[permaculture] Invisible Structures Information

Sean Maley semaley at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 14 10:55:35 EST 2007

Very well said, Paul.

> The desire for 'apartness' 

 O God of earth and altar,
      Bow down and hear our cry, 
Our earthly rulers falter,
      Our people drift and die; 
The walls of gold entomb us,
      The swords of scorn divide, 
Take not thy thunder from us,
      But take away our pride.
- G.K. Chesterton

When we all come together with a desire for completeness over selfish necessity, we uncover a viable design, given the paradoxes we must overcome.  When we can shed the Marxist, Hippie, Capitalist, Yuppie, Anarchist, and whatever labels, we can see the whole that has always been there.  I envision Anarchists discussing business endeavors; Libertarians trying to figure out how to address the social needs of the underprivileged; Marxists discussing independent business ventures of their own and others;  on and on and on.

To some extent, I'm seeing all of this happen.  I'm just waiting for the epiphanies making the intellectual transition complete.  Part of this pertains to a major paradigm leap from separation and ego to one of mutual support.  I make a distinction between mutual 'aid' and mutual 'support', as 'aid' implies separation to me, where 'support' implies being a part of a whole.  When the 'left' joins the 'right' and the 'conservative' unites with the 'liberal', I know this leap has been made.  I cringe hearing words like "progressive" and "growth", as I know permanence implies no more progress or growth can be tolerated.

Achieving this leap also requires a similar leap as when humanity realized that the earth was not the center of the universe.  Specifically, humanity isn't the center of the natural world on Earth.  Humanity isn't even something favored by evolution, but more along the lines of endless transitions that can't go through minimal simplicity, so have eventually resulted in less stable forms leading to humanity.  We aren't even the only tool or language users.  It's great for us to be a part of Earth, but it should never be at the expense of entire ecosystems to create food systems supporting yet more people (civilization isolates people from nature and destroys ecosystems to create food systems for the separated people).


----- Original Message ----
From: Paul Cereghino <paul.cereghino at comcast.net>
To: permaculture <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Wednesday, February 14, 2007 1:18:44 AM
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Invisible Structures  Information

Long one, but bear with me... Beware, the following monologue contains multiple poorly defined concepts that could be easily misinterpreted...

"Personally, I am interested in any models/metaphors that folks may be 
aware of that are analogues of "economic systems" that occur in nature. 
This might include such behaviors as squirrels hoarding nuts, but I am 
really looking for energy exchange models that might be mirrored as we 
design permaculture "economies""

In natural systems you can find any number of arrangements between 
species that involve exchange of resources from facilitation to 
parasitism to predation.  You can then proceed to find benefits and 
costs to each arrangement as motivated by your cosmology.  Within 
populations you can find all manner of social-political structure: 
matriarchy, patriarchy, anarchy, pure communalism... aren't our economic 
arrangements just side effects of our socio-political models for control 
of resources?

So I propose that 'economic system' is more of a symptom than a driver 
-- our socio-political models establish power dynamics (primarily 
ownership of resources and monopoly on violence) and these systems then 
just respond to the resource environment by forming economic 
arrangements.  If you wanted an ecological model you could adopt Philip 
Grime's model of plant strategies (interesting interview at 
http://www.sciencewatch.com/interviews/philip_grime.htm):  environments 
dominated by disturbance reward 'ruderal' strategies focused on 
dispersal and repeated recolonization of opportunistic niches.  
Environments with periods of extreme stress rewards those that grow slow 
and invest in stress tolerance and avoidance infrastructure.  Abundant 
resource bases favors those individuals that devote energy to competing 
and controlling resources without regard for the future. 

You could describe our "economic environment" as being in transition 
from one with an abundance resource base, benefiting 'competitors', to 
one increasingly dominated by stress or disturbance.  Viable 
socio-political entities must adapt to changing success criteria.  
Perhaps permaculture is a 'stress tolerator' strategy that won't really 
kick in until stressors increase (oil and resource depletion + climate 
shifts), but is vulnerable to 'disturbance' (climate craziness and 
violent chaos) that supports more ruderal strategies (militarism).

I'd reiterate the idea that "economic patterns" are adaptive to the 
combination of "social-political system" and "environmental condition".  
A economic structure has no horsepower without control over resources 
(Frank Herbert said "he who can destroy a thing controls that 
thing..").  Permaculture depends, perhaps more than any other economic 
model on the control of land (currently manifested by holding title).  
Permaculture economic arrangements support acquisition of control over 
land under management systems that build fertility and habitat 
functions.  Permanent economies must in turn be supported by stable 
socio-political systems. 

Land trust systems seem a natural complement to economic structures that 
leverage land ownership.  There is an informal system of conservation 
acquisition in Washington, USA now underway.  NGO's buy land with 
ecological value, use public money for salmon recovery to strip off 
'development rights' and then turn around and sell the remainder of land 
rights (residence and compatible use) to a 'conservation buyer'.  This 
is a 'permaculture' model in that it is creating connections between 
existing entities and stacks functions.  To enhance this 'guild' you 
could either figure out how to create more conservation buyers, create 
socio-political structures that subsidize the process, or find other 
capital flows within society that can be diverted toward this kind of 
investment.  Land trusts that acquire land without finding people to 
live on that land, run into problems in trying to finance stewardship in 
the absence of residential stewards.  Educational systems developed by 
local government to educate private landowners to be 'good stewards' is 
a natural member of this guild, as are 'conservation corps' groups that 
provide cheap labor to complete 'conservation' work.

The bottom line is that 'economic permaculture' is designing 'economic 
gardens' in the context of the existing 'economic environment'.  The 
desire for 'apartness' so we can shed the shackles of our 'fundamentally 
flawed economic system' fundamentally separates the permaculture venture 
from the sources, flows, and sinks of the existing economic environment, 
and so fails to be good permaculture design.  The idea that 
'permaculture' can only operate through people "tuning in, turning on 
and dropping out" may have no functional value.  As the resource 
environment changes (resource depletion + global climate change) we will 
need to adapt, but those are not the current design conditions.  So we 
must develop successional designs that take us from here to there using 
existing environments, not imaginary environments. Or we could 
contentedly work like Noah building our ark, quite certain that the 'big 
one' really is just around the corner this time.


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