Applying the 12 design principles
in human interactions
Human networks are complex and intricate, they expand and branch out as far as our communication can take us.
Communication is an art that can be expressed in many ways, the verbal one being the easiest to process.
Or is it?
In 2021 we clearly see how challenging it is for most people to face each other’s differences of opinions and values.
The tendency is to separate, to isolate, to choose sides.
Perhaps, an alternative approach is most needed now, to ease us back into our human essence- we are beings of connection and care.
There is no separation, we are all connected in the web of life, there is a constant exchange and flow of energy, what we put in we receive back, in a continuous feedback cycle.
Permaculture is a mindset of whole system thinking, that has CARE at its core ethics. - Care of People, Care of Earth, and Fair share.
The 12 Permaculture design principles of David Holmgren are there to guide us through the process of designing or re-designing our environment and our behavior to create a harmonious Human-Nature system, where we all thrive.
Besides the practical approach for ethical farming, gardening, and land regeneration, the same 12 principles can be applied in human landscapes, social interactions, work environment, economic and political structures, communities, the methods vary according to the place and situation.
1.Creatively use and respond to change
As we learn from Nature, the "problem" usually is the solution- there are no "invasive" species, they are pioneer species with a certain role in the natural succession.
What we see as a conflict is an opportunity for positive change, an update of the old system.
In the context of the current world crisis, the way we respond to sudden or radical changes is decisive. Will we let our choices be governed by fear and old dogmas? Or will we use it to adapt and find the abundance within us to thrive in a new kind of world? Creativity is our highest nature.
We are all designers of our homes, our gardens, our inner and outer worlds.
How do we change our mindset to see the opportunity?
By following the next principle:
2. Observe and interact.
The first thing you do when you want to design with the Permaculture mindset is to Observe.
Take a walk with a beginner’s mind, in silence, don’t judge, just be, just observe your environment.
You will be surprised to notice things you wouldn’t normally notice. Youwill start to observe patterns.
Patterns are the essence of Nature. There are also human patterns.
When you step aside from your emotions and prejudgments, what do you see about this world and the people around you?
Is it all chaos, or is it another pattern of human behavior?
Patterns are predictable, once we finally observe them. When we observe and understand them, we are able to interact and make a positive change in our lives and the lives of others.
The seed of hope germinates in the dark, it’s never lost, it knows exactly where the light is and it will steadily push through the soil to create new life.
3. Catch and store energy
With the understanding that each of us can make a change, comes hope and excitement, but also responsibility.
How do we use our personal energy wisely? How do manage otherpeople’s energy? It’s easy to get carried away with our dream projects and forget about self-care. “Burnout”, “stress”, “anxiety”, “depression”, are words that became part of the “norm” in our modern society.
It’s each and everybody’s responsibility to manage their energy, mental and physical resources.
Catch it and use it when it’s abundant, but don’t forget to store some for later. You wont save the world in one day. Take time to rest, to begrateful, and to celebrate life.
If it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable.
4. Obtain a yield
If you don’t obtain a yield it’s also not sustainable. If you’ve been working hard for 3 years on your dream project, spent all your savings and all your energy but you’re still not earning a positive income or a substantial yield to justify the amount of resources you have put into your project, do you think it’s sustainable in the long-term? For how long?
Obtaining a yield is the feedback for your work. If it’s not efficient, maybe it’s time to change direction and try something new or try a new strategy.
This takes us to the next principle:
5. Self-regulate and accept feedback
Nature is efficient and beautiful. The feedback in eco-systems is constant and straightforward. If you plant a rare flower in a climate that is not suitable for it, it wont succeed. And that’s the feedback. Nature will grow whatever is more efficient in that certain climate and it will do it in the best way possible, through organic natural self-regulation and system feedback, that’s been going on for billions of years.
In human landscapes, it gets a bit more subtle and intricate.
At times it’s hard to accept feedback, from other people or from ourselves, because we have the complexity of all the human emotions involved. But then we need to remember principle 2 -Observe.
Be the Observer of your emotions, accept them, and then let them go if they no longer serve you or the others around you.
In the clear space left behind will be your feedback- that maybe it’s time to try something new if what you were doing so far was not successful.
6. Use and value renewable resources
Your personal energy is a renewable resource.
Family and friends’ help. Community support. People are our greatest resource, and it’s abundant as long as we tend to them gently and lovingly, giving back in a fair exchange.
7. Produce no waste
Waste comes in different forms when we fail to manage our resources, which also can be expressed in different forms. Our personal energy is a resource, our health, our time, our creativity, our voice."Be impeccable with your word” says one of the 4 Toltec Agreements.
Produce no waste with your words. When you speak, ask yourself “is it true”, “is it necessary”? Does your communication with yourself and the others bring love and support or does it come from a place of Ego?
When we manage our resources in a conscious way, with care and integrity, there is no waste.
8. Design from pattern to detail
When it comes to social structures, project management, communities etc, designing from pattern to detail is essential for a successful outcome and a fair share of tasks and responsibilities between the members.
We would start by setting “the pattern” or the core values of the project- the vision, mission, and objectives, they would act as a guideline for all the participants.
The efficiency and feedback for the work will always go back to the pattern.
We would then continue with the details such as timeline, roles, and responsibilities, schedules, logistics, management of resources, etc. Details ensure a balanced workflow and steady progress, where every part and person is equally important and valued.
9. Integrate rather than segregate
We have a cultural tendency to separate things, veggies from flowers, forests from gardens, animals from people, one culture from another, left and right, black and white.
However, agricultural monocultures bring pests and land degradation, and so cultural separation brings repression and conflict.
Learning from Nature, the more diverse a system is, including human systems, the more fertile, abundant, and resilient it will be.
10. Use small and slow solutions
Every little thing we do on a daily basis will have a considerable effect on the long-term, habits, hobbies, making someone laugh, supporting other people, doing our best at any given moment.
“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can change the world.” Any act of kindness is like a small ripple that over time can turn into a tidal wave touching the lives of many people.
11. Use and value diversity
As we know in Permaculture, biodiversity is key to a healthy and abundant ecosystem, starting with the microorganism in the soil, continuing with the different layers of plants, trees, insects, birds, animals. The same goes for our gut microbiome, the more diverse it is, the stronger our immune system.
When we value our human diversity, including but not limited to age, gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, talents, experience, etc, we create a strong and balanced society, resilient to changes and challenges, empowering people to be designers and co-creators of a wonderful world.
12 Use edges and value the marginal
In nature, an edge is the meeting point of one or more different ecosystems, which equals more diversity, more relationships between different elements, more opportunity for all kinds of life forms.
An example of "human" edge could be the space between countries or continents, where different cultures meet, to merge the cuisine, languages, arts, traditions, etc.
Cultural diversity encourages new ideas and perspectives, higher creativity, a communal sharing space of old and new wisdom, a collective dream for a better world.
“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” (John Lennon)
Banana palmito harvest
My permaculture internship experience. Reconnecting with the Patterns
Applying the 12 design principles
in human interactions
Principles also in French, Spanish and Portuguese
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Thank you to all the support