Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

Peter Bane’s “Wheel of Permaculture Action”

January 1st, 2013

The inner and outer cycles reverberate
with each other.

Bane’s model is well-organized. The outermost concentric circle presents a sequence of 12 actions that are described in two ways: the human behavior and the object of activity. The actions are organized more-or-less as a prescription, do this, then this, then follow up with this, etc. The actions do become more complex as one goes around in clockwise fashion, and they repeat, in endless ongoing cycles. One can intuit that each of the actions needs to occur more-or-less concurrently with each other, but since the aim of the model is to get people started, it’s laid out in a fashion that would allow a novice (like meto believe that I can just begin.

The inner concentric circle is more conceptual, dividing the 12 physical actions of the encompassing outer concentric circle into four sets of somewhat similar emotional or psychological ‘actions.’ This inner circle represents a cognitive development or personal growth cycle. Including this aspect is an extra that probably won’t resonate with everyone, as it outlines a culturally-specific way of organizing experience. The embedded breathing meditation goes even further by drawing attention to the body in order to link the practical physical actions with whatever subjective reactions occur as one thinks about doing any of this stuff. This deep layering of meta-awareness probably won’t work for everyone and some may discount the outer circle because of the inner circle’s acknowledgment of the touchy-feelies.

Source: Chapter 4 on “Permaculture Principles” (p. 28), in The Permaculture Handbook by Peter Bane (2012).

FYI: I searched for a link to an online image of this model; couldn’t find one. Someone could make a nice Prezi of it!

Balancing Act: “What systems are you feeding?”

On the flip side of permaculture’s emphasis on figuring out how to eat, Nance Klehm digs down to the deepest question.  As a counter to the usual concern in food debates, which focus on “what systems do you feed on,” Klehm essentially says, so what about that?

Who cares? What are you giving back to? What are you feeding your energy into? What economic systems, social systems, natural systems, political systems are you contributing your life force to?

I’m particularly drawn to the description (in the Nov-Dec issue of Utne Reader, p. 33) of Klehm’s work as the “roots-based study of the relationships between living things.” She teaches about plants in an urban landscape that are healing the soil, and how important it is to understand that “soil and water ‘are the only things we have to make our food healthy.’”

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