Monday, November 28, 2011

Perma-culture and Tabbed browsing. But in the other order.

Anyone who has every borrowed my computer briefly to check their email, or something of the like, probably noticed that I leave a huge number of web pages loaded on my computer at a time. This post has an appendix which lists what I happen to have up at time of writing, to give a feel. At first glance this could appear to be simple ADHD, and there is that element I don't deny, but I want to suggest that the Internet does something more. It shapes the very way I perceive the world. Cross connecting many different co-sustained lines of thought, mixing different ideas on  topics in terms from countless fields. Each tab a particular core of ideas, tied and considered in light of the others. But what does this have to do with the farm project? Well, this is the level of the individual.

The material level is represented in permaculture, instead of focusing on maximizing one crop, even in a given field, many different factors are considered at once. If a particular crop fails or under performs it only increases the space available for the others it is planted along side. Also there is less need to control the system from the top down (farmer working the field), as the management of the garden is actually part of the intrinsic relations of the organisms in the garden, plant and animal alike. Instead of having a leader (the farmer) controlling the whole system, the intelligence of how to grow well is programmed directly into the relationship of the plants and animals, the garden has a type of intelligence that is good at thriving. What could a farmer have to teach a plant about growing, anyway? might as well try to teach a fish to swim.

The social level is similar. Instead of one group project that must be over determined at the beginning there are countless individually operating projects, each an attempt to improve the farm, and there are certain relations (as opposed to individuals) that form checks on behaviors that oppose the group. Individuals are the worst choice for a watcher to prevent selfishness. A solitary self charged with protecting the group from selfs acting for their own interest is a fox guarding the chickens. So social interactions should be set up so that the interactions are the checks. There was a farm community where a small group damaged a valuable area of the commons, the operation had a consensus model, but it couldn't respond to the issue before the damage was done. Individuals waiting for consensus let the damage take place. Some people then suggest having a leader to bawl people out for such group harms, but that is a poor use of time: anyone with enough experience to be a good leader should have better things to do then play police man. So what about we decentralize the leadership position, make everyone leaders after their own level of experience? This done to people without knowledge of living in community could lead to chaos. So lets model it after the permaculture farm way of growing things.

Some plants aren't good for eating, but they may loosen the soil, block wind, fix nitrogen, pull up deep humidity to share, bring nutrients to the surface, distract wild animals from coveted crops, be good for growing up, provide bedding, or make good mulch or compost. Most plants can be usefully integrated into a permaculture system, but that doesn't mean they should all grow unchecked. Grass can become too thick, so geese or sheep can mow it back, or squash could shade it, or mulch fall can suppress it, or perennials can out compete it. Conifers shade out other plants and some even poison the soil, but humans can mill it (the benefit to the garden giving you two birds for one stone), and small conifers won't be able to out compete other trees often enough to form a fire climate forest. Goats could ruin huge stretches of garden, but they are also good for clearing stretches for the next planting. There isn't a need for a boss in charge of these individual elements, but by setting up the right relations the management become automated. Humans fill the role of top predator to keep the animals (domestic and wild) in a healthy balance, but need not resort to raising animals just for the sake of killing them. We can work for the garden responding to its needs by sowing seeds to set up beneficial plant relationships, eating crops at their peak so that young plants growing between them can have the room they need. It is important to remember that a farmer sculpting the land to their vision is not a permaculturalist, instead in permaculture we mind the land and respond to its needs by simply adjusting the relationships between elements.

