I Wish I Were Far From the Madding Crowd

March 13, 2010

Permaculture

This is a relatively new concept to me.  The article covers a lot of ground, but also includes a critique of the concept.

I decided to post something on it because I think there are parallels between it and the “cradle to cradle” approach.

The “design” aspect of both this and “cradle to cradle” seems, in one sense, a bit ironic.  Ecosystems have evolved.  The design aspect enters in because the designers are trying to use the natural world as their model.

From the Wikipedia article on Permaculture

Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in natural ecologies.

The word permaculture is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture, as well as permanent culture.

Modern permaculture is a system design tool. It is a way of:

  1. looking at a whole system or problem;
  2. observing how the parts relate;
  3. planning to mend sick systems by applying ideas learned from long-term sustainable working systems;
  4. seeing connections between key parts.

In permaculture, practitioners learn from the working systems of nature to plan to fix the damaged landscapes of human agricultural and city systems. This thinking applies to the design of a kitchen tool as easily to the re-design of a farm.

OBREDIM design methodology

OBREDIM is an acronym for observation, boundaries, resources, evaluation, design, implementation and maintenance.

  • Observation allows you first to see how the site functions within itself, to gain an understanding of its initial relationships. Some recommend a year-long observation of a site before anything is planted. During this period all factors, such as lay of the land, natural flora and so forth, can be brought into the design. A year allows the site to be observed through all seasons, although it must be realized that, particularly in temperate climates, there can be substantial variations between years.
  • Boundaries refer to physical ones as well as to those neighbors might place, for example.
  • Resources include the people involved, funding, as well as what can be grown or produced in the future.
  • Evaluation of the first three will then allow one to prepare for the next three. This is a careful phase of taking stock of what is at hand to work with.
  • Design is a creative and intensive process, and must stretch the ability to see possible future synergetic relationships.
  • Implementation is literally the ground-breaking part of the process when digging and shaping of the site occurs.
  • Maintenance is then required to keep the site at a healthy optimum, making minor adjustments as necessary. Good design will preclude the need for any major adjustment.

Article includes design principles from David Holmgren, one of the early advocates of permaculture.

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