Relative location refers to how permaculture forms a relationship between the elements, to ensure all factors are used efficiently.
By carefully selecting elements that compliment each other, it is possible to ensure elements can peform multiple functions. For example; “A dam wall functions as a road, a firebreak and a bamboo production area.” Mollison and Slay.
Permaculture design allows for elements to support eachother. ‘A house with a solar hot water system may also contain a back-up wood burning stove with a water jacket to supply hot water when the sun is not shining.’ Mollison and Slay.
When designing your plan, zones are a key consideration due to being time and energy efficient. The idea of energy planning is to identify what areas require the most attention and to then plan your time accordingly.
Permaculture promotes the use of biological resources as a replacement for fossil-fuel based systems. Long term, biological resources can be a long term investment, enabling sustainability for the land.
Energy Cycles are a fundamental principle in permaculture. Market led food production is an unsustainable system advocating the use of fossil fuels. Permaculture food production reduces the need for marketing, sales and distribution costs.
Small scale intensive systems promotes production through community labour forces. Small scale systems can be managed with less resources to a high quality whilst also ensuring that the energy is being used efficiently.
Accelerating natural succession can be beneficial and can speed up the agricultural process. By using what is already growing in the environment, it is possible to maximise the use of land and tactically choose crops that will thrive around the other elements.
Diversity is relevant to future planning, by creating a diverse crop base you can be prepared for the future. Consideration of the species you are planting amongst the others is important as some may compete for water, light and nutrients.
Bill Mollison highlights the significance of an edge within the natural environment. The edge between two ecosystems is the area where there is the majority of the productivity.
Everything works both ways, is an interesting principle of permaculture. “Every resource is either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending the use made of it.” Mollison and Slay
Permaculture promotes both environmental and mental sustainability. “Information is the most portable and flexible investment we can make in our lives; it represents the knowledge, experience, ideas and experimentation of thousands of people before us.” Mollison and Slay.
Mollison, from Designer’s Manuel (1988)
Work with nature rather than against the natural elements, forces, pressures, agencies, and evolutions, so that we assist rather than impede natural developments.
One of the most liberating aspects of permaculture is looking at the problem as the solution. By taking a different approach, we can use a perceived obstacle as a positive attribute instead.
Small changes meet with less resistance than huge overhauls. I can’t afford to retrofit my flat and moving is a big upheaval that I am not ready for yet. So, I can start by draughtproofing using old materials I have at home: pillows, unused itchy blankets, for example.
The yield of a system is theoretically unlimited (or only limited by the imagination and information of the designer).
The only limit on the number of uses of a resource, possible within a system, is in the limit of the information and the imagination of the designer.
The example of a bird; it may collect small sticks, twigs, mosses and grass to construct a nest. It may eat insects and grubs, it may also eat berries and digest the fleshy fruit and excrete the seed.
Rosemary Morrow, from Earth Users Guide
Toby Hemenway, from The Permaculture City
Looby Macnamara, from Cultural Emergence
Heather Jo Flores – Ecological Design Principles
RSA Principles for Regenerative Thinking
Guiding principles for regenerative thinking
Regenerative thinking does not give us a blueprint for the future, but it can help us to ask better questions about where we want to go and how to get there. These are questions that move us from reductive and siloed thinking to dialogues that engage holistically with the challenges of our time.
There are several different sets of principles that have been proposed for underpinning regenerative working, notably by the Capital Institute and by regenerative development practitioners such as Carol Sanford and Bill Reed. Learning from these and drawing on our own insights, we have chosen the following design principles for the Regenerative Futures programme to help us put this thinking into action.
Under each principle we have given one example of the kind of questions these might prompt.
Start with place and context
Recognise that people, places and communities have different and unique qualities. Question assumptions that context-agnostic or top-down solutions will work in any and every place. Instead, ask what it would look like to begin working
from the potential that is offered by a place, community or specific context.
How might starting with land, community and geography bring different qualities of conversation?
Seek different perspectives
Regenerative thinking recognises that complex problems look different from different perspectives and that a diversity of views are needed to address them. No one person can see the full picture and by missing certain perspectives
we may end up addressing perceived rather than real challenges.
What might the blind spots be in the work and how might they be illuminated?
Build capability and reciprocity
Work with people and places to create shared ownership of challenges and find shared solutions. Work to create the conditions where others can continue to shape the work into the future. Support others to build capabilities and nurture
relationships, mutuality and reciprocity. Consider how mutuality and reciprocity can go beyond transactional ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ relationships and into more systemic interactions.
How might focusing on projects as catalysts, rather than end points, change the quality of work?
Take a nested systems view of success and consequence
Look beyond financial value and narrow measures of success. Recognise that you are working with nested wholes and be aware of the relationships between different layers. Always think about the impacts, consequences and contribution
of your work on the wider wholes, both intended and unintended: across knowledge and skills; infrastructure and relationships (both physical and social); ecosystem health; biodiversity; resilience, etc.
Where is value being captured and how could value be shared more widely and equitably?
Design for circularity and circulation
Ensure that information, value and power, as well as physical resources and elements, can flow and circulate across and between layers of the system in a way that helps the system regenerate. Enable participation and ensure that everyone
can have their voices heard. Actively engage and create spaces for the exchange of ideas; encourage plurality and diversity.
Might ‘working in the open’ help others to engage with and influence the work?
Create space for emergence
Test and iterate ideas and activities, rather than planning then acting at scale. Recognise that this is the best way to learn about potential impacts and spot new opportunities or potential pitfalls. Share your insights widely. Recognise
that scaling can happen in different ways: up, to influence rules or policies; out, through replication; or down, to change mindsets.
How might you cultivate an experimental culture and create space for questioning assumptions?
Design from a hopeful vision of the future
The future is not predetermined. Beginning by envisioning a hopeful vision of where you want to get to can help you move beyond short-term barriers. Working from a place of hope, the ‘what if?’, can build energy, momentum and commitment
for the work that needs to happen now to realise it.
How might starting from ‘what if’ rather than ‘what is’ shine new light on paths ahead?
Work on the inside as well as the outside
Remember that your interior conditions – how you think, reflect, communicate – affect everything you do. Designing regeneratively involves a developmental outlook and requires us all to work on ourselves and our mindsets and behaviours
as much as on the infrastructure, institutions, services and products in our external world.
How are my own perspectives changing and how am I reflecting on these changes?