A Case for Permaculture: Patterns of Erosion and Regenerative Patterns

It is in doing good that one becomes good; I know of no practice more certain.”

~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Well, this has been quite a week: full-packed with assignments, work, family sharing, gardening, cooking and canning…it has also come with a lot of thinking and planning, as I had the opportunity to be by myself and enjoy bus rides and walks in exceptionally beautiful days…

Today’s post is about how Permaculture can change a regular city life, for a regular full-time worker and mother, who happens to have an addiction to never-ending studying, a busy life, debt, no savings and no access to land.

A case for Permaculture: The Big Picture

I presented an intro to Permaculture last Saturday at the South Surrey Grassroots Yoga Festival. I started my presentation by showing pictures and some facts about the main issues of our times:

  • The state of water
  • The state of soil
  • The state of biodiversity
  • The state of fossil fuels and other finite resources (raw materials and energy)
  • The state of social inequality
  • The state of pollution and waste
  • The state of local economies
  • The state of debt (personal/household and government/national)
  • The state of work (unemployment, overwork, abuse, etc)
  • The state of health
  • The state of relationships

I asked participants to just look at the facts (such as: we have ~ 53.3 more years of oil, or we have lost 75% of biodiversity) and ask certain questions:

  • How does Nature clean and restore water?
  • How does Nature create and use soil?
  • How does energy move through natural systems and where it comes from?
  • How does Nature manage waste? What represent waste in nature?
  • Is the status of (insert the issue here) a pattern of erosion or a regenerative one? Or there is a combination of both coexisting together?

And so on…

And then I continued explaining and showing how Permaculture does not see the glass half empty…nor the glass half full, but it acknowledges reality (“Observe & Interact”) and celebrates what is left in the “glass” and works from that to regenerate the other half…


A case for Permaculture: Your Life

For most people, thinking about all the issues we currently face is too overwhelming and disempowering: the reaction is usually to argue that “they” will somewhat fix it all with technology and discoveries (denial of the real status of the world)…or becoming a nihilist and decide that there is nothing they can do about it anyways…

I am convinced that we not only need to be mature and realistic and call the things by their name, but we also have the opportunity to use these challenges to become more active, live our values to the fullest and even have fun while trying…

And that is where Permaculture enters the scene…

At a personal level, Permaculture has allowed me to:

  • Meet new friends and extraordinary people who don’t watch TV, are open-minded and have huge hearts and dreams
  • Learn things about the planet we live in and its ecosystems and feel a passion I never thought I would have for all of it: plants, animals, fungi, soil, cultures, systems…
  • Reconnect with my values and spirituality (which, in turn, has helped me with long-term “friends” such as depression, anxiety and the sort)
  • Walk the talk as much as I can so my children may follow: although I still have a long walk to do here, I have started the first steps and feel much better connected to my children and loved ones as well as my own values
  • Start thinking about a career change so my work is better aligned with social and environmental community needs
  • Have a goal and be inspired by what it can be done
  • Take control of my debt and my expenses
  • Take control of my health and my diet

Does the above sound much more appealing to you? What if I tell you that by doing that you will not only benefit your life and connections, but you will have an impact in your community and the environment that (coordinated with thousands more around the world) may help society to turn away from many of the “big monsters” seen at the beginning of this post and to become more resilient and empowered so we can also face the now inevitable ones with a better chance of surviving and even thriving?

And how do you do this?

Believe me: one step at a time…(“Start small and slow”)

Take a day off or a few hours: stop! …Stop and watch:

What is the status of your life?

What is the status of your health (both body and mental/spiritual)?

What is the status of your relationships?

What is the status of your house?

What is the status of your finances?

What is the status of your work?

What is the status of your future?

What is the status of your dreams?

Do not judge yourself, just acknowledge what you are and what you have: what are the elements? What are the relationships and functions between them? Where are they heading?

This, in Permaculture, is not only “Observe and Interact” but also an observation of “patterns”…


We have many patterns in our lives…Nature (and we are Nature) is full of patterns: patterns are not random, they have a function: patterns may collect, store, redistribute, transform or use energy in different ways.

The same way we have spirals, lobes, clouds, waves, steam lines, branches and nets in Nature, we also have patterns in our human lives: patterns may be represented by beliefs, stories we tell ourselves, behaviours, choices, reactions, etc.

We can identify two types of patterns:

  • Patterns of erosion/apathy/depletion and scarcity
  • Patterns of abundance/productivity/inspiration/regenerative

You can observe the above patterns (either or both) at these levels:

  • Natural resources – soil, forests, clean air, water, biodiversity
  • Social structures – relationships, communities, public transport, traditional wisdom, care for the elderly
  • Personal capacity – knowledge, practical skills, experience, self-love, freedom from debt, connection with nature, time to be…

Patterns of erosion, etc. are usually:

  • Repetitive, learned behaviours
  • Suck energy and resources
  • Leave us drained, tired and eroded
  • Dependent and passive, automatic
  • Protective and reactive
  • May create temporary sense of comfort, business as usual, “we deserve it”, “that’s life”

While regenerative patterns tend to be:

  • Intentional and usually designed
  • Based on ethical decisions
  • Empowering and proactive
  • Inter-dependent and responsible with others
  • May produce temporary discomfort, good stress and lack of equilibrium but they are regenerative in nature

For this week, I’ll leave until here…

Take some time to stop, observe your own life and its patterns and think about this thought from Bill Mollison, co-founder of the Permaculture concept:

If you have a dysfunctional institution, don’t try to change it. Rather, determine what that institution was supposed to deliver and design a better system to actually deliver that purpose or service. If you have done the thing correctly, then people will come to you for that. The old institution will eventually wither and die.”

~ Bill Mollison

While I initially liked it, there is something about it that doesn’t quite stay well with me: and that has led me to explore how we break patterns that don’t work…but that is matter for the next post!

Have all a great weekend!



People & Permaculture” Book by Looby Macnamara: http://loobymacnamara.mouseman.info/blog/

Permaculture Principles website by David Holmgren and his team: http://holmgren.com.au/

2 Comments on “A Case for Permaculture: Patterns of Erosion and Regenerative Patterns

  1. Pingback: Changing Patterns | Mainstream Permaculture

  2. Pingback: We Are All Climate Refugees | Mainstream Permaculture

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