So what of society? Instead of a master sculpting the community to their personal ideal, a group of teacher who offer their services to help people adjust social and physical relations as need arises. Including being ready and able to give healthy outlets to the human desire to control others, so instead of rejecting "type a" personalities as control freaks, help find situations where high degrees of control are desirable: herbalism, sanitation, crafting, animal slaughter, herding, dog training, orchestrating performances, teaching technically difficult material, and so on. Instead of rejecting the lazy or the unintelligent, recognize that 98% of the work that actually make human life possible doesn't require intelligence and smarts is likely as not to get in the way; that relatively little work is actually needed to live, and that even a lazy person can cover room and board just with good spirits in times of plenty, and that laziness is relative, even a person who prefers to spend there time relaxing can still be generous and happy to help with projects if asked from a true heart. If we actually need (I don't mean want) the help of a person prone to be lazy they will almost always be eager to assist its been my observation. And a person who won't respond to the need of another, most likely has a much deeper issue then laziness, but even these issues can be worked on with proper wisdom (seeking persons with proper wisdom). But there is no need to adjust relationships until someone needs help, and then the teachers, the real masters, the authority (authority of the author, not the king) can offer whatever help they are able to. And everyone can be an authority, because there is a wisdom to begging, ask not pennies from the penniless, nor for wisdom from fools. But if you know what to ask for, everyone has some authority they can offer you.

What about the damage to the commons caused by a small group of people run amok? Occasional damage is natural and to be expected, but large damage takes time. Once a healthy system of relations has evolved there are people who have accepted the responsibility of minding for the wellbeing of each aspect of the commons. Wisdom dictates that we must care for each other, yet there are certain people (our closest friends, our family, and so on) where we have a special connection, not just to respond to a cry of help or an appearance of need, but to actively check in on, make sure they are ok, just in case they do need help but no one was in the right place. Similarly with the commons, we should all be mindful of the commons, care for it in part and whole, but there are certain parts that each person can be the advocate for the trees, the defender of the ducks, the friend of the orchards, the guardian of the tools, the provider of the firewood. I don't suggest or rule out such titles, but any part of the commons that is especially close to us could use a watcher. Who watches the watchers? Since what is good for the ducks depends on what is good for the trees and so on, we all do. This prevents people without understanding from wrecking things, to deal with conflict of interests between people who do posses a degree of understanding thats where the need to care for each other comes in, conflict resolution skills from people able to give appropriate guidance.

There is no top, just interconnections that modify over time to be more responsive to need. Even we are put a part of the lands "commons" for the road goes both ways, and we trust that the good earth will provide, so long as we know how to work with it, and not rule over it. Waiting for those interconnections to grow, and helping them along is as much a part of permaculture as knowing plant species is. Permaculture is a type of culture as much as a type of gardening.

Glossary of Terms:
Permaculture: Gardening that gradually improves the soil without need of external inputs by growing plants, animals, and fungus that support each others needs in a way similar to how a healthy natural ecosystem works at its peak. Humans being, of course, one of the animals in the permaculture ecosystem.

Human: The most dangerous and unpredictable animal raised in permaculture, but if handled with love, respect, and care they can be a very fun, useful, and rewarding part of a functional environment. Do not over feed or expose to television. Do not to startle them, most humans were raised indoors and in partial isolation, they ofter have a difficult time adjusting to the wild, especially at first. Many were raised in ways that cause them to prefer isolation and distance, respect their need for distance as you would respect the needs of any animal that was maltreated.

Authority: 1. A jerk who thinks that what they say actually has something to do with how others should act. 2. Someone who actually has useful experiences that they are willing and able to share when asked, but doesn't think that their experience is the be all end all which must be minded.

 Rhizome: A really useful word that you are ready to learn. It both refers to a plant with many shoots that share energy, nutrients, and information but such that each shoot can operate independently of the others, and to and system where various interconnection parts operate together with out a center leader to control the whole, a multiplicity.

Fractal: A pattern made of self similar parts, each of which contain elements that resemble the whole pattern. The Thinkery is a fractal, the same patters that appear in the garden appear in the social system, this is a benefit to learning because understanding of the garden system is useful to understand the philosophy and culture both of the farm, and vice versa. Traditional societies are also fractal in weird ways, which is a big part of the reason why they treat people who are different in cities the same way they treat plants which are different in fields.

Appendix of current tabs, because I might as well just show you how crazy I am, and this is a disturbingly accurate way to photograph whats in my mind at a given time.

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