Village Vancouver

Vancouver's Leader in Transition toward Strong, Resilient, Complete Communities

The Sustainable Revolution

by Mykoden

This paper was originally presented at the World Social Forum in Caracas at the
University of Venezuela on January 25th, 2006 and has been edited slightly with
a considerable reduction in the size of Part 1 –The Unsustainability of
Capitalism (because even its supporters have come to realise most of its
primary faults with the advent of the global economic collapse)



Originally drawn from the concept of permanent agriculture.

Permaculture concept co-originator, Bill Mollison states, "Without permanent
agriculture, civilisation cannot sustain itself."1

Now, in recent years, because Permaculture concerns itself with people, their buildings
and the way they organise themselves, we expand this concept to include all
other forms of sustainable methodology, and thus permanent agriculture becomes
permanent (sustainable) culture. With the recent publication of the other
Permaculture concept co- originator David Holmgren's groundbreaking
philosophical work, "Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond
Sustainability",2 the definition and
indeed, the ethical praxis of Permaculture assumes additional dimensions from
what it has been associated with

Thus, Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally
productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of
natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people
providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs
in a sustainable way.

Permacuture design is a system of assembling conceptual, material and strategic components
in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all its forms.

The philosophy behind permaculture is one of working with, rather than against

- of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless

- of looking at systems in all of their functions rather than asking only one yield
of them

- and of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.

The Prime Directive of Permaculture

is that:

The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.

The Principle of Cooperation

is fundamental in Permaculture Design for Cooperation, not competition, is the
very basis of existing life systems and of future survival

The Ethical Basis of Permaculture

1. CARE OF THE EARTH: Provision for all life systems to continue and thrive

2. CARE OF ALL SPECIES: Provision for all species and people to access (in a
sustainable manner) those resources necessary to their existence

needs, we can set resources aside to further the first two principles3

Geoff Lawton, who heads Permaculture International further elaborates upon this
ethical praxis by stating:

If we need to state a set of ethics on natural systems, then let it be thus:

- Implacable and uncompromising opposition to further disturbance of any
remaining natural forests, especially where most species are still in balance;

- Vigorous rehabilitation of degraded and damaged natural systems returning them
to stable states;

- Establishment of plant systems for our own use on the least amount of land we
can use for our existence; and

- Establishment of plant and animal refuges for rare or threatened species.

Permaculture as a design system deals primarily with the third statement above, but all
people who act responsibly in fact subscribe to the first and second
statements. We believe we should use all the species we need or can find to use
in our own settlement designs, providing they are not locally rampant and

Capitalism cannot be made sustainable

Capitalism frequently ignores the vital services provided by nature. Pro Neo-Liberal
governments even seek to diminish their significance by penalizing those who
would dare to design economic and social functions according to ecological
principles and reward the rapacious corporations who go to great lengths
to ignore and cover up the environmental damage that their operations almost
consistently produce.

When economies are designed and implemented,

the priority of Profit cannot be allowed to usurp

the sanctity of our environment

and undermine social justice,

if we are to survive in the new era of diminishing resources,
climate change and ecologically compromised habitats.

Permaculture recognizes the supreme importance of nature's capacities and the unassailable
priority that must be assigned to the work that is done when designing
economies that utilize these forces and resources in a responsible manner.
Comprehensive environmental justice should automatically reflect social
justice! As Chief Seattle, an indigenous leader from the Pacific
Northwest, a long time ago, when he became a witness to the wanton destructiveness
of the new white man's culture, counselled and pleaded to the leaders of this
new world order that:

"What we do to Mother Earth, we do to ourselves!"

Permaculture design divides properties into several zones determined by components such as
site (like water, earth, landscape, climate and plants & animals), energy
(sources, technologies, structures and connections), social components
(people, culture, trade and finance) and abstract components (Timing, data and
ethics). We then organize them so that they can most effectively benefit each
other in symbiotic, supportive relationships.

According to Bill Mollison, co-founder of the concept of Permaculture, in
"Permaculture: A Designer's Manual"-

"A POLLUTANT is an output of any system component

that is not being used productively

by any other component of the system.

