Click here to download the episode.
This episode continues the Back to Basics series by looking at Principle 10: Use and Value Diversity.
Before we begin, I’d like to thank everyone who has helped keep this show on the air by making a one time or ongoing contribution to the podcast. An ongoing monthly gift of $5 a month, less than $1 an episode, makes a huge difference, so imagine what $10 or $20 a month gift could do. Find out how to contribute at: www.thepermaculturepodcast.com/support.
I’d also like to thank Richard Telford for allowing me to use his permaculture principle icons in illustrating this series of podcasts. Richard designed these for Holmgren’s Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability and I’m very honored that this work can bear these images. He’s also the designer of the Permaculture Calendar which will be out later this year. In the U.S., as I understand it, you’ll be able to pick those up through the Permaculture Activist. Find out more about Richard and his work at: permacultureprinciples.com. I also have two copies of his calendar to give away. If you’d like to enter to win a copy of your own, send me an email with the subject “Calendar” between now and September 9th, 2014. I’ll draw and contact the winners on my birthday, September 10th and we can celebrate together through the giving of gifts.
Principle 10: Use and Value Diversity
This principle bears the subheading “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” and is, to me, a call for multi-functional and non-singular elements in our designs, be they landscape or community oriented.
In the landscape Use and Value Diversity allows us to prepare for disasters, whether by climate and weather problems like drought or rain, from disease and pests. In the former case, that includes insuring we select species that can survive the broadest range of environmental impacts.
Using diversity also allows us to preserve biodiversity and the natural heritage through acts like saving seed and passing it along, in turn creating new interesting varieties in our own that are adapted to where we live, or saving plants, or heritage breeds of animals, like
I spoke with Marisha Auerbach about regarding the rabbits she raises.
That diversity in plantings, especially when intermixed, help us to build our associated guilds so that various elements in the system support one another. This also includes integrated pest management by inviting in pollinators and predatory insects. There is a lot we can do when we overcome singular plantings, both in numbers, so not just one of something, but also in varieties to include.
In our community, we need a diversity of people and skills to prepare for tomorrow and what the future holds. Not just permaculture folks who work in the landscape, but people who know how to handle disputes, provide guidance, build roads, bridges, houses, repair those things that break from high tech to low, modern foragers to go into the wilderness and bring back foods and medicines that heal out bodies alongside the doctors with vaccines to further ward off illness. With those skills come different ways to create solutions because of life experience and worldview. Think of all the times you’ve worked on an issue and someone else comes in and in a moment has an answer from something they’ve encountered before. Or you’ve called on someone with more experience to solve something. That all stems from our community and culture and who we have become as individuals and each one of us matters in the diversity required to make a difference.
In ourselves we can look at what we do and what we love in our lives and develop our skills and talents towards those in a broad way. Enjoy telling stories with your friends, but work as a framer? Perfect. Do both. Do them well. Think about all the hats you wear, all the roles you fill, all the things you do. Which ones would you want to become an expert in? Be specialized where you can do the most good, and then add the other skills to be functional and able to fill in where you’re needed in your own life and in the lives of others and your community. To quote Robert Heinlein, from Time Enough for Love,
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
This is what we each need to be capable of to build a beautiful bountiful world whether we are building in our landscape or in our community.
But this diversity as presented by Holmgren is not random. It is selected for. Chosen. Developed. Inculcated. Designed. Yes, there can be random elements and unknowns may crop up, like the massive amount of dill currently growing throughout my garden in the summer, but we are still practicing design and making decisions. An example of this is the intentional meadow I’ve let rise up again this year from the plants already there. Among that is chicory, plantain, and burdock, but I also planted cranberry viburnum, black gum, three types of willow, elderberry, and two coppiced rock maple. To this I will add comfrey next Spring when dividing plants, and anything else picked up from the conservation district or my local perennial plant seller.
With this thought of plants comes something else David points out on page 216, that as a means of restoration we can look to revegetation and indigenous restoration. That is to return plants to the landscape, and allow for some random experimentation from a place we might call ignorance, as well as returning plants to traditional or native habitats.
In considering this I look to Ben Weiss and Wilson Alvarez and their practice of tending the wild. They are local examples of people embodying what it means to bring diversity back to that intersection, Zone 4, that rests between humanity, Zones 1 through 3, and the Wild, Zone 5. Through those practices we establish a rhythm and pattern to the world that links us back to Principle 1: Observe and Interact. Our action becomes more intentional and we become more aware, or conscious, of what we do. This is very helpful to our individual practices and our work on the small scale. Their methods and systems are how I imagine us working to maintain diversity and still provide for many human needs on the small, homestead scale.
More broadly there is Mark Shepard and his work of Restoration Agriculture. Here is a way to feed large groups of people in a diverse integrated way, which goes back to my visions of a permaculture world and an ongoing need to take care of who is here and what we have through a variety of small to large scale means.
Overall diversity is a good thing that adds to the landscape, our communities, and our lives. We cannot exist in a monocrop of plants, people, or ideas, so use and value diversity in all the things you do, and know that you are not alone. In addition to myself there are many other people who listen to this show and practice this work right alongside you, even if you don’t know them or ever met. We are here to help.
Can I help you create a better world? Get in touch:
The Permaculture Podcast with Scott Mann
P.O. Box 16
Dauphin, PA 17018