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This whole wiki was created to serve as a PeopleCare resource for Permaculture designers, so check out the menu to the right for the articles with links to more aspects and links.   The EarthCare page is a compilation of links of this other, much more developed aspect of Permaculture to date.



A Type-1 Error Problem


"The main stakes for humanity are not hunger,

poverty, peace, public health, education, the economy, ecosystems recovery,

nor a combination of these or other matters ...

but our capacity to build new social structures capable to provide the solutions. 

Our main stake is Collective Intelligence"




Ken Wilber puts it more succinctly thus:

"Ecological wisdom does not consist of how to live in harmony with nature 

but in how to get to agree (together)

on how to live in harmony with nature"


Interestingly, the average person in the street will also agree with this, but usually put it even more succinctly: "The problem is people" or, "human nature" ('greed', 'stupidity', 'selfshness', etc.) - this is practically what it boils down to for nearly everyone asked (try it!) when asked to explain 'why the world is in such a mess' (climate-change, wars, economic crises, etc.).  


What however is very surprising is to hear this "there's something wrong with human nature" myth echoed by many permaculture designers.    This is very strange because looking to Nature as Teacher (because the most perfect designs are to be found there) is such a basic permaculture idea.   Big contradiction there somewhere: Nature is perfect but She somehow got it wrong when it comes to the human mind... ¿?


Daniel Quinn gets right to the heart of this in his brilliant novel "Ishmael": the myth of 'there's something wrong with humans' is as all-pervasive as it is destructive, in our culture.   It is particularly tragic when designers believe that, as he passionately points out in his speech to designers.   


Infact this is probably a fundamental type-1 error which is at the root of much that is wrong with our human societal design.   If you think there is something essentially faulty with humans (even if it is just some kind of 'random evil or stupid tendences') it easily justifies giving up on thinking like a designer - and this might explain why we don't see many designers seriously try to figure out some good self-regulating systems which work with - and not against - our human nature.  


If human nature is inherently defective, it makes sense to supress it, not to 'work with it' (as permaculture design principles woud suggest).    And this is 'popular wisdom' that we can see everywhere expressed, in big and small ways.  The drug (legal and illega) industry is a big one, the 'civilized dictum' that it's not ok for people to 'loose their temper' is a small symptom of that.

But there is something very interesting about popular wisdom:


from Meadow's brilliant artice on Places to Intervene in a System:   Folks who do systems analysis have a great belief in "leverage points." These are places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything. The systems community has a lot of lore about leverage points. Those of us who were trained by the great Jay Forrester at MIT have absorbed one of his favorite stories. "People know intuitively where leverage points are. Time after time I've done an analysis of a company, and I've figured out a leverage point. Then I've gone to the company and discovered that everyone is pushing it in the wrong direction!"


These are 3 examples:


1) We intuitively know there is something important about opressions and discrimination in the world. So we make big efforts in the wrong direction: to "treat everyone the same" or "to just see people" irrespective of gender, race, class, etc.   Articles 13, 20, 21 and 23 attempt to deal with this.  How opressions (one of the main forms of self-regulation of the system) are mis-understood contributes to the people who most understand how the system should change (the most opressed, who have a 'from under-the-motherboard' perspective on things), being the least listened or respected, even amongst 'aternative' people.  The demonic mechanisms of internalized opression (and they  operate to silence people even to themselves), and how this intersects with the profound ignorance and denial amongs the privileged, effectively keeps the system going as normal, even as it appears to change dramatically.     Having the most privileged people in the world leading the global mind-shift, may be (yet another) contradiction in terms. 


2) This new model of the mind suggests where a 180 degree shift in how we perceive ourselves, the value and purpose of our feelings, could really change the world (by unblocking human intelligence to operate).    A great book "Sitting in the Fire" by Arnold Mendell also daringly suggests that the usual approach to conflict resolution (to pacify and avoid the conflict) is often counter-productive: that conflict is actually a door to growth if we are prepared to go through it and 'sit in its fire' .. to have our 'egoes' burned out.   Same kind of thing the RC mind  model suggests.  (HOW to do that is another matter: the science has to precede the technology!)


