Introduction to PatternDynamics™

Make a Deeper Difference: Change the System

 

“Every social transformation is accompanied by a new way of communicating. This includes the hardware of communication, like the printing press or the Internet, but it must also include the software–the new languages that emerge to disclose new worlds. The current planetary transformation is a transformation to a living systems worldview, and it is this world that our languages must now describe.”

                                                                                    J.T. Winton

My name is Tim Winton, creator of PatternDynamics™. I’m going to describe an emergent 21st Century skill that will leverage your capacity as a change leader. Learning it will enable you to combine deep purpose, natural wisdom, and collective intelligence for resolving complex organisational, social, and global challenges.

PatternDynamics™ is a step-by-step framework designed for conscious leaders, intrapreneurs, organisational professionals, social entrepreneurs and anyone interested in learning to create deeper change.

In our increasingly complex world, real change is notoriously difficult, frustrating, and resource intensive. With planetary challenges mounting, we need more generative organisational methods and tools.

The premise of PatternDynamics™ is that the design patterns of nature embody the wisdom for cultural and organisational transformation.

Accessing this wisdom starts with learning to “see” the patterns of deep simplicity on the other side of complexity.

PatternDynamics™, the basis of this capacity, introduces a new method of communication–a universal pattern language that describes the world more holistically, builds more generative relationships, and taps the collective intelligence of any group. It is the first form of communication designed specifically for purpose-driven, collaborative systems thinking.

The ultimate benefit is the opportunity to facilitate systemic change. When you learn to communicate purposefully about organisational patterns, and to use this as a way of accessing the collective intelligence for making wiser decisions, facilitating deep, whole-systems transformation becomes a possibility–at any level of complexity.

  • A key to complexity is systems thinking.
  • A key to systems thinking is patterns.
  • A key to patterns is using them as a language to communicate the principles of generative change.

The preeminent distinction of PatternDynamics™ is that it harnesses the synergy from uniting three of the most potent strategies for creating better futures: deep purpose, systems literacy, and collaborative thinking.

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Building more co-creative relationships using the “living systems’” principles embodied in this framework provides you with a method for engaging in transformational work in three important ways:

  1. Wellbeing: simplifies your life by bringing clarity to your deeper purpose and your most generative personal strategies.
  1. Relationality: deepens organisational, community, friendship, and family relationships through a more holistic form of communication.
  1. Change-Making: catalyses social and organisational transformation by working at the systems level.

A key feature of PatternDynamics™ is that you can embed it in your work and your life seamlessly. It does not necessarily have to be presented as a program. When you practice communicating this way people will start to comment on your unique ability to see “the way things work” and to coordinate diverse perspectives.

PatternDynamics™ leverages new insights from the learning and systems sciences. Learning it is a collaborative affair. The process is designed to be rewarding in its own right, and you will join a unique community of passionate and professional change leaders who support each other on the journey. Joining us positions you with an increasingly important competency. 

Planetary Society

Our traditional methods of social and organisational leadership are not capable of managing the complex challenges that confront us today. Persisting with these out dated strategies in the face of mounting complexity is one of the main causes of the multiple systemic crises we currently face. From the erosion of community social capital to the dysfunction in workplace cultures, and from the planetary environmental crisis to the global financial crisis, there is mounting evidence of the need for more generative forms of organisational life.

Currently we are faced with a choice: in our increasingly interconnected world we either accept the mostly out-dated, hierarchical, command and control structures driving the process of Globalisation, in all of its various manifestations–in our workplaces and in our lives; or, we find ways to introduce purpose-driven, highly collaborative, bottom-up, self-organising, transformation that exists when we shift to adopt the principles of a living systems worldview.

This shift is the basis for creating something much different–what we refer to as a Planetary Society.

Globalisation Planetary Society
Simpler More Complex
Machine Model Living Systems Model
Rigidly Structured Highly Adaptive
More Hierarchical More Networked
Individualistic Unity in Diversity
Siloed Interconnected
Piecemeal Change Transformational Change
Top-Down Leadership Distributed Leadership
Treats Disease Seeks Generative Health
Command and Control Self-Organising

The era when we can believe that even gifted individual leaders and powerful, but disconnected, institutions are capable of knowing enough and doing enough to solve our problems, at any level–from the community, to the organisational, to the social–is over. We must equip ourselves to lead change towards a healthier, more interconnected, self-organising world, whatever our current position in life.

Continuing to use the out-dated strategies of Globalisation is becoming increasingly oppressive. PatternDynamics™ stands for the simple human dignity requiring the shift to a planetary society.

Arguably, we don’t have a choice. With the increasing complexity of our lives, the only viable option is to develop new ways of thinking. The words of Albert Einstein below are so universally quoted precisely because they have never been more true.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used  when we created them”

                                                                        Albert Einstein

PatternDynamics™ is a contribution to this new way of thinking–to the emerging social ecologies of mass collaboration now driving transformational change.

An essential strategy of this emerging movement is to facilitate collective intelligence. We must learn actual methods and tools that empower everyone to contribute their knowledge, perspectives, wisdom, and talents; and we have to find effective ways to coordinate them. If not, we simply won’t have enough capacity–in our communities, organisations, or institutions–to create the socially flourishing, ecologically thriving world that is possible and that we actually want.

 The Complexity Crisis

If you resonate with this approach, then you may have realised that participating in the creation of a new system can be a lot more challenging than just remaining a part of the old one. One of the reasons for this is that when we commit to making change, in many respects, we commit to being leaders in a preferred, but unformed, future. Because that future is still forming, and because it is farther along the path of social evolution, it demonstrates all the challenges of increased complexity as it is commonly defined:

  • Larger numbers and types of variables
  • Increasing levels of interconnectedness
  • Faster rates of change,
  • Increased uncertainty

When we commit to leading change, life can become very complex indeed.

The Complexity Gap Diagram 230514 BW v1An increasing number of philosophers, theorists and researchers are identifying the importance of what is now being referred to as the Complexity Crisis.[1] In its many and varied manifestations it is, arguably, the pre-eminent challenge of our time. Persisting with inadequate strategies in our increasingly complex world leads to a huge range of unintended consequences. The inability to manage complexity is the actual root-cause of many of our deepest personal, organisational, and social challenges.This crisis has crept up on us somewhat unnoticed, and although we feel its consequences, the increase in complexity itself is not yet widely recognised as the source of our pain.

This is something that became clear to me after working as a sustainability advocate, educator, designer, and practitioner for over 20 years. At some point I realized that we had actually developed all the technologies and strategies we needed to create a sustainable world. In fact, I trialled a way of living more sustainably as a community quite successfully by using some of these technologies and strategies. (I relate this story below). Why things were not changing on a larger scale was a puzzle (and a frustration) until I realized that most of our leaders–and in fact most of us–are not well equipped to deal with the complexity of creating effective change in today’s world. After so many years of informing people about the environmental crisis and advocating the use of new technologies and better strategies for sustainable living, it came as a shock to finally see the underlying reason why these approaches were not getting the traction many of us had hoped.

Every period in history has a central challenge. Previously that challenge was to make “progress” and to grow the economic resources required to increase levels of material wellbeing. While this challenge is still being met in many parts of the world, the affordances of modern industrial society are lifting people out of poverty at increasing rates.

The challenge of our era is to continue to lift everyone out of poverty and to improve human wellbeing while sustaining the ecological and social systems that we depend on–in fact, not just to sustain them, but to help them thrive and flourish. This challenge is of a radically different order than the ones we have faced in the past. It is about a much more abstract problem: transformation in the face of complexity itself.

The Zone of Hyper Complexity

On a personal level, complexity in everyday life is increasing for everyone and just staying afloat for many people has become a major challenge. When we become change leaders this challenge can vastly increase. We step, often unknowingly, into what I’ve come to call the “zone of hyper complexity”. In this space it is very easy to feel like we are, in fact, drowning. Diagram 1 above illustrates this dynamic.

The larger the scale of organisation and change management inherent in the role–like being the head of a large organisation, or a government department, for instance–the bigger the gap, on average, between the ability of the leaders and the complexity of their tasks. Many of us choose to step out of these more conventional types of roles to try and make a deeper difference precisely because we do have strong leadership skills, and we have demonstrated a measure of success in conventional life. Even so, the unprecedented nature of many of the organisational and social transformations we seek to create often see us step into complexity gaps that are far bigger than we have encountered before.

At this point three things commonly happen:

  1. Personally: We can become overwhelmed with the task demands of our work, and we can get stressed and anxious.
  1. Relationships: They may suffer and people in our most important networks can begin to withdraw their support.
  1. Change Making: Livelihood and career prospects are often put at risk or diminished or they become more uncertain. Typically, at least early on, making change can be slower, more fraught politically, and more difficult than we had imagined.

If this sounds familiar, or if you have seen this pattern before, then it is something we share. This is what happened to me, and in my experience it is very common, but until now, little understood. Learning to be a conscious leader, social entrepreneur, organisational intrapreneur or change-maker requires skills and understandings that are still relatively unusual for people to encounter before they take the plunge.

My Story: How I created PatternDynamics and Why

I developed PatternDynamics™ through a long struggle to understand my circumstances and the similar circumstances of many of my fellow travellers. It is a tool born out of the necessity to find a viable way of working for change in an increasingly complex world.

I have been a social entrepreneur and organisational intrapreneur for over twenty years, although I had not heard those terms when I started. From before I left school I knew I wanted to live my higher purpose and to make a deeper difference doing it. For a long time trying to keep my head above water took a great deal of my energy. I suffered personally, my important relationships suffered, creating change was far more difficult than I thought, and the certainty, if not always the size, of my livelihood also suffered.

