves on these subjects.

The technology of the home, or bio-construction, is a close & important example for all of us, which will be highlighted during the course.

 4.1  Is our Civilization Collapsing?

Climate Change, Petrol Peak & Economic Crisis have been called the 3Es of Collapse: Environmental, Energetic & Economic.    It is important to be well informed about the basic facts & science of these, how they interconnect, their causes & predictable effects.   In this class we look at these issues in some detail, also exploring what cultural & inner meanings are being proposed & that we can make of these crises / opportunities.    What does all this mean for us as integral designers for sustainability?

4.2  How can we make optimum use of resources?

We could say that the key to the sustainability of any society (or indeed any design) is simply to make optimum use of resources – so this is a very important subject to clarify for ourselves as designers.     In this class we will explore how often, instead of using rational criteria for appropriateness when choosing resources (materials, fuels or technologies), like energy trade-off, we tend to use subjective & superficial criteria, like appearance, fashion & emotional attachments.      This class is about how we can learn to make wiser judgements & choices in these matters.

4.3  What are the fundamental Energy Laws?

There are some basic energy laws the ignorance of which lead us to make very big & avoidable mistakes, as global as peak oil or as individual as believing our salvation will come from ‘free energy’. Not understanding the basic laws that govern energy also lead us to staying permanently confused & therefore open to being manipulated with regards to any new technology or ‘new miracle fuel’ that is proposed. No progress can be made in terms of future energy choices if the majority of the population cannot distinguish myth from science in these important areas, and in this class we aim to firmly lay the foundations for understanding energy, which are also the foundation of any good sustainable design.

4.7  What is BioConstruction & how many types are there?

This class provides a solid introduction of the science & technology of the home, covering bio-climactic principles as well as choice of materials, location & design context.  But we also question the great emphasis which is put on more & larger construction by the alternative movement these days.   BioConstruction or EcoBuilding are terms which technically mean ‘construction which promotes life’ or ‘ecological building’, not something which is centered – yet again – on consumerist values: putting human whims & comfort above all else.  How or when are these ‘bio’ & ‘construction’ terms used in contradictory ways? Do we need to coin a new ‘perma-construction’ term?


Resources at Your Disposal

0) The Online Integral Permaculture Designers Manual

The Integral Permaculture Academy is co-creating a great online e-book of resources & materials which follows the structure of the classes of the Integral Permaculture courses that we offer (This course option includes a selection of 20 of these classes)

PermaCultureScience.org – The Integral Permaculture Designers’ Manual

1) 3 Months with Us

Taking the online version of the courses means that you do the practical aspects directly in your home & your projects, in your own time, with the support of tutors & colleagues online, and this is the amount of time we consider appropriate for completing the program without rushing.
If you wish of course you may complete the classes & design assignments in less time.

 2) Optional Intensive Practical version

You can do a more intensive version of this course, in 1 to 3 months, with a rhythm of 4hrs of practical work + 2 hours of study, 5 days per week  –  it is recommended to do this version in a place where you don’t have other distractions, & you can focus mainly on the course.

3) 20 AudioVisual Classes  are included in this option.
The classes have a duration of 1:30h to 2:30h which you can see at your own pace (you can stop and resume the recording at any point).

The first class teaches how to listen to the others in the most effective way possible.
Each other class focuses on the essential points of the theory, and the majority contain original materials which have not been published yet.

4) Discussion Forums + Personal Design Portfolio

Each student has access to our various Discussion Forums, where you can interact and share support with the other students and practitioners in our worldwide network.
You will also be provided with an online Design Portfolio where you can document and share your work with the world and get support with your design projects effectively from our tutors.
It’s also a great start to go on with the diploma, and developing and documenting your designs in your portfolio is an essential discipline in order to integrate what is taught in class with your practice.

We emphasize that dialogue & exchange of experiences is one of the most powerful tools of action-learning.

5) 3 Personal Mentoring Sessions

With our tutors (around 1h), included in the price of the course.
You will have one at the beginning of your course to help you get started,
one at the end to review and prepare for your Certificate presentation, and the steps beyond,
and another one in between so you can have some additional support with your design projects, and ask any questions you want from an experienced Permaculture practitioner with years of experience.



We're looking for visionaries; people with an entrepreneurial spirit who believe, like we do, that
it's time to transition from a destructive society to a sustainable world.