I like to think we all live by a few basic ethics - be kind and courteous to one another, do not steal from others, do not hurt or injure others etc. Rules are generally set to allow us to live in a fair and equitable manner and should we choose to disobey we will be made to repent in whatever way the law deems adequate.
Nature is much the same - the difference being she does not issue tickets for disobeying her rules. Instead she has her own way of showing her displeasure with our actions - this year in Australia we have bared the brunt of her unhappiness with us BIG TIME! Floods, Fires, Cyclones - you name it, she dished it out to us!
Through careful observation of nature, traditional indigenous and tribal communities, Permaculture developed its own ethics which act as foundations to this system of design and way of thinking. They are three simple, broad stroke statements intended to guide everyday thinking and actions which I believe can be applied not only to gardening but life in general - if we all lived by these simple statements a little more the world would be a much more lovely place.
:: Care for the earth (husband soil, forests and water)
:: Care for people (look after self, kin and community)
:: Fair share (set limits to consumption and reproduction, and redistribute surplus)
Image: Permaculture Principles