The best thing I can do for our Earth is to take care of myself and others.
Feed myself fresh seasonal local food that invests in the soil versus stripping it. That employs those in my community, who then reinvest back. Do not spend hours researching, buying, organizing things… just to get rid of them and buy more. These things were extracted from the earth and rarely can be returned to it. Leave them be. Nor should I work extra hours at a job that does not fuel my soul just to afford these things. I must understand that I cannot afford to continue buying, disposing and working myself into a grave. There are limits to this all.
Instead, I must spend time with my family and the nature I want to protect. Bathe in their beauty. Bathe in my beauty. Nourish my brain. Learn from nature and elevate my awareness as to the effects of my actions. No matter how painful, this is how I grow. Hold businesses and governments accountable for their actions. Uplift my fellow human, with no judgement, as breaking from the system is often a privilege. And like all changes, this is done slowly and in accordance to our own history and needs.
I must mind my garden. We protect the things we cherish. So let me cherish myself. And grace when I falter. Break this illusion that I can just continue to “prosper” at the behest of what is feeding me. I am eating my own tail. I seek freedom through knowing the limits. And rejoicing in what I have and its many lives. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. But where is it all going? Let me cycle it back into the Earth, so the Earth may cycle it back to us all.
Happy Earth day! Today marks 50 years since its origin. Keep on fighting and loving! Thank you to those who came before us. 💚 Sheila
I have been learning about permaculture. Say, “What?” I am a organisation and product design coach that lives in a big city. If I am lucky I see one tree per day and some pigeons. Why would I learn about permaculture?
Why? Because I live in an ecosystem! And businesses are ecosystems as well.
Permaculture is a philosophical and design approach to cultivating ecosystems.
It is inspired by natural systems (biomimicry). Thank you billions of years of R&D! Permaculture can be applied to all spheres, including, the garden, workplace and personal life. Best of all, personally, permaculture reconnects us with our true roots (because everyone has to eat!) Our reliance and being part of nature is inescapable. So, we may as well learn from and promote it. This article is a little taster to get your appetite going.
The guiding ethics of Permaculture and how it applies to you
First a little history: Permaculture was inspired by a Japanese agriculturist Masanobu Fukuoka and formalized in the 1970s by two Australiens: Bill Mollison, a biologist, and David Holmgren, a writer.
Permaculture is a systemic approach with three core ethical tenants (in order of importance). How can we apply them and what are some questions to reflect on? Please leave a comment with more ideas!
1. Care of the Soil (Earth Care):
Care for the soil and in turn it cares for us. This means ensuring that we replenish what we take and nourish our environments. Soil is the best indicator of the health and resilience of the culture. Where there is soil erosion often then is cultural erosion or instability.
In the garden: We must tend to the soil to ensure its health is never diminished and only enriched from our growing practices. There are many tactics for this and it depends on your specific environment. Permaculture always starts first with observation and then small tests in increments.
At work: What is the work environment like and company culture? Does it promote growth, autonomy and stewardship? Does the daily work diminish your energies or feed it? Much like soil becomes weak from growing only one type of plant: Are we promoting diversity of thought and actors in our business? Observe, collaborate and test in small steps ways to enrich your environment.
At home: Is our home environment peaceful, supportive and nourishing? It is your base to grow from, so ensure you have the “nutrients” you need there. Focus on this first before expanding to projects that draw from “soil” strength.
For the environment: Caring for the soil can be as simple as buying organic whenever possible. As we are helping ensure that what we eat does not strip the soil. Another idea is voting for laws that protect our ecosystems and expand the access to organic and ethical goods, especially for those with less means.
2. Care of people (People Share):
We must ensure base needs are met of everyone including ourselves to then be able to contribute back to the system. Meeting needs, does not mean just monetarily…
In the garden: Growing the plants sufficient to feed us and have a diverse nutrient diet (or cooperating will fellow gardens who compliment our soil). We then can reinvest that energy back into our garden.
At work: Are our employees being cared for in a way that their growth is supported? This includes both the income and support systems, such as healthcare, necessary to meet their basic needs and learning opportunities. Ourselves, as managers, coworkers, leaders… are we “feeding” ourselves intellectually? Are our providers being taken care of? And local ecosystems and municipalities that our business operates in… how are they doing? Look at the complete business cycle: resource extraction, production, distribution, product use and eventual product disposal. Everyone’s needs must be met to later best collaborate and innovate together in the long term.
At home: Does each person have the space/time to cultivate and fulfill their basic needs? Do not forget yourself! How are we “feeding” our home both literally and metaphorically? This ethical tenant calls for expanding beyond monetary or even nutritional well-being to include other measures of happiness, non material based. It begs the question, for those with the margin, perhaps it is not best to work more to earn nonessential money for goods, but instead stay home and cultivate our family ties and personal growth.
For the environment: “Feed” ourselves and communities well so that we may then have the energy for others including fighting for the environment. Social issues are environmental issues! So, as mentioned above, civil action and volunteerism where possible is a complementary action with this ethic. This ethic also encourages stopping “mindless consumption” which is not sustainable for the environment nor a true contributor to our happiness.
3. Take what we need and share the rest (Fair Share):
This is a tricky one, but as you delve in it makes pragmatic sense. This is to ensure we have balanced consumption within the bounds of our ecosystem and redistribute to ensure the whole ecosystem is fed. This is seen as liberty within boundaries. If we ensure we do not overtake, that means we can still play within realistic boundaries meeting our individual desires vs. overusing and then being forced into austerity, losing our liberty. This ethical tenant encourages that this stays on a personal decision level, and we each cultivate our own balance and act as a model (and proof that it works!) for others.