3) Schools are another such leverage point.  We 'know they are important', so we dedicate enormous resources to maintaining them, changing them, even creating many 'alternative schools'.   Yet maybe we don't need schools at all, and have the idea of 'education' upside-down too.  This is explored in Is PermaCulture Education a contradiction in terms?


4) With money we see something similar happening: popular culture says it is "the root of all evil" so many aternatives wanto 'do away with it' (istead of creating more of it), eg. by trying to live withou it (ie. at other's expense, often) and / or demanding that the very people we most need to change the system now (permaculture designers, social activists, people who can teach these ideas to the massive amounts of people we need to reach) do so for free - which amounts to killing the goose of the golden eggs.   See

Article 3, and 8



... work in progress!  .... thanks  to the Wise Earth "Fixing Systems not Symptoms group" for inspiration

This article developing in tandem with the Art25 on the We Paradigm..




Lots of Private Edens


Because trying to work with groups of people quite often results in profoundly disappointing experiences, often a deep discouragement sets in for most people that translates to a belief that 'collective intelligence' simply is not achievable (or at least not in our lifetimes), and so it is best to focus our design ambitions to a family or couple level.    


The point I hope to develop here is that, worthy and even vital as small, individual or family projects are, if they are not designed in tandem with a wider design to at least bioregional level, if they are not part of a wider and intelligent global thinking, they are not likely to develop past mediocre designs and might possibly even be in great danger should they turn out as excellent 'little Edens': eg. (worst-case scenario, but designing for disasters IS a priority in all good design), if an economic crisis hits your neighbours or your nearest city, this type of small Eden is likely to be the first places to be looted, and your family the first to be in real danger, very possibly.   So even from within an individualistic framework, this is not good design.   Nor from a collective framework:


Thinking (as many permaculture designers seem to, as TedTrainer points out) that prejudice, hatered, greed, despair, injustice, war... will magically disappear once we've filled the world with forest gardens and encouraged more people to take on greener lifestyles .. is as naive as it is dangerous.    Because there is no evidence whatever for this, infact we have plenty of evidence to the contrary (so much for long and protracted observation..) :

Just a cursory glance at our history will reveal that nearly all deep green societies (and all shades greener / ecologically sustainable than ours) were infact at war most of the time, and rarely great examples of social equality.

But perhaps a more modern example is even more telling:


"Also known as the Wandervögel (which translates roughly as 'wandering free spirits'), the youth movement was a hodge-podge of countercultural elements, blending neo-Romanticism, Eastern philosophies, nature mysticism, hostility to reason, and a strong communal impulse in a confused but no less ardent search for authentic, non-alienated social relations. Their back-to-the-land emphasis spurred a passionate sensitivity to the natural world and the damage it suffered.

... Its countercultural energies and its dreams of harmony with nature bore the bitterest fruit. This is, perhaps, the unavoidable trajectory of any movement which acknowledges and opposes social and ecological problems but does not recognize their systemic roots or actively resist the political and economic structures which generate them. Eschewing societal transformation in favor of personal change, an ostensibly apolitical disaffection can, in times of crisis, yield barbaric results."  See Art26


These were the antecedents of the Hitler youth in the 1930s.  And it is chilling to note the parallels with some strands of permaculture / New Age youth today.   Of course there were different historical circumstances.. but in essence were they really that different?    Nazy doctrine included a strong back-to-nature component and found its foothold during (and most would agree, also thanks to) a worsening global economic crisis .. and we are rapidly approaching one of those again.


