Thursday, March 29, 2012

Holmgren Design Principle #9: Use Small and Slow Solutions

Going through David Holmgren's version of the Permaculture Design Principles, here's #9.

Use Small and Slow Solutions

Let's start with physics for this one:

  • From Classical Mechanics

  • F = ma
    Force (energy) equals mass (size) times acceleration (change in speed)
    If we reduce either mass or acceleration, we reduce the force necessary to effect a change.
  • From Thermodynamics

  • Okay, thermo requires partial differential equations so I'll skip the math, and this one is more allegorical anyway.
    Heat (energy) equals motion, so moving more slowly requires less energy.
We can apply this principle all over the place:
  • Buy locally/eat seasonally even if we don't grow it ourselves, but growing it ourselves is even smaller and slower (even if I have qualms about the poor energy math behind a lot of buying locally, but assume both the consumer and the farmer walk to the market)

  • Save first, then buy (wait until you have accumulated sufficient energy rather than borrowing)

  • Limit your marketable production to sustainable levels
Our current culture places a high perceived premium on speed - we talk of the velocity of change, we pay efficiency experts for time and motion studies, we eat "fast" food (and then regret it). There is even "the new politeness" in which the common courtesies are omitted under the theory that everyone can take them for granted so you are valuing their time highly by not wasting it with empty pleasantries.

I'm sticking with old politeness: Thank you for coming to my blog and I hope you have a great week!

Pretty picture of the principle at

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