Sustainable Evolution: The 12 Permaculture Principles: Part 1

One of the most amazing aspects about the 12 permaculture principles is that they can be adapted and applied anywhere. Literally. Permaculturists have applied the principles to life coaching, finance, and social organization. The primary reason this works is because the principles were adapted from nature. By extension, we are part of nature, and so is everything we create – including our technology, governance structures, and financial systems.

The first question that permaculturists like to ask is, What does the land need? If you care for the land, it will come back to gift you ten times more. We can structure our personal development, finance, and social and community organization around what nature needs, and we will likely be rewarded with abundance in all realms.

Let’s take a tour of the 12 principles and see how they can be applied to different areas beyond ecological design:

  1. Observe and interact. Nature just is – it is not good or evil, wise or foolish. There is no frame of reference in nature. Our personal judgments and biases separate us from nature, and hinder our designs. Thus, non-judgmental observation is the key starting point to understanding your environment. When we walk over the same land several times, we begin to notice new things you didn’t see before – a little sprout, a bird’s nest, an ant colony, that was hidden from us the first time. Slowing down, we begin to notice changes from the micro-climate and geography. The more intimate we can become with your environment, the better we can care and design for it. Developing a relationship with the land is essential to permaculture design.If we observe animals for a time, we will see that they too are observing their landscape. They learn from what they see in others – in fact, they are really the same as human beings.Similarly, if we observe our personal development, finances, and community structures with a non-judgmental eye, we will also begin to see the underlying patterns and details behind what we are experiencing.
  2. Catch and store energy. Nature provides us with a plethora of energy from the sun, water, seeds, minerals, heat, wind, and organic field of flowersmatter. We can save ourselves a ton of sweat and labor by taking the path of least resistance – catch solar energy when the sun is high and strong, install a rainwater catchment system to store water, use rocks to store heat, and create compost to build organic matter. When we design with nature, our work becomes super simple.In the same vein, when we follow our personal energy and interests, receive income from doing what we love most, and allow the community to move towards the greatest collective energy, we are also following the path of least resistance.
  3. Obtain a yield. We can’t do much good for the world when we’re starving without resources. It is imperative to take care of ourselves, balance our budget books (make a profit), and grow food.
  4. Apply self-regulation and respond to feedback loops. In the philosophy of natural farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, ignore what didn’t work, and look at what did. In other words, don’t dwell on the negatives. Instead, focus on the positives. Negative feedback will tell us that something within our system is unsustainable – change it. Our goal is to attain a balanced ecosystem. There will be pests and disease – the goal is not to eradicate them completely, but to reduce their severity so they are practically insignificant.

Stay tuned for the next part, where we’ll cover the next four permaculture principles.