Arrive at Solutions, Don’t Impose

When comparing the reading from Meadows and the video on Permaculture, I noticed a couple common themes to sustainability which are diversity and observation.

The reading from Meadows discussed systems theory. This theory takes a look at systems and observes the relationship between structure and behavior. A system consists of elements, interconnections, and functions or purpose and together these interconnected components are organized in a way to achieve something. This theory provides insight into how these systems operate, the results produced, and patterns which can help us manage, adapt, and see the range of choices we have available to us.

An example that we went over in class was water consumption. Our current efforts to deal with over consumption of water and drought is degenerative. This is because it is handled as a linear problem in which we analyze the problem by tracing a path from cause to effect, and then solving it by acting on or controlling the world around us. We are told that we have a drought problem, so to help the planet out we should take shorter showers, turn the water off while brushing our teeth, and stop watering our lawns.

While I don’t believe this is necessarily a bad thing to follow, it is not addressing the root cause.

Water scarcity is a complex issue with multiple components and layers to our environment and the economic and social structuring of our society. Rather than imposing solutions to big problems, this method is sustainable because it arrives at solutions through observation and having an understanding that these systems are always diverse, not black and white.

Permaculture is not necessarily something you do, but similar to the systems theory, it is way of thinking. Permaculture design takes a deep look into the patterning and ecological functions, relationships, and services that take place within nature to gain a better understanding on how to deal with real world problems.

One is taught to observe, understand, and respect nature’s diversity and interconnectedness to once again not impose solutions, but to arrive at them.

While nature may seem complex in its awe-inspiring majesty, it is actually quite simple and repetitive; if you really observe and pay close attention to her.

When thinking about patterning, whether micro or macro, the same patterns can be found no matter the scale. For example, a spiral can be seen on the tiniest shell of a hermit crab yet also in our very own immense milky way galaxy.

Nature also only operates in a cyclical manner and examples can be found in cycles such as the nitrogen, carbon, or water cycles. Waste is never an end result because nature always finds a way to reintegrate materials back into its circular system as something else.

Permaculture acknowledges these things and replicates or mimics these principles to create resilient and sustainable communities. An example from the video that I enjoyed was how they integrate animals into their community. Rather than solely looking at the animals as a source of food, they also offer services such as waste management, energy, and fertilizer. The pigs roam freely in the fields and excrete waste, which fertilizes the land and in turn produces food. The food that is not eaten by the people of the community is given to the pigs, which serves as a waste management strategy. Six months prior to slaughter, they are placed in a separate area and the waste that’s produced by the pigs is thrown into an anaerobic digester which provides the community with energy. This system perfectly mimics nature and is regenerative because no waste is produced. Everything in this system serves a purpose and once it fulfills that purpose, it is serves as something new.

I believe that we must fight the need for a quick fix to our global issues. Rather, we must work on taking a step back by observing and understanding nature and how it operates. In addition, the structure of our economic and social systems. From this, we may quite possibly be able to solve some of our most difficult problems.

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2 thoughts on “Arrive at Solutions, Don’t Impose

  1. I love that you point out that although nature seems complex, it doesn’t have to be viewed like that. If we could all just look closely into the way nature works, we could better understand it and in turn, better understand our problems. Maybe nature just seems so complicated on the surface level because not many take time to understand it for what it really is. You offer some great insight!

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  2. I like that you describe permaculture as a way of thinking and regenerative as not producing waste. I think this is important in shifting our thinking about sustainability. Systems that produce “waste” instantly make the process linear, but we have to think about waste as outflows that can be reintegrated back into the system. If we shift our thinking to integrate those sorts of cycles, we can shift our systems.

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