Permaculture Principles and Characteristics of Resiliant Systems

Permaculture principles

Here's the list from "Principles And Pathways Beyond Sustainability" by David Holmgren added some suggestions for how this might apply to the early stages of transition projects.


Catch Phrase

An Example (from us)

Observe and interact

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Find out what is already happening locally before starting any project

Catch and store energy

Make hay while the sun shines

Use the energy that is inspired by transition model – create lots of ways for people ways to join and give support

Obtain a yield

You can’t work on an empty stomach

Harvest ideas at events with post-its or flip charts

Apply self regulation and accept feedback

The sins of the fathers are visited on the children unto the seventh generation

Create spaces where your community can let you know what they think; include evaluation and evolution in your plans

Use and value renewable resources and services

Let nature take its course

Work with existing currents, trends and projects where possible.

Produce no waste

A stitch in time saves nine.. Waste not, want not

Use psychological awareness to avoid conflict where possible

Design from patterns to details

Can’t see the wood for the trees

Energy descent planning – strategic as well as micro

Integrate rather than segregate

Many hands make light work

Partnership partnership partnership!

Use small and slow solutions

The bigger they are the harder they fall. Slow and steady wins the race

Allow groups time to form and grow before expecting action

Use and value diversity

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

“Both.. and” rather than “either/or” - let’s do it your way and my way

Use edges and value the marginal

Don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well beaten path

The boundaries between systems are interesting places – between existing and new movements, council and business, young and old.

Creative use and respond to change

Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be

Keep the vision open, active and creative – don’t tie it down or stop it evolving.

 Characteristics of Resilient Systems

These are some very valuable pointers from “Resilience Thinking” by David Salter and Brian Walker.



Tight feedback

The system knows what’s happening inside itself quickly and can respond


Diversity in all areas, ecological, social, economic needs to be attended to and supported.


Sub systems within the system are independent or not over connected – if one fails they don’t all fail.

Ecological variability

Eco systems constantly change. Any attempts to limit or prevent change are generally disastrous. Understanding the variability of a system is wise. 

Understanding slow variables

Slow variables are often the key to understanding systems. They determine the thresholds in a system that can lead the system to tip into a new regime.

Social capital

A resilient world would promote trust, well developed social networks, and adaptability. Resilience is very closely determined by the ability of people to respond and work together.


A resilient system places an emphasis on learning, experimentation, locally developed rules, and embracing change.

Overlap in governance

Institutions that include redundancy in their governing structure, and overlap in common and private ownership with overlapping access rights

Ecosystem services are valued

We have to learn to value ecosystem ‘services’. The earth is not an unlimited source of materials and rubbish dump.

Human beings have diverse connections to each other and all beings. These connections are seen and unseen; inner and outer.

All connection to our world, ‘hidden’ energetic or inner, are accepted as implicit, immanent, and integral to all of our understanding and practice. We must explore and create awareness of our connections both to other people and to all of creation.


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