Good Design in Life
By Diann Dirks
If you look around you, you will find everything in your life that you use (even nature) is based on a conceptual design, manifested into physical universe stuff. There are things that work great and are beautiful and efficient – that’s good design. There are things that work poorly, break down easily, are ugly and inefficient – that’s bad design. There are things made everywhere in between these two aspects. In the world we live in, usually the good design stuff is either so well established in life that we don’t even think about it, and is the ‘standard’, or they are new and usually expensive. Bad designed stuff is usually made of junky material, breaks down after a year or a few months, and ends up in the land fill, but are usually cheap and made in another country – though not always. (I try to buy local or made in the USA.)
When you make a choice about what to purchase, or make, or create (as in a whole environment), by basing your choices on long term sustainability, and what is good for the earth, and people, you become one of the solutions, not the problem. Maybe nobody will come by and pat you on the back and say to you “Good Job”, but in a hundred years people will be better off because of it, as will the other critters of the world we live in. We all survive together or not at all. Just think of the honey bee – for every 5 bites of food you eat, 3 of them were compliments of a bee. When they go, we will end up like they do in Japan, hand pollinating every fruit, with the cost of a peach around $5.
An old adage is “you get what you pay for” or “penny wise and pound foolish” meaning you aren’t looking long term and only seeing the immediate price tag.
For some reason, I have always loved the aesthetics of really good design. A pair of shoes that lasts a very long time, is comfortable, made of good leather, beautiful, well made, and keeps you going where you want to go without hurt feet, slipping on a floor or the earth, or breaking down after a month of getting wet. How about a tool that you can use over and over for a lifetime, and pass onto the kids. One of my favorite examples of a garden tool that is masterful is the “Terra Planter” * of which I have two. It’s made of good steel, rubber-like handle that doesn’t get sticky with time, is lightweight but sturdy and is perfectly balanced, has a pokey kind of side and a trowel kind of side perpendicular to the held stem, like a “T”. This can do almost anything in a garden. Dig, loosen soil, plant, smooth out soil, dig out a root, make a trough in the soil, chop up hard clay, spread mulch, on and on. It’s so well designed that it replaces about 10 other tools, and because it’s just one tool, I carry it around with me and don’t loose track of it in the garden. It’s about $17 online plus s&h. The old version had a wood handle which was replaced with steel. There are knock offs, they are ‘downstream beer’ and don’t have the balance or ease of handling. I’ll take good design any day over cheap. *The new name for it is: https://www.amazon.com/Yard-Butler-TT-2P-Garden-Planter/dp/B000DCOOY8
So, when I had the opportunity to do certification training in Permaculture Design, I was delighted to find that just good design can be used to heal the earth, increase efficiency and cut waste to almost nothing, and bring abundance into life and the earth itself, no matter where it is. Because the best design of all you find is nature, and Permaculture Design is based on 23 natural precepts and laws of how nature works. So instead of imposing our will on the world with bad results and lack of knowledge of how it works, we have the benefit of billions of years of natural selection in what survives and what doesn’t over time, which then leads to better survival for ourselves and everything up to and including the world. This ranges in scale from a back yard to global think and management. “Act local, think global”.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of people on this planet and limited resources. Why is there poverty, suffering, famine, etc.? Simply put – bad management and bad design in how to use resources and how to optimaly work with people. That’s why design is so important – form follows function – you look at what needs to be done in the best possible way, then implement it in the most efficient way possible and that’s good design. That’s the beauty of Permaculture Design because first of all, it’s based on an ethic, the only design science on the planet that is: Care of the Earth, Care of People, Wise and Equitable Use of the Abundance (thus formed with good management and smart planning and design). It isn’t based on what makes the most profit for the share holders or how a government can maintain control over a vast area and get the most taxes out of it. The design criteria is what makes a better world.
Often we live a life of designs not of our choosing, but taken on because of necessity and lack of options – gotta feed yourself and if you have one, a family, or a nation. Usually in humankind systems, the pattern of it goes way back to feudalism or barbarism. These systems have worked to put certain people in charge and in power, and the rest of the people in various levels of being ‘followers’. Currently on this planet we have Monarchies and Corporate systems, which are basically the same thing. Monarchies still pull the strings, while corporate systems work to organize and reap the system in a similar fashion. The only difference being blood line and tradition or corporate boards and profit. In some areas we still have vestiges of democratic Republic governing but money and control are power so unless we can restore “We the People”, we sink back into totalitarian regimes.