There is a parable about an entrepreneur being the one who is riding a tiger; people observing marvel at her ability to ride on a tiger. The entrepreneur, although putting on a brave face, is only thinking about how on earth she managed to wind up on the tiger and how she is going to stay on!

What I didn’t realise and what no one told me (I’m not sure anyone actually knew) was that becoming a change maker–and therefor, by default, a special type of leader–would pose a whole series of challenges that neither I, nor anyone I knew, was well equipped to deal with. To borrow a phrase from Harvard researcher Robert Kegan, because of the complexity of the things I had chosen to tackle in my life, I would be, for a large portion of those 20 years, “in over my head”.

I have undertaken three major social entrepreneurship ventures, each providing essential foundations for developing PatternDynamics™ and for learning to grow it into a maturing community of practice and a socially committed enterprise.

My first venture was as an environmental services contractor, mostly working in sustainable forestry. It started as a small and innovative enterprise and we learned to plant over 200 000 trees a day, something I still look back on with pride. We collected seeds, grew seedlings, planted forests and tended plantations. I loved the work. I was young and full of energy and enthusiasm. Looking back now I realise that, although this was a challenging business and being committed to environmental work did add another layer of complexity, I really wasn’t operating too far outside “the box” in the Diagram 1 above. Like a lot of entrepreneurs I did work very hard, and I did face a lot of stress, but my relationships were mostly about my work, and I managed to exit with more than enough financial resources to move onto my next project. Although I was working in complex territory, it wasn’t hyper complex territory, and I had the energy and drive to come out the other end more or less intact. In a way, this represented my “success” in the more or less conventional world of business, society, and the economy as most of us know it. Looking back, this gave me a false sense of what I could achieve in more complex circumstances.

During this time I was also gaining a deep appreciation for and a love of nature from my years of working in the wilderness. It was here that I started to observe and understand how natural ecologies work as dynamic, highly interconnected, systems supremely designed for adaptive change and evolutionary development. I read voraciously in the systems sciences, complexity disciplines, integral theory and anything that I thought could help me understand my new way of seeing the world. I was also practicing and experimenting with an ecological design discipline focused on sustainable agriculture, called permaculture, and a Japanese martial art called Aikido. Both of these disciplines also have deep foundations in understanding the patterns of nature.

My next project was more ambitious and moved me deeply and unknowingly into the zone of hyper complexity.

The Permaforest Trust

In the late 1990s, with the proceeds from the sale of my forestry company, I founded and lead the development of a not-for-profit rural residential sustainability education centre. It was located in the lush volcanic hinterland of the humid subtropics on the east coast of Australia. The centre was called Permaforest Trust, and it went on to be a ten-year experiment in what we referred to as “an educational community for sustainability”.

The goal was to learn sustainability skills through practicing them as a living, although temporary, community. Students, staff, guests and volunteers came from all over Australia and around the world, staying from a few days to a few years. Within our accredited programs we learned to grow our own food, create our own power, recycle our wastes, and regenerate the land we lived on. I estimate that by using well-known sustainability technologies and strategies, and by learning to share resources as a community, we each lived on about 1/10th to 1/20th of the resources used by the average Western citizen. We did not lack for anything we needed, and in the end we managed to create quite a special and uniquely functional learning community.

Getting to that end, however, was a much more complex challenge, and it had much higher costs, than I ever imagined. It required the development of a whole new way of seeing the world and communicating about it, which eventually became the basis for the development of PatternDynamics™. Managing a contracting company was one thing, but creating a strongly self-reliant, rural community learning and modelling strategies for sustainable living was quite another. I had committed to creating an experimental microcosm of a seemingly preferred way of living and with it all of the complexity of that unformed future.

The challenges in this project were not related to the technologies we used or the strategies we put in place for practicing things like permaculture, organic farming or environmental restoration. The problems were almost entirely related to managing the complexity inherent in making change at the required level–even in our diminutive community–for collectively adapting to a new way of organising ourselves. I have written in detail about these challenges elsewhere so I will just summarize events here. (You can find some of these writings at http://independent.academia.edu/TWinton),

In a less complex world this model of small self-reliant community is a default form of social organisation. Today, in most of the rural developing world people have to live this way to survive, and for much of the last 10,000 years this has been the case for most people. But for us it required radical changes in how we lived our lives. In the past things would have changed slowly, the routine would have been the same year in year out; people’s choices would have been much more limited and therefore the amount and types of variables most people had to consider would be relatively small. Interconnectedness would have been limited to the few people who lived near you, and you could be reasonably certain that the things you did yesterday would mostly be the things you did today. In short, life would have been simpler.

Drowning in Hyper Complexity

At Permaforest Trust we went from the days of mobile phones to the full implementation of the Internet. Most of the people who participated, including me, were relatively young, highly connected, highly mobile, and used to a great variety of events, variables, changes, and stimulation in their lives. We had a comparatively huge range of options in our day-to-day existence and orders of magnitude more resource at our disposal compared to people who lived even a relatively short time before us. Not only did we cope with high levels of uncertainty, we seemed to require it. If none of this had to change when we came to Permaforest Trust, I don’t think we would have been in the zone of hyper complexity–but it definitely did and we definitely were.

In a sense, in trying to create a contemporary community system where we could live more sustainably, we needed a hybrid world. We needed a model that included the community living and social commitments of traditional times, the organisational systems suited to a modern economy, and the freedoms of living in the information age. Experimenting with this hybrid was intended to allow us to share the resources and the workload of a self-reliant community, to build our viability as an organisation and as learners, and to take advantage of the emergent opportunities of a highly interconnected world. What we did not factor in was the level of complexity inherent in making the changes–as an organisation, as a community, and as individuals–to actually inhabiting our experiment.

Anyone who has tried to facilitate deep organisational change will understand some of the challenges we faced. In the beginning we simply could not handle the work, nor did we have the skills, required to manage the situation. In a very real way we were modelling a radical transformation–in a very short period of time–of a small society. We had to create new forms of governance and community living, new norms and values, new ways of doing business, new forms of production and distribution, new systems of education, new kinds of relationships, as well as create and maintain the physical infrastructure like roads, water systems, agricultural systems, dwellings and other aspects of the built environment. And that was the easy part. The much more difficult part was to encourage everyone to maintain their commitment to the shift to a different way of living. After all, as sustainability advocates we were asking most people to make big changes to their lives, so we should, at the very least, prove that we could do the same.

In the beginning the complexity involved in leading this level of change seemed overwhelmingly huge. It was also my transition from a social entrepreneur acting on the world at large to an intrapreneur trying to make change within an organisation. Staff burned out, students were often unhappy, I was exhausted, my relationship with my partner was stressed, and the project was costing more money that it earned. There were many times when I just didn’t feel like I had the strength to carry on and when I nearly gave up on the whole project.

Discovering the Patterns

I think the thing that stopped me from giving up was that there was one strategy that fascinated me, and which consistently got very good traction where nothing else seemed to work. This strategy was to communicate about what was happening from the systems level. It was fairly natural for us because the basis of all our applied environmental work was the study of ecosystems and how they functioned. It was only a small step to start translating the patterns of organisation we saw in natural systems into the principles for designing our own community. The logic for us in this move was that nature’s designs embodied a kind of natural wisdom that had allowed life to persist, adapt and in fact thrive on this planet in adverse, ever-changing, and complex circumstances for hundreds of millions of years.

To this end, I introduced a number of frameworks and models, from the various types of systems theory, complexity theory, and integral theory that I had been studying, into the educational curriculum itself. The more we learned to communicate using the patterns and principles of these frameworks, and the more we learned to connect them to our observations of natural systems, the better things got.

For instance, instead of having increasingly heated discussions about the perceived oppressiveness of the management team–or alternatively, management’s perception that other participants were not pulling their weight–we learned to have conversations about our organisational “structure”. We would talk about the fact that all plants, animals, and ecologies–in fact all systems–have structural patterns that support them–things like boundary, network, and hierarchy patterns. Our centre, as a living system, needed structures of a different kind–community structures like agreements and guidelines–but structures based on the very same principles none-the-less.

Instead of getting stuck in personal attacks and arguments we learned to coordinate our perspectives by discussing things like whether we needed to shift to a more network oriented structure, or, perhaps, to change the nature of the boundary structures that allowed people to join us. That is, everyone’s point of view was translated into a principle based on a natural pattern. We understood that each principle had implications for maintaining the health of our community. From a systems perspective, what became clear is that everyone was partially right and that we did a lot better when we could work out what each person’s contribution was really about at a deeper level. This allowed us to move the conversation from the blame game to working out which principles seemed to be most prominent in enhancing the health of our organisation and how to work with those principles to make adjustments. In this instance, we redesigned the permeability of our “boundary structure” by communicating better with people, before they joined us, about our community agreements.

Or, instead of chronically experiencing tension over the amount charged in course fees, we learned to sense that tension and have a discussion about our patterns of “exchange”. We would reaffirm our overriding purpose for being at the centre and then ask ourselves how our patterns of exchange either supported or did not support that purpose. Then we looked to the exchange patterns in nature as the basis for discussing creative ways of using that principle to make changes. By communicating creatively about the principle of exchange (rather than getting stuck in the complex tangle of details around a particular tension), we came up with a way to introduce exchanges that didn’t necessarily require money. It was a decision that emerged from our collective insight, and it turned out to create a much better outcome for participants and for the centre itself.

Discussing issues using our emerging systems language seemed to cut through the complexity in our social environment. It gave us a way of mapping our diverse points of view to a much simpler set of principles. This in turn allowed us to access our collective intelligence by coordinating these principles in service of our deeper purpose.

