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Permaculture Ethics and Principals for System Design and Story Writing

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    A Teachers Guide to:

    Permaculture Ethics and Principals for System Design and Story Writing

    Permaculture is a set of ethics and design principles centered on whole systems thinking, simulating, or directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features (the capacity of an ecosystem to recover from change) observed in Nature. Permaculturesystems are now integrated into a growing number of fields from regenerative agriculture, rewilding, and community resilience.

    The Three Ethics of Permaculture are:1. Care of the Earth, 2. Care of People, and 3. Returning surplus to the system.  [Mollison]

    Principals of Permaculture include:

    Observe. Use protracted and thoughtful observation rather than prolonged and thoughtless action. Observe the site and its elements in all seasons. Design for specific sites, clients, and cultures.

    Connect. Use relative location: Place elements in ways that create useful relationships and time-saving connections among all parts. The number of connections among elements creates a healthy, diverse ecosystem, not the number of elements.

    Catch and store energy and materials. Identify, collect, and hold useful flows. Every cycle is an opportunity for yield, every gradient (in slope, charge, heat, etc.) can produce energy. Re-investing resources builds capacity to capture yet more resources.

    Each element performs multiple functions. Choose and place each element in a system to perform as many functions as possible. Beneficial connections between diverse components create a stable whole. Stack elements in both space and time.

    Each function is supported by multiple elements. Use multiple methods to achieve important functions and to create synergies. Redundancy protects when one or more elements fail.

    Make the least change for the greatest effect. Find the “leverage points” in the system and intervene there, where the least work accomplishes the most change.

    Use small scale, intensive systems. Start at your doorstep with the smallest systems that will do the job, and build on your successes, with variations. Grow by chunking.

    Principles for Living and Energy Systems

    Optimize edge. The edge—the intersection of two environments—is the most diverse place in a system, and is where energy and materials accumulate or are transformed. Increase or decrease the edge as appropriate.

    Collaborate with succession. Systems will evolve over time, often toward greater diversity and productivity. Work with this tendency, and use design to jump-start succession when needed.

    Use biological and renewable resources. Renewable resources (usually living beings and their products) reproduce and build up over time, store energy, assist yield, and interact with other elements.


    Turn problems into solutions. Constraints can inspire creative design. “We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities.”—Pogo (Walt Kelly)

    Get a yield. Design for both immediate and long-term returns from your efforts: “You can’t work on an empty stomach.” Set up positive feedback loops to build the system and repay your investment.

    The biggest limit to abundance is creativity. The designer’s imagination and skill limit productivity and diversity more than any physical limit.

    Mistakes are tools for learning. Evaluate your trials. Making mistakes is a sign you’re trying to do things better.        [Hemenway]

    Key themes from permaculture for story writing include (from above):

    Observation – actively getting information from a primary source.

    Connection – putting two or more people of things together.

    Re-investing resources – adding energy and materials back into the system.

    Succession – the series of changes in an ecological community that occur over time after a disturbance.

    Abundance – the relative representation of a species in a community.

    Collaboration – is the process of two or more people or organizations working together to complete a task.Collaboration is similar to cooperation.

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    Teacher’s Guide by William Paul


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