But when we work together as individuals putting sanity into the mix, we have a chance to live the ethical and sane life we choose.
Into this we have centralized Religion that has been used to create standards of behavior and control by the top of the heaps over the centuries, and have brought some comfort to the ones below that when there is sanity in the beliefs. There is a spiritual world, there is order, and there is chaos that needs taming. That is basically life. Without ethics and order, we sink back to barbarism and suffering. With reason and good design in how we manage the planet and our lives, we gain freedom and long range survival.
When you can tap into the natural world and take advantage of that orderliness and long term survival, and have a connection to the spiritual power in all of us, which also is intrinsic to the natural world, you can really start to live an optimal lifestyle with joy. Most agree that there is ‘intelligent design’ at work.
In order to tap into that reason and good order, it requires that you know firstly that things can be better, that life can be better, and that you and others like you can do something to influence and remedy the problems created by the bad design or mistakes made which harm that natural balance.
Don’t be naïve though, there are about 1/5th of the people on earth who are either bent on making things worse, or are under their control and making mistakes, which influence the rest of our lives. People who would have us be slaves (economic or otherwise) work to create the illusion that we are helpless and help to create a ‘why bother’ attitude, apathy or distraction onto the pleasures of the moment. So, when you go to fix things which are obviously not doing well, realize you have this also to contend with.
Just remember, the greatest things on this world were created by a dedicated few visionaries who were willing to roll up their sleeves and do something worthwhile about it. They are the heroes of history, unsung or celebrated, doesn’t matter. Anything good we have in our lives was created by well thinking people who were ethical and smart, who cared about the future. Be one of those people and join others who are too. Below you will find a partial list of some of those people who have really done this and made a better world.
But remedying things requires knowledge – knowledge = power. It also = becoming causative as opposed to being the effect of the mistakes and disasters others have caused. The good news is that you can do this gradiently, improving in steps, as you learn and are inspired to act.
Getting inspired to go from what isn’t working to what does is a wonderful journey, full of realizations, wins, comraderie, learning, and a lot of joy. That requires actually having correct data and a correct system based on truth. There’s a lot of ‘information’ out there that is influenced by people who want to bend the truth for their own enhancement to the detriment of everyone else. (Again, ‘global warming’ as an example, put forth as a way for a handful of people to make billions.) So, you have to consider the source of whatever you wish to apply. Look at the actual long term effect. Permaculture Design is based on designing things that are good design for 7 generations – not months, years or even decades – generations!
There are some people in the world who have been great sources of really workable planet healing technology in Permaculture Design. To name my favorites:
Bill Mollison – the founder of Permaculture who wrote among many books “Introduction to Permaculture” ,
Masanobu Fukuoka – precursor to Permaculture by several decades who wrote “The One Straw Revolution” considered a master of many of the precepts in PD,
Geoff Lawton – student and associate of Bill Mollison, a co-founder who has gone on to do a great deal around the planet to restore eco-systems including deserts, urban blight and others (see his many videos at http://www.geofflawtononline.com/),
David Holmgren – another of Bill Mollisons associates and cofounders who wrote “Permaculture – Systems and Pathways Beyond Sustainability”,
Paul Wheaton – designer, well known permaculturist, known for his rocket mass heater and sustainable toilet system designs, as well as COB* building and other techniques who also has many videos (permis.com),
Toby Hemenway – author of “Gaia’s Garden” masterful small scale Permaculture Design,
Paul Stamets – master mycologist (study of fungi and mushrooms) who has developed ways to remedy the soil using fungi, among many other discoveries – see fungiperfecti.com ,
Tradd Cotter – another master mycologist who researches to remedy soil and many other discoveries – see https://mushroommountain.com/,
Wayne Weiseman (my instructor), Daniel Halsey and Bryce Ruddock – designers and consultants who wrote “Integrated Forest Gardening” – the Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems”, and
Sepp Holzer – a Swiss well known permaculturist who also wrote a book called “Permaculture”.
Another little book I use for quick reference is “Permaculture in a Nutshell” by Patrick Whitefield.
There are many outstanding Permaculturists who have done much to forward these principles, but I don’t have the space here to include them all.
If someone would like to get really inspired to do something about the current deteriorating condition of this planet, they would do well to read some of the books I have mentioned, and pull up these many sites, and watch the videos by Bill Mollison, Geoff Lawton and Paul Wheaton and others. It’s quite a wonderful uplifting adventure to watch what these people have done to turn things around so beautifully.
You can save so much energy, time and resources by taking the time to learn good design, or by hiring a Permaculture Designer for your project. I am available for consultation in NE Georgia, or by internet almost anywhere. But however way you go about it, by applying natural law to your environment, you leave a legacy of restored earth, and survivability to your people into 7 generations. We can do something about it.
As a final note, and for those good people who see the logic and necessity to help turn things around, there are specific things we each can do to ensure good design replaces the chaos of the current situation on the planet which is so dangerous to the future.
We constantly see the warnings about ‘global warming’. First of all this concept is junk science motivated by politics and power seeking. But we do have troubles in the environment – contamination and pollution, droughts and loss of arable (useful farmable) land due to desertification and erosion. The loss of vast numbers of trees is the primary source of many of our troubles.
By individually taking responsibility for our waste, and what products we use which can go into the natural system as contaminants, we do our part. When we recycle, we are doing our part. When we only buy food that is pesticide and chemical free, organically grown and non-GMO, we force the market and farming practices to change, thus removing the source of most of the pollution in our water and air which comes from industrial agriculture practiced in most of the farmland in the U.S. and elsewhere.
When we cut down trees, especially in large areas, the planet’s mechanism to make rain is destroyed. Trees make rain! We have seen massive deforestation by corporate powers motivated by greed and the fast buck and wealth at the expense of everyone else. Or just the consistent removal of forested land to build houses and cities in the name of the economy. When agriculture in this country went to mostly mechanized methods, the rows of trees that used to line the fields and which protected against wind erosion were removed to facilitate the huge planters and harvesters. This made the land hotter, cut out a great deal of natural bio-diversity which helped to keep pests down and held in moisture. We need to rethink agriculture. Permaculture Design does this.
The best way to turn this around is first to protect every tree possible. Think twice before cutting down a tree on your land. Or if you must, plant another two trees as replacements. On a broader plane, where you have a say, stop clear cutting of forest. Instead care for the earth by careful harvesting and replanting of diverse tree species. Instead of tree farms which are just another form of mono-cropping (like millions of acres of corn and soy), take the care to plant multiple species in more natural combinations. When building a house or a subdivision, save every possible tree. This takes some careful planning, but it is important. And it requires careful grading to not harm the trees left standing. Insist that the builders you invest in practice tree preservation and good land management of soil and water source.
Another way is to take care in your purchasing of things to only support ethical companies (boycott Monsanto), and those which do not destroy the environment to make their crops or products. Avoid purchasing things grown in the Amazon forests where vast areas have been deforested to grow GMO crops, coffee and chocolate, palm oil and other products while ruining vital bio-diverse species and eco systems.
And for pete’s sake – plant some trees! Plant them wherever there is some space to grow them. They can be fruit or nut trees, herb trees, or lumber creating trees, but just plant trees! For every human being on the planet we need 15 trees to supply the oxygen and remove the carbon dioxide we personally create, not to mention that which is created by our cars and to make electricity to run our houses and industry. Do you have 25 trees on your land for every person living there? If not, we can support the planting of trees on waste land if you don’t have a place of your own to do so.
I have been certified in Permaculture Design since 2009. It has been an amazing journey and adventure, full of ongoing inspiration and spiritual and intellectual growth. If you are interested, I have an internship program in NE Georgia. There are good people all around the country and world who can help you learn. And you can take courses or learn on the internet. There are groups of people doing meet-ups you can hook up with. Or you can form such a group yourself.
I wish you a wonderful, prosperous, and joyful journey.
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8/29/17 Diann Dirks
Certified Permaculture Designer
Hillside Gardens, Auburn, Ga.
Mothers School of Self-Reliance