Permaculture Principle 9 – Use Small & Slow Solutions

In a world where we are told that no delayed gratification is necessary as we can have everything right now, it is difficult to understand why one would want to use small and slow solutions. But nature manages according to a long term plan and adapts over time except where we as humans have used chemicals and machinery to accelerate the destruction of ecosystems. Who would have thought that in a mere 60 years we would have wiped out most of our topsoil the precious stuff that grows all our food? If we had used a slower approach we would have seen the consequences and been able to use other solutions to manage our land. Nature is simply unable to adapt to the onslaught of artificial chemicals, fertilisers and major machinery leading to ecosystem failure. Small and slow solutions allow us to understand the impact of what we are doing over a longer period of time and allows for course corrections along the way. Small and slow solutions are often an option that gives us more than one positive outcome. An example of this is using animals to keep grass and lawns short instead of mowing. Not only are you saving on fuel but you have the animal manure feeding the lawn and possibly meat and milk for the kitchen. Using small and slow solutions ensures that you are not overwhelmed by the enormity of what is required to be done but that you take it one step at a time in a manageable way.

Other examples of using small and slow solutions would be using horses to plough land, making compost instead of buying ready-made fertilisers, using beneficial insects, birds & bats to manage other insect pests instead of chemical sprays and supporting growers at farmers’ markets instead of a Woolworths or Coles.

Many farmers are starting to turn back to hand tools and animals to manage their land in a more regenerative way. But you might say if a farm is huge it would take ages to plough the land and you would be right. Moving to many small farms producing our food, which includes backyard and community gardens, instead of a few large farms is a way to build resilience and secure food production in the future. Thus if anything goes wrong with one or two small farms there are still others that can support the food system but if something went wrong with a few large farms we would have no way of recovering and securing food.

Truly understanding the connection that we not only have to each other but to all living things. Setting up our land practices to enhance the relationships restores the land and brings it into balance with all living things. If we extend this to human relationships our communities would be better for it.

Mel Marx

Permaculture designer & educator