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Published by: Dave Boehnlein on 04/04/2018

The Invitation: Permaculture, Holism & the First Step (Permaculture Perspective Series #2)

The Invitation: Permaculture, Holism & the First Step (Permaculture Perspective Series #2)

One thing I find I must keep reminding folks who have just been introduced to Permaculture is that there is absolutely nothing "cookie cutter" about it. The response to a design challenge in Panama will likely be different than if you were in Oklahoma or Wales or Morocco. The principles apply across the board, but the techniques you choose do not.

Permaculture requires a bit of retraining for your mind. Today most of us are surrounded by a world in which reductionism is applied liberally. Permaculture design inherently operates in opposition to reductionism. Instead of narrowing solutions to the one right one and applying it everywhere (like a monoculture), permaculturists know that the answer to the question changes as circumstances change. Therefore, the right answer for one situation may not be the right answer for another. In fact, at our courses I often half-joke that the universal answer to permaculture-related questions is, "It depends..." 

In tandem with a more holistic understanding of problem solving (instead of reductionism), permaculturists also apply what is often referred to as the "transitional ethic." The transitional ethic basically states that:

  • No one is going to go from zero to sustainable overnight and
  • We should try to selectively utilize non-sustainable technologies (such as bulldozers) that already exist to help set us up for sustainability (or better yet regeneration) in the future.

The triple bottom line: planet, people, process

Furthermore, while all permaculture practitioners are seeking ways to approach sustainability, they are all starting from different places. In my opinion, the first part of the transitional ethic is what should keep permaculturists from looking down their noses at others. The attitude of "Oh, you still poop in a flush toilet. What a lame-o," doesn't fly when you are recognize that we're all starting from different places. It becomes important to honor people for setting their foot on the path toward sustainability instead of knocking them for where they were before they decided to take that path.

I think there is a certain amount of demystification that needs to occur around what permaculture is and what permaculture isn't in order for it to become a relevant design system that impacts more people. That is starting to happen right now. There is quite the buzz around permaculture at this point. In fact, five years ago I didn't used to use the word when I was talking to people about what I do. Now I find that at least half the people I communicate with have heard the term. People in the professional design realm are starting to pay attention too. It is an exciting time to be a designer & teacher.

This piece was originally published at: Terra Phoenix Design Blog 

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Dave Boehnlein

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Member since 04/03/2018

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