The Seven Stones Blog

Beyond Green: Permaculture (Part 3 of 3)

By Shea Adelson

As we at Seven Stones consider what it means to build a business, make a living and be of service – all inside of sufficiency, we are turning inward to our own listening and to the deep listening of our advisers. One Seven Stones adviser, Roger Burton, has brought the wisdom of permaculture to our awareness. Permaculture is “consciously designed landscapes that mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fiber and energy for provision of local needs.” (from Permaculture Principals & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, 2002) In its broadest sense, permaculture is attending to the reality of energy descent, or the diminishing availability of cheap fossil fuels, and though permaculture principals are largely used in reforestation projects and in farming (aka food growing), I am interested in permaculture for how it can inform our evolving business “landscape.” (from same source)

There are ethical principals and design principals that guide the thinking and designing of a permaculture way of living. According to David Holmgren in his book Essence of Permaculture, three broad maxims cover ethics:

  • Care for the earth (husband soil, forest and water)
  • Care for people (look after self, kin and community)
  • Fair share (set limits to consulmption and reproduction, and redistribute surplus)

When we consider what it means to make a living, we are thinking in these broad strokes: how do we grow and take care of our homes, our families and each other? As we develop business, we ask: what is enough? Enough money? Enough clients? Enough revenue?

There are about a dozen design principals and I invite you to check out Holgren’s free excerpt from his book at which outline the essence of permaculture. I am going to pull out a couple of principals that are we are considering in our process.

Principal 1: Observe and Interact

We are doing a lot of witnessing, of our own impulses, of each others, and of the collective and current global environment. The process of observing is an action that influences are reality, and reminds us to be circumspect about absolute truths and values. We are therefore evolving into a company that has expertise in asking questions and holding the container for questions to arise.

Principal 3: Obtain a Yield

Feed ourselves first, our families, our communities, in outward concentric circles of attention. From this place of considering our own wellbeing first and foremost so that we can actually create something long lasting, we are asking: What is enough? Enough revenue per quarter? Enough square footage for our homes? Enough schooling for our children?

Principal 7: Design from Patterns to Details

Permaculture thinks like a spider building its landscape design from the center out like a web. We are reminded to see the wood from the trees, to not allow the details to distract us from our awareness of our purpose, to usher in the the paradigm of sufficiency to our lives and to the lives of others. The strategies are the details.

Principal 8: Integrate Rather than Segregate

This is about valuing the connections between things over the things themselves (and paying attention to the margins and edges, Principal 11), as well as being inclusive to what is (a Tool of Sufficiency). We do this by including – acknowledging and allowing – everything that arises in our conversations, our families, our money situations, our past, our needs, our dreams, our fears. These things are not separate from building a business, and how we relate to them, how we support each other relating to them, the actual connections are how we can design thought leadership that will contribute to the next generation.

Principal 9: Use Small and Slow Solutions

How do we grow? First, we tend to what we have. We appreciate and what we appreciate will appreciate. We are making hard choices sometimes to breath and pace ourselves rather than run forth into the romance of what seems convenient or easy or obvious or reacting to fear of not getting something. Complex systems that work were built from small systems that worked.

Principal 12: Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Change and impermanence is the true reality. And it has never been so clear to so many people that the perceived stability and certainty that certain rights are to be had (aka The American Dream), is no longer. We are addressing this in our telecourses (Uncertain Times: Traveling the Road of Transition Inside of Sufficiency), our approach to coaching and facilitation, and in how we build a business. We consider how to use change in a deliberate and co-operative way, as well as how to respond to change that is beyond our control or influence.

As permaculture will also be a resource for my family’s farming endevour, and as we integrate the principals and values into our awareness and actions, there will be more on this amazing body of work in the future. By the way, it is not lost on me that there are seven petals to the permaculture flower logo, and we are Seven Stones; we appreciate the synchronicity.

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