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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The holistic way

If we look up "holistic" in Google we find, apart from the narrower medical term, that it means "characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole."

It is a term used by Permaculturists and is the point of Permaculture; treat this life (the "world") as a whole system of which we are a part, rather than as a set of resources (separate from us: objectified) to be exploited, regardless of "externalized" costs (placed beyond consideration as a consequence for which we are responsible, so as to be able to show a "profit").

No one invented Permaculture; IIRC it is a word originated by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren while considering whole systems in the context of agriculture in Tasmania. Permaculture principles as a set of ideas or design tools are in flux, as the movement's leadership is diverse and democratic, with new knowledge added all the time, so this series of posts will become dated quickly.

I'll be using David Holmgren and Richard Telford's current set of principles as set forth here: As they keep their site updated, bookmark it and you should be able to stay out of whatever trouble I might get you into.

I think the Wikipedia article is updated regularly, too. As practices, such as Hugelkultur, become better known, they become part of the lexicon and the toolbox. Note the article is relatively restricted to agriculture and "environmental design" -- some would say Permaculture can be applied to all relations between humans and between humans and their surroundings -- a complete culture.

I think so, too, though I'm inclined to think that a) this is hobbled by the perception that many people and media have that the Permaculture movement is limited to New Age and hippies. And b) if it were to shed that perception (as it is beginning to do) and become more widely implemented, it would (will) run afoul of the authorities, who have no intention of being supplanted by an ethical (hence largely anti-capitalist) agenda. This has happened to the Whole Systems movement before.

That said, with the fossil fuels rapidly approaching a EROEI of 1:1, the planet heating as a result of the massive overuse of same, and the likely consequent famines, resource wars, revolts, and corporate and governmental collapse, those who have been feverishly working to create sustainable practices may or may not find a way for humanity to muddle through but remain the only game in town.

I think the ethic (the "three ethics") as stated on is spot on. "Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share." Viewed through the monist glass, we can say that all this is Earth Care, people being a part of the holistic whole.

Here are the principles, as listed on an earlier post:
1. Observe and Interact. By taking the time to engage with nature we can design relevant solutions.
2. Catch and Store Energy. Developing systems to collect resources when abundant, we can use them in need.
3. Obtain a yield – Ensure that you are getting useful rewards from your work.
4. Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – Efficient or resilient systems require noting and correcting inefficient or non-resilient practices.
5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – as opposed to non-renewable resources.
6. Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not.”
7. Design From Patterns to Details – Observe patterns in nature and society. Test their appropriateness broadly, rather than losing yourself in detail.
8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop, creating efficiencies and resiliences.
9. Use Small and Slow Solutions – Small is beautiful.
10. Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” -- be resilient.
11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal – These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change – We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.
And, we'll go over them one by one, and this series of 21 pompous posts will be (whew) done.


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