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« Brain Complexity at Multiple Scales | Main | Is there a role for elitism in higher education (again)? »

January 13, 2011


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Hi George,
If you have a backyard and neighbours with backyards, the first and cheapest thing you can do to begin your permaculture community is to pull down your fences. With the larger community space you'll realise, have some working bees (permablitzes?) to establish garden beds. A great system for a small but scalable kitchen garden is described by Linda Woodrow in her book. She uses a circular design with 7 circular beds, 6 around the circumference and one in the middle. This gives the best bed to path ratio and allows you to construct a "chicken dome" to house a dozen poultry. The chickens do all the hard work digging, fertilising and clearing the soil, then you move the dome to the next bed and plant out the cleared bed with seedlings or seeds. Repeat.

You'd be amazed how much you can grow in a few combined backyards.

Mark Twain

George -

Been away for a while, focusing on preparing and planning, and I return to another great "systems thinking" post. Thanks for your tireless efforts on promoting the importance of systems thinking in looking at our future.

Something that helped me get my head around systems thinking in regards to permaculture is a translation of "Japan in the Edo Period - An Ecologically-Conscious Society" by Eisuke Ishikawa (available here:

The critical takeaway for me was that everything that is built/made must be built to last as long as possible. When the item is no longer usable for its designed function, it is reused/recycled/remade into something else with another function. In some cases, items were reused until they were, basically, dirt - the ultimate in recycling. Highly recommended reading, for it shows a society that was able to live the permaculture/sustainable model for quite some time.

Mark Twain

Link above has a ")." embedded at the end. Here's a clean link:

George Mobus

Hi Nathan.

Have already done some conversion of the back, side and front yards! We got a fair crop out this year and will be planting more next year.

Neighbors are not exactly amenable to community plans unfortunately. Chickens forbidden in the CC&Rs!

However, even doing this is not sufficient. Our haul lasted all of a few weeks into the fall. Even during the growing season we could only grow a fraction of our vegetable needs. We just don't have the area needed to do a legitimate homestead farm.

Ah well.

Welcome back Mark.

And thanks for the link. Yes. Built to last. I don't think a clam builds its shell to last only a year. Why do we not build for durability? Profit and growth of the company. No on-going sales, no on-going profits. A sad commentary on the human condition.



George: Re why we don’t build for durability: Could it be that because we evolved over millions of years literally living hand to mouth with food scarcity, that we haven’t yet evolved the level of sapience required to build for durability – long-term thinking? Our mental abilities have allowed us to create a physical world that our wisdom cannot yet conceive of in the long term. We understand the long term on an intellectual level, but not on the level of wisdom and not from an evolutionary perspective. Knowledge and wisdom are not the same. If humans consist of three components – body, mind, and spirit, our mind has evolved the capabilities for us to have created technology and structures, things which have radically altered our physical world in a short period of time when viewed on the grand time scale of millions of years. However, our spirit, which would include wisdom, hasn’t caught up yet, as we are ever-evolving. As for our bodies, well, that’s a whole other discussion – food quality, food quantity, pharmaceuticals, plug-in drugs, etc. , etc. Wisdom HAS to be the next evolutionary change in homo sapiens, or our species is headed for extinction.

George Mobus


Well if you read my sapience work you'll find that is exactly what I think. We do not lack cleverness, we lack adequate capacity for wisdom.


World Oil Prices

Just about everybody agrees that economic growth is a good thing. Thus it is considered a good thing that over time, economic growth is the rule, not the exception for a modern economy. For economic growth to occur, the economy needs to be operating at or near its potential level of output. At this level, it is close to the level that can trigger inflation

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