Permaculture Design Principles

Permaculture Flower. source

The foundations of permaculture are the ethics which guide the appropriate use of the design principles. These principles are seen as universal, although the methods used to express them vary greatly according to the place and situation. They are prone to reorganisation as illustrated in the permaculture flower. See also: Constituting Tools, Charter, conviviality

# The 12 Design Principles

Each principle is "a door that opens into whole systems thinking". Each principle comes along with a proverb and an icon. See also: Metaphors for the Commons

# 1: Observe and Interact By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation. In observing nature it is important to take different perspectives to help understand what is going on with the various elements in the system. The proverb “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” reminds us that we place our own values on what we observe, yet in nature, there is no right or wrong, only different. The icon represents a person ‘becoming’ a tree.

# 2: Catch and Store Energy By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need. The proverb “make hay while the sun shines” reminds us that we have a limited time to catch and store energy. The icon represents energy being stored in a container for use later on.

# 3: Obtain a Yield Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing. The proverb “You can’t work on an empty stomach” reminds us that we must get immediate rewards to sustain us. The icon is a vegetable with a bite out of it. It shows us that there is an element of competition in obtaining a yield.

# 4. Apply Self-Regulation & Accept Feedback We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. The proverb “the sins of the fathers are visited unto the children of the seventh generation” reminds us that negative feedback is often slow to emerge. The icon of the whole earth is the largest scale example we have of a self regulating ‘organism’ which is subject to feedback controls.

# 5. Use & Value Renewable Resources & Services Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behaviour and dependence on non-renewable resources. The proverb “let nature take it’s course” reminds us that control over nature through excessive resource use and high technology is not only expensive, but can have a negative effect on our environment. The horse icon represents both a renewable service and renewable resource. It can be used to pull a cart, plough or log and it can even be eaten – a non consuming use is preferred over a consuming one.

# 6. Produce no Waste By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste. The proverb “a stitch in time saves nine” reminds us that timely maintenance prevents waste, while “waste not, want not” reminds us that it’s easy to be wasteful in times of abundance, but this waste can be a cause of hardship later. The icon of the worm represents one of the most effective recyclers of organic materials, consuming plant and animal ‘waste’ into valuable plant food.

# 7. Design from Patterns to Details 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. The proverb “can’t see the forest for the trees” reminds us that the closer we get to something, the more we are distracted from the big picture. The icon is a spider’s web. Every web is unique to its situation, yet the general pattern of radial spokes and spiral rings is universal.

# 8. Integrate rather than Segregate By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between them and they support each other. The proverb “many hands make light work” suggests that when we work together the job becomes easier. The icon represents a group of people from a bird’s-eye view, holding hands in a circle together. The space in the centre could represent “the whole being greater than the sum of the parts”.

# 9. Use small and slow solutions Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes. The proverb “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” reminds us of the disadvantages of excessive size and growth while “slow and steady wins the race” encourages patience while reflecting on a common truth in nature and society. The icon is a snail. A snail is both small and slow, it carries its home on its back and can withdraw to defend itself when threatened.

# 10. Use and value diversity Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides. The proverb “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” reminds us that diversity offers insurance against the variations of our environment. The icon is a hummingbird. The remarkable adaptation of the spinebill and hummingbird to hover and sip nectar from long, narrow flowers with their spine-like beak symbolises the specialisation of form and function in nature.

# 11. Use Edges & Value the Marginal The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system. The proverb “don’t think you are on the right track just because its a well-beaten path” reminds us that the most popular is not necessarily the best approach. The icon of the sun coming over the horizon with a river in the foreground shows us a world composed of edges.

# 12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by Carefully Observe/ing, and then intervening at the right time. he proverb “vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be” reminds us that understanding change is much more than a linear projection. The icon is a butterfly as a positive symbol of transformative change (transformation in nature, from its previous life as a caterpillar. T

# More The principles encompass those stated in Introduction to Permaculture, by Bill Mollison & Reny Mia Slay: - Relative location. - Each element performs many functions. - Each important function is supported by many elements. - Efficient energy planning: zone, sector and slope. - Using biological resources. - Cycling of energy, nutrients, resources. - Small-scale intensive systems; including plant stacking and time stacking. - Accelerating succession and evolution. - Diversity; including guilds. - Edge effects. - Attitudinal principles: everything works both ways, and permaculture is information and imagination-intensive. and those in Permaculture, a Designers' Manual, by Bill Mollison: - Work with nature rather than against. - The problem is the solution. - Make the least change for the greatest possible effect. - The yield of a system is theoretically unlimited (or only limited by the imagination and information of the designer). - Everything gardens (or modifies its environment).

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