The design task is to make positive change to a complex adaptive system. The set of interactions in which we find ourselves is the most complex adaptive system that we know.
There is currently a controversy among permaculture practitioners about the propriety of including sections on spirituality in a Permaculture Design Course. Some practitioners think of what they do as design science. Those advocating a scientific approach are concerned that including the instructor's views on spirituality will turn off potential students who associate spirituality with impractical “new age” practices. Some suggest that associating permaculture with spiritual beliefs is what prevents the widespread adoption of permaculture practices.
The failure of permaculture practices to be widely adopted might be due to its association with spirituality but the focus on what is essentially landscape design may also share some blame. The issue is appropriate design for human participation in a whole system and humans have emotional needs that are addressed by spiritual teachings. I do not think we want to promote a particular spiritual teaching or that we can afford to limit our search for answers to the scientific method. The scientific method is a reductionist process and we are dealing with a whole system. There is a middle ground.
The design task is to make positive change to a complex adaptive system. The set of interactions in which we find ourselves is the most complex adaptive system that we know. It encompasses everything we know. Humans are a part of that system, like every other living thing. Humans have needs that must be fulfilled by their habitat if they are to thrive. Just as we design for the needs and products of a chicken, if we want to take advantage of human products in our proposed changes, we must consider the needs of those humans participating. We will not attract participation unless the design change meets at least some of those needs.
Humans have emotional needs as well as physical needs. We need to feel like we belong, that we are contributing, that there is a purpose for our existence. Associating permaculture with any particular spiritual or faith based set of beliefs will exclude all those who hold a different set of spiritual or faith based beliefs but we can design for meeting certain emotional needs. To do that may require that we move beyond what is considered science.
Each of us is already participating in a set of interactions with all the living things around us. Those interactions create the habitat we experience. Every choice each of us makes impacts those interactions and the condition of our habitat. Our individual well being is inseparable from the well being of that habitat. In that way, it is in our self interest to contribute to the well being of our habitat. That is not a spiritual understanding. That is how the system functions.
Ideas such as gardening teams, leading in the direction of community sufficiency technologies, are experiments in developing new ways to meet human needs through participation in system function. The goal is to create a sense of belonging to place, a sense of participating in the ecosystem, and to develop an understanding of the role humans could play as a keystone species within an environment of increasing diversity . . . creating a habitat that meets the needs and accepts the gifts of an expanding number of participants, including us. I am hopeful that the practice of permaculture can expand to encompass this whole system understanding. We want permaculture practitioners to join us in designing for the role of humans in whole system function . . . because we all still have a lot to learn about what it takes for people to adopt permaculture practices as a way of life.
David, I have been mulling over your Chapter 7 post and want to respond to some of your statements. Whether we define permaculture by terms like “complex adaptive systems” and “design science” seems to me to be immaterial to what you call the failure of permaculture to be widely adapted. Neither will mean much to those we are trying to reach. As to spirituality, all it means in secular terms is “showing much refinement of thought and feeling. Only the theocracy have given it their various meanings. I like the concept of the Sacred and the Profane. Sacred – regarded with respect or reverence, Profane – outside the temple, not connected with religion. Let’s just present the best possible view of nature and let the awesome wonder of it speak in whatever way an individual is capable of feeling, call it what you may, their “emotional needs” are not what we can determine or affect.
As to science, as you said, it’s good at picking through the pieces and not relating to the whole. I like what Fukuoka has to say in The One-Straw Revolution: “ Man’s “improved” techniques seem to be necessary because the natural balance has been so badly upset by those same techniques that the land has become dependent on them. If an insect is destroying a crop and the spider in the field eats the insects the researcher will hurry back to the lab and investigate the relationship between the insect and the spider. The specialist in plant nutrition will study the plants vigor in regard to the insect attack. Fukuoka would say ”professor, this year spiders appeared in great numbers but last year it was toads, before that it was frogs that predominated. When a lot of rain falls the frogs cause the spider to disappear and when little rain falls neither the insect or the frogs appear at all. This is only a fraction of the ways nature takes care of its own when we plant with that relationship in mind. We are seeing that what was once viewed as primitive and backward now seems to be standing in the forefront of agricultural development .”
