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David Braden
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Joined:
11/11/2011
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15/11/2011
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Golden, CO, United States
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Cool Temperate
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www.livingsystemsinst.org/





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The GrowHaus Community Cultivators Purple Pear Farm Casa Cosmica Permacultura Aralar Wildwood Community Permacultured Gardens Blackland Succession :: Restorative Food Forest Design and Exchange
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Chapter 7

Posted by David Braden over 8 years ago

There is a middle ground between a strict scientific and a spiritual approach to permaculture

Chapter 7

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Comments (8)

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Mark Brown
Mark Brown : It is not very long age that Biodynamics was considered to have no place within permaculture David but now is widely accepted. However there is no place (or time) to cover biodynamics in a PDC - it takes it's own two weeks and then some.

I enjoyed the article - thanks.
Posted over 8 years ago

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David Braden
David Braden : Thanks for the comment Mark. I rather think of it the other way. The Design Manual has a section on Community Design but it is very light. That is because we do not have a lot of expertise. It talks about Mondragon cooperatives and Local Exchange Trading Systems. I am hoping that permaculture can have a greater impact by increasing the focus on that community design part.
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David Braden
David Braden : I will consider taking the course in July. It may be that things will slow down by then. Another possibility would be that I could present to PDC teachers the way we look at community design, community ownership, and scarcity and and abundance in relation to exchange systems.

I am not so much concerned with labels. In my own thoughts permaculture as practiced is the ecosystem services part of a larger set of interactions. That seems to be where most practitioners are comfortable. However, if we are looking for reasons that permaculture practices are not more widely applied, one place to look is how our designs are relevant to the majority of the population.

Let's keep the conversation going. It seems that there is currently no consensus on what is and is not permaculture, and if what I am doing is not permaculture I think we still need to find a way to work together.
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Mark Brown
Mark Brown : Thanks for your response David - I agree that chapter fourteen needs strengthening and given a greater emphasis in the pDC. We certainly do with the PDC we do here at Purple Pear through our involvement with Transition Towns and gift economy. What gets shortened? Earthworks?
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David Braden
David Braden : I love the earth works part :-). As a practical matter I don't have any clients that have the property that needs earth movers or that could afford them. We are working with the people who have some, not the wealthy or the poor.

As we say on our home page, "Every community has unrealized human potential and unrealized biological potential. We call these poverty and environmental degradation and treat them as a problem instead of a resource".

I like both the Transition Movement and Permaculture because they both start with the proposition that we can change the way we do almost everything. I can't tell you what you should include in your PDC. Perhaps Community Design deserves a course of its own.
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David Braden
David Braden : Thank you Jason. We will be holding our bee hive build this coming Sunday but, after that, lets find a time to talk. I still want to find a qualified group to present a PDC through our facility and I would appreciate your input on presenting the idea of a Community Design workshop to the Permaculture Practitioners in our area.
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