In the garden: Creating the size of garden that is sustainable. Sharing your crop with neighbors and community.
At work: Feed your company but do not monopolize and root out competition. Competition is healthy for promoting innovation and collective learning via multiple lines of “attack”. Better yet collaborate and cooperate with competition! Darwin’s discussion of “survival of the fittest” is misremembered (and even misquoted) as focusing on only competition but evolution has shown that actually cooperation is one of the biggest keys to survival. In addition, this tenant gives a big vote for open source and circulation of information. It is like expanding the brain of our business to include more synapses for the benefit of all.
At home: Do not monopolize the whole household’s resources. Take what you need and ensure space for others. As a household share your excess with neighbors and others. Cooperation will be there for you always, including your own times of need.
For the environment: Avoid food waste at home. Buy only what we need and use it all. And if you have extra, give or resell (in the case of goods) the rest to others. This will reduce their need to take from and potentially tax the system. This mindset moves us towards meeting the needs of our population without over-farming and eventually moving to austere methods or climatic disaster.
Want to learn more?
This is just the start! There are 12 principles and so much to learn from permaculture and natural systems and their design.
Becoming a more socially or ecologically responsible person or business is above all a mindset change. Much like agile and digital transformations that came before…. There is a difference between doing and being. Only those who “embody” the change go on to self-feed and sustain the change. Versus those who do superficial changes or cookie-cutter framework stacking that just complexifies the system or fizzles out.
But often you have to mechanically do a bit to experience and understand the benefits. This lived understanding helps you move to “being.” Much like meditation, yoga or any exercise, you do a series of exercises to build your muscles and concentration towards a objective, whole-heatedly embracing what you want to change. You do it often very “badly” for a long time. Then, one day, voila, you are “there” or at least, more there. It becomes second nature: a change in mindset. This mindset promotes further progress thanks to a new perception and set of motivations.
What does this mindset or culture change look like?
I will write this from a business prospective but with some imagination you could easily read this from a personal approach. Honestly this mindset will leak from personal to pro and visa versa once you really have the mental shift.
Here are some examples, certainly not exhaustive. I am also growing my mindset and understanding! Please share with me your own ideas with a comment.
Life-cycle approach – You do not think of JUST your product. Or even just the use of the product. But the sourcing, construction, maintenance and end of life of your product. And the local systems it touches including your providers.
Circular thinking vs linear. – You do not stop at the end but see how this integrates back into the system and self-feeds. This includes when you experiment and fail. How do you rebound and learn?
Mindfulness of Resources: You see the true “cost” and “value” around you. – You “use every part of the animal.” Example: When your business receives their shipment of materials you already know what you will do with the packaging to give it a second life (in the case where packaging is unavoidable). You start seeing everything touched as a resource and asset to be protected and fully utilized/curated and ensured it can be cycled back for reuse. Zero waste (only “food”) and even more opportunity to make the most of everything you have.
Money is not your only measure nor end objective – In fact, money moves more to the background as a means to support the real reason and sense your business has taken on. You start measuring with other “capital” such as social relations, environmental resources and local connections strength.
You are liberated from growth mindset and see value in frugality. – Some of the changes needed will require scaling back or staying the same. But you no longer see this as a constraint but a boost. Not only can you create long lasting assets but you no longer burn out chasing growth. In fact, you start to leave the system, no longer seeing things as “gains” and “losses.”
You are more in touch with your customers needs as you go beyond just selling to them. You avoid creating artificial needs. – You think of your clients and your company’s mission or “why” every day and with every action. Your clients permeate every particle of your businesses’s being. You constantly question and project the possible impact of your actions. You even ask: What would happen if this product or new service did not exist? Are my clients or the the world better off or even just the same? Am I creating an artificial need? If so, then it does not appeal to you and you return to the drawing board. But to do all this you must actually partner and get to know your customer and local ecosystem. #booSolutionism
You think local and it is one of your biggest assets. – Your first instinct is to see who close-by you can work with or collaborate with in a self-feeding cycle. You find yourself more going out and meeting people vs marketing to the masses. Your best partnerships are through word of mouth and you believe it.
You think local but still ensure that it does not have global effects. – You ensure the health of the full system and not just locally. In addition, you believe good inspiration comes from all levels. Switching between local and global thinking (systems thinking) becomes second nature for you.
You care for your internal environment just as much as the climate. – Whether it is your personal “ecology” or that of your collaborators. You know that how you treat others and yourself ripples outward. To you, it is no surprise that some of the most advanced eco-responsible companies are also kind employers and “enlightened” host leaders.
Cooperation over competition:You constantly seek collaboration within and outside your business. – You recognize that often the best ideas come from collective intelligence. And you have seen proof and understand the strength of multiple voices tackling a complex system from various angles (with moments of convergence/collaboration.)
You see power and resilience in diversity. – You do not seek to be surrounded by only those that think and act like you. In fact you actively seek to not stay complacent and ensure you have collaborators who may have similar values and goals but different backgrounds and ways of thinking and doing.
You see constraint as a creative problem-solving opportunity that gives you many gifts. – Constraint can liberate us by channeling our energies. The constraint of being eco and social responsible means potentially: less waste, more fun figuring things out, and in the end more attractive, fully thought out solutions. This excites you. You are more proud and empowered than ever before. You take advantage of the full experience and process rather than folding to comfort and convenience.
Small and slow is beautiful. -Rome was not built in a day nor is it desired to even build another Rome! Perhaps sometimes it calls for it… but not every time. Also some things cannot be rushed, as much as we may like it. You have come to understand this aspect of life and it’s circular nature.
And for better or worse: It is hard to go back to the old system! – You have seen the benefit of the green mindset and it is your “now” preferred future.