So what would most likely appeal and be relevant to engaging people in permaculture. Sustainability, resilience, climate change, global warming, protecting ecosystems, even Local Food Security - may not be urgent enough to instill a NEED to change for enough people. We should also make sure our terminology is understood when we use terms such as habitat, ecosystems and even permaculture. What I do feel may be an incentive - education as to the health toll of our conventional food supply , the additives in processed food, pesticides, hormones, genetically engineered crops. More and more degenerative diseases are affecting all age groups that used to be associated with only aging. Then the pharmaceutical industry plies us with harmful drugs. The so-called health experts in line with industry give misinformation on diet. Lobbying by the food industry and agri-businees and pay-offs to politicians prevent any beneficial policy or regulation changes Now they’re using “natural” in their labeling to try and further bamboozle us. Whether permaculture or just backyard gardening organically can provide an amazing amount of nutrients if there is a conscious effort to provide variety and need only be supplemented by a small amount of grains, depending on climate, and a protein source if small livestock are not raised. Economic factors threatening livelihoods, man-made or natural disasters , failure of energy systems – all doom and gloom scenarios might work too but this is not what we’re about. Good health is one factor I am suggesting to further our cause, what ideas do others have. Maxine
All good ideas Maxine. That is the way we explain our No Weed, No Water, No Till, Deep Mulch, Drip Irrigated Gardening System. Let nature do the work . . .
I read the One Straw Revolution in the 70s I think. I am ashamed to say that it took me nearly 30 years to learn how to apply those lessons in my own gardening . . .
Community Sufficiency Technologies is about shortening that learning curve for others. I particularly like the idea of humans learning enough about their own habitat that they can play the role of keystone species . . . consciously increasing diversity, complexity, stability and productivity in the habitat by providing for the needs and accepting the gift of all who choose to live there.
I hope the message of Chapter 7 was clear . . . that we can't afford to set up an arbitrary line and say beyond this is spiritual and not appropriate to include in our designs.
Poisoning pollen and nectar is tantamount to suicide. Humans cannot live on this planet without the services of pollinators.
On Sunday we gathered as a community to build 7 bee hives. The event went smoothly, exceeding my expectations. We had cut the pieces for the roofs, quilts and floors so we could start out running and that worked well. We had all the remaining pieces cut and rabbeted by about ten o'clock and that left plenty of time for assembly. The only mistake we really made was in counting frame pieces and we had to set up the saws again toward the end to cut the missing frames. There are some minor modifications to the plans, and jigs, that I would make for the next build but, on the whole, the plan worked well.
We had an observer drop by toward the end of the day who compared what we were doing to an old fashioned barn raising. I think that is probably right. Every one jumped right in, everyone was willing to do whatever needed to be done. We took about an hour for a great lunch prepared by members and friends of our team. We had a chance to talk about the practical parts of beekeeping and a chance to talk about the importance of bees in our habitat.
We accomplished 7 new homes for bee colonies and made an investment in the capacity of the participants to produce honey. That increases the opportunity for honey bees to adapt to conditions here on the front range. The more neighborhoods that have hives, the more opportunity there is to discuss with neighbors the problem with spreading poisons.
There is, right now, at your garden center and hardware store, pesticide products, including bagged top soil and potting soil, containing neonicotinoids. These chemicals are “systemic”, meaning that they are absorbed by the plant and are present in all parts of the plant, including the pollen and nectar. We don't use any pesticides in our gardens. We do not have pests. Those insects eating our plants are food for the creatures that want to protect our plants. You can't have one without the other. We would never think of poisoning either one. Poisoning pollen and nectar is tantamount to suicide. Humans cannot live on this planet without the services of pollinators.
Perhaps we should occupy the local garden center and explain how these chemicals work to those who think that they are a safe way to have a pretty flower garden. Or . . . get together a few friends and build some bee hives.
Let us know if we can help you set up an event similar to ours. This is necessary and important work.
