"It's the tree that hides the forest"
The details tend to cloud our perception of the nature of the system.
The closer we come, the less we can apprehend the general picture.
The first six principles view systems from a bottom-up perspective, starting with elements, organizations, and individuals. The following six principles adopt a top-down perspective based on the patterns and relationships that result from self-organization and co-evolution of systems. The similarity of forms that can be observed in nature and in society not only allows us to understand what we see, but also to draw inspiration from a pattern observed on a certain scale and in a certain context. for designing a system on another scale. Pattern recognition is the result of applying the principle: Observe and interact; it is also the necessary precondition for the permacultural design process.
The cobweb, with its concentric and radial layout, draws a visible pattern, although the details still vary. This symbol refers to planning in zones and sectors. It is the most known and probably the most used permacultural concept.
Modernity has finally shaken up all common sense or intuition that would order the clutter of opportunities and design choices we face in all areas. This problematic tendency to focus on the complexity of details leads to impressing gas plants that do not work, or monstrous solutions that mobilize all our energies and resources while constantly threatening to become uncontrollable. Often, the complex systems that work are those that have developed from simpler and viable systems. Therefore, to design a system it is more important to find an appropriate overall scheme than to understand all the details of the elements of the system.
The idea behind permaculture was to apply the forest model to agriculture. This idea was not new, but it was so little applied or developed in many cultures and ecoregions that it was an opportunity to apply to land used by man one of the most widespread ecosystem models. The forest model has its limits and is sometimes open to criticism; it is nonetheless a strong example of the systemic approach, and it continues to shape permaculture and related concepts such as forest-garden, agroforestry and analogous forestry.
To assist with the placement of elements and subsystems, the area surrounding the activity center, such as farm dwelling, is divided into zones according to their intensity of use: this is an example permacultural approach that starts from a general model and ends with details. Similarly, environmental factors such as the direction of the sun, prevailing winds, flood zones and the source of the fires can be arranged in sectors around the same focal point. These areas are both site and ecoregion-specific, which the permaculture designer must keep in mind in order to understand a site and allow the design of appropriate design elements to create a viable system.
The use of swales and other forms of earthworks to distribute and channel runoff water should be inspired by topographic patterns. These works in turn create productive wetlands that condition farming systems and management methods.
While traditional farming systems provide many examples of design that take the system as a whole into account, populations too deeply rooted in their local culture often need new external inputs to enable them to envision their landscapes and their communities. a new day. In some of the pioneering landcare projects in Australia in the 1980s, aerial photographs of their farms gave farmers both an image and motivation to begin serious efforts to tackle declining afforestation and degradation problems. soils. From the sky, the cadastral divisions were less visible whereas the natural hydrographic patterns were highlighted. In the same way, it is more often the wider community and social context, rather than the technical elements, that determines the success of a specific solution. The list is long of overseas development projects that failed because they did not take into account these factors.