EXTRA WORK is the result of an input not automatically
provided by another component of the system"5

Our planet is now choking on an overwhelming abundance of pollution caused by the
inefficient design of capitalist driven, human built systems of agriculture,
industrial design and urban development, all of which depend on the
exploitation of resources (human, material and elemental) that are required as
external inputs (that is -extra work). In capitalist design, these external
inputs are absolutely necessary to the continued functionality of those
systems. The most impacting of these external inputs is of course fossil fuels.

For example, in the United States, 400 gallons of oil equivalents are expended
annually to feed each American (as of data provided in 1994). Agricultural
energy consumption is broken down as follows:

31% for the manufacture of inorganic fertilizer

19% for the operation of field machinery

16% for transportation

13% for irrigation

08% for raising livestock (not including livestock feed)

05% for crop drying

05% for pesticide production

08% miscellaneous

Just for the synthetic production of nitrogen fertilizer alone, the US sucks up 100
million gallons of oil each year.

Similar pictures can be painted for the excessive use of oil for the production of
pesticides (over half a million tonnes/year applied on US soils) and water,-
1500 gallons /person daily, if the per capita inputs of industry and
agriculture are factored into personal use.6

Global Human society has at this present juncture in time not been able to perceive
the full dimension of the ecological challenge to our continued survival. A
dramatic change is about to be forced upon global economies by an oligarchic
class intent upon utilizing an ecologically inefficient system based on
destructive and exploitive values. In an efficiently designed system, based
upon Permaculture principles, supported by an ethically just, social political
structure, the reduction
EN-GB""> and eventual elimination of fossil fuel use evolving out of values
created by a new eco-socialist set of values could provide us with an
opportunity to create a novel type of enlightenment, to pursue a neglected
pathway towards achieving spiritual fulfilment based upon our relationship with
the natural world and maintaining a truly sustainable model of the economy that
would support and even enhance the biological integrity of our environment.

Nature implements a perfect model of Permaculture design because all components
integrate and rely upon each other. Our failure to understand this is reflected
by the faulty nature of the value system that has evolved from our political
economy and the ethos of our mono-theistic religious based cultures. These two
functional human systems, one developed by the dynamic of power, the other
through a cultural evolution, support a worldview that is expressed by the
philosophies of prejudice,-racism, class warfare, gender discrimination and
sexual oppression (homophobia). They are derived from the apotheosis of
self-importance, both at the individual and collective level. This evolved
worldview supports and drives the primary causes of the mental, physical and
spiritual pollution that surrounds us in every sphere of life today.

Concern for the health and the greater good of the world is not a priority of
Capitalism. Capitalism is driven by the accumulation of wealth. Continual, ever
expanding growth is the central mantra of all capitalist systems. Control of
the mechanism of this system is in the hands of small groups of people that are
called the oligarchies (aka elites, ruling class). Because of their power, the
oligarchies define and implement the values of their culture. In modern
society, the accumulation of
wealth has come to represent the definition and value of an individual. This
representation in turn has become a calibration of self importance.
Institutional religion and at times even political and cultural life demands
collective subservience to an exalted being atop the pedestal of self
importance. The worship of Self importance represents the success of techniques
of mass deception practised by oligarchies over a long period of time. It is an
invention of cultural manipulation that only serves to alienate us from understanding
the interdependent, reciprocal
condition of the natural world. Self importance has no place in nature's
long term perspective and so consequently, neither does capitalism. Capitalism
is not sustainable because it is driven by such a self importance, which has a
built in expiry date that we are now quickly approaching.

Without a transition to a new paradigm we shall not survive as a species

As a permaculture designer and a student of ecology I am convinced that the new
paradigm that must replace the old dysfunctional one should be based upon
ecological principles, much as have the most sustainable of human societies. A
good example of such longevity is demonstrated by the aboriginal culture in
Australia, 60,000 years of continuity young.

