Permaculture Principle 8 – Integrate Rather Than Segregate

One of the keys to a healthy environment is understanding the relationship between all things. This field of study is known as ecology. It includes the food web and the various cycles and patterns of all living things, including humans. How elements work is important but the relationship between them is even more important. A question that always needs to be asked is what would the consequences be if I take one element out of the equation and what is the reason for that element being there? Is it possibly supporting or preparing the environment for the next element in the sequence of events. An illustration of this happened to me recently where I built a chook pen. Of course, what followed were goannas and carpet pythons. All it took to solve the goanna problem was a few strategically placed roofing sheets but the python was another story. Of course, my answer to this challenge was to get the python removed, when I did that another one appeared. More disturbing was an increase in the mouse population. This cycle carried on for a while until I stood back and thought about the relationship between mice and snakes. I needed the snake to keep the mouse problem contained. I made the classical error of not thinking about the consequences of my actions. I am happy to say the chook pen is now snake proof and the mouse problem under control. There are many such examples where we have not understood the relationship between elements we have happily solved one problem only to cause another by breaking the relationship link. Microbes in the soil and the devastating consequences of using chemicals and artificial fertilisers on our soils is another example of where we did not understand the consequences, the result being dead and lifeless soils that are prone to erosion and topsoil degradation. In our modern society, we are encouraged to specialise and not be dependant on anyone. We breakdown elements to their smallest components marvelling at each individual aspect but the actual magic is in how those elements work together. People thrive in a supportive environment where they fulfil not only their individual purpose but contribute to a greater whole, having rich and meaningful relationships. Integration strengthens a system, segregation weakens it. When next you are confronted with a challenge, look deeper and ask a few ‘what if’ questions before settling on a solution.

Mel Marx | Secretary

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