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Posted by David Braden over 9 years ago
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.
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