Many people begin to learn about permaculture, because they care about the earth. They want to live more in harmony with nature and find out sustainable ways of living. This is also how the whole movement of permaculture started and land maintenance is still essential parts of it. There are some good reason for that. The way how do we relate to our food, indicates a lot how do we relate to ourselves and other beings. Gardening is also very good way of transforming our lives, it can be an extremely healing experience. It teaches us about life cycles and engages us with nature on the sentient level. In short, when you grow the food, that you eat, you just feel, that you are part of the nature cycles.
But there is more to the permaculture that just the gardening. To me in fact it focuses more on People, rather than on Earth. There is nothing for us to change about the nature, it is perfect as it is. But what needs a good design, is our attitude and the courage to just follow the nature’s ways. Patrick Whitefield wrote: Permaculture is the art of designing beneficial relationships. Which makes perfect sense in relation to plants, animals, people and every beings in the universe.
Permaculture Principles from the Social Perspective
Social permaculture focuses on how can we apply the ethics and principles of permaculture into the people’s world, our well-being, education, economy and our personal fulfillment. What are those principles and how can they help guiding us through our lives?
When Bill Mollison and David Holmgren were setting up the permaculture ideas, they realized, that there are certain universal patterns, that apply to every design. Principles became a thinking tools, that can help every one of us to make a transition. Nowadays most of the people recognize 12 principals coined by David Holmgren in his book Permaculture Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. If you are not familiar with them, I invite you to have a look at this webpage: Permaculture Principles. Or you can also sign up for one of our Introduction to Permaculture Courses. FIND MORE INFO.
I would like to mention some of them, that stick to my mind most and helped me personally with my own struggles.
Obtain a Yield
That of course bring us directly to the garden sector. It points out, that we should always pay attention, that we get out enough outcome of our hard work. Otherwise, whatever we do, we won’t keep going this way for long. So if we put a lot of effort into the garden plot, we shall remember not only to harvest, but also to consume it with joy and celebration. If it’s a building design, we should design it in a way, that we enjoy living in it. If it’s a collective initiative, it’s good when we focus on the fun part.
For me it’s a very important reminder, because I have a tendency to loose myself in work and challenges. I also really like to have things done the best way and do many projects in the same time. So it’s really important to keep the time and space in my life, when I just take a breath and see, what is already there. Whether it’s a beautiful garden, lovely friends or just a walk in the forest, let’s just enjoy it without having to think about thousand new tasks to do.
Integrate Rather than Segregate
Very important one, when we think about the ecosystem. It reminds us, that nature works only based on diversity. Going for the observation in the forest is the best way to see that. Food forest concept is inspired from the natural forest ecosystem, exactly because of it’s resilience through diversity! You can read more about our food forest HERE. But basically anywhere on our planet, we always find more that one, or rather plenty of the elements, that create the system together. Those elements work together so well, because of beneficial connections between themselves. Just like bees in the beehive, or microbes in the soil.
Sometimes though it’s really hard to integrate some people or aspects of our life, when we are in conflicts with them. Conflicts can be so difficult, we all know that very well! But what is good to realize, that the same people, difficulties and obstacles, that come to our life with such tension, are our best teachers. As the popular Mollison’s principle says: the problem is the solution! So I always try to invite myself to look at the troubles from this perspective. Integrating troubles into our lives rather than avoiding them, makes us grow stronger. More than that, they very likely disappear, because we dare to face them.
Use and Value Edges and the Marginal
Edge is a very significant word for permaculture, because it means two different worlds meeting with each other. And in the nature it is where the most interesting events happen. The coast line is where we can observe the most rich and diverse sea life, because of it’s shallow waters, where there is plenty of sun allowing plants to grow under the water. Cities are full of micro-climates and edges between them, like river banks, parks, abandoned buildings, where nature takes over, or suburbs, with plenty of various backyards. When we carefully observe these areas, we realize, that they are full of potential, because the organisms living there have benefits of both climates.
The same thing is happening between people. Europe is a great example with it’s diversity, many cultures and languages. Cultural diversity comes with many challenges, but if we open ourselves to see it as a value, we have amazing results. We can learn from one another, as well as see same things from different perspective, which opens our minds and allows us to be more ourselves.
The edge and the comfort zone
Other way of seeing the Edges, are also the limits, that we have. Everything, which is beyond our identity, belief systems, beyond things that we love or value – is over our Edge. In other words we would say, over the edge is where “the other” starts. We could also compare it with a popular phrase in permaculture, which is our comfort zone. Everything that puts us over the edge or the comfort zone, makes us feel uncomfortable, annoyed, angry. Sometimes to such an extend that we wish to deny it’s existence.
Let’s bring some example. Since I remember, I always straggling to accept technological devices around me. It can be, because as a kid I loved to play in the nature, and my favorite way of spending time was taking a book into the field and read between the grass and flowers. I’m also part of the generation, when mobile phones and computers where just coming into the daily use. I never could get very excited about them. They felt strange to me. So strange and uncomfortable, that I avoided having a computer as long as I could and I’m still managing my life without a smartphone. But if I continued my avoidance, this website would never come to the existence!
I knew it’s important to be connected to the world, and the farm can’t be detached from the virtual reality anymore. So I decided to step out of my comfort zone and cross the edge of making friends with computers. That not only had great results for the farm, but also brought me skills and confidence, that I would never considered to have. In other words – my personal Edges has extended and I grew up. To sum it up, it’s very hard to cross our edges and face the unknown. But besides the difficulties, they also hold great potential for growth.
Now, since permaculture is a conscious and functional design, how can we actually use those principals in a design, to fulfill dreams and realize projects? Looby Macnamara is presenting so-called design web in her brilliant books People&Permaculture and Cultural Emergence. Design web is a toolkit constructed out of 12 anchor points, that help us to go through every part of the design, from the first ideas into action. It is fun, easy and helps so much to get our heads more clear about what we actually want and how can that be achieved. I definitely recommend to visit Looby’s website and find out more about the design web. There are plenty of free sources to learn from, as well as courses and books: Design Web in Cultural Emergence
Principles and design web are great introduction to the social dimension of permaculture, but there is definitely so much more to it! It is the part of permaculture, that is more and more recognized as the most urgent to focus on. The reason is simple, because the real transition always starts within us. If we understand the social patterns, we are able to really make the change that matters.