Permaculture Principles - The Problem is the Solution

in Abundance Tribe8 months ago (edited)

In this, and the subsequent posts I would like to revisit and complete the discussion of the Permaculture principles I started three years ago.


image source

A Contradiction in Terms, or Abstract Word Art?

It is this interestingly worded principle of Permaculture, which has created so much discussion (as well as a good amount of confusion), that both Bill Mollison and Scott Pittman have adopted into their short lists of what Permaculure is about. For me, it has always been a bit of a struggle to wrap my mind around this one. On one hand, it almost sounds poetic, has the sound of a zen koan, that makes you get lost in deep pondering. On the other hand, it could even be seen as a counterproductive contradiction, confusing the eager permaculture student instead of offering an explanation. But who knows, maybe that was the intention to begin with!

Moving Away From Passing Judgements

I think one of the most valuable lessons in relativity and perspective, is giving up judging things from our own perspective. Nothing in the world is inherently good or bad, it all depends on your point of view. Let's take as an example a fox eating a rabbit. Is this good or bad? Well, clearly what's good for the fox is bad for the rabbit. But where do you stand in this? Was the rabbit one of yours, which you had been feeding and caring for? Or was it one of those wild rabbits who like to sample your vegetable garden? Clearly, this is already starting to make a great difference.

How Can A Problem Be Its Own Solution?

Still, the problem still remains that if one thing is also it's own opposite, then everything is evened out, leaving us with neither. As if a problem never even existed. Okay... and then... Once we've overcome our innitial confusion, the world may also become a completely different place. Adopting the viewpoint without problems, we are left with facts, very neutral and impartial. In my opinion, a much clearer base to come up with creative approaches to change conditions favoring any of the contributing factors.

But before we become completely entangled in words and theory, let's take some more concrete examples:

Instead of repeating the eternal slug-duck case (you don't have a slug surplus, you have a duck deficiency), let me use the inspiration of permaculturist John Kitsteiner:

  • hunt the deer browsing your plants,
  • collect the soil carried over by the flood,
  • turn your poorly drained areas into ponds,
  • propagate the kale not eaten by the snails as a snail resistant kind

The Problem Carries Its Own Solution

Okay, at this point you might do what most Permaculture philosophers have done, and rephrase the principle. Possible versions include "In the problem lies the solution", or also "The problem may be the solution to some other problem." Russ Grayson has written extensively about it, relating the principle to the quote by stoicist Marcus Aurelius: "The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way."

However, having reached this point, I must say I tend to like the seemingly contradictory phrase by Mollison more and more. It encourages us to take a step back, let go of our judgements, and apply a holistic view of the bigger picture. In the end, we have to admit that there may be a myriad of creative approaches to a situation, but there never is just one right answer. So in a sense, a zen like way of looking at this principle could be most appropriate. Indeed, the problem IS the solution.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, Pic: 1

To see my discussions of other Permaculture Principles, take a look at these posts:

Permaculture: A Starting Point

David Holmgren

  1. Observe and interact
  2. Catch and store energy
  3. Obtain a yield
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

Bill Mollison

  1. Work with nature, not against it
  2. The problem is the solution
  3. Maximum effect for minimum effort
  4. The yield of the system is theoretically unlimited
  5. Everything gardens

Scott Pittman

  1. Cooperation instead of competition
  2. Every function is served by multiple elements
  3. Every element serves multiple functions
  4. Make the most out of energy
  5. Use the edge effect
  6. Everything is connected
  7. The problem is the solution
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suupeer! Ich hab einen Permakulturblog auf deutsch gefunden.. ooder er hat mich gefunden! :D

Hast du einen Permakulturgarten oder sogar Essenswald? :)

Ne, leider nicht. Das heißt, noch nicht. Ich bin z.Z. viel zu mobil, und Projekte recht weit gefächert. Aber es gibt Pläne.... :-)
Ach so, mein Blog is auch nicht auf Deutsch! :-( Aber Dein Englisch ist doch eigentlich voll gut. Aber klar, ich weiss, bin selber oft recht faul längere Texte auf Spanisch zu lesen.

ohh hab mich wohl verschrieben, wollte eigentlich sagen dass ich mich freue einen deutschen Permakulturler gefunden zu haben ^^ damit ich ab und zu mal nachfragen kann
mir gefällt die deutsche Sprache in solchen Angelegenheiten mehr, da ich sie präziser als bspw Englisch finde.

Ansonsten habe ich irgendwie ne Ambivalenz in mir.. eigentlich möchte ich schnellstmöglich irgendwie an Land kommen und daraus nen fetten wunderschönen Permakultur Garten schaffen - dies würde mich jedoch sehr binden.. (v.a. weil ich unmobil bin, obwohl ich ne Oldtimer Enduro besitze - aber bin Cannabispatient und die Justiz ist gnadenlos)
Hab auch einfach ein bissl Angst, dass ich dann wirklich ein Einsiedler werde..^^

Ja, das Land und die Bindung... das sind alles Dinge, die mich selber ein bisschen hin und her gerissen haben: Land kaufen, klar. Aber wo? Deutschland zu viel Kontrolle von Außen (sprich Staat). Mexiko wär schon besser, aber Armut hat knallharte Konsequenzen, auch wenn sie nicht meine eigene ist. Ungarn, wo ich ursprünglich herkomme, ist die schlechteste Mischung der beiden! Geht gar nicht!
Was ich aber gemerkt hab, ist daß sich trotz meiner Unentschlossenheit Türen öffnen, z.Z. in den USA. Und wenn's halt nicht mein eigenes Grundstück ist? Auch gut.
In der anderen Richtung scheint sich was in Portugal aufzutun, was vor allem Hive bezüglich interessant ist. Mal sehen was sich ergibt.
Momentan bin ich aber total froh ein Bauprojekt erfolgreich vollbracht zu haben. In meiner Serie Mazunte Build findest Du alle meine Einträge dazu.