Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Principles of Permaculture: Principle Twelve - Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Holmgren's Twelve Principles of Permaculture
1.  Observe and Interact
2.  Catch and Store Energy
3.  Obtain a Yield
4.  Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback
5.  Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
6.  Produce No Waste
7.  Design from Patterns to Details
8.  Integrate Rather than Segregate
9.  Use Small and Slow Solutions
10. Use and Value Diversity
11. Use the Edges and Value the Margin
12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Principle Twelve: Creatively Use and Respond to Change
Holmgren's Proverb for this Principle:  Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be.

I believe that this principle is really talking about two types of change and our reaction to it.  The first is change that is seen or anticipated.  A prime example of this is the concept of succession.  In ecology, succession is the change that an environment will go through as it progresses toward maturity or climax.  An idealized illustration is how an abandoned farm field will become overgrown with weeds and grasses and then become a meadow then an early forest and then a mature forest.  Another example is the progression of the seasons from Summer to Autumn to Winter to Spring and back around again.  If we are managing our land and garden for this change, which comes as no surprise, then we can incorporate these changes into our Permaculture design.  One quick design example is how we can sow an area that has poor quality soil with a non-frost-resistant nitrogen-fixing plant.  Come winter, the plant will die back providing a mulch, organic material, and nitrogen to the soil.  We don't have to do the work that nature can do for us instead.  That is smart design!

The other type of change is the change that is unforeseen.  The change for which we did not plan.  This can be anything from a tree that is killed by lightning, wind, or pest to the death of your chickens by a raccoon.  It can be as big as the death of a loved on or a house fire or as small as a flat tire or seeds that didn't sprout.  Also, remember that not all unforeseen change is negative.  We may have a bumper crop of tomatoes or peppers, a sheep that bears triplets, or an unexpected inheritance.  The key to success with this type of change is how we handle it, our ability to adapt.  The overused adage, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" is very applicable.  There is a famous quote from Bill Mollison, the co-founder of Permaculture, when discussing pests in the garden.  He said, "You don't have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency!" That is the attitude and the creativity we need to have in the face of unforeseen change.

"Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be" (an old Japanese proverb) reminds us that there is usually an opportunity in all change, unforeseen and expected.  It is up to us to have the vision to plan for or adapt to that change to come out better, or at least not as bad as others in a similar situation, on the other side.

We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.
- David Holmgren


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