Monday, February 27, 2012

Holmgren Design Principle #4: Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

Going through David Holmgren's version of the Permaculture Design Principles, here's #4.

Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

At the system level self-regulation should keep our designs from getting out of control. Jerusalem artichoke is a hardy perennial food plant, but it is also expansive and any system using it needs to limit the growth. An abundant food supply for one animal without the presence of that animal's predators is likewise a poor recipe. Uncontrolled positive feedback loops will drop us into Malthusian boom-and-bust.

Fortunately, nature provides a lot of negative feedback in the form of scarce resources, competition, and predation. We can also provide our own feedback by way of pruning and culling the less successful individuals in our design, and by altering the design to meet changing conditions.

This principle also expresses the third ethic - by setting limits on the system we help the resource distribution remain balanced within. We don't need to tell our neighbor what limits he needs to live within, but we can self-regulate our own consumption. On the other hand, accepting feedback means listening to that neighbor when he comes by to discuss the spread of our sunchokes...

Pretty picture of the principle at

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