Ethics and Design Principles


3 Ethics

Care of the Earth

Care of People

Return the Surplus

Holmgren’s 12 Principles

1. Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder” By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation. Mollison says, “protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action.”

2. Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines.” By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need. Catch resources at their highest point when they have the most potential (water on top of a hill) and use them below that energy point/quality point.

3. Obtain a Yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach” Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work you are doing.

4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation” We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.

5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course” Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.

6. Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine” By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste. “There’s no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place.”

7. Design From Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees” 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.

8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work” By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.

9. Use Small and Slow Solutions – “Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.

10.Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

11.Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well beaten path” 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.

12.Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are, but as they will be” We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.

Summary of Mollison’s Permaculture Principles

1. Relative Location: Seek to build working relationships between each element so that the needs of one element are filled by the outputs of another element.

2. Each Element Performs Many Functions: Each element in the system should be chosen and placed so that it performs as many functions as possible.

3. Each Important Function is Supported by Many Elements: Important basic needs such as water, food, and fire protection should be served in two or more ways.

4. Efficient Energy Planning: Zone and sector placement with slope and other factors are taken into consideration for maximizing our time, energy, and monetary resources. ▪ Zone Planning refers to the placement of elements based on their intensity of use and management. ▪ Sector Planning is about placing design components to manage incoming wild energies to our advantage or to mitigate their affects. ▪ Slope means looking at a site in profile to maximize energy flow- i.e. gravity and convection.

5. Using Biological Resources: Is the key strategy to develop sustainable systems, save energy and do the work of the farm. Utilize an elements inherent functions and let Nature do the work for you.

6. Energy Cycling: Permaculture systems intend to stop the flow of energies off-site and instead turn them into cycles. The interaction between plants and animals produces energy, which is caught, stored, used and re-cycled. Incoming energy –sun, water, wind, manures–are used at its highest possible use, then its next highest, and so on. “Source to sink”: moving water across the landscape in a series of interlinking ponds to prevent erosive runoff. Cascading nutrients.

7. Small Scale Intensive Systems: Fully develop the nucleus before moving on, planning for highly intensive, biologically based food, fiber, and energy production at the doorstep. Plant stacking: use varying heights of plants to obtain yields from more than one layer. Time Stacking: in combination with the above, utilize species that provide yields early, thus gaining quick rewards from the intensive energy input of developing a space for a long term yield.

8. Accelerate Succession and Evolution: direct it to build our own climax species in a shorter time, forward your agriculture systems to more permanence, whether it is a grassland or a food forest.

9. Diversity: the sum of the yields in a mixed system will be larger than in a monoculture. Stability is produced when elements are cooperating. Not the number of elements is central, but their functional connections. Plant Guilds

10. Edge Effects: Edges are places of varied ecology as they share resources between two distinct ecosystems and are known as a net and sieve for energy.

11. Attitudinal Principles:

  • Problem is the Solution: every resource is either an advantage or disadvantage, depending on the use made of it.
  • The Yield is Theoretically Unlimited: the only limit to the number of uses of a resource within a system is only limited to the information and imagination of the designer.
  • Work with Nature, Not Against: We need to assist rather than impede natural processes, essential to comprehend and copy.
  • Everything Gardens: every creature sets up conditions so that it can thrive. They create and carve their niche in an interconnected web of life.
  • Least Change for the Greatest Effect: When designing, use our intuition to guide the inherent regenerative qualities so that energy is not squandered.