Money is a measure of relative scarcity. That is not good or bad. It is just what it is.
I am on the the Board of the Mile High Business Alliance. The Alliance is a trade organization for local businesses based on the premise that money circulating locally benefits the whole community compared to money spent into the global economy. The Alliance asks the community to support local business and I have proposed that it is a two way street. Local business can also support the local community by facilitating the implementation of Community Sufficiency Technologies.
As a business owner, I know the pressures to maintain your existing connections and build new connections. It requires an intense focus on where the cash is flowing. Business owners have to keep on top of how cash flows in, how it flows out and what, if any, is left over to meet the rest of the owner's obligations. That leaves little time to think about how your flows fit into the larger pattern of flows in your community. Even more, because connections are so fragile in a market economy, a suggestion about changes to the flows often feels like a threat.
There is, however, potential profit in being able to step back and examine the larger pattern. We can find ways to assist others that feed back into the stability of our business. Especially in a recessionary economy, there are segments of the community who have no place in the market. If we can find another way for people to contribute to the community, the entire community benefits, including our business. I call these techniques Community Sufficiency Technologies.
Money is a measure of relative scarcity. That is not good or bad. It is just what it is. Of all the things that we can produce at a given point in time, some of them can flow out through the market because they are relatively scarce to someone else who has the money to pay for them. If we only measure value in money, if we do not see the value in anything that cannot be sold, then all the rest of what we could produce is not produced. All of that potential to produce is wasted.
There are things that we want to be abundant. We want food, clothing, shelter, education and health care to be abundant. Those are the things that are required for humans to thrive. What sense does it make to say that once those things become abundant they have no value . . . because they can no longer be sold . . . because there is no market for them? What sense does it make to say that these things cannot be produced because there is no one with the money to pay for them . . . when there are people who clearly need them?
Imagine a network of gardens and greenhouses that produced enough food for every one in the neighborhood. The neighborhood already has the resources to start building that network. It requires little to no money. Then imagine that anyone in the community could get a share of that food by contributing according to their strengths: fixing cars, reading to kids, cooking, sewing, carpentry, home repair, gardening, making cheese . . . In that way, we begin to utilize the dormant potential to produce that already exists in our neighborhoods.
The local business that helped a neighborhood develop that kind of community sufficiency would build customer loyalty in the same way as a business supporting a youth soccer league. It need not take a lot of money from the business either. Your neighborhood may just need a place to meet, a way to connect with other neighbors, or someone to offer advice on how to do it.
Every dollar the neighborhood saves by producing what they need for themselves, is a dollar potentially spent at your business. It is creating an opportunity to contribute for those who are not now contributing . . . increasing the flows for the whole neighborhood. It is one of the most satisfying marketing approaches you will ever find.
Here is a good place to see Chapter 10 of the Chronicles:
I don't understand why formatting is so difficult on this site when I have no such trouble on other ning sites.
Have the plans downloaded for the Warre building, have several interested people and want to schedule it end of March. Got a book at the library, Honey Bee Hobbyist and was kind of overwhelmed by the complexity of the methods described for care etc. No mention of Warre though and did require an extractor. My question, after they are built, what then, how do we proceed - getting bees,maintenance,extraction etc.
We are fortunate to have a bee keeper on our gardening team. We also have a local company that sells beekeeping equipment with links to local commercial beekeepers who are dividing their colonies and selling "nucs", which are a queen with some frames of brood and honey. You can also order "packets" of bees in the mail. Our team is buying two nucs for delivery April 21. Our bee keeper is also on the list to call when someone has a "swarm" on their property. Our team is planning on being available to collect swarms and fill as many of our hives as possible that way.
As I mention in the plans, the Warre is designed for the novice beekeeper to put a new box on the bottom in the spring and take off a box from the top in the fall. The honey can then be pressed out of the comb. An extractor will not work because there is no "foundation" as in commercial frames.
I highly recommend a team approach because, one of your team members can become proficient in beekeeping techniques and the team can share both the expenses involved and the honey produced.
Hope that helps.
Chapter 11 of the Chronicles is now posted: