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Book Review: The Permaculture City

Permaculture City CoverWritten by Toby Hemenway
Published by Chelsea Green Publishing, July 31, 2015

Reviewed by Trevor Smith

This is not another Herb Spiral how to! Toby Hemenway’s The Permaculture City is a manual to practice permaculture, not a compilation of permaculture practices. Hemenway provides a tool kit “general enough to be applied to nearly any situation while containing enough specific direction to tell us what to do at each step.”

Hemenway starts with a Google Earth view of Permaculture Design, and then chapter by chapter he zooms in to street level then to specific facets of the urban environment, all the while showing us how all the systems are connected.  As an Urban Designer, I really appreciated how Hemenway spoke to the unique neighborhood human aspect of urban permaculture and the challenges and benefits of communities living with small lots and nearby neighbors. This is different from many books I have read that deal with acres of land and what seem always to be idyllic settings.

Don’t be fooled by my opening statement. The book offers plenty of techniques that can be applied, but I was most taken by the foundation/theory approach Toby took. In addition don’t let the title fool you. The theory and techniques within these pages can be applied to 20 acres as easily as they can to a balcony. Given the tools in The Permaculture City, you will be able to find and create systems in every aspect of your life.

About the Reviewer

Trevor Smith is the owner of Land Escapes, a full service ecological landscaping company in the Boston area that specializes in Garden Design, Eco-Rain Recovery, Water Features, and Living Wall Installations. Trevor is also the President of the Ecological Landscape Alliance. You can reach Trevor through his website: