HeenanDoherty Charter

“...HeenanDoherty's Charter is to provide the potential for people to be informed about the regenerative economy, whether it involves their work in agriculture, land management, corporate life, domestic services, manufacturing or other activities that are within the domain of humans…”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Off the Contour #11 - Permaculture & Ecological Design Principles

PERMACULTURE & ECOLOGICAL DESIGN PRINCIPLES

By definition Permaculture is an inclusive design system that involves the integration of a whole host of disciplines in the pursuit of its follower's objectives. The current sets of Permaculture design principles have been composed as a result of retrospectivity (Holmgren's) or by incremental discussion, original thought and extra-disciplinary harvesting (Mollison's). Beyond the work of these two Permaculture co-originators there has been few contributions to the development of more Permaculture principles however outside of the field of Permaculture itself others have provided a number of lists that I believe will prove informative and expand the realm of thinking outside of the Permaculture movement per se. As systems mature, and Permaculture is getting that way, they sometimes stop being quite as expansive in their capture/integration of concepts (or information, genetics etc.) as they could be and so this is an attempt to keep the doors open.

Bill Mollison, Permaculture: A Designers' Manual (1988) & Introduction to Permaculture (1991)

• Relative location
• Each element performs multiple functions
• Each function is supported by many elements
• Energy efficient planning
• Using biological resources
• Energy cycling
• Small-scale intensive systems
• Natural plant succession and stacking
• Polyculture and diversity of species
• Increasing "edge" within a system
• Observe and replicate natural patterns
• Pay attention to scale
• Attitude

David Holmgren, Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2002)

• Observe and Interact
• Catch and Store Energy
• Obtain a Yield
• Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback
• Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
• Produce No Waste
• Design from Patterns to Details
• Integrate Rather than Segregate
• Use Small and Slow Solutions
• Use and Value Diversity
• Use Edges and Value the Marginal
• Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Sim Van Der Ryn & Stuart Cowan, Ecological Design (1996)

1. Solutions grow from place

"Ecological design begins with the intimate knowledge of a particular place."

2. Ecological accounting informs design

"No conventional design is executed without a careful accounting of all economic costs. Likewise no ecological design is executed without a careful accounting of all ecological costs, from resource depletion to pollution to habitat destruction. Tracing the full set of ecological impacts of a design is obviously a prerequisite for ameliorating those impacts."

3. Design with nature

"Ecological design...is a kind of covenant between human communities and other living communities: Nothing in the design should violate the wider integrities of nature....By working with the patterns and processes favored by the living world, we can dramtically reduce the ecological impacts of our designs."

4. Everyone is a designer

"No one is participant only or designer only. Everyone is participant-designer. Honor the special knowledge that each person brings....The best design expeirences occur when noone can claim credit for the solution--when the solution grows and evolves organically out of a particular situation, process and pattern of communication."

5. Make nature visible

"Making natural cycles and processes visible brings the designed environment back to life. Effective design helps inform us of our place within nature."

Art Ludwig from Principles of Ecological Design (2003)

1. Transcend market culture

The main obstacles to living with nature are cultural, not technical or economic.
We do things not because they make social or economic sense, but simply because our society has been led to believe in them. The culture—the gut level idea of the right way to live—is a force which shapes desires and constrains the mainstream of society. In the West it determines, for example, what is thought to be “economically viable” at least as much as economics does.

What then determines the culture? Much of the American way of life has been designed by market forces. Free market enthusiasts claim that no system is more effective for filling human needs. This is probably true. But a way of life designed with the goal of living best would be very different than one designed to maximize profit...

This book explains nothing less than how to redesign our way of life from the ground up, optimized for long term quality, not short term profitability. Alternatives to the conventional score board for success “How much do you make?” is a widely accepted standard measure of success. However, the degree to which you “want what you have” is arguably a more real measure of success, security, and happiness. Additionally, as a goal, wanting what you have encourages more soul-nourishing behaviour.

A wealthy American woman who does volunteer aid work in a village in Guatemala said she can only stand to be there for two weeks at a time because the Indians are “too damn happy.” That people living a dozen per dirt floored shack can find the happiness which eludes her “just becomes too confronting.”

The holes in our hearts cannot be filled with stuff. They can only be filled with the love of ourselves and others.

2. Follow nature’s example

Natural systems are always in dynamic balance with the whole. They serve to keep us connected, reminding us what is natural. Regular visits to more pristine wilderness deepens and broadens this connection, and anchors our souls against currents of cultural madness.

3. Context is everything

The context must be known in order to determine if a design is “good” or not. There are no universal solutions. There are approaches and patterns that can be applied to generate the optimum solution in a variety of contexts. Context is king in ecological design. In all cases the greatest efficiency—and performance as well—is achieved when the power of the tool is well-matched to the task at hand. Overkill is one of the saddest sources of waste in our society. Elimination of overkill does not mean sacrifice. The resources saved by using simple tools for easy tasks can be applied toward more difficult tasks. Using transportation as an example, walking would be used when adequate, bicycles for distances too long to walk, buses, trains, and carpooling for distances too long to bike or in bad weather, planes for speed or great distances.
By using a mix of transport modes instead of driving as much as average, my wife and I have saved about $180,000 in our 20 year driving lives—about what it cost to pay off our house. Cleverly matching the power of the tool to the task at hand is cheaper, healthier, lower impact, and more enjoyable—yet ultimately more powerful than any single solution.

4. Moderate and efficient resource use

Fossil fuels and electricity have severed the connection between energy source and consumer. One thin pair of wires can invisibly, silently channel an unbelievable amount of energy without creating a ripple of awareness. This has enabled our relationship with energy to skew way out of scale.

To put our energy use in a human, comprehensible perspective, try measuring it in units of energy slaves (Es). If you shackled a very fit slave to an exercycle, they could generate about 75 watts of power, twelve hours a day. This is about what a bike rider expends cruising on flat land. To make the math easier, we’ll round it up generously to 100 watts = 1 Es This is a level of energy expenditure which an average American might be able to keep up for thirty minutes before collapsing. Now look around for energy slaves at work.

A Ford Expedition SUV—1700 energy slaves. Arranged on bikes four abreast (a bit wider than a standard ten foot road lane) and squeezed so there was just a few feet between the front wheel of one and the rear wheel of the next, the Ford Expedition would require a column of energy slaves nearly a mile long...

A great deal of energy and ingenuity has gone into hiding the supply and waste systems we use. Effective action follows awareness. Hiding certain things has caused an “unknowing,” and our morals have developed without critical knowledge. Those who gain from increased consumption have gained tremendously. All others, especially future generations, have lost.
Natural designs strive for moderation and awareness in the employment of energy slaves as well in the use of other resources. When we weren’t living in a cabin, our family has lived happily in tents or shacks for three of the last ten years.

5. Not too little, not too much: just enough

Voluntary poverty creates a safety net which precludes the worst excesses of modern life—by simply not having the money to fund wasteful ways of doing things, even if you are temporarily blinded into wanting them. Having money, on the other hand, means foregoing excess is only a matter of will.

Deficiency is stunting, excess is toxic and unbalancing. In most cases the optimal growth arises from just enough resources. This is true across a wide spectrum, from nutrition, to emotional needs, to national economies.

While green consumption is surely a slower path to ecological annihilation...Consuming less would be a far more effective step. In ecological design, you’re best off to:

Choose the most inherently simple solution, then implement it as well as possible.
Market economies favor the exact opposite: marketers seek out and push the fundamentally most expensive solutions, with the option of shoddy execution or financing if you want to save money up front. This yields the maximum profit and use of resources.

6. Empower and require individual thought and action

Because natural solutions are context sensitive, it is up to the people facing a situation to figure out what to do about it and how. Natural solutions are generally less idiot-proof than current common practice. They both demand and reward user interaction.

Ecological design places ultimate responsibility for implementing sensible solutions with local people who have knowledge of local conditions. Also, many of the systems themselves require independent thought from users on an ongoing basis.

More than any other feature, it is the interaction of the user with the design that enables ecological design to be so much more efficient. For example, recycling requires more thought and action from people than if they put any solid they don’t want in the trash, and any liquid they’re done with down the drain. At least some user separation is key to tap the substantial economic and ecological advantages of recycling materials.

Many of the cycles in natural living environments are of such small scale that they can be maintained by a single individual. The short feedback loops in natural living environments both suggest and reward ecological living. The reward is usually in the form of better performance, lower cost, and ever-increasing awareness. Compounded over the years, the savings and awareness facilitate a significantly better quality of life. In contrast, the promotion of high consumption depends on perpetuating dissatisfaction. Buying into consumerism is certainly costly, generally dulls awareness, and yields little long-term fulfillment.

A ubiquitous but unspoken assumption in mainstream design is that the capacity of the system must almost never limit the user. This maximizes profits from sale and use of the system, and ensures that users will learn no conservative habits from the system.

Systems of moderate capacity tend to be cheaper and simpler to build, and to use less resources. What’s more, bumping into the limits of system capacity system provides useful feedback, which raises awareness and promotes good habits.

7. True progress

True progress actually solves problems. Most of what is commonly called “progress” is the relocation of problems out of sight in space or time.
It is wiser to add new ways alongside the old, rather than completely and immediately supplant them. By the time the problems of a new technology are recognized, reinstating old methods where they were superior is often not feasible: traditional knowledge has been lost, and/or the resources which the traditional approach requires have been appropriated for other uses.

8. True comfort

The whole body changes in response to its environment. Head out into the wilderness and your skin browns and thickens, reaction to bug bites and poison oak lessens, your stomach shrinks, your feet toughen, your thyroid cranks the thermostat up or down to maintain comfort. At high elevation your lung capillarity and red blood cell count increase. Nerves in your cerebellum connect more intricately to perform all the calculations needed to keep your balance on rough terrain, your heart becomes slower and stronger.

Ecological design strikes a balance between short term comfort and long term comfort from a strong, adaptable, and adapted body. Shelter doesn't have to be so elaborate—and even the armchair feels better.

9. Natural Harmony

One aspect of the web of life is creatures eating each other. Another, making music together: finding and refining our part in this incredible, ever-unfolding, multimedia symphony.

John Todd & Nancy Jack Todd, From Eco-cities to Living Machines (1994)

• The living world is a matrix for all design
• Design should follow, not oppose, the laws of life
• Biological equity should determine design
• Design should reflect bioregionality
• Design should not be dependent on non-renewable energy sources
• Design should be sustainable through the integration of living systems
• Design should be coevolutionary with the natural world
• Building and design should help in healing the planet
• Design should follow sacred ecology


ZERI Design Principles, Lynn Margulis & Karlene V. Schwartz , Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth (1997)

1. No one species eats its own waste; whatever is waste for one, is food for another species belonging to another kingdom

If one species starts to eat its own waste it will deteriorate. When cattle farmers started to feed cows with waste from other cows they violated this principle - and it led to the outbreak of mad cow disease. Shrimp farmers made the same mistake when shrimps were fed their own waste - leading to white shrimp virus. A lion will eat an antelope, but would a lion consider the manure of the antelope. There are exceptions which confirm the rule; occasionally a dog may be spotted eating its own waste, though this is a matter of strengthening, challenging its immune system. If an animal were only ingesting its own waste, and behave as a cannibal, it would never survive. If industry were to re-use all its own waste, then it decreases its flexibility and increases the risk of failure.

The waste of one industry should be used as a value-added input for another industry.

If one species is fed its own waste, it will degenerate.

2. Whatever is a toxin for a species belonging to one kingdom will be neutral, or a nutrient, for another species in at least one other kingdom.

As humans we tend to classify things that are toxic only from a human point of view. We assume that anything that is toxic for us must also be toxic for all other species in every kingdom. In addition, we view viruses as universally dangerous. Cyanide and Arsenic are well known toxin for animals, but several plant species produce it and use it effectively as a defense against predators. Apples are rich in cyanide, and so are peaches, though none of these have to be labeled “dangerous – cyanide inside”. If you have a problem with an old gold mine, and cyanide leaching, simply plant an apple orchard and over the years the toxins will be eliminated. Probably, the cyanide will be gone well before the lawyers will come to a final agreement settling on responsibilities and costs. We simply can not define toxins solely from the point of view of humans (animals), we need to assess the importance of toxins from all species belonging to the 5 Kingdoms.

If one species eliminates toxins within its own system, it will degenerate.

3. Whenever highly complex ecosystems operate, viruses to remain inactive and even disappear without causing harm passing through at least 2 other kingdom.

The reality, though, is that viruses are kingdom-specific and can be eliminated if we apply the first design principle. The reason why the slaughter-house practice of boiling waste meat prior to feeding it to other cattle won’t necessarily work is precisely because of the first design principle. The prion causing madcow disease could survive high temperatures. To eliminate the prion or a virus, the left-over waste meat must go through the other 4 kingdoms. The consumption of antibiotics is therefore detrimental over time. Indeed, this medicine could kill the virus but it causes a lot of collateral damage as well. One dosis of antibiotics reduces the intestinal flora’s efficiency for a couple years, and chemotherapy can all but destroy the digestive system.

If we attempt to kill viruses within the same system, over time it will degenerate.

4. The more diverse and local the systems, the more efficient and resilient their operations. When systems are more efficient and more resilient, the more diverse and the more local they are operating.

A group of plants and trees in a temperate climate do not feel the need to bring some fungi from the tropics. The plants and trees in coexistence and in co-evolution with species belonging to the other four kingdoms will create the best, most effective system from within the boundaries of its own micro system. Relating this to our global economy we see that we want everything from everywhere at any place and time. We have increased the fragility of our own system because if one or two links break, the whole system could fall apart. The more local the activities, the stronger they are – and there will be much more flexibility as diversity increases. A system that is local will be more efficient and resilient. Companies are in search of local supply and better integration into the local economy. Whereas global (out)sourcing, supply chain management and customer relations are considered key components of a successful business, the capacity to be local globally requires a new wave of creative and innovative strategies.

If non-native species are forced to become part of the ecosystem, it will degenerate.

5. All kingdoms combined, integrate and separate matter at ambient temperature and pressure.

A spider makes its nylon-like fiber at ambient temperature and pressure, from diverse raw materials. The moment the tension drops, it starts disintegrating. The spider operates at ambient temperature and pressure with fungi in its guts, and bacteria to control the process, with plant components as food. The mollusk in the cold water produces a ceramic that is stronger than bullet-proof ceramic. In nature, no one knows how to make fire or change pressure at will, yet products from nature outperform human made artifacts. Industry has set up a supply chain management which delivers components within very precise and uniform parameters. All assembly and disassembly requires high temperature and pressure, causing pollution and entropy. It is considered that the use of chemistry, temperature and pressure speed up production and facilitates standardization. Creativity and innovation on the other hand is the only way to find the best of both worlds. If industry emulates the “all-inclusive approach” of nature, it will be able to produce more efficiently, at lower, cost-slashing energy needs. Whereas this seems impossible today, it is this type of creative approach that requires a passion for thinking out of the box. This requires taking risks. This is the unique role corporations must assume.

When matter is integrated and separated beyond the energy provided by the sun, without taking into consideration the specific involvement of each of the five kingdoms, the process will cause entropy.

When business understands the five kingdoms and the four design principles, as well as the principle of sustainability as defined before, then it will realize that there is a tremendous potential for creativity, innovation and leadership redefining the competitive framework of business for decades to come.

William McDonough & Michael Braungart, with Paul Anastas and Julie Zimmerman, Cradle to Cradle Design & the Principles of Green Design (2003)

1. Waste Equals Food.

Waste does not exist in nature because the processes of each organism contribute to the health of the whole ecosystem. A fruit tree's blossoms fall to the ground and decompose into food for other living things. Bacteria and fungi feed on the organic waste of both the trees and the animals that eat its fruit, depositing nutrients in the soil in a form ready for the tree to use for growth. One organism's waste is food for another and nutrients flow indefinitely in cradle-to-cradle cycles of birth, decay and rebirth. In other words, waste equals food.


Understanding these regenerative systems allows engineers and designers to recognize that all materials can be designed as nutrients that flow through natural or designed metabolisms. While nature's nutrient cycles comprise the biological metabolism, the technical metabolism is designed to mirror them; it's a closed-loop system in which valuable, high-tech synthetics and mineral resources circulate in cycles of production, use, recovery and remanufacture.

Within this cradle-to-cradle framework, designers and engineers can use scientific assessments to select safe materials and optimize products and services, creating closed-loop material flows that are inherently benign and sustaining. Materials designed as biological nutrients, such as textiles and packaging made from natural fibers, can biodegrade safely and restore soil after use. Materials designed as technical nutrients, such as carpet yarns made from synthetics that can be repeatedly depolymerized and repolymerized , are providing high quality, high-tech ingredients for generation after generation of synthetic products.

2. Use Current Solar Income.

Living things thrive on the energy of the sun. Trees and plants manufacture food from sunlight, an elegant, effective system that uses the earth's unrivalled and continuous source of energy income. Despite recent precedent, human energy systems can be nearly as effective. Cradle-to-cradle systems-from buildings to manufacturing processes-tap into current solar income using direct solar energy collection or passive solar processes, such as daylighting, which makes effective use of natural light. Wind power-thermal flows fueled by sunlight-can also be tapped.

This is already beginning to change the energy marketplace. The City of Chicago, for example, has committed to buying 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2006, which is spurring the local development of renewable energy technology. Indeed, the City recently opened the Chicago Center for Green Technology, an ecologically intelligent facility on a restored industrial site that houses companies involved in developing the local capacity to tap wind and solar power. Germany, meanwhile, has already harnessed wind power equivalent to 20 coal-fired power plants and the European Union plans to generate 22 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

3. Celebrate Diversity.

From a holistic perspective, natural systems thrive on diversity. Healthy ecosystems are complex communities of living things, each of which has developed a unique response to its surroundings that works in concert with other organisms to sustain the system. Each organism fits in its place and in each system the fittingest thrive. Needless to say, long term perspective is needed since even the introduction of an invasive species can enhance diversity for the immediate term while virtually destroying that diversity over time.

Nature's diversity provides many models for human designs. When designers celebrate diversity, they tailor designs to maximize their positive effects on the particular niche in which they will be implemented. Engineers might profit from this principle by considering the cradle-to-cradle maxim, "all sustainability is local." In other words, optimal sustainable design solutions draw information from and ultimately "fit" within local natural systems. They express an understanding of ecological relationships and enhance the local landscape where possible. They draw on local energy and material flows. They take into account both the distant effects of local actions and the local effects of distant actions. The point is this: Rather than offering the one-size-fits-all solutions of conventional engineering, designs that celebrate and support diversity and locality grow ever more effective and sustaining as they engage natural systems.

Kirk Gadzia, 10 Principles of Holistic Management

1. Nature functions in wholes.

The whole is equal to – not greater than – the sum of its parts and their interrelationships. To manage holistically, the emphasis is that the interconnections between the land, people, livestock, wildlife, water, etc. must be acknowledged. Likewise, rather than just looking at the economic or financial side of something the ecological and social implications should also be considered.

2. Understand the environment you manage.

Most farmers and ranchers fight nature. Nature always wins, so to find sustainability and success, comes when farmers and ranchers aim to mimic natural systems.

3. Livestock can improve land health.

With management and control of timing, livestock are a beneficial tool for land health.

4. Time is more important than numbers.

Control of time on the land is the critical factor. The amount of time is more important than the number of animals that are on the land. “You control overgrazing by controlling time, and the recovery period is more important than utilization.”

5. Define what you are managing.

This means having a plan; taking stock of what the operation entails.

6. State what you want.

“Holistic management does not function without establishing goals and values that fit with the quality of life you are trying to achieve.”

7. Bare ground is public enemy number 1.

Bare ground is an indicator of whether or not your land management practices are improving the health of the land.

8. Play with a full deck.

Landowners use all the tools available to solve problems and enhance their operations. This may include technology, rest, fire, and most importantly, human creativity.

9. Test your decisions.

Include all involved in the ranch or farm in decision making, so they have buy-in to the idea, and so that the decision has been objectively tested. “We routinely see money spent without testing.”

10. Monitor for results.

Did what you do work or do more changes need to be made? That’s what monitoring is all about – evaluating and improving for the future.

PERMACULTURE & ECOLOGICAL DESIGN PRINCIPLES - Summary Bullet Points

Bill Mollison, Permaculture: A Designers' Manual (1988) & Introduction to Permaculture (1991)

• Relative location
• Each element performs multiple functions
• Each function is supported by many elements
• Energy efficient planning
• Using biological resources
• Energy cycling
• Small-scale intensive systems
• Natural plant succession and stacking
• Polyculture and diversity of species
• Increasing "edge" within a system
• Observe and replicate natural patterns
• Pay attention to scale
• Attitude

David Holmgren, Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2002)

• Observe and Interact
• Catch and Store Energy
• Obtain a Yield
• Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback
• Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
• Produce No Waste
• Design from Patterns to Details
• Integrate Rather than Segregate
• Use Small and Slow Solutions
• Use and Value Diversity
• Use Edges and Value the Marginal
• Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Sim Van Der Ryn & Stuart Cowan, Ecological Design (1996)

• Solutions grow from place
• Ecological accounting informs design
• Design with nature
• Everyone is a designer
• Make nature visible

Art Ludwig from Principles of Ecological Design (2003)

• Transcend market culture
• Alternatives to the conventional score board for success
• Follow nature’s example
• Context is everything
• Moderate and efficient resource use
• Not too little, not too much: just enough
• Empower and require individual thought and action
• True progress
• True comfort
• Natural Harmony

John Todd & Nancy Jack Todd, From Eco-cities to Living Machines (1994)

• The living world is a matrix for all design
• Design should follow, not oppose, the laws of life
• Biological equity should determine design
• Design should reflect bioregionality
• Design should not be dependent on non-renewable energy sources
• Design should be sustainable through the integration of living systems
• Design should be coevolutionary with the natural world
• Building and design should help in healing the planet
• Design should follow sacred ecology

ZERI Design Principles, Lynn Margulis & Karlene V. Schwartz , Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth (1997)

• No one species eats its own waste; whatever is waste for one, is food for another species belonging to another kingdom
• Whatever is a toxin for a species belonging to one kingdom will be neutral, or a nutrient, for another species in at least one other kingdom.
• Whenever highly complex ecosystems operate, viruses to remain inactive and even disappear without causing harm passing through at least 2 other kingdom.
• The more diverse and local the systems, the more efficient and resilient their operations. When systems are more efficient and more resilient, the more diverse and the more local they are operating.
• All kingdoms combined, integrate and separate matter at ambient temperature and pressure.

William McDonough & Michael Braungart, with Paul Anastas and Julie Zimmerman, Cradle to Cradle Design & the Principles of Green Design (2003)

• Waste Equals Food
• Use Current Solar Income
• Celebrate Diversity

Kirk Gadzia, 10 Principles of Holistic Management

1. Nature functions in wholes
2. Understand the environment you manage
3. Livestock can improve land health
4. Time is more important than numbers
5. Define what you are managing
6. State what you want
7. Bare ground is public enemy number 1
8. Play with a full deck
9. Test your decisions
10. Monitor for results

Bill Hill, Sheep Grazier & Wisdom Broker

“Stop growing things that want to die & killing things that want to live”

Frank B. Dole (1915-2001), Darren J. Doherty's maternal Grandfather
'Life's Aphorisms' (see Off the Contour #12 for elaboration)
  • 'I'm to the left of Trotsky'
  • 'To Profit is to Steal'
  • 'Humans are just like Yeast: They eat all of the Sugar and Die in their own Shit!'
  • 'You need Rural Skills to Survive when the Shit Hits the Fan'
  • 'Listen Carefully'
  • 'Family First'
  • 'Pay off then Have'
  • 'Why Buy what you can Make Yourself'
  • 'The Rules of Labour'
  • 'Do the Hardest Job First'
  • 'Make Your Own Soap'

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