Thankfully, right alongside all the worst examples of irrationality in humans, there have always been also humans (and mostly quite similar in all other respects to the irrational ones, down to being the same person in some cases, but at different times) who have shown entirely different tendencies.. which should go at least some way towards disproving that whatever it is that causes problems in people, it isn't something inherent to being human.



Something Wrong with Humans


Aso, if the 'there's something wrong with humans' myth IS a fundamental type-1 error which is at the root of much that is wrong with our human societal design, then it could be that just in changing this idea perhaps would shift things right down at level 1 in Meadow's scale for places to intervene in a system.     


But this is not something which can be done simply by wishful thinking or belief...


1) really changing such an ingrained paradigm of the human mind can only be done by substituting it with one that makes more sense (and works better: ie. fits better the observabe reality and can actually inform some better design - is actually a working model: useful for something, not just a description),


2) but then we can expect that if we did find such a model (and it really is a fundamentally different concept in the dominant culture) we will get big resistance from the system: either it will be ignored, ridiculed, or it will be actively - sometimes even violently - faught against, usually by atacking the people who support it (eg. Galileo was persecuted for his science, Hypatia brutally murdered for hers):


All truth passes through three phases.

First it is ridiculed.

Second, it is violently objected to.

Third, it is accepted as obvious.

Arthur Schopenhauer


And there is a model about the human mind which fits these conditions. 



There is nothing wrong with the human mind, or human nature.  Just like trees, bees, soil and the water cycle, it is a pinnacle expression of creation, an amazingly complex system designed to self-regulate in order to live in harmony with all other creatures that surround it, in dynamic equilibrium in a  continuously shifting environment.    



.. 2b continued...  jan2010,  being written simultaneously with Art25



back to FrontPage




NOTES - in progress ....


nondual "fourth tier"
transpersonal "third tier"
existential second tier
(pre)personal first tier



Second Tier Permaculture?


" S E C O N D   T I E R "        Complex Systems in wikipedia (fit?)
Late vision logic
Experientialistic Existence
Second Being Level


or PeakPermaCulture

Healthy Globalization

Middle vision logic
YELLOW, FlexFlow
Cognitive Existence
First Being Level


(Transition Movement?)

" F I R S T   T I E R "                                           Wikipedia Permaculture
Early vision logic
GREEN, HumanBond
Personalistic Existence
Fifth Subsistence Level

(Transition Movement?)

EcoVillage Network

Mental-egoic ORANGE, StriveDrive
Materialistic Existence
Fifth Subsistence Level
Mythic-membership BLUE, TruthForce
Saintly Existence
Fourth Substence Level



Magic-typhonic RED, PowerGods
Egocentric Existence
Third Subsistence Level

Each to his own

Piece of Eden?

Magic-typhonic PURPLE, KinSpirits
Tribalistic Existence
Second Subsistence Level

'ReWilding' + NewAge

back to the wild trends?

Archaic-uroboric BEIGE, SurvivalSense
Automatic existence
First Subsistence Level

Aid PermaCulture

basic subsistence level




Dana Meadows, article "The Good is the Enemy of the Perfect"


In the arena of companies and products, we distinguish

black (sports utility vehicles),

brown (sports utility vehicles that get higher mileage),

beige (current compact cars),

faintly green (the new gas-electric hybrids),

jade (hydrogen-powered cars),

spring green (hydrogen-powered buses and trains),

deep forest green (bicycles).


Most of the products in "green" catalogs are actually somewhere on the beige border, and most of the companies who proudly call themselves "sustainable" are struggling to move from brown to beige. Good for them. They're going in the right direction. But they have a long way to go.


How do we appreciate the good without letting it be the enemy of the perfect? How do we keep a step in the right direction from becoming a stopping point? How do we get beyond shades of insipid light green?



The Systems Sciences




Complex Systems is a new approach to science that studies how relationships between parts give rise to the collective behaviors of a system and how the system interacts and forms relationships with its environment.


where does permaculture fit into this?



Spiral Dynamics missing links article:




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