The permaculture chapter: principle 12 – creatively use and respond to change

See HERE for the provisional contents page of the study,

which gives you a proper chronology of sections.

Note: the content below is all in first draft format. It will change considerably during the time it takes for the study to be completed (especially by way of more academic support, generally). I post now ‘for interest’s sake’.

  1. Creatively use and respond to change

Mollison (1988: 11) aptly points out that in “life and in design, we must accept that immutable rules will not apply, and instead be prepared to be guided on our continuing exploration by flexible principles and directives” (his emphasis). The previous eleven permaculture principles are notably flexible: each one will be applied differently in a different context depending on the details of the given context. For example, a permaculture design for food gardens on a flat piece of land will be considerably different to a design for food gardens on a sloped piece of land; observation (principle one) will obviously produce different results; the catching and storing of energy (principle two) will not be the exactly the same; the yields (principle three) will also be different; and so on.

Every season also brings about changes that affect all permaculture food systems. Summer yields are obviously different to winter yields, and the permaculturalist plants different seeds at different times of year, involves herself in different activities at different times of year (for example, working outside at the heat of the day during the summer in hot climates is not recommended), and tends to adapt her diet to one that can incorporate seasonal produce as far as is possible. The Permaculture Association[1] uses the example of changing seasons as an opportunity to point out that such predictable changes can be planned for: “seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter are predictable and can be planned for, and incorporated into our designs, management and action plans”. The Association elaborates on this broad notion of changing systems as follows:

How eco-systems change over time – in ecology this is called ‘succession’ [–] is also predictable, at least overall. By understanding how ecosystems change over time, we can accelerate the process and create productive ecosystems faster than is usual in nature. Forest gardens are an example of this, where all the layers of the forest are put in all in one go, rather than over many years.

The permaculture approach is therefore one that proactively anticipates change and plans for it via the design process. This proactive approach of planning for change is of importance considering broader socio-political, economic and ecological changes, some of which the Permaculture Association draws attention to: “Climate change, peak oil, resource depletion, population growth, technology changes, economic booms and busts, all contribute to a less than certain age.” The Association adds the following optimistic reassurance, which surely stems from experience with permaculture systems in general: “Many of these challenges seem beyond our control. However, the way we think about them, and how we react as individuals, groups, organisations and networks, is under our control”.

In ACID, the ‘business-as-usual’ Promethean mindset prevails in the context of change: food production is ‘changed’ via the application of ever-increasing amounts of industrial chemicals to monocrops of ever-increasing size that require ever-increasing amounts of water to grow, process, and distribute; throughput of raw materials under the consumer-capitalist model is ‘changed’ by increasing the throughput of raw materials and the ever-increasing rate of available consumer goods; the fractional reserve money industry ‘changes’ by the ever-increasing creation of ‘currency’ (which counterintuitively means increasing debt throughout society; political ‘change’ entails the (potential) change of one political party for another but all political parties ‘inherit the check-book’ (so to speak) and perpetuate the agenda of consumer-capitalism; and so on (see Chapters 2 and 3 for details on the listed examples, and for various other examples). In other words, ‘change’ is synonymous with growth in ACID, the kind of growth that propels the ecological crisis (see Chapters 1 and 2 for the exposition of this cause-and-effect relationship). Change is the context of permaculture involves not only being aware and respectful of changing cycles, e.g. the seasons, but also being aware of the changes that human beings cause in a given environment in all its facets – social, political, economic, and ecological. Permaculture therefore acts as a mitigating force against the Promethean business-as-usual mindset characteristic of ACID.

The researcher will add, in light of what has been written so far about this principle, that he was partly inspired to begin a permaculture homestead by the ‘business-as-usual’ mindset that he saw as instrumental in the ecological crisis. It was clear to him that real change of systems is necessary in order to start dealing with the ecological crisis, and for him this meant drastically changing the way he lives – the rustic permaculture homestead that is his home (and which has been described in some detail in this chapter already) is testament to his embrace of change. In applying all of the permaculture principles already discussed, he changed his life, and his changed life has incomparably fewer negative ecological impacts that the average ‘Promethean man’; indeed, the researcher makes frequent positive ecological contributions by putting into practice the previously discussed permaculture principles. The way of life that he has undertaken involves constant planning for change – specifically change of the seasons and the accompanying changes in temperature, rainfall, vegetables that must be planted, chores that need to be adapted, etc. This way of life is ecologically sensitive: putting on more clothes when cold in winter, as opposed to buying electric heaters to warm various rooms in a building; eating seasonal vegetables rather than eating vegetables flown in from various countries for the purpose of year-round availability of all types of vegetables; changing routine frequently to make compost when all the humanure buckets are full rather than flushing fertility down the toilet; etc. No big societal/political/economic change needed to occur for the researcher to make such personal changes; instead, he took heed of unambiguous information about the ecological crisis (Chapter 1), about the causes of the ecological crisis (Chapter 2), and he made the choice to change to change his life.

All of the Orphic offerings explored in Chapter 5 can be said to be very open to change: older cultures constantly adapted themselves to being more connected to seasons and natural cycles; the unnamed movement of Blessed Unrest is constituted by between one and two million groups that all work for changes towards socio-political, economic and ecological justice; Sheldrake’s morphic resonance theory focuses partly on habits and changes that occur in a species via the morphic field ‘mechanism’; Hancock’s work on the legacy of a potential lost civilisation of vast antiquity implies a crucial change to the way that human beings understand their origins; Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics, the Occupy Movement, and the Zeitgeist movement all propose massive changes to the Promethean status quo of ACID.

[1] accessed 1 March 2016