A close examination of the theories of socialism reveals principles closely aligned to
those of ecology, such as those of co-operation and decentralised power, based
upon a vast integration of individuals working for the greater good of the
whole. Through an elimination of self importance, based upon the realisation
that as a united family extending support to each other, we are able to empower
ourselves, we may through such empowerment finally realise the true meaning of
individual freedom. This is possible because we are not concerned with
measuring the differences between ourselves by gauging ourselves based upon
material wealth or power but are able to celebrate our differences as
individuals and explore each uniqueness, thus enabling an honest pursuit of
human development as well as enabling a natural evolution of our relationship
to the living world.

On the other hand, Socialist based systems fail when they move away from their
fundamental principles because they are corrupted by latent psychological
cultural values that are carried over like an infecting virus from the previous
paradigm of capitalism. Politically and economically, this usually leads to a
centralisation of power. Permaculture Design reflects the values of pure
socialism in that it recognizes the power of integrated co-operation,
implemented from the bottom up for the sake of the greater good of not just
some, but for all. It seeks to understand the world through the tool of
ecological observation and to implement solutions that are supportive of the balance
that nature strives to achieve. There is only one path that Permaculture Design
seeks to take, and that is the path that nature provides us -the “path with a

The Permaculture Principles and Revolutionary Transformation

Before we get into an analysis of the twelve principles of Permaculture, allow me to
introduce a simple chart of comparisons between the old dynamic of the
Industrial culture and the emerging new paradigm of the Sustainable culture, as
exemplified by Permaculture.

First we state the characteristic, then the tendency of each:

Energy Base> Industrial- Non-renewable, Sustainable- Renewable

Material Flows> Industrial- Linear, Sustainable- Cyclical

Natural Assets> Industrial- Consumption, Sustainable- Storage

Organisation> Industrial- Centralised, Sustainable- Distributed Network

Scale> Industrial- Large, Sustainable- Small

Movement> Industrial- Fast, Sustainable- Slow

Feedback> Industrial-Positive, Sustainable- Negative

Focus> Industrial- Centre, Sustainable- Edge

Activity> Industrial-Episodic Change, Sustainable- Rhythmic Stability

Thinking> Industrial- Reductionist, Sustainable- Holistic

Gender> Industrial- Masculine, Sustainable- FeminineEN-GB"">7

The Permaculture Principles

Observe and Interact

Catch and Store Energy

Obtain A Yield

Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback

Use and Value Renewable Resources

Produce No Waste

Design From Patterns to Details

Integrate rather Than Segregate

Use Small and Slow Solutions

Use and Value Diversity

Use Edges and Value the Marginal

Creatively Use and Respond to Change

In examining these principles, I'll first state the principle and relate the
proverb(s) that qualify it.

Then I'll examine what it means and how it corresponds to full spectrum

1) Observe and Interact

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

which reminds us that the process of observing influences reality and that we must
always be circumspect about absolute truths and values.

This principle is divided into 9 aspects.

All observations are relativeEN-GB"">. Cultural filters such as those shaped by ideology and ethics can cloud
our judgement and prevent understanding. In permaculture work, we come across
this frequently in common attitudes towards weeds and pests. Nature has purpose
in the use of such so that we must strive to understand how the built in
prejudices of our own culture can affect our perception.

Top-down thinking, bottom-up actionEN-GB"">. Stepping back from an issue in order to understand its connections
within the integration of the larger picture is a good use of top-down
thinking. Western science usually reflects the opposite with its emphasis on
reductionist thinking, ie; it seeks to find and isolate an active principle as
opposed to understanding its relationship within the functioning of the whole.
On the other hand, bottom-up action is pertinent to how individual actions can
affect the larger picture such as in the case of participatory democracy as
opposed to centralised decision making. So top-down thinking to understand and
perceive the bigger picture and bottom-up action to connect the small to the
large, and implement change at a grassroots level.

Failure is useful so long as we learnEN-GB"">. We can't learn if we don't have the courage to fail. And we can't
learn if we don't experiment and look beyond ourselves and our immediate
concerns for the answers as to why we either fail or succeed.

