Principle Seven: Design from Patterns to Details
Holmgren's Proverb for this Principle: Can't see the forest for the trees.
The icon for this principle, the spider web, provides a great example. Each spider web is easily recognized by its pattern of multiple radial threads with numerous circular threads. However, the details of the specific location of each spider web mandates small variations in how the basic pattern is implemented. The exact same relationship of patterns and details exist when designing a Permaculture System.
The most useful and recommended patterns in all land based Permaculture Systems are those of Permaculture Zones, Permaculture Sectors, and Permaculture Guilds. I have elaborated on these design patterns in much greater detail; just follow the links to read more. Zones, Sectors, and Guilds are all patterns which are more conceptual in initial design, yet, like the spiderweb, the implementation or application of these patterns are shaped by the unique details of the relative location at which you are working.
"Can't see the forest for the trees" reminds us that in design we need to start with the big picture first. What are we trying to achieve? How will the components interact with each other? What are the consequences, good and bad? Should we be doing this in the first place? By designing Permaculture Systems with the end goal in mind, while staying true to the Ethical Principles of Permaculture, and using the tools of Zones, Sectors, and Guilds, we can create truly sustainable Permaculture Systems.
By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
- David Holmgren