"The more we are, the less work is hard"
Permaculture can be seen as part of a long tradition of concepts that emphasize mutual and symbiotic relationships, rather than competitive and predatory relationships.
In all aspects of nature, from the internal mechanisms of organisms to the complete ecosystems, we find that the connections between the elements are as important as the elements themselves. Thus, "the purpose of a self-regulating and functional system is to arrange the elements so that each of them meets the needs and uses the products of the other elements."
Our cultural penchant for focusing on the complexity of detail leads us to neglect the complexity of relationships. In order to reduce this complexity of relationships, we most often adopt design strategies that decouple the elements of the system. These solutions result in part from our reductionist scientific method which isolates the elements for study separately. We are trying to understand how they function as part of an integrated system by examining their properties in isolation.
This principle emphasizes the different types of relationships that bind the elements together within tightly integrated systems as well as improving the design methods of plant, animal and human communities to benefit from these relationships.
The designer's ability to create tightly integrated systems depends on an overall vision of the interconnectedness puzzle that characterizes ecological and social communities. In addition to intentional design, we must expect that
Real ecological and social relationships develop through mechanisms of self-organization and growth.
The associated image for this principle may be a circle seen from above formed by persons or elements constituting an integrated system. The apparent void in the center represents the abstract part of the system. It takes its source in the organization of the elements while itself gives them form and specificity.
By properly arranging plants, animals, swales, basins and other infrastructure, a high level of integration and self-regulation can be achieved without the need for human intervention for corrective management. For example, with proper positioning, litter can easily be removed where poultry scratches under a forage forest to take it to gardens below. Herbaceous and woody weeds in farmed meadows often contribute to soil improvement, biodiversity, and other special and medicinal uses. A well-managed rotational pasture most often allows these weeds to be controlled without completely eliminating them.
In publications and teaching of permaculture, two statements played a central role in developing awareness of the importance of relationships in the design of autonomous systems:
• Each element performs several functions
• Each important function is ensured by several elements
The connections or relations between the elements of an integrated system are very diverse. Some can be predatory or competitive, while others are cooperative or even symbiotic. All of these types of relationships can be beneficial in the development of a strongly integrated system or community, but Permaculture places particular emphasis on the implementation of mutually beneficial and symbiotic relationships.
This is based on two beliefs:
• We are culturally prepared to see competitive and predatory relationships, and to ignore cooperative and symbiotic relationships, both in nature and in our cultures.
• Cooperative and symbiotic relationships will be better suited to a future where available energy will decline.