Elegant solutions are simple, even invisible. Complexity does not always indicate superior
design, in fact quite often the reverse is true because complexity can create
extra unnecessary work and maintenance. Sometimes what may appear simple and is
consequently dismissed, is actually quite complex, and either beyond or under
the radar of our perception, such as many of the living forces of nature. The
so-called free environmental services like purification of air, water and soil
are easily disregarded by those who take them for granted until they are forced
to replicate these tasks themselves, due to environmental damage.

Make the smallest intervention necessary. Attempts to fix damaged systems without
properly understanding them has created a multitude of horror stories due to
the fact that difficult to perceive, yet integrally important elements or
forces go unnoticed and suffer severe damage when for example, high impact
solutions such as the application of toxic chemicals to kill pests are used.
"Thus, the cure becomes worse than the disease."

Avoid too much of a good thing.EN-GB""> Over-indulgence is one the great sins of current society and the
temptation to use more of something when some success is achieved is
overwhelming. Industrial agriculture continues to dump more fertilizer on soils
in the hope of regaining higher yields, yet global production is continuing to
decline now that the soils of vast agricultural areas have been depleted without
understanding or engaging in the process of natural renewal.

When are we going to learn that achieving balance rather than accumulating quantity is
the real key to prosperity?

Recognize and break out of design dead-endsEN-GB"">. Tradition and conservatism can hamper the type of thinking necessary
in a quickly changing environment such as
situations of crisis where the tried and true solutions of yesteryear
just won't work anymore because conditions have changed too much from the time
when they did work. The slogan "thinking outside the box" describes
an appropriate antidote to this problem.

The Landscape is the textbook.EN-GB""> Learning how to read the Landscape may be the single most important
tool in the Permaculture Designer's repository of knowledge and capacities.
Understanding the world around us from an ecological perspective and with all
of our senses can't be replaced by any amount of academic training because
nature provides us with all the answers we need, in order to build a
sustainable society.

The problem is the solution.EN-GB""> Things are not always as they seem. The nature of your perception of a
problem is critical to finding effective solutions to it. For example, usually,
what many conventionally may consider to be a problem, such as a weed, is
actually an indication from nature that something is out of balance in the
immediate environment, and it's her solution for dealing with it. She may be
utilizing the weed to repair something, like loss of fertility in the soil, or
as a sign or a monitor of impending change in the environment. More often
than not, the so-called problem is in fact, a valuable resource that we can
use, which our cultural conditioning has blinded us from seeing.

2) Catch and Store Energy

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

Reminds us that we have limited time to catch and store energy before seasonal or
episodic abundance dissipates.

To quote Holmgren, "All biological and mineral resources can be considered (and
measured) as embodied energy. The tools, infrastructure and technology that are
needed to support a human society, whether simple or complex, all derive from
these primary energy sources collected from the natural environment. The more
useful and durable forms into which we transform those sources of energy are
stores of high quality energy- or in ordinary language, 'real wealth."8 Fossil fuel energy has had a tremendous impact on
the industrial development of human society precisely because it represents
nature's most concentrated form of stored energy, a collection process that
took millions of years to build and but a couple of centuries to deplete.
Before the industrial revolution, traditional societies had to learn how to
convert the energy stored from the sun that exists in a more transitional
state. As the onset of climate change and widespread pollution and habitat
destruction brings us to the brink of ecosystem threshold collapses, thus
forceing us to return to this condition, it is imperative that we adapt again
to the dynamic of capturing and storing this transitional type of energy. In a
simple context, we can understand energy capture as a self-regulating system,
with the sun as the only external input. For instance, the inputs of sunlight,
carbon dioxide and water used by green plants and then photosynthesized, shall
result in a product of carbohydrates and oxygen. In all animals and some other
plants, through the process of respiration, this product, ie; carbohydrates and
oxygen, are converted into carbon dioxide, water and metabolic energy. Even in
this simple analysis of energy storage, we can perceive the reciprocal nature
of the planet's self-regulation. Much of Permaculture design is focused on
maintaining and improving upon this process. Strategies for catching and
storing energy can be grouped under 4 mediums: water, seed, trees and living

Water: large dams are environmentally damaging unless situated in steep mountain valleys, where the collected water
mimics the natural creation of lakes made by glaciers and landslides. Small
dams located in high, mountainous terrain can provide energy and irrigation for
small isolated communities or their micro-power capacities can be tied into a
regional grid. These are environmentally benign. In lowland water catchment
systems like small dams, wetlands, ponds, swales and paddies, the shallow water
provides an opportunity to create nutrient rich aqua-systems. The chemical
energy created in such systems by the potential for high protein production far
outstrips the efficiency of any land based systems of growth.