Learning to communicate like this wasn’t exactly magic, but at times it did seem a bit that way. There were instances where, because we had collectively learned to identify a pattern, and to communicate about the principle behind it, we learned to elegantly solve problems that used to be far too complex for us to handle. More importantly, we started to make consistent improvements and to transform into the kind of centre that we had always envisaged.

After a while I started to realize that I was thinking and communicating in this new way, either explicitly or implicitly, almost all the time. I would use elements from different systems models and frameworks, along with patterns I identified in nature, to communicate about the principles behind different issues. This was particularly useful for explaining the principles of sustainability. I accumulated a set of these patterns and principles that I seemed to use over and over again. They became prominent features of my sustainability education programs. People would comment on my way of communicating, but I couldn’t really reflect on what I was doing. I just knew that it worked and that it was based on this ability to “see” patterns and to use them as principles that helped to locate the unity across a diversity of perspectives. It took some time to understand the power in this way of communicating and just how the process actually functioned.

At the time it wasn’t clear, either, that we had created a very unique situation. In hindsight it makes sense. At the centre we were all deeply embedded in nature and in working with natural systems. A passion for “eco-literacy’” was something that brought us together in the first place. Also, within our organisation and our community all of us were deeply committed to learning how to live more sustainably. Having this combination of a very complex social environment and a purposeful community literate in applying natural patterns created an extremely unlikely, but fortuitous, crucible. We had what I now see as the three magic ingredients for creating highly leveraged change: deep purpose, systems literacy, and a commitment to collaborative thinking. This unusual situation gave us a rare opportunity to discover a whole new way of accessing the wisdom required for real organisational change.

PatternDynamics™

In 2007, nearly ten years after founding Permaforest Trust, I sat for a day in the lobby of a hotel near Boulder Colorado after a 5 day Integral Ecology and Sustainability Seminar. Here the PatternDynamics™ framework emerged fully formed in a single inspired session of what I can only really describe as a peak state of “high intuition”. As I sketched in my notebook, all the elements of the various systems disciplines I had been using to explain the patterns of nature and the principles behind them just sort of crystalized into a complete framework of symbols before my very eyes.

This kind of insight is less surprising now. I have since discovered that there is evidence for more holistic forms of intelligence to open up when we develop the capacity to experience things from a more systemic orientation.

After that I started to wind down the operations of the education centre. In the end, while we managed to create something quite beautiful and unique, ironically, I didn’t think living that way was the most sustainable option. Without deeper change globally, it could really only be practiced by a relatively limited number of privileged people.

PatternDynamics™, on the other hand, can be practiced by anyone. We only need the ability to communicate and the desire to make a deeper difference. In any event, my perspective had shifted: we don’t really need more models of sustainable living. What we needed are the tools to make the changes to put in place the models we already have.

The effect of my experience at the centre was profound and it brought deeper purpose into what I was doing with my life. I gained a powerful faith in our ability to make real, transformational change and to create the kind of world we wanted. I had experienced this first hand. I knew that helping people learn PatternDynamics™ could make a contribution to wider planetary transformation. So began my third social venture, the process of bootstrapping the development of PatternDynamics™ by using the methods of PatternDynamics™ itself.

A growing number of us know that transformational change is possible. It is necessary, and it needs to take place in every part of society. We have examples of many different types of organisations transforming themselves into better global citizens. We have the emergence of social entrepreneurship ventures that have made a profound difference, sometimes to millions of lives. We also have many examples of social intrapreneurship initiatives that have created innovative programs from within larger organisations. What we don’t yet know is how to facilitate these transformations reliably, at the required scale, at the required rate, and most importantly, in the most generative way.

This is the complexity challenge writ large. At this stage the most strategic opportunity is not to provide more evidence for change or more reasons why we should change. The key going forward is to develop and disseminate the actual tools and methods that will empower people to facilitate these changes.

Not only is this necessary, but it can be rewarding on many levels. I bill more now for a day’s work, helping people learn to lead organisational change, than I used to earn from a week working as a sustainability educator. This is worth mentioning because we can’t make the world a better place unless we are resourced to do it. More than ever, organisations know they must change. Their leaders know that existing methods are not working. This is our opportunity to catalyse transformation throughout the global economy by bringing emergent skills and competencies for change into the organisations that form it.

Key Message: The Power of Language

In researching the basis of how PatternDynamics™ works, I’ve come to understand that its effects are based on the power of language. The power of language is that it enacts our world. Until we have a symbol that represents an aspect of reality, that aspect of reality cannot be communicated, and if it cannot be communicated then it will not, in any useful way, exist within that community, nor will it exist as a feature of its world-view, nor can it be a relevant part of the kind of world that community creates.

PatternDynamics™ is a language that communicates the reality of the patterns of holistic interconnectedness that enact a living systems view of the world. Here is why that matters today:

Since the dawn of settled civilisations humanity has had three archetypal stories about how the world works. Each one describes the world in a way that is essential for helping us understand collectively what we need in order to be nourished and what we are required to believe to obtain it.

The first story is that what we need in order to be nourished is a secure place within a healthy family and community. This is the story of the agricultural expression of human culture. It has been with us since the development of farming, villages and cities. What is required to have flourishing families and communities is a belief in God, or some unifying belief in a supernatural being or beings. The languages of this story are dominated by references to the binding social power of serving something greater than our selves–usually an aspect of the divine. We can call this story the Story of God and Family.

The second story is that what we need in order to be nourished is a secure place within a healthy economy. This is the story of the industrial expression of human culture. It has been with us for only some 400 years, since the beginning of the industrial revolution. What is required to have a flourishing economy is a belief in money and freedom. The languages of this story are dominated by references to money, economic realities, and the freedom required for individuals to engage in the economy as it works best for them. We can call this story the Story of Money and Freedom.

Both of those stories served humanity, and in fact still serve humanity, in meeting the challenges of different cultural and social contexts. However, both of these stories developed because the conditions requiring them arose from that which came before. Similarly, the story of our time is arising because new challenges are emerging out of the industrial period that are moving us into the Planetary era.

This third story is still emerging, but in its essence it goes something like this: What we need to be nourished is a secure place within a healthy Planetary system–a great evolving and ever adapting living system that must include all communities, all economies, and also all the ecologies on which they are dependent. This story has only really been with us for the last 40 years or so. What is required to have a flourishing Planetary system is a belief in the deep purpose of facilitating generative systemic change. The languages of this story will need to find ways to reference the relationship between deep purpose and the ability to create healthy systems level change. This is the living systems story. We can call this third story the Story of Purpose and Change.

This is the power of language. It forms the nature of our stories, and it is the nature of our stories that changes the nature of our world.

PatternDynamics™ matters because it is one of the languages that are now emerging to tell the living systems story of Purpose and Change required for making the transition to a Planetary world.

Using the Power

The central generative mechanism of PatternDynamics™, as a living systems language, is that it helps coordinate perspectives. And coordinating perspective is the basis for making wiser decisions.

There are three main aspects to this mechanism:

  1. Natural Wisdom: The systems literacy required for understanding the design patterns of nature and for translating them into the principles of generative human organisation.
  1. Collective Intelligence: The ability to coordinate multiple perspectives by translating their seemingly complex and contradictory details into the simpler principles that illuminate deeper complementarity.
  1. Deep Purpose: Locating the Source of what unifies our deeper complementarity into the wiser course of action required for generative change.

The fact that PatternDynamics™ forms a systems thinking framework that helps us access the wisdom of natural designs is useful, but this may not be its most important element. In reality many different systems of this type could help you learn a similar set of principles.

A more important aspect of PatternDynamics™ is that it provides a reliable and effective method for helping coordinate perspectives. No matter how complex the array of points of view that are brought to bear on an issue, communicating the principles they represent reveals their potential contribution to a far deeper order and coherence. This kind of coordination is necessary for realising the power of collective intelligence. It is the ability of collective intelligence to facilitate wiser decisions that provides the most highly leveraged strategy for working successful with complexity itself.

Let me explain: what I couldn’t reflect on when I developed this way of communicating is that the alchemy in this approach is that it transmutes complexity from a challenge into and opportunity. There is a hidden order in complexity and seeing it brings highly leveraged opportunities for change. This is what systems theorists sometimes refer to as non-linear dynamics, where a small change can have wide ranging systemic effects–the so-called butterfly effect. Whether this effect is operating on a large-scale or small, the leverage it provides is the secret to systemic change.

But no single one of us can sense enough of any complex system to reliably take advantage of this effect. It is like the parable of the blind men trying to identify an elephant. They can each feel a part of this complex and beautiful animal, like its leg, or an ear, or the tail, but then they go on to argue about whose partial perspective is the correct perspective. If they only had the wisdom to coordinate their perspectives then they would actually be able to “see” the whole elephant. This is the way to start working with the elephant as a living being. That is what we learned to do at Permaforest Trust–we learned to ride the elephant. I believe it is what we are learning to help people in other organisations do when we introduce them to PatternDynamics™.

It is Deep Purpose, the last of the three elements, however, that I think is the most significant. “Seeing” the elephant is only the first step: identifying the complementarity of different perspectives is necessary for understanding the whole system, but not sufficient for unified action. That only happens when that complementarity is focused by being directed at a deeper common goal. Unity comes only through aiming at a strong central purpose: something that truly inspires us about where we are heading and what we are committed to doing. Only then do we move from the act of coordinating perspectives to the outcome of unified, and therefore wiser, decisions.

Being united in a deeper common purpose, then, is the final requirement for effective change. It is this kind of purpose that provides the essential unifying and more enduring source of perspective coordinating power. In PatternDynamics™ we simply call this power “Source”. It is the original, central, and foundational Pattern of PatternDynamics™ itself, and working to spread the generativity inherent in it forms our own overriding deep purpose.

Within the discipline of PatternDynamics™ we maintain that the key to generative organizations is to communicate in a way that maintains and evolves a clear awareness of Source. The strength of this awareness not only determines access to collective intelligence, it determines the level of consciousness of the organisation itself, and therefore the capacity to continuously make wiser decisions for effecting positive, ongoing, and enduring change.

The question, then, is why is this so? Why do we think this is “generative”? And, what is it about sharing a deeper common purpose that unifies organisations so strongly? I think this is because the source of the universe itself is based on a foundational generativity: a propensity to generate more and more complex and wonderful systems in the ongoing evolution of life. This is undeniably what the universe does and therefore, from a human perspective, we can interpret this as a universal purpose. If this were not true, then we would not be here. Being, quite literally, children of the universe, it is only natural that we have evolved to seek alignment with this basic generative life force. If we don’t it is literally an existential matter. Our survival and success are deeply dependent on being able to sense, individually and socially, when that generativity is weak and when things need to change to enhance it.

Joining the Movement

In order for any organisation to function well enough to survive it will have to have a purpose. It might be to maximise returns to shareholders, and it might do this by making widgets or providing a service, or even by make the best widgets or providing the best service in the world, but this is not what we mean by the deep purpose associated with Source.

Deep purpose is about an organisation’s commitment, first and foremost, whatever else it does, to finding its unique expression for serving the health and evolution–the generativity–of the life process itself.

It is unrealistic to think that every organisation is going to adopt this sort of purpose overnight, but it is possible to introduce this idea and for it to be transformational over time. I will argue that going forward the complexity challenge will continue to get bigger and that the requirement for generative change will become more important. A closer alignment with Source to access the power of deep purpose for that level of change will be a necessary requirement for survival.

Learning to make wiser decisions is now a competitive advantage.

It is also the key to thriving in a complex world. I think groups that do not align themselves purposefully to support life will fade away. If at this time the dominance of greed and self-interest in organisational and social life seem insurmountable then it is worth reflecting on the historic decline in relative power of organisations predicated on slavery, or societies that denied women the right to vote, or, in our own time to powerful interests that try to keep public information secret.

The spread of more democratic and more relevant forms of language have historically been unstoppable drivers of social change: from the escape of written language from ancient priestly castes, to the invention of the printing press, and now to computer codes that help release supressed information into the public domain.

There is nothing inevitable about a Planetary emergence. We must work to ensure it comes to pass, but it is the kind of work many of us are yearning for. Deep down we all want to make the changes that will allow our work and our world to align with Source. This is what gives our life true meaning.

This is the story of PatternDynamics: how learning to use the language of a living systems world-view can connect us in more meaningful ways and how that connection empowers us to create the world we truly want.

PatternDynamics™ supports the three critical pillars required for creating a planetary movement–an emergent movement of diverse change makers participating in transformation in unique and powerful ways. Firstly it is part of a bigger story, secondly it can allow you to have faith, and thirdly it has tools and practices–the tool of language and the practice of generative communication.

If you resonate with this story and deep inside you have faith in our capacity for collaborative change, then please take up the opportunity in this workbook to join us and start learning PatternDynamics™ as a living systems language that will change your world.

Click here for free resources to get started with learning PatternDynamics™.

[1] Kegan, R. (1994). In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Habermas, J. (1975). Legitimation crisis (T. McCarthy, Trans.). Boston: Beacon Press.

The complexity crisis: levels and tasks. https://lectica.org/_about/showcase.php?instrument_id=LDMA

Garvey Berger, J. (2012) Changing on the job: developing leaders for a complex world. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

PatternDynamics Melbourne Workshop Introductory Keynote with Audio

 

This is a video of the Keynote presentation I gave as the introduction to the first PD One Day Workshop given recently in Melbourne (01/09/12). The Workshop itself went wonderfully well and we had a fantastic group of participants. Thanks you all for making it such an excellent day.

Audio file on the foundations of PatternDynamics

Click to listen to audio file:  Foundations of PatternDynamics

This talk was recorded as part of the Certificate 4 and Diploma programs in Accredited Permaculture Training I taught at Permaforest Trust. This was recorded at the beginning of the second semester in 2006, probably in late July or August. It is interesting to go back and listen to how I was thinking about PD at the time now that it has developed into something more tangible 6 years later.

Tim Winton: Road Trip Nation Interview

Click here to view the videos of the interview.

A video interview with some background info on what motivated me to found Permaforest Trust and embark on a 10 year sustainable living experiment that ultimately culminated in the development of PatternDynamics (www.patterndynamics.com.au) as a tool for facilitating the transition to a planetary society.

Ken, II, MI and the State of My Integral Enterprise

Below are the first few paragraphs (and before that, the editor’s note) on a piece I wrote for Beams and Struts (www.beamsandstruts.com) regarding the launch of MetaIntegral (www.metaintegral.org) as a nascent institution within the Integral world. In this article I try and make sense of the lack of ‘integral level’ functionality within the actual larger Integral scene itself, why the ‘big containers’ in Integral to date are not currently configured to support a more mature enactment of the Integral ‘we’, and why I think the emergence and design of the MetaIntegral initiative is important in this regard. In this context, I use PatternDynamics (www.patterndynamics.com.au) as a tool to explore some of the important ‘meta-patterns’ at work in the Integral space and through this provide an example of how PatternDynamics may be used as a way of understanding, communicating and designing better power and politics outcomes within a community of practice.

Tim (ThePatternGuy) Winton

“[Editor’s Introduction Chris]: This week we are publishing two pieces on MetaIntegral, a new organization launching their online presence later this week. Part of our mission here at Beams is to be a platform for new projects and new voices to be heard. Also we seek to further the discourse of integral theory and practice, fostering dialogue, and including as many perspectives as possible. We believe that these pieces fit within that overall mission. At the same time, I hope it’s clear that the views are those of the authors. We encourage folks to leave their comments below. This piece by Tim Winton explores the topic of whether there should even be ‘big container’ organizations within integral, and if so how to create them in an appopriate way–looking to ecosystems as a learning model. The second piece (on the Integral Planet Endowment) by Jordan Luftig and Sean Hargens is here. Also checkout the followupblog piece by Carissa Wieler on grief and love within the integral world.

“Techniques employ four qualities that reflect the nature of our world. Depending on the circumstances, you should be: hard like a diamond, flexible as a willow, smooth-flowing like water or empty as space.”

                                                                                                  –Morihei Ushiba (1972, p. 71)

In writing this piece I’m feeling a little like the guy who asks what might be a really dumb question in an auditorium full of really smart people. Intuitively, deep in my gut, I feel like I need to start a conversation, but I’m not really confident about how it’s going to go. I can’t stop myself from putting my hand up, and, now that I’m speaking into the mic, I’m getting those cold sweats down my spine and my stomach is in a knot.

I’m not sure I’m necessarily the most qualified person to start this, and I’m not even sure it’s going to be as important to you as it is to me, but, if it is, then it’ll be worth the risk. And, I’m prepared to be flat out wrong about how to go about this. Starting this conversation is not just about the ‘Integral community’–to a large degree it’s also about my own journey in Integral and my need, at this particular time, to try and make sense of what is going on and what I’m doing within the Integral space.

The question at the heart of this conversation, for me–and this is what I’ve been struggling with for a while now–is exactly how do we find meaning in what has gone down with the ‘Integral Enterprise’ to date. What happened to all the promise, the confidence, the potential for the more evolved organisation of the larger movement itself? How did we get to this underwhelming state of affairs when we were meant to be so fricken onto it–when our whole raison d’etre is that we think we have a better way of doing this sort of thing?”

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Comment on Michael Zimmerman’s Integral Life piece on Consciousness

See http://integrallife.com/integral-post/yes-virginia-consciousness-does-go-all-way-down for Michael’s post and my full comment. First paragraph of my reply copied below.

“Hi Michael,

This is a great piece and I found your treatment of recent developments in the study of consciousness really useful–especially the references to Christof Kotch, his work, and his recent turn to panpsychism.

This last item, Kotch’s move to a panpsychic view, I find especially interesting. I’ve been pondering the ‘consciousness all the way down’ view in Integral and its relationship to the implied panpsychic basis on which it rests. If as Wilber says ‘the meaning of a statement is the mode of its enactment’ then I’m not convinced any reference to, or reliance on, a panpsychic view can support a fully integral worldview. My concern, and it may be mostly a semantic one (but no less important for this) is that any reference to ‘psych’ or ‘mind’ or perhaps even ‘consciousness’ will always signify a kind of homuncular stance to modernists and postmodernists–that is, that we are sneaking in a metaphysical ‘spirit’ or all knowing mind that introduces a form of causality not reified through material existence. The mode of the meaning of ‘panpsychism’, in its essence, then will always be uncomfortable for modern (reductionists)/postmodern (subtle reductionists) types and therefore not meaningful enough to constitute the enactment of a practically effective Integral worldview–one that can get real and widespread traction in the formation of a planetary civilisation. The word ‘spirit’ has a similar and much stronger effect, and basing a view of spirit on even a ‘sophisticated’ panpsychism just seems to compound the problem. Shifting to Whiteheads concept of panexperientialism as a form of ‘weak’ panpsychism might help or even protopanexperientialism, but even these terms don’t seem to be quite right as signifiers of what we are trying to articulate as integralists to the modern and post modern levels.”

(See full comment and original post by Michael Zimmerman by clicking the link above.)

Conscious Leadership for Sustainability Presentation with Tim Winton from PatternDynamics

This is a recording of a Webinar I presented to the participants of the Conscious Leadership for Sustainability Program created by Barrett C. Brown head of the MetaIntegral Sustainability Centre.

The sound quality is not the best, but the presentation gives a good overview of PatternDynamics as an Integral Sustainability tool.

An Integral Permaculture

Note to the reader: I originally wrote this in 2009 at the request of the editors of a proposed book called Permaculture Pioneers. It was slated for inclusion, but I withdrew it after the publishing process dragged on. The book was eventually published without this chapter. You can find the book here.

Tim Winton

An Integral Permaculture

I’ve practiced and taught permaculture, at times intensively, for most of the last fifteen years. In that time my perspective on permaculture has changed and evolved, as has permaculture itself. If at times in this article I am critical of elements of permaculture, it is not to be negative or to lessen the importance of the discipline, but to examine the points of pain and disappointment that that have lead me to new understandings and new directions. The same should be true for the movement itself, and I’m writing here with this in mind.

Permaculture was my portal into the world of sustainability and environmentalism. Before I encountered permaculture and the realization that the planet (and humanity with it) was heading for trouble, I lived with a kind of optimism, a sense of acceptance and a general, if ignorant, ease about the world. Permaculture changed all that. I can remember the first time I heard the word, oblivious to the fact that this one little utterance would radically change my view of the world and define my existence for at least the next twenty years. I was tree planting with a crew of mostly fringe dwellers, alternative folks and other students in remote, mountain wilderness in Western Canada. Simon, a soft spoken fellow with long hair and an eagle feather held in place with a thin leather headband, introduced me to the fateful word. We sat on a log eating lunch out of dusty rucksacks. I told him about my impending trip to see my father in Australia. He told me I should look into a Tasmanian called Bill Mollison who taught a way of sustainable living called ‘permaculture’.  He explained the Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) network- living by volunteering on other people’s organic farms for food and board, and his encounters with permaculture in the Pacific North-West. At that point I don’t think I really understood what permaculture was, but it settled in the back of my mind as an environmental curiosity, a talisman as exotic as the fellow who introduced me to it.

I realize now with reflection, that the story of my experience in permaculture is essentially my journey through that environmental portal to a world of somewhat painful awakening and increasing sensitivity to the environmental and social disaster humanity was perpetrating. After that, I undertook a long, determined and often difficult attempt to make permaculture work as a method of sustainable living. Finally, there was a gradual spiralling back around to a renewed acceptance and appreciation for the society I was born to, our time in history and the wide world with all its foibles and wonders, ugliness and beauty, sustainability and unsustainability.

From Sensitivity to Integration

I’m telling the story here, because I think this renewed acceptance of the world has led to a much more effective approach to sustainability and a renewed appreciation and passion for permaculture. I think of it as the shift from sensitivity to integration: from the heartfelt despair, anxiety and sometimes anger inherent in environmental awareness to a more full appreciation and confidence in the holistic intelligence at work in our evolving universe and the ways we can work through this towards real and sustainable futures. The rest of this article is spent on an exploration of this shift and the nature of what I term an Integral approach. This approach is largely based on the work of American philosopher Ken Wilber.

Making the shift allowed me to see that much of my past activity was driven by anxiety and despair, an unrealistic approach to changing the world, and a kind of guilt born of participating in what I thought of as a destructive society. My growing sensitivity generated a lot of turmoil and energy. It was like a rising storm, and I realise now that I was exposed with little shelter and few beacons to safety. Despite the trials and the dangers, it was an essential process. I think it’s a process many others are going through or will go through: an increasingly common cultural pattern as the sustainability challenges mount. It is worth bringing awareness to this process and to making it safer and easier for others to negotiate. From where I stand now, this aspect of people care is every bit as essential as growing food, designing properties and re-localising economies.

Tagari Farm

When I arrived in north Queensland Australia, I found a copy of the Permaculture Designers Manual by this fellow Bill Mollison on my father’s bookshelf. It was fascinating. I was interested in design as I’d studied architecture after my undergraduate degree in literature, but the conventional design disciplines paled in comparison to sustainable design using wind and water, earth, plants and animals. I found a weekend introductory course and shortly after that I drove down the east coast of Australia to Tyalgum in northern New South Wales for my foundation ten-day Permaculture Design Certificate course at the Permaculture Institute with Bill Mollison himself.

At Tagari Farm Bill indoctrinated some 50 of us into permaculture through a ten day process of story, vision, knowledge and ecological understanding, passion, humour and genius that I’ve never encountered since. Not only that, but the amazing people I met on the PDC inspired me and made me feel like I’d found my community and my life’s work. I was hooked. The day on patterns in particular gripped me in a way that I couldn’t quite describe. I was going to be a permaculturist. A few months later I arrived back at the Permaculture Institute determined to take up a licence to do a sustainable forestry project as a participant in what was loosely described as the Tagari share farm.

Tagari Farm was an interesting and exciting place. Bill would draw amazing folks from all over the world. Waves of permaculture design course participants would wash in and out, and over time a small group of people assembled to take up licences on the share farm. I say assembled, because beyond an explanation of the share farm concept in the course or the occasional loose invitation, there was very little supporting structure for actually joining the share farm or getting a licence. One simply had to make one’s way as best one could.  Despite the obstacles and lack of support, the group that was to form our period of experimentation at the Permaculture Institute’s Tagari Farm, took shape.  Up to a dozen of us were developing projects in market gardening, tropical fruits, fowls, rabbits, aquaculture, earth works, permaculture training, design, forestry, tree crops, bamboo, tours, education and publishing.

The Tyranny of Structurelessness

In retrospect, this experiment couldn’t have ended in anything but failure. Although most of us lived nearby, off the farm, the social dimension to our lives there was intense and our project coordination dysfunctional. There was an implied understanding that all we needed to make permaculture work was our shared ethics, principles, practices and a rugged commitment to earth care. This belief was held up as an almost magical elixir for organizational development. This strategy proved woefully inadequate and things degenerated badly over time. Attempts by some of us to organize ourselves and to create some structures and processes were not supported. We suffered from the ‘tyranny of structurelessness’: a rejection of all structure in social affairs because the existing structures in our society were seen to be controlling and destructive.

I can remember one quite funny, but at the time quite terrifying, episode where a few of us gathered around Bill’s kitchen table to put forward a proposal from some of the share farm licensees. A dark look crept over his face as he read it, and with the full force of his personality (which for anyone who has felt it, will, I think, be counted as one of their more memorable experiences), proceeded to challenge our initiative as an attempt to take over the functions of the Permaculture Institute. Function, or a lack of it, was exactly why we were there, but there was obviously no arguing the point, so we retracted the submission, opened a bottle of port and listen to Bill tell us stories until late into the night.

I have observed similar struggles with structurelessness in many environmental projects and sustainability experiments over the ensuing years. Inevitably the lack of effective organization leads to breakdown in the group and ends in chronic dysfunction or complete failure. I liken this to trying to operate your body without any bones. The end of our few years at the Permaculture Institute was punctuated by the tragic suicide of one of our number. Almost all of us left shortly after that devastating event. Previous and subsequent groups suffered more of less the same fate. What was Tagari Farm now stands overgrown, empty and abandoned to this day. In my view, all the good effort and resources put into earth care were largely undone by a failure of people care. A project meant to be a leading example of permaculture practice suffered the ignominy and irony of being unsustainable by virtue of not developing its own stated second ethic.

 

 

The Burn-Out Mill

Thus began my process of facing up to the unhelpful myths and dogmas of permaculture. Rather than rejecting permaculture outright or, alternatively, hiding these truths, I wanted to explore what it would take to get permaculture theory to translate into effective practice at the community level. Could it be used to demonstrate a sustainable way of living? Was it possible for the theory to translate into reality? Could the claims, especially the more grandiose claims made by some in permaculture, be supported? Could we live up to these expectations? Could it be used to transform our society in practical and enduring ways? Were we fooling ourselves?

I think it is fair to say that our critics have keyed in on this lack of effective practical demonstration: initial enthusiasm and over-exposure all too often giving way to unsustainable outcomes. Despite the large number of permaculture adherents, in the wealthy Western countries at least, where permaculture is the designated sustainability strategy, successful practical demonstrations beyond the level of the family property are relatively rare. The ones that do persist are often short lived, sometimes only cosmetic variations on mainstream living, or obviously unsustainable. Many entering permaculture are underwhelmed when they go looking for the examples to meet their expectations. Then there is the grim battle in chronic dysfunction to make permaculture projects work though unsustainable means. This is another unfortunate pattern in environmental and sustainability work in general and permacultue in particular. I call it the ‘burn out mill’. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are famous for it: individuals burning out to prop up something that just isn’t sustainable in-and-of-itself.  Or, using wave after wave of people recently indoctrinated, motivated more often by despair than by hope, to work in permaculture projects where their energy is consumed and their expectations go unmet. These people then either return to conventional life or, ignoring a dissonance between theory and practice, perpetuate the myths in their own permaculture work.

I’m pointing out these negative aspects of permaculture, not because I think all permaculturists practice them, or that initially they can entirely be avoided, but because they are elements of our discipline that lack integrity. We should acknowledge them and reform them if we are to make a more effective contribution to sustainable transition. The end cannot justify the means. We cannot, on an ongoing basis, demonstrate sustainability in unsustainable ways, interpret this as success and expect to be taken seriously. Here, I do need to pay tribute to those practitioners who do have the enduring functional examples and to acknowledge all their hard work and commitment to getting it right.

Permaforest

In spite of my experiences at Tagari Farm, or perhaps because of them, I embarked on a permaculture project to integrate earth care more fully with people care and to try and resolve some of the other challenges I had encountered in my early attempts at practicing permaculture. In an initial partnership with another Tagari participant, Gary Cowan, we located a suitable property. The sustainable forestry enterprise started at Tagari Farm became a successful little tree planting and reforestation contracting company. In short order I re-formed it into Permaforest Trading Trust which funded its slightly younger twin, a charitable sustainability education organization called Permaforest Trust. This dual trust structure, a trading trust and a charitable trust, is straight out of Chapter 14 of the Designers Manual.  Bill Mollison gave me a copy of the Permaculture Institute’s trust deed to use as the basis for Permaforest Trust’s deed. I am the Trustee of both trusts and manage them by their deeds, which mandate trading and sustainability education respectively. My tree planting contracting business grew and funded the Permaforest Trust. It became the owner of the 170 acres of undeveloped farm land and forest we had located. The land was at Barkers Vale in NSW, half an hour west of Wollumbin (Mt Warning), on the lush and rugged sub tropical volcanic back slopes of the old shield volcano’s caldera.

In 1998 Permaforest Trust began to use the funds gifted to it by Permaforest Trading Trust to establish a permaculture education centre and demonstration farm on the land. This centre was referred to as Permaforest Trust. The idea was to create an educational community- a residential centre where people could live together temporarily and learn permaculture through modelling sustainable rural living. At first the number of participants was quite small but as we built the accommodation and common areas and planted gardens and trees, the numbers grew. Eventually we built up to an average population of about 20 students, managers and visitors living and working at the centre. After much hard work and persistence, based in large part on an Integral perspective, we managed to create a stable and functional centre where we demonstrated a reasonable attempt at permaculture community living. Our resource use was much lower than most Australians, our permaculture practices were moderately productive and were having a beneficial effect on the land. In the end, I think, it was actually much better than that, and we did manage to achieve something quite special and unique in the way we practiced permaculture, particularly with regard to people care and the community dimension.

There were two reasons why we ended the experiment at this point. Firstly, after a period it was very difficult to improve sustainability indicators. We were remaining dependent on the goods and services of a consumptive and energy-rich economy. Secondly, the energy and resources required to facilitate the human dimensions of the project made it unsustainable for those of us managing it. My experience is that this is something of a pattern, and as such I couldn’t see that it was a recommendable strategy to scale up. In its own way it was another unsustainable attempt at modelling sustainability. This is not necessarily a bad thing if recognized, and it may be that this paradox holds an important clue for developing more effective perspectives on sustainability into the future. That is, it may be more effective to look at sustainability as a process rather than a destination: an ever-receding goal at the edge of endeavour.

The period of experimentation with the educational community at Permaforest Farm lasted roughly a decade – from 1997 to 2007. Initially it was my home and that of a few other committed participants, but as the numbers grew and the centre took shape, so did the challenges. Earth care, in all its various manifestations – gardening, other elements of permaculture design, organic agriculture, sustainable forestry and bush regeneration primarily, while not without problems, was not our main challenge.  The recurring limitations to learning and living permaculture were the people. While I tried to put a special emphasis on people care strategies based on my experience at Tagari farm, I still managed to seriously underestimate the magnitude of this challenge. It wasn’t until I developed a more Integral approach using strategies for the ‘inner landscapes’ of self and culture to the same degree that my permaculture training had taught me to focus on strategies and techniques for the ‘outer landscape’ of nature, that we really started to make progress.

An Integral Approach

If I had not come across the Integral framework created by Ken Wilber, it is unlikely that the Permaforest project would have reached such a satisfying conclusion. Wilber’s work helped me understand a whole range of challenges in my permaculture work from a new perspective and to solve them in novel and effective ways. Before we can move on to the practical examples of how an Integral orientation helped us meet the challenges at Permaforest Trust, we’ll have to spend some time on a thumbnail sketch of some relevant aspects of Integral Theory. I realize that a brief treatment of some seemingly academic aspects of integral theory may initially seem overly technical and unnecessarily abstract, but I would ask the reader to persevere. Alternatively, you may skip to the summary at the end of this section, or read it knowing that initially a comprehensive understanding is not necessary. I’m including it here because I think some readers will want a basic understanding in assessing its usefulness. While the theory may appear quite abstract initially, it becomes much more concrete as it is unpacked and related to practical situations. I’m outlining the framework here as a very effective practical tool. The interested reader may wish to consult some of Wilber’s works cited in the reference section.

David Holmgren, co-founder of the permaculture concept, mentions in his writings that permaculture is part of the postmodern cultural emergence. With its foundation in the new, more holistic systems sciences, including ecology and systems ecology, its counter culture adherents, radical self-reliance, questioning of industrial institutions and processes – especially green revolution agriculture- as well as its sensitive ethics, permaculture can be counted as one of the most influential grass roots initiatives of this period. The modern industrial era started to emerge some 400 years before the postmodern, the traditional agricultural period had its beginnings up to 10 000 years before that, while the original period of human history had its beginnings some hundreds of thousands of years before that, indicating that the pace of cultural development is speeding up over time.

Only 40 years into the postmodern period, it is thought by some that the post-postmodern, or ‘integral’ era is now emerging. Among many other things, postmodern culture can be credited with sensitising us to the diversity of natural elements, their interconnectedness and our own dependence on these life systems, but like the material gains of the economic industrialism of the modern period before it, this ecological and social sensitivity is limited in its capacity for sustaining the human project. At this time in history, personal, cultural, ecological and social dynamics are accelerating and new challenges requiring new ways of looking at the world are already upon us.

The Pattern That Connects

Integral Theory, because it is a philosophy that can include a place for everything, and because it is comprehensive enough to entirely reject nothing,  is often referred to as ‘the pattern that connects’, giving it a strong association to permaculture through its own relationship with pattern understanding.  A postmodern view sensitises us to the interconnected diversity of elements in the natural world, but it is an integral orientation that is critical for identifying the patterns that shape these parts into coherent designs, again demonstrating a resonance with permaculture as a design discipline. Permaculture aspires to a more Integral approach through the recognition that sustainability practice must contain ethics as well as design techniques. That is, it must work with values which reside in the inner landscapes of human experience as well as the material outer landscapes of natural ecologies and human economies. Despite these similarities, permaculture has not yet emerged as a fully Integral discipline. I think the aspects of Integral Theory outlined below can contribute to a more fully integral permaculture and that this is an interesting, and in my case, very helpful direction to head with the practice of sustainability.

Holons

One important aspect of Integral Theory is the widely held systemic or ‘design thinking’ understanding that everything is both a part and a whole at the same time, or a ‘holon’. Whole atoms are parts of whole molecules, which are parts of whole cells, which are in turn parts of whole organs, which are parts of whole organisms in the ongoing structuring of more complex forms. This view of nature as a kind of nested hierarchy or ‘holarcy’ is now common in the ecological and systems sciences, contributing an essential understanding to general eco-literacy.

Here, Integral Theory adds the view that just as partness and wholeness are limited perspectives on one integrated part/whole, so too is its status as either a material object or an aware subject. In fact, any holon is an integrated occurrence with four main aspects or perspectives: partness (individual), wholeness (collective), objectiveness (exterior) and subjectiveness (interior). (See Figure 1).

Different cultures hold views that reality is either inner experience or outer objects, fundamentally material or ultimately spiritual; basically just matter or essentially mind. The integral view is that it is both, and that combined with the view that things are also parts and wholes these four aspects are just different perspectives on one thing. These four aspects are often referred to as the four quadrants of a holon. Add to the concept of the four-quadrant holon the idea that more complex forms evolve in a dynamic fashion through the integration of less complex forms and we have the bones of an integral view: parts and wholes; insides and outsides; developmental evolution.

I-Space

If we look at the intersection of the interior perspective (subjective inner aspect) and the individual perspective (part aspect) of a person we could call this the ‘self’- one’s own subjective experience or awareness, and all of the related thoughts, emotions and sensations that manifest there. In permaculture there is a nascent recognition of this perspective as Zone 00.

We-Space

If we look at the interior perspective (subjective inner aspect) of the collective perspective (whole or community aspect) we get ‘culture’- a group’s shared interiorities like ethics and values. In permaculture this perspective is honoured through the ethics of ‘earth care’, ‘people care’ and ‘fair share’.

Eco-Space

Where we look at the exterior perspective (objective outer aspect) of the individual perspective (part aspect) we get a view of the characteristics and behaviours of that individual element of nature; where we look at the exterior perspective (objective outer aspect) of the collective perspective (whole or community aspect) we get a natural systems perspective represented by both ecologies and economies. In permaculture this perspective is honoured through the principles and practices of sustainable design in agriculture and the built environment.

For the purposes of this discussion we can place both quadrants in the right hand half under the name ‘nature’ (see Figure 1). Self, culture and nature are called the ‘Big Three’ in Integral Theory. In my permaculture work I often refer to them as ‘I-space’, ‘we-space’ and ‘eco-space’. These are the three major domains of human experience and therefore it is essential to include each of these perspectives in any initiative. Just this one seemingly simple realization provided essential and powerful strategies for some of the most serious challenges we faced at Permaforest Trust, as we will see.

Figure 1. The four quadrants of a holon. After Wilber

Body, Mind and Spirit

The evolutionary aspect of Integral Theory translates into the view that everything develops in stages, and that each new stage both transcends (goes beyond) and includes (is actually built from) the elements of the level before. Permaculture tells us that careful observation of any natural process will reveal a pulsing dynamic of identifiable stages of development, whether in the growth of a plant, the implementation of a design or the succession of an ecological system. For instance, we can identify the ecological succession of a forest ecology from pioneer stage, to early secondary, late secondary and finally to the mature stage. What is important here is that it is impossible to exclude or reject anything from the previous levels of development without destroying the whole. The whole is made up of all previous stages. Pioneer species are embodied in the soil fertility of the later stages. It would be impossible to skip this stage or to remove it from the process. The trick is to understand how pioneering processes work and when and how to use them. In permaculture for instance, we use the principle of accelerating succession through the pioneer stage or alternatively maintaining a system in its productive pioneering phase. The idea is to work with pioneer dynamics and to make the pioneer stage as functional as possible in service of the whole process. This understanding of stages is a core eco-literacy in permaculture, but in Integral work the principle is used more widely; this evolutionary dynamic is translated from eco-space into we-space and I-space.

If we take the evolutionary unfolding from a big picture perspective, it can look something like this: where conditions in the realm of matter (the physiosphere) are favourable, life can arise; where conditions are favourable in the realm of life (the biosphere) mind can arise; where conditions are favourable in the domain of mind (the noosphere) then spirit can arise (the theosphere). In short, the process of evolution goes from matter to body to mind to spirit. If this is true, then we have a way to integrate the material worldview of the modern west with the more spiritual world views held historically in the east. Mind and matter are not opposites, but two aspects of one evolutionary continuum.

If we step away from the big picture and look at an individual human being, we can look at the evidence that people go through a process of growth and development. Stages of personal development have been identified by a number of researchers including Abraham Maslow, Robert Kegan, Jean Piaget, Susan Cook-Greuter and Jane Loevinger to name just a few. They may be looking at different aspects of development and have different names for their stages, but the one commonality is that they have all identified a process of growth much like the general one outlined above, where each new stage transcends but also includes the previous stages. The simplest set of personal development stages is from body (emotion centred awareness) to mind (mental/rational centred awareness) to spirit (more compassionate transpersonal awareness). Understanding this progress in human development helps us understand the importance of integrating the wisdom of the body with the intellect of the mind in order to gain a wider, transpersonal level of awareness that can support a more integrated, dynamic view of reality.

Altitude

Similarly, theorists such as Jean Gebser, Clare Graves and Don Beck have identified stages of development in culture. At this point I’m going to simplify and generalize this work for the permaculture context based on my own experience. For practical purposes we will discuss four cultural stages. I’ll name them using the colour scheme from the Integral framework referred to as stages or levels of ‘altitude’. Altitude is a general marker of development that may be used for correlative levels in culture (collective) and the self (individual). See Figure 2 for a diagram of correlates in each quadrant. Each cultural level or altitude is characterized by a core set of values and by an increasing capacity for inclusion. Values are simply what the people at this stage of development collectively hold to be most important; inclusion is the capacity to include others in one’s sphere of care. Each level of altitude also leads to definitive worldviews that shape how its members see the world. Most people can intuitively sense levels of cultural development if they are presented using some commonly recognizable traits, which is how I’ll introduce them here. Altitude, as mentioned above, also functions as short hand for levels of individual development. I will attempt to introduce cultural and personal levels of altitude concurrently below.

Amber

Amber cultural groups value belonging through order. They are often absolutist and patriarchal, with strong hierarchical social structures.  Individuals expressing amber altitude will have strong community and family values and mythic religious beliefs. This value set is often expressed politically through groups promoting family values and traditional morals. Older children who have mastered and enforce household or community structures are expressing an amber orientation. Amber cultures transcend earlier cultures and can be seen as an evolutionary step that allowed for their aggregation in the development of complex civilizations in the agricultural period. The sphere of care is wider than anything that came before, but still limited to a nation, club, team or other identifiable group thought of as ‘my people’.  I’ll use the term ‘traditional’ when referring to communities and individuals oriented around this level or stage. The members of this level of altitude amount to about 25 percent of the Western world. Amber worldviews started to emerged as long as 10 000 years ago.

Orange

At the Orange level of altitude people value individual rights, achievement and performance. Economic material gain is often identified as the way to generate the greatest good. Rational, scientific understandings of the world are most highly regarded. Orange typically emerges for the individual around late high school or early adulthood. Orange cultures transcend Amber cultures in that their wider ethics of productive economy create a market that can include more people within their system of organization. Orange is seen as the worldview of the enlightenment and the subsequent period of rapid industrialization. I use the term ‘modern’ when referring to this level of altitude. The members of this level of altitude amount to approximately 40 percent of the Western world. Orange perspectives started to emerge en mass about 400 years ago.

Green

Green values sensitivity and diversity. It can include multiple perspectives on reality. People in Green are often sensitive to social injustice, animal rights and ecological destruction. Their sensitivity makes them good communicators and their values are often expressed in postmodern academic concepts such as the deconstruction of power, relativism and contextual approaches to knowledge and understanding. Green’s sphere of care is wider than Orange’s in that it can care for all people regardless of whether they are customers or trading partners. It is fully world-centric in orientation and will manifest as lifestyle choices like vegetarianism as a response to the imperative to care for animals. Green sensitivities inform postmodern perspectives from environmentalism and deep ecology, fair trade and anti-globalization activism, to collaborative online communities and the design of advanced communications architectures like the world wide web. Green altitude fosters the worldview that I refer to as ‘postmodern’. The members of this level of altitude currently represent about 20-25 percent of the population of the Western world. Green, postmodern perspectives emerged as a general world view only some 40 years ago

Teal

While all the altitudes so far represent a developmental advance (and of course inclusion) on the level before them, at the Integral level of altitude there is a major change in the nature of development. The altitudes from before traditional to postmodern are all exclusive worldviews. That is, if you ask, say, a modern executive of an export wood chipping company at Orange attitude if they think that a post modern Green initiative to save the forest is responsible, they will say no it is not. Alternatively Green activists will not condone wood chipping as responsible. A traditional farmer or original inhabitant will have their own different interpretation of the common good in this instance. In fact none of the first tier altitudes related here will accept the values of the others as fundamentally legitimate.

At the integralTeal level of altitude the entire holarchy of nested development – from before traditional to traditional (which transcends but includes worldviews before it) to modern (which transcends but includes the previous two) to postmodern (which transcends but includes the previous three) – is seen as an integrated whole. From an integral perspective, you can’t remove modern values of productivity and exchange from society any more than you could remove your lungs or your kidneys from your body. At an integral altitude, all worldviews are accepted as valid. The way forward is not to pick one at the exclusion of the others, but to integrate and balance the different ways of seeing the world for the best overall outcome. The way to work with this practically is to encourage healthy and appropriate expressions of each world view where they are found. Like a Green postmodern approach, a Teal integral perspective accepts diversity, but it goes farther and recognizes patterns and order in diversity necessary for unitive health. By virtue of its pattern oriented, more comprehensive view,  an integral perspective can generate an inclusive, compassionate capacity for all previous altitudes, marking it as a second tier altitude.  Because of their more exclusive nature, the altitudes Amber, Orange and Green are referred to as first tier altitudes. Members of a second tier, integral altitude represent roughly 2-3 percent of the Western world, with some evidence of a more substantial demographic trend in this direction. An integral world view is only now emerging as a widespread set of perspectives in the Western world.

In summary we now have the three domains of Self/I-space, Culture/we-spaceand Nature/eco-space (based on the quadrants) as well as four levels: Amber/traditional, Orange/modern, Green/postmodern and Teal/integral (based on altitudes) to work with as we explore an integral permaculture. Technically the foundation Integral framework developed by Ken Wilber contains five elements: quadrants and levels, which we have covered here, and states, lines and types, which we do not have time for in this short chapter. The interested reader should see A Theory of Everything by Ken Wilber for a more comprehensive introduction.

Figure 2, from Wilber  Quadrant diagram showing levels

An Integral Permaculture

Now that we have a background in some of the basic elements of integral theory we can take a brief tour through some of the ways that it assisted our permaculture practice at Permaforest Trust. It is fair to say that as the project grew in scope and in numbers so did the challenges. For a while they seemed insurmountable and there was a great deal of confusion as to why our permaculture ideals and practices were leading to such dysfunctional outcomes. One by one though, we put in place strategies based on a more integral perspective that lead to real results and tangible improvements.

We-Space Strategies

One of our first realizations was that we really only considered it permaculture if it was earth care. Our attention was almost exclusively focused on creating outcomes in eco-space. Care of people, we-space, was almost always seen as something secondary. I don’t think we were unique in this. It is not at all common in my experience to find permaculture projects that explicitly put people first. Although people care is the stated second ethic of permaculture, and even though we were initially conscious of the importance of the community dimension to our project, initially anyway, it always came second. It was only after realizing that it needed to be at least equal to eco-space practices that we started to see improvements. After this realization we developed a detailed community handbook that spelled out our values and expectations. We sent it to people before they came and asked them to voluntarily commit to the system. We put in place management and support team systems to encourage adherence to the community system and we scaled back on eco-space activity to support more we-space activity.

I-Space Strategies

A natural follow on from re-prioritizing we-space, was the realization that individuals needed significant support as well. Initially most of us managing and participating in the project were firmly rooted in a sensitive, post modern/green worldview. This has common challenges like ‘endless meetings’ where consensual decision making included much discussion and dialogue about feelings and interpersonal dynamics.  But it also had more serious dimensions. The realities of restrictions on personal freedom inherent in community living often caused ongoing psychological and emotional trauma, even among the most well-meaning and passionate of participants.

Personal freedom is a hidden form of wealth or resource use in postmodern culture. Only very wealthy industrially based societies like our own can support so many people with so much autonomy.  When it is taken away or, in our case, voluntarily given up, even by people with strong ideals of low resource, community living, it can cause significant resentment, rebellion, anger and depression. Putting in place strategies to support the healthy transition to a more ecologically sustainable lifestyle was the most taxing of all the dynamics we had to deal with. We did manage to develop strategies for managing and supporting these personal transitions, but in the end, given our isolated rural setting and minimal resources, we could not sustain this effort. Management was constantly in danger of burning out through using their own energy and personal resources to support the participants’ I-space challenges.  It is essentially why we ended our experiment of modelling a rural permaculture educational community. To this day, I see I-space challenges as one of the most significant aspect of transitioning to a sustainable future.

At this juncture it may look like an Integral perspective was not enough, but I look at it somewhat differently. Firstly, while an Integral approach has proved very effective, it is not a cure all. And, secondly, if we didn’t develop an awareness of the importance of I-space, we might have burned out before we could successfully conclude that phase of the work of Permaforest Trust and move on to more viable undertakings. An Integral perspective was critical in avoiding collapse by allowing us to see our limits in the I-space dimension.  In a more general sense this may be a very important Integral perspective on the dynamics of global sustainability transition. Trauma and healing modalities as well as personal growth and development practices may become some of our most powerful practical strategies in sustainability.

The Tyranny of Structurelessness- Using Healthy Amber

Another aspect of the project’s participants being generally oriented in a Green/postmodern worldview was an overt regard for non-hierarchical social structures. This extended to a disregard and a general dislike and distrust of structured social arrangements in general. This is an understandable reaction to the oppressive dominator hierarchies at work in modern society. They are rightly seen as unhealthy and unsustainable in their pathological form, but removing all structure as a reaction can lead to equally poor outcomes that become a tyranny in themselves – a ‘tyranny of structurelessness’. I’ve already related the dysfunction caused by a lack of structure at Tagari Farm. Similarly, for us this structurelessness lead to a confusing morass of unfinished tasks, unmet commitments, interpersonal dysfunction and personal dissatisfaction. A postmodern view allowed us to deconstruct unhealthy power structures, which is fine, but it didn’t help us focus on how to put the parts back together in a functional way. At times it felt like we were compulsive deconstructors adrift in a decaying marsh of our own undifferentiated deconstructions. The solution provided by an Integral perspective was to get in touch with healthy Amber values of clear structure and organization in social relationships.

Having a community system and a handbook to support it, mentioned above, was helpful, but what really made it work was explaining it and practicing it in an acceptable way. We carefully and intentionally related that it was essential for the health of the community that people meet their community commitments, and that it was essentially unethical in a fair and equitable community system to let others down. Ultimately, and this was the hardest part, we had to enforce this structure. We had a procedure of positive support and motivation for people who struggled, but there was a limit after which people were asked to leave if they could not meet their commitments. There was no negativity attached to this, only a recognition that the situation need to be resolved for the wider good.  This may have been our most successful integral intervention: things became substantially better after we established and enforced this community structure – it was like night and day. The level of functionality and the general well being it facilitated was, in my view, the reason visitors often commented that they felt there was something special going on at Permaforest Trust.

Poverty Consciousness- Using Healthy Orange

Another important dynamic having a negative effect on the project was a general ‘poverty consciousness’. What I mean by this is that there was a general disdain for anything to do with money and commerce- poverty was seen as a kind of sustainability virtue. Often people wore a kind of faux Western poverty as a badge of honour. This seems to be endemic in the environmental line of development in postmodern circles, which I refer to as ‘Deep Green’. I use this term in much the same way it is used in Deep Ecology: to denote a more meaningful depth of engagement in the topic. Other lines of postmodern development like internet technology, environmental policy making and the emerging green public relations field, seem to have less aversion to money, but it can be seen in others like social activism, fair trade, green politics and aid and development circles. In my view, this is another reaction to over-consumptive industrial economic processes that are seen to be so environmentally destructive. Again, it is understandable, but there is actually nothing healthy about writing off productive economic patterns and commerce. We didn’t focus on the business of environmental education as much as we should have in the beginning and it caused a lot of stress. There was, I have to say, an entitlement mentality when it came to education. This extended to us even though we were an independently funded, self-reliant, pioneering educational facility with few resources relative to government or corporate education programs. We were trying to model self-reliance and did not have any direct government support.

The answer to our economic stress was to get in touch with healthy Orange values of productive exchange and economy. We put together a business plan, budgeted effectively, marketed our product, made our fees clear, collected them and developed good value in our educational offering. We actually had good business skills, but we needed an Integral framework to put us in touch with the importance of integrating them fully into the project. We also extended this ethic of productivity to our permaculture work and it helped us to hit new highs in organic food production and sales. As with introducing Amber inspired social structures, putting in place Orange structures around commercial processes and productivity systems led to some very subtle but definite peer pressure to diminish these activities. They just looked too ‘conventional’ and therefore unsustainable to anyone viewing from a first-tier perspective. Over time we learned to stand firmly in an Integral perspective, and as we did, more and more participants started to see the benefits and to investigate an Integral perspective for themselves.

The Heart Circle – Using Healthy Green

At this stage we were well aware that although we had manifestations of some unhealthy Green patterns, we did not want to give away Green perspectives altogether. After one gains some perspective on Green values and patterns there can be a bit of a tendency to develop an allergy to them and to the Green level of altitude in general. This is typical of first tier development. When one develops to the next perspective it is inhabited exclusively, with little room for previous values or views. It is a bit like the pattern of reformed smokers who becomes extremely critical of their friends who continue to smoke.

We became conscious of nurturing our Green strengths, diminishing the pathologies and integrating with values and practices native to other altitudes. Practicing sustainability became a bit like practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine – we worked to balance and integrate all of the energies and dynamics of our system for enduring health.

One of the most important Green processes we developed was the Heart Circle. This is a process modified from Rainbow Gatherings. All participants sit in a circle and take turns speaking. One person talks at a time only, and everyone listens until they are done. It is a sacred, intentional space where people can speak their truth and speak from the heart. Commentary can be extremely personal and deeply critical. It is a very powerful and intense interpersonal space, full of emotional depth, deep honesty, sensitivity, great joy and equally great sorrow, anger and sometimes immense ecstasy. By developing this space and intentionally containing this energy we could honour the depth and beauty of being Green in a healthy way that allowed us to integrate it into our lives without this powerful energy dominating all of our other process.

Conclusion

I would like to emphasize here that the integral framework is a map only, and a simple one at that. Reality, the territory it tries to describe, is infinitely complex, ultimately mysterious and if we are honest only partially knowable. A good map, though, can be very helpful in navigating a real terrain.

Using even the few insights from a basic Integral perspective related here was enormously helpful in our work during the ten years Permaforest Trust experimented as a rural permaculture educational community. The Integral framework continues to inform my understanding and work within permaculture, Permaforest Trust and sustainability more generally. There was a time when the pathologies, dogmas and difficulties of ‘making permaculture work’ in a Green milieu almost caused me to give it away altogether. Now, I can see the strengths of permaculture more clearly and I am more effective at working through its weaknesses.

An integral perspective allows me to see my world in a similar way. I am comfortable with it again. Not through ignorance, but through understanding. It doesn’t have to be rejected, I don’t have to live outside of it to have an ethical existence, it doesn’t have to fought, it is not going to fall in a screaming heap and I don’t have to fix it. It is beautiful because it is what it is and it cannot be anything other. Its current dynamics are obviously unsustainable, but I now have a faith in the patterns of systemic adaptation, organization and change. There is a Source of order and evolution at work in our world and there is great power in working with this process. This is not a naive or passive faith. It is, indeed, a clear awareness, a critical call to action, but it is not by fighting the various parts of our greater Self that we will persevere. Our greatest hope lies with the compassion to harmonize the great depth and span of reality using the principles and patterns of Natural organization.

An integral permaculture must use its strength for identifying natural patterns and principles in the ‘environment’ and apply them to the ‘environments’ of self and culture as well as nature. We must use our insights more comprehensively by recognizing and integrating the many worldviews held by the planet’s many peoples. And, we must have the compassion to embrace all of our world, while having the wisdom to eliminate pathologies wherever we find them. While an Integral permaculture may not be about Spirit, it does make room for genuine spiritual practice, allowing the integration of this very important and powerful aspect of human and cultural development. Becoming skilful in combining these elements is a great step forward in facilitating the enduring health of our civilization.

Few disciplines have permaculture’s practical foundation in learning and using natural patterns and principles- fewer still have integrated foundations in the ethics of people care and earth care. Also, permaculture has a unique capacity for facilitating local community self reliance in food, energy and other critical commodities during sustained periods of resource decline. If our perspective about approaching bio-physical limits to growth and impending energy descent is correct, then a more fully integral permaculture- one that can combine the strengths of the various sectors of our communities, support individuals in personal transition and offer viable alternatives in agriculture and local economy- will become critically important. In a future of declining outer material growth there is an opportunity and a likelihood of an increasing alternative trend towards inner, personal and spiritual growth. An Integral permaculture can become a vehicle where providing us with what we need becomes a way of realizing the potential for who we can more fully become.

References

Wilber, K. (2006). Integral spirituality: A startling new role for religion in the modern and postmodern world. Boston: Integral Books.

Wilber, K. (2001). A theory of everything: An integral vision for business, politics, science and spirituality. Boston: Shambhala.