Ethics

 

All people have an ethic by which they conduct themselves in their dealings with other people and their work. However, this ethic is frequently unstated and hidden away. It is a challenge to ask ourselves where we are coming from in making design decisions. What are the things we believe and how are they reflected in our lives and our decision making? Permaculture has a statement of ethics from which its practitioners operate.


Permaculture is an ethical system stressing positivism and cooperation. It includes, as basic:


•Care of the earth including all living and non-living things.

•Care of people to promote self-reliance and community responsibility.

•Sharing of surplus labor, food, goods, information and money to promote the above, caring, life support system.


While these may sound like rather broad ethical stances, their application can be quite specific and the ability of a design to accomplish them may be examined. Care means that we treat the earth's creatures, plants and materials with respect. We realize that each has its place in the larger scheme of nature and that our use of it is temporary and privileged. Care means that we approach people with mindfulness and humility to appreciate our mutual humanity. Sharing means that we place access to things in excess of our needs in the service of others. We understand that the fortunes of self and community are two sides of the same coin -- that each of us has talents, energies and resources to be shared and needs to be met by others.

In addition to our general commitment to the permaculture ethic, we may wish to further define our interests and concerns and place our personal philosophy on record. This further articulation will help us, our clients and associates to better understand our conceptual stance and make it easier for us to live and work together.

For example:
Where is Dan coming from?
I am committed to a landscape of acceptance rather than that of control.

The landscape of acceptance embraces natural forces and elements and attempts to work with and enhance them to support human life in harmony with the earth. This acceptance has its roots in organic gardening and sustainable agriculture and embodies principles that are uncommon to the controlled landscape. Such terms as sustenance, nurture, recycle, restoration, regeneration and succession come to mind. There are no weeds or pests in this landscape; each organism has its time and place. The form of the landscape is not fixed; it evolves through succession over time but it does not necessarily return to primal nature. It is a garden of selection following a path of highest long term yield for lowest expenditure of energy.

I am accepting much landscape that people have been trained to view as unacceptable -- landscapes of succession. The 'acceptable' landscapes, those kept forever in infancy, such as mowed turf and trimmed shrubbery, are highly valued. Mature forested landscapes are also praised. However, the landscape of the roadside, the regenerating field, the local ditch, the evolving landscape, are viewed as nuisances; they are chopped and sprayed to oblivion. Much civic effort goes into insuring that vacant lots and roadsides are mowed and that other such 'unsightly' areas are 'beautified.' Yet, it is these youthful, diverse landscapes that, given guidance, have the vitality to be highly productive and interesting, even aesthetically pleasing.


I am not just letting everything grow wild to find its own level. This is a landscape of partnership between man and the land. Nature produces -- man selects. It embodies such practices as planting with a high level of use of plants that produce food; use of native plant species; use of chipping and composting of removed materials; runoff and water management; successional set asides for land not in active production; absence of use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides; recycling of materials often lost to landfills; low to zero mowing; zero tolerance for erosion; keeping dead and rotting trees for wildlife use and so on. While these principles have been proclaimed for many years by organic gardeners and permaculturists they have not been readily incorporated into the practice of landscape architecture. It is my personal challenge to practice in accordance with these beliefs.

 
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