When initiating permaculture design for a property, the first factor that I try to
read in the landscape is the hydrology of the geography. I try to identify the
mechanisms and storage capacities for water, nutrients and carbon. Then I try
to identify the possible leakages from the system. Finally I compare the
relative efficiency of the design with their counterparts in natural landscapes
that have evolved under similar energy and resource environments.

Seed: although the actual quantity of energy in a seed may be small, the quality is high because of the potential
energy production represented in the growing of the seed. "the paltry
acorn can grow to become the might oak" comes to mind. Perennial seed
plants are especially important because they do not have to reproduce themselves
every year and consequently require less maintenance and work. Seed saving
activities and networks are a big part of permaculture society, as they
represent not only the ability to create the initiation of growth (and thus,
the collection of stored energy) but also represent the insurance against
agricultural collapse by expanding the diversity of available plant sources.

Trees: long lived perennials like trees, more efficiently absorb and store energy than any other organism. In richer,
fertile lowland, and alluvial soils, the cultivation of the more demanding,
shorter lived food trees makes sense because of the high quality and relative
sustainability of their short term returns. In damaged or more infertile soil
regions, the planting of woody, long lived species, accompanied by the planting
of quick growing, nitrogen fixing pioneer species such as leguminous types, can
arrest soil depletion, accumulate biomass and provide energy in the longer term
by providing timber and fuel for future generations. In this sense, the global
pre-occupation for ridding ourselves of excess carbon needs to be turned around
into thinking about how we can effectively store this carbon for future use.

Living Soil: the
capitalist strategy of carbon trading which has over-estimated and
misunderstood the ability of young trees in plantations to store carbon
overshadows an even more significant issue. A greater amount of carbon is held
by the humus of living soils. The loss of carbon to the atmosphere from the
destruction of humus in living soils through industrial agricultural techniques
is equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles globally. A
biological reclamation of these soils would create a capacity to re-absorb this
carbon much faster than the quickest growing forest ever could.

Strategies to rebuild our soils would be:

-incorporating trees into most design systems and on marginal lands,

-return all organic waste materials to the soil through proper composting systems,

-eliminate all forms of large scale industrial agriculture, especially the severely
environmentally damaging practices of industrial animal husbandry,

-reduce public desire for consumption of red meat so that rangelands can be put through
rotations of leguminous pastures, in order to rebuild soil humus,

-when fertilizers are needed, (in the transition to creating self-regulated systems,)
replace the application of soluble fertilizers with slower releasing ones, such
as rock minerals and coal humus (which releases fulvic and humic acids.)

The proper balancing of mineral content, when re-building soils is of critical
importance in maximizing humus creation and increasing crop yields.

Design qualities suitable for the most efficient capture and storage of these energies

-modest in scale,

-designed for durability or incorporating easily recoverable, renewable resources,

-simplicity and low energy maintenance

-multi purpose for adaptability to other uses

3) Obtain A Yield

You Can't Work on an Empty Stomach

reminds us that we should design any system to provide for self-reliance at all levels
(including within ourselves) by using captured and stored energy effectively to
maintain the system and to be able to capture more energy.

More broadly speaking, flexibility and creativity in finding new ways to obtain a
yield will be of critical importance in the transition from a growth economy
based on fossil fuel use to an economy based on the reduction of their use and
a transition to alternative methods of energy capture and storage.

The concept of how we employ our capacities of perception plays an important role
in obtaining a yield. How we read the land defines how we implement a
design to maximize use of captured and stored energy.

