Sunday, June 9, 2013

Living With Intent - Part 2: Permaculture

This week we begin our journey towards intent by looking at "permaculture", one of three design philosophies I'll reference often in this blog.

Permaculture - What Is It?

Permaculture's concepts, principles and practices were co-originated in the 1970's by William Mollison and David Holmgren, both from Australia. The term "permaculture" is actually a combination of two words— "permanent" and "culture" or "agriculture". Mollison and Holmgren were inspired by the fact that in nature, eco-systems seemed to be interconnected and filled with abundance. They had also observed that indigenous cultures existed and functioned within such a context as well, and wondered if it might be possible to deliberately replicate these types of systems. In 1988, Mollison authored "Permaculture: A Designers' Manual" and Holmgren eventually went on to write about his experiences as a permaculture practitioner in his book "Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability".

Spiral of herbs
However, while permaculture arose out of a desire to identify more sustainable ways to live upon the land, its application is by no means limited to that. Because permaculture's primary focus is on the relationships between elements in a system, rather than just the elements themselves or their characteristics, there is a great deal of flexibility in applying the principles in different situations. In addition to the farm or garden, it can also be utilized in the home, the office, organizational settings, or anything else where effective relationships are key. Extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy, have really driven home just how important strong relationships are to a community's overall strength and resilience.

Permaculture's Basic Principles

Listed below are the fundamental principles of permaculture, as described in Holmgren's book:
  1. Observe and Interact
  2. Catch & Store Energy
  3. Obtain a Yield
  4. Apply Self-regulation & Accept Feedback
  5. Use & Value Renewable Resources & Services
  6. Produce No Waste
  7. Design From Patterns to Details
  8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate
  9. Use Small & Slow Solutions
  10. Use & Value Diversity
  11. Use Edges & Value the Marginal
  12. Creatively Use & Respond to Change
Toby Hemenway, another permaculture gardener, describes a few more principles in his book "Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture", 2nd ed, (pp. 6 & 7) that I think will also be useful for us to consider here, as well:
  1. Connect
  2. Stack Functions
  3. Make the Least Change for the Greatest Effect
  4. Collaborate With Succession
  5. Turn Problems Into Solutions
  6. Abundance is Limited by Creativity
  7. Mistakes Are a Tool for Learning
We'll discuss these principles in more detail as we go along, but this will help get us started for now.

Why Permaculture?

Permaculture's inherent focus on collaborative, inter-dependencies rather than individualistic, autonomy, helps our thinking to become more community oriented, which is fundamental to living with intent.

Next week, we’ll look at the design philosophy of “cradle-to-cradle” co-developed by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

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