Permaculture Ethics and the 3 Basic Needs

The past couple of days I’ve been going through sites that talk about Permaculture.  Normally when people start talking about ethics and morals and shoulds, etc, I tune out or move on to somewhere else.  But for some reason, the Permaculture Ethics kept popping up, over and over and over.  I mean, yeah, so an intro to permaculture (which is what most sites are..remember, if you want to learn more, open your wallet)…anyways, so an intro to permaculture inevitably spends a little time and space talking about the Permaculture ethics.  And I kept glossing over it, as usual.  But finally, after the constancy, I finally read it.  And then looked at how others described it.  Most of it is repeating the same thing over and over.  But one site went into more detail on it:

After reading through this, and mulling it over in my mind this morning, I realized that the Permaculture Ethics correspond with the 3 Basic Needs which I’d written of earlier.

Permaculture Ethic #1 (Care for Earth) fits quite well with Basic Need #1 (to survive)

  • The Earth is our sole provider of all the essentials that keeps us alive – air, water, food, shelter.  We cannot get these essentials met from anywhere else.
  • As such, we depend upon the Earth, and all its living systems, for our survival.
  • So, if we want to meet the survival need, it behooves us to
  1. not pollute the air we breathe, nor the water we drink,
  2. not poison the plants and animals we eat,
  3. not destroy the land which provides our sustenance.
  • Survival means caring for the soil on which plant life depends, and therefore is our source of food.
  • Survival means caring for the forests that supply us with clean air and plays a key role in rain formation and thus fresh water supplies.
  • Survival means caring for the waters, rivers, oceans, streams, etc which circulate nourishment from which all life depends on.
  • Survival means recognizing the difference between a need….and a luxury.
  • Survival also means taking responsibility for our selves and our actions.

Permaculture Ethic #2 (Care for People) fits a combo of Basic Needs #2,3 (to connect, to co-evolve)

  • No man is an island.
  • Humans, as a species are generalists, but individuals are not.
  • By  nature, humans are social and cooperative animals.
  • One person cannot do everything by him/her self, except in the most primitive of lifestyle.  This is why economy developed.  To trade services and skills.  To trade specializations.
  • When people collaborate to support each other, and to meet both physical and nonphysical needs, a sense of community prospers.
  • However, in order to collaborate with others, we must first take responsibility for our own selves and our own actions.  (depending on others is not the same as collaborating with them)
  • We must also have something worth collaborating with, be it information, skill, ability, or other resource, which can be used to help others meet their own basic needs.

Permaculture Ethic #3 (Return of Surplus to Earth & People) fits with Basic Needs #3,1 (to co-evolve, to survive)

  • The Earth’s resources are finite.  As such, there are only a finite share of resources available to each person to gain sustenance from.
  • If we take more than our share, we reduce someone else’s ability to gain sustenance from the earth.
  • If we use finite resources to make things other than for sustenance, we reduce someone’s ability to gain sustenance from the earth…perhaps even our own.
  • If we share any surplus of resources, we help someone else gain sustenance.
  • When we hoard/destroy resources, we create deficiency.
  • When we accumulate unused resources, we create pollution.
  • When we share any surpluses of resources, we create bounty.
  • When we share our surplus produce, our skills, knowledge, and experience, we build bonds between people and foster a sense of collaborative community.

Permaculture stresses inter-connectivity and cooperation.
How can we best meet the 3 Basic Needs of surviving, connecting, and co-evolving?  Not by accumulation and competition, but by inter-connectivity and cooperation.

3 Basic Needs: Survive, Connect, Co-Evolve

Just a few minutes ago I responded to an article that put down Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but then created one just as complex.  So I commented on it, and thought to paste that comment into here.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs made the error of viewing the self as an island, ultimately separate from others and separate from one’s environment.  If we remove that bias, his Hierarchy can be summarized into three basic needs:  to Survive, to Connect, to Co-Evolve.

Survival includes physiological and safety needs.  These needs are met by the environment and/or by our connections.  Without a healthy environment to meet our needs, we can not survive.  Without our connections, we would be too busy re-inventing the wheel of survival to ever move beyond survival.

Connecting includes affiliation and esteem needs.  It also includes connecting with our environment.  If we rely on a healthy environment to survive, it helps to remember that we are connected to that environment; that what we do to the environment will cycle back and influence our survival abilities.

Co-Evolve includes creative, cognitive, aesthetics, and actualization needs.  These are the cultural and personal memes.  We are influenced by the memes of past generations, as well as the memes developed in the present.  This reduces our need to constantly re-invent the wheel of survival.  We also co-evolve with our environment.  Changes we (and others) make to the environment influence changes we have to make within ourselves.

