Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Permaculture Principles: Principle Nine - Use Small and Slow Solutions

Holmgren's Twelve Principles of Permaculture

Principle Nine: Use Small and Slow Solutions
Holmgren's Proverb for this Principle:  Slow and steady wins the race.
                                                             The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

It's funny how each time I start to write my views on each of these Principles of Permaculture, I end up thinking, "This is so important!  It is one of the most important aspects of Permaculture!"  Duh!  That is why it is one of the main principles!   And this principle is no different.

There are a number of aspects to this principle.  For me, the most important aspect has to do with our actions on the land or in our projects.  It is so easy to get carried away and build a massive system before you truly know if you will use it or if it will even work.  I think it is part of human nature to over-build.  The problem with over-building is that it is often a waste.  A waste of energy.  A waste of time.  A waste of resources that were not needed for the project or that will be pumped into the system because we don't want to admit we over-built it!  This principle keeps that urge to over-build in check.

This also ties into an older idea by Bill Mollison, the co-founder of Permaculture along with David Holmgren.  This idea is known as Appropriate Scale.  The solution should fit the problem exactly, not too big or too small... just appropriate.

Another important aspect of this principle is that when we make small changes (and then observe as we are instructed to do in Principle One), we can see if that small change made any difference or not.  If it was a bad idea to make that small change, thank goodness it was just a small change and not a very large one.  Small mistakes are much easier to repair than large mistakes.  If that small change was good, maybe we learn that a small change was all that was really needed - again reminding us that over-building is usually not necessary.  "The bigger they are, the harder they fall" reminds us of this aspect of using small and slow solutions.

"Slow and steady wins the race" reminds us that we just need to keep moving.  We should do it slowly to avoid the mistakes discussed above, but it is important to keep moving.  Keep striving.  Keep improving.  Principle One tells us to observe and interact, not just observe.  We need to be engaged in the world around us, constantly trying to improve it and ourselves, while keeping the other Principles of Permaculture and Ethics of Permaculture in mind.

Make the least change for the greatest possible effect.
- Bill Mollison

Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, make better use of local resources, and produce more sustainable outcomes.
- David Holmgren

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