Permaculture principles

Agriculture & Food, Being Human, Collaboration, Crime & Security, Energy, General, Geopolitics, Money, Politics, Society, Sustainability, Systems thinking

It seems this list can bring wisdom and insight to pretty much everything we do.

Apart from the more specific ones (like ‘keep water high on the land’, but maybe just try to metaphor these as taoist haikus to trigger bewildering insights.)

  • Relative Location Components placed in a system are viewed relatively, not in isolation. Functional Relationship between components.
  • Everything is connected to everything else. Recognise functional relationships between elements.
  • Every function is supported by many elements – Redundancy Good design ensures that all important functions can withstand the failure of one or more element.
  • Every element is supported by many functions Each element we include is a system, chosen and placed so that it performs as many functions as possible.
  • Local Focus “Think globally – Act locally” Grow your own food, cooperate with neighbours. Community efficiency not self-sufficiency.
  • Diversity As a general rule, as sustainable systems mature they become increasingly diverse in both space and time. What is important is the complexity of the functional relationships that exist between elements not the number of elements.
  • Biological Resources We know living things reproduce and build up their availability over time, assisted by their interaction with other compatible elements. Use and reserve biological intelligence.
  • One Calorie In/One Calorie Out Do not consume or export more biomass than carbon fixed by the solar budget.
  • Stocking Finding the balance of various elements to keep one from overpowering another over time. How much of an element needs to be produced in order to fulfil the need of whole system?
  • Stacking Multi-level functions for single element (stacking functions). Multi-level garden design, ie., trellising, forest garden, vines, ground covers, etc.
  • Succession Recognise that certain elements prepare the way for system to supports other elements in the future, i.e.: succession planting.
  • Use Onsite Resources Determine what resources are available and entering the system on their own and maximise their use.
  • Edge Effect Ecotones are the most diverse and fertile area in a system. Two ecosystems come together to form a third which has more diversity than either of the other two, i.e.: edges of ponds, forests, meadows, currents etc.
  • Energy Recycling Yields from system designed to supply onsite needs and/or needs of local region.
  • Small Scale Intensive Systems start small and create a system that is manageable and produces a high yield.
  • Make Least Change for the Greatest Effect The less change that is generated, the less embedded energy is used to endow the system.
  • Planting Strategy 1st-natives, 2nd-proven exotics, 3rd unproven exotics – carefully on small scale with lots of observation.
  • Work Within Nature Aiding the natural cycles results in higher yield and less work. A little support goes along way.
  • Appropriate Technology The same principles apply to cooking, lighting, transportation, heating, sewage treatment, water and other utilities.
  • Law of Return Whatever we take, we must return Every object must responsibly provide for its replacement.
  • Stress and Harmony Stress here may be defined as either prevention of natural function, or of forced function. Harmony may be defined as the integration of chosen and natural functions, and the easy supply of essential needs.
  • The Problem is the solution We are the problem, we are the solution. Turn constraints into resources
  • Mistakes are tools for learning
  • The yield of a system is theoretically unlimited The only limit on the number of uses of a resource possible is the limit of information and imagination of designer.
  • Dispersal of Yield Over Time Principal of seven generations. We can use energy to construct these systems, providing that in their lifetime, they store or conserve more energy that we use to construct them or to maintain them.
  • A Policy of Responsibility (to relinquish power) The role of successful design is to create a self-managed system.
  • Principle of Disorder Order and harmony produce energy for other uses. Disorder consumes energy to no useful end. Tidiness is maintained disorder.
  • Chaos Has form, but is not predictable. The amplification of small fluctuations.
  • Entropy In complex systems disorder is an increasing result. Entropy and lifeforce are a stable pair that maintain the universe to infinity.
  • Metastability For a complex system to remain stable, there must be small pockets of disorder.
  • Entelechy Principal of genetic intelligence. i.e. The rose has thorns to protect itself.
  • Observation Protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor.
  • We are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities
  • Wait one year
  • Hold water and fertility as high (in elevation) on the landscape as possible
  • The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.
  • Cooperation, not competition, is the very basis of future survival and of existing life systems.

Ed Dowding

Ed Dowding

Founder, strategist, writer, gadfly, TED talker, world-record holder, and (foolishly) reality-TV farmer. DOES: Innovation, Product, Advocacy THINKS: Regenerative Systems, Institution design, 300 year horizons

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