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Posted by David Braden almost 8 years ago
In our western scientific culture we like to take things apart and break them down into pieces we can understand. We like to segregate things. We put nature off somewhere in reserves. We put agriculture out in the country. We conduct business downtown at the office. Then we go home to a place where we try to block out all the rest of the system. That is a segregated system design.
More recent advances in science suggest advantages in trying to understand how whole systems fit together. The study of Cybernetics, Chaos Theory, Complex Adaptive Systems and Emergent Properties offer glimpses into how humans might act to influence change in complex systems in which synergies create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Perhaps we could think of permaculture as the engineering arm of these scientific observations . . . seeking to apply the knowledge generated by those sciences.
The permaculture principle we are working with at the API, as a way to investigate and apply these system properties, is to integrate rather than segregate.
If we segregate home from nature, agriculture and business, we create what I have called blue grass deserts. We can begin to integrate nature into our suburban habitat by inviting all of nature to share it with us, including the living things that protect us from pest insects and pathogens. If we then consider the needs of the living things that could live within the perimeter of home, we begin to enjoy the beauty of an ecosystem becoming whole. If we can get our neighbors to understand this approach to integrating nature into home, that ecosystem expands into a larger perimeter.
We can also integrate the production of food into our home ecosystem. Some people have moved from the country to get away from the toxins and stench of modern agriculture. It is up to those of us practicing a permaculture approach, to demonstrate and explain why food production, integrated into a suburban system, has none of those characteristics.
This process of demonstration and explanation expands the integration of the ecosystem and food production into the perimeters of our neighbors' homes. That broadens and deepens our social connections within the neighborhood. It integrates our social system with the ecosystem and food production system within the perimeter of home.
The final step will be to integrate our livelihoods into our home system. We integrate the economy into the perimeter of home when we tap into unrealized human and biological potential within our neighborhood. We make the ecosystem, the social system and the economy more complex and more stable when we create production and consumption loops closer to home.
Integrating systems one home at a time may seem a long slow way to go to solve the problems we face as an impermanent culture but we know from complexity science that the planetary system will respond to the changes at the neighborhood level, creating a different world than the one we experience now. New synergies will create emergent properties as the system becomes whole at the level of home . . . at the level where each of us interacts with the system.
That is what we mean by a gardening team tending to the relationships among the living things around us. We seek to engineer an integrated whole system where we live. You have read about our efforts to integrate bees and chickens. This past Saturday, we did the preliminary site work for our greenhouse with climate battery that will allow year round food production and the addition of an aquaponics system. You can see the details of our designs at Multiple Use Facilities and the links included there.
More importantly, there is a process to designing an integrated system that includes your home. There is an outline of how I see that process called Principles of Community Design for Permaculture Practitioners. We are developing a workshop to explain what we know about that process. Look for opportunities to attend our workshop in the near future.
We invite you to experiment with applying that process where you live and to share your results with the world . . . creating an information feed back loop within the system, leading to the emergence of integrated systems around the planet.
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