We are NOT islands.  If we want to reach our potential, as individuals and/or as a species, we have no choice but to work with each other, and/or with our environment.




Guiding Principle: Mind&Body as Resource

About a month or so ago I read an interesting article on a blog.  It brought up how our minds and our bodies are our greatest resources.  I’ve been mulling over this ever since.  And have decided to use this as one of my Guiding Principles to help me on my path.

Humans wouldn’t have survived, nor grown to what we’ve become without our minds and bodies.  Such an obvious statement, yes?  But take that to a more personal level.  You wouldn’t have survived, nor grown to what you’ve become without your mind and your body.

I wouldn’t have.  It was my body that got me out of the messes that my mind had gotten me into.  And my mind that got me out of the messes that my body had gotten me into, lol.  Stuff may have helped, but if it weren’t for my mind knowing how to use the stuff, or my body’s ability to manipulate the stuff, I wouldn’t have survived, nor grown to who I am now.

Stuff will come and go.  It will break, burn, get lost, get stolen, etc.  Regardless of what happens to the stuff, my mind and body are my greatest resources.  Stuff can be replaced.  My mind and body can’t.  (Not for me, at least.)

Have you ever refused to loan some thing to someone, because they aren’t the kind of person to take care of it?  Have you ever gotten annoyed with someone who wastes or damages a precious resource of yours?  At people who don’t take care of theirs, nor others’, Stuff?

Yet, how many of us don’t take care of our own most precious personal resources: our minds and our bodies?

I’ve spent too damned many years, trying to salvage a mind that I had considered damaged.  Mostly I had viewed it that way because other people had wanted to use it for their own personal gain, regardless of the damage they caused by using it in a way it wasn’t suited for.  I had lost trust and confidence in my own mind.  Yet it was this same mind that has kept me going, has kept me fighting, and has found creative solutions and options for myself and others.  My mind may not be a resources for a certain group of people/organizations.  But it’s certainly one of my own, personal, greatest resources.

I’m taking back my mind.

Some people may not agree with it.  Some may say that I’m being selfish, or lazy, or living off the work of others.  Yet, by taking back my mind, I’ll actually be able to give back to the community.  Not by making someone else richer, nor by letting them drain me of my resource, but by making the community itself richer, and helping others to find their own resources.  And thus, this resource of mine becomes ever renewable.

In similar token, I’ll be renewing my body as a precious resource of mine.  I have come to rely on Stuff, rather than my body and mind.  I have allowed my body to become weakened and sickened.  Part of this comes from our cultural habits/expectations.  Part from our natural incline towards conserving energy.  We want to conserve our own energy for survival, and by doing so we come to rely on using the energy of others, even of Earth’s non-renewable resources.

Over the next month I will work towards relying on my body more, for meeting physical needs, rather than relying on Stuff or non-renewable resources.  Why do I need an electric rechargeable toothbrush when I can use my own muscle power?  Why do I need an electric dishwasher, when I’ve got two hands of my own, and a good cloth?  Why do I need a car to get me to a grocery store, when I can have a garden?…

Oh wait, see, there are some things I’m not yet ready to rely on my body for, not just yet.  If I lived in town, I wouldn’t need a car to get me around.  But I don’t live in town.  And the nearest bus stop is just over 5 miles away.  AND…my back isn’t at the point that I can walk 5 miles each day like I used to.  I get excited when I can last half a mile without overwhelming pain.  And the road to get to the bus stop?  Not safe for bicyclists.

However, I have a mind that can help me find a solution.  One that follows the Guiding Principle of using my Mind and my Body as my Greatest Resources.  And while I may not be able to find a perfect solution for everything in my life, at least the combined solutions will be an improvement.

And I can’t help but imagine how our culture, and the world, might improve, if each person relied more on our minds and bodies, rather than on Stuff.


btw, the blog mentioned above is:




Towards a Gaian Mind … the idea

In a recent post I listed 4 areas of my life that are the most important to me.  The second area was “Towards a Gaian Mind”, and I said that I would get into that a little later.

I don’t have a fully developed idea in mind.  The following is what pops up now, when I’m thinking of that phrase.

As a young child, when first learning about our body organs, systems, and cells, I’d wondered if perhaps each of us weren’t an organ (or cell) of something greater than us.  I’d also wondered if my cells had some kind of consciousness, and if so, what might it be like for them.  Would they recognize that their working and living together led to ‘me’?  Probably not.  I think they’d have no concept of ‘me’, only of their own needs, and their ‘neighborhood’.