How we measure this energy assumes equal significance in our assessments of capacity
and accomplishments. Ecologist Howard Odum developed a system back in the
60's which he continued to refine until his death in 2002, called EMERGY
. Emergy accounting, like the
similar, more popularly recognised system called "Ecological Footprint",
converts all consumed resources to a figure representing the area of land
required to generate those resources and dispose of the wastes. For example,
the global average of 2.9 ht of productive land required to support each person
outstrips the calculated average of 2.2ht that is actually only available. In
other words we are withdrawing our natural capital from Mother Earth faster
than we can replace it. Of course, the figures for the gluttonous nations are
much higher. The US for instance, consumes 12.2 ht per person.9

An application of Emergy accounting that can be illuminating and very useful, is
the calculation of Emergy yield ratio. This compares the Emergy (or inherent
value) of a resource, with the feedback Emergy from the economy that is required
to produce that resource. Any values greater than one indicate a net gain in
the economy in Emergy. So in effect, the time it takes, and the work required
to produce any given product compared to what the product provides us, gives us
the Emergy ratio. Most annual crops are little better than 1, while wood
plantations yield between 1.5-4 and 300 year old growth rainforests yield 12.10 It is obvious that nature's most developed
ecosystems outperform man designed systems by a considerable margin.

So when we design with the intention to best utilise available energy in our systems,
we need to understand the priorities of maximum Emergy efficiency. We need to
be able to allocate available resources where they shall be most effectively
able to achieve maximum Emergy ratio, and allow nature to deal with those areas
in which our design strategies would result in a low Emergy ratio of

Odum provides us with this list of guidelines:

-develop storages of high quality energy (trees),

-feedback work from the storages to increase inflows (eg. use timber available on a site
to build a water mill to capture micro hydro energy),

-recycle materials as needed,

-organise control mechanisms that keep the system adapted and stable, (eg, introduce
aquatic plants such as water hyacinth in small dams so that in the dry season,
low levels don't become stagnant, breeding grounds for mosquitos and microbial

-set up exchanges with other systems to supply special energy needs (eg. co-operative
projects with neighbours or design to attract beneficial wildlife like
pollinating insects)

-contribute useful work to the surrounding environmental systems that helps to maintain
favourable conditions, (you are affected by the surrounding environment whether
you like it or not).11

4) Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback

The Sins of the Fathers Are Visited on the Children unto the Seventh Generation

Traditional societies created warnings like this to remind themselves that external
negative feedbacks are often slow to emerge where we can easily notice them.
With better understanding of how positive and negative feedbacks work in
nature, we can design systems that are more self-regulating.

Without negative feedback mechanisms to order self-regulation, societies become unsustainable.
When people in North America can't understand how their lifestyles impact so
dramatically upon the rest of the world (primarily because corporate news
sources fail so miserably in providing a true picture of this reality to them),
then an important negative feedback mechanism that existed in most traditional
societies has been lost. Without the ability to make informed decisions,
business as usual continues on, and the situation of ecological crisis
continues to escalate. To help us understand the complexity behind the use of
feedback mechanisms which help us to create self-regulation, Odum created a
model examining how any organism (or population) divides and allocates its
available energy. He called this model, Tripartite Altruism

The model of Tripartite Altruism explains that, for an organism, approximately one third
of captured energy is required for metabolic self-maintenance, one third is fed
back to maintain lower order system providers, and one third is contributed
upward to higher order system providers.

Holmgren uses the example of rabbits to illustrate how this works in nature.

Rabbits eat grass to grow and reproduce (metabolic self-maintenance)

>Their manure fertilizes the grass that feeds them (feedback to maintain lower order
system providers)

>the sacrifice of weaker members to predators keeps the population fit and in
balance. (contribution upward to feed higher order system providers)

If these feedback mechanisms fail, the population shall suffer. For example, should
their behaviour change so that they deposit their manure under protective
shrubs to avoid predators, then nutrient loss to their primary food source,
(the grass), not to mention increased competition from the newly fertilised
shrubs, (competing with the grass for nutrients and soil space), will affect
their populations through a loss of available food.12

When our cultural institutions fail to apply feedback mechanisms in order to initiate
self-regulation, it becomes incumbent upon individuals and small groups to
assume greater personal responsibility. The strategy of action used to initiate
this change, taken from the first principle is "top-down thinking and
bottom-up action". Put another way, it means "Think globally"
ie; understand the world from a holistic viewpoint, and "Act Locally"
ie; adjust the actions of your personal everyday life to correspond with what
you have learned from this holistic interpretation. So, if we return to
consider the allegory of the rabbits, this is what we can conclude. If the rabbits
employed "top-down thinking", and could therefore understand their
environment beyond the fear of their predators, they would understand that the
strategy of defecating under the bushes could prove to be more harmful for the
whole group, than risking capture by predators.

If we take personal responsibility for our needs and accept the consequences of our
own actions, we cease to be powerless actors in an unsustainable system and
become producers of responsibly created wealth and value. In our Attention
Deficit Disordered collective consciousness, it can be difficult to connect
global problems to our own specific needs. But we need to develop "whole
systems thinking" in order to understand that connection and its
consequences. Instead of trying to bite off more than we can chew, it would
seem wiser to examine smaller whole systems first, such as our individual

Holmgren provides us with a list of exercises that he calls the "self-audit
process," which is designed to help us teach ourselves how to engage in
"whole systems thinking," in order to better understand the complex
and changing physical and social environments that we live in.

-consider or list all of your needs, wants, addictions, abilities, liabilities, and

-consider all of the influences and connections

-map material and energy flows and your personal movement patterns

-take responsibility without guilt or blame on others

-seek out the easiest opportunities for reducing dependence, minimising harm and
improving quality of life

-make small changes and review the audit regularly

-and don't take for granted, fundamental material needs13

It's also worth engaging in a close examination of determining the difference between
wants and needs. When the desire to satisfy a want becomes too strong, a
compulsive overindulgence, it transforms itself into a dysfunctional need, ie;
an addiction. We live in a global society of purposely created addictions that
forces all manner of dependence on the status quo structure of the system. Even
large entities such as governments become dependent upon addictions such as
revenue from gambling, alcohol and tobacco taxes, and in the case of the US,
war, (to drive its economy.) None of these things are considered to be
beneficial for the advancement of humankind but have never-the-less become
financial lynchpins that hold those economies together. It is also very
important to understand that certain repeated patterns of behaviour constitute
the definition of an addiction just as much as one to an actual substance.

Holmgren's strategies for dealing with problems of an addictive nature:

-acknowledge our own addictive behaviours and admit that they are barriers to a better life
and a more sustainable world

-recognize the emotional and other benefits or yields we get from the addiction

-avoid guilt and blame of others, including our parents

-disconnect from reinforcing relationships with addicts who are unwilling to acknowledge or
deal with the particular addiction

-and definitely do connect with ex-addicts who understand, and form self-help groups
with addicts willing to change14

Taking personal responsibility leads to self-reliance, which in turn becomes a
self-regulated political action because it becomes an invisible consumer
boycott of the psychological dominance of the centralised, large scale
economies that support and maintain addictive and dysfunctional behaviour.


1.) “Permaculture: A Designer´s Manual”, by Bill Mollison, 1988, Tagari –p. 6

2.) “Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability”, by David
Holmgren,2003, Chelsea Green

3) “Permaculture: A Designer´s Manual”, by Bill Mollison, 1988, Tagari p. 2

4) “A Synoptic Definition of Permaculture”, by Geoff Lawton,

5) “Permaculture: A Designer´s Manual”, by Bill Mollison, 1988, Tagari p. 38

6) “Eating Fossil Fuels”, Oct 3, 2003, by Dale Allen Pfeiffer,

7) “Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability”, by David Holmgren, Chelsea Green, 2003 “Introduction” -p. xxviii

8) Ibid, p. 29

9) Ibid, p. 65

10) Ibid, p. 66

11) Ibid, p. 57-8

12) Ibid, p. 73

13) Ibid, p. 85

14) Ibid, p. 86

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