I’d sometimes look at the highways, and imagine that the highway is similar to our blood supply system, with little mini trucks transporting requested goods and nutrients.

I’d look at the electric and phone poles, and imagine that as yet another part similar to our brain and nervous system, transporting messages across great distances, one part of our body in contact with another part.

I’d sometimes look at diseases and geographical thrashings as akin to an immune system…trying to fight against a disease that’s ravishing the earth’s body/mind.

Are we, as humans spread across the globe, a group of cells? or are we a cancer, a ‘bacteria’, or ‘virus’?

As I got older, I began imagining businesses and organizations as being similar to our body systems, each having a purpose that alone is useless, but when combined creates something bigger.

And then, as I got even older, I wondered what kind of ‘being’ we’ve created?  Is this a conscious being, yet?  Is it a schizophrenic being, unsure of what direction to take?  Are the little wars and arguments and conflicting ideologies similar to it, as my internal arguments and conflicts are to me?

Into adulthood, as I struggled to gain some resemblance of sanity, I wondered if the greater being that we create..if we’d given it the ability to fight it’s own ‘sanity’ fight.  Am I, like it, merely a product of whatever’s going on inside me?  Or do I have a say.  I believe, now, that I have a say.  It’s a struggle to get that say, yes, but I do have a say.  I can use one ‘part’ of me, support it, encourage it to grow stronger than another ‘part’ of me.  And thus win whatever war/battle that I’m fighting.  But..what would it feel like to be the little neurons in my brain, those who are knee-deep in the battles I’m waging in my own mind?  Would they see what was happening as being an earthquake? a typhoon? a random act of “god”?  Would they feel empowered by purpose, fighting the good fight?  Or would they be focused more on their own personal survival, grabbing at whatever pathways they can to help ensure their own survival?

I recall laughing when I first heard the phrase “As above, so below”.  Something about it seems to miss a mark, but I’ve never been sure how to rephrase it.

A few years ago I heard the term “Gaia”, used to reference the earth as a living system.  It clicked in for me.

Then, recently, I’ve heard the term “emergence” being used. And system “levels”.  And now we’re starting to get closer to where my mind has wandered since I was a young girl.  I still don’t know how to rephrase it, but it’s along the lines of … My conscious level (me), is one systems level, which is an emergent property of my body’s systems levels, while I am also a subsystem of a systems level higher than me.

And then I ask myself:  What emergent properties of a supra-system am I contributing to?

Are my actions and thoughts the kind that I would want another ‘being’ to develop?  Would that ‘being’ survive long term on the actions/thoughts of it’s subsystems/organs/cells (us)?

What emergent properties do I contribute to? . . .

And that is where I am at, regarding the second most important thing in my life.  Making conscious decisions and actions aimed towards creating some of the emergent properties of a supra-system ‘being’, aka ‘Towards a Gaian Mind’.

This is requiring a ‘rewiring’ of how I usually think/act.  I’ll be learning to think in terms of systems and connections of influences, rather than of just the parts involved.  I’ll need to consider how supportive I am of my own subsystems and their livelihood.  I’ll need to consider the supra-system of my home environment.  And as those become easier, I’ll be ready to encourage actions at a community type level.  Still, always, focusing on my own circle of influence, rather than worrying too much about everyone else’s.

I want to BE the change I’d like to see.  And that by doing so, I will connect with others who are, or seek to BE, that change.

And so, under this important area of my life, I’ll be working on the goals of

  • Ecology of the Mind (new ways of thinking and deciding)
  • Ecology of the Body (supporting the viable health of my subsystems)
  • Ecology of the Home (initial steps in positively influencing emergent properties of a supra-system one level above me)  This will include things such as consciously attending to which supra-systems I contribute to, and which not to contribute to.  It will also include local support, sustainable living, and eventually a sustainable garden.
  • Ecology of the Community (this will be a long term goal, and will likely be along the lines of encouraging others at my systems level to consider their own contributions to ’emergency’.  I’d love for it to include helping others create sustainable gardens, such as permaculture and forest gardens, and a focus on the local community.)

Hopefully this now describes the second most important area of my life, “Towards a Gaian Mind”.  While also describing what this blog will primarily be about.

Have you ever asked yourself what emergent properties do you contribute to?

If you looked at your actions and thoughts now, what would the answer to that question be now?

Do they match the emergent properties you’d WANT to contribute to?