Our annual Harvest Dinner

Ethics and Principles

The sustainable ethics and principles outlined here are intended to bring forth a different way of structuring rural and urban form using a fully linked, continuous green infrastructure based on natural systems. This infrastructure, with the preservation and integration of natural systems at its core, is part of a vision of human settlement with radical reverence for the landscape rather than with dominance and destruction as its guiding principle.  The example of open space can demonstrate the expansive potential of this model of understanding our physical environment.

As a part of the “green infrastructure,” open space is not merely seen as an absence of man-made structures; it includes natural habitat areas; agriculture; land-forms such as mesas, valleys, cliffs;  aquifers, watersheds and recharge wetland areas; heritage landscapes; parks, trails, and other open spaces; and archaeological sites.
Sustainability begins with modest acts of responsibility.  Each act, as modest as it may seem, contributes to a culture of sustainability and shared awareness that can serve to regenerate the health of both people and ecosystems.  Sustainability is a cultural process and depends on the everyday actions of ordinary people.  We depend on good health in all systems for our survival.  Our fates are intertwined.

Sustainable Setting’s Primary Ethic:
“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.”
-Bill Mollison, Permaculture Design Manual

Sustainable Settings’ Principles:
1) Insist on rights of humanity and nature to coexist in a healthy, supportive, diverse and sustainable condition.

2) Cooperation, not competition, is the very basis of existing life systems and of future survival.

3) Develop “community-efficiency” not self-sufficiency.

4) Encourage Diversity – As a general rule, as sustainable systems mature they become increasingly diverse in both space and time. It is crucial to encourage the complexity of the functional relationships that exist between elements, rather than merely quantifying the number of elements.

Planting Strategy: 1st-natives, 2nd-proven exotics, 3rd unproven exotics – carefully, on small scale, and with lots of observation.

Recognize interdependence. The elements of human design interact with and depend upon the natural world, with broad and diverse implications on every scale. Expand design considerations to recognize even distant effects. Recognize and build functional relationships between elements.

Maximize Edge Effect: Ecotones are the most diverse and fertile area in a system. Two ecosystems come together to form a third which has more diversity than either of the other two.  Examples include the edges of ponds, forests, meadows, and currents.

Respect relationships between spirit and matter. Consider all aspects of human settlement including community, dwelling, industry and trade in terms of existing and evolving connections between spiritual and material consciousness.
•       Solutions grow from a place.  Sustainable design begins with the intimate knowledge of a particular place.
•       Sustainable design is small-scale and direct, responsive to both local conditions, local people and their stories.

Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human well-being, the viability of natural systems, and their right to coexist.

Operate from a Policy of Responsibility: The role of successful design is to create a self-managed system.

Create safe objects of long-term value.

– Do not burden future generations with requirements for maintenance or vigilant administration of potential danger due to the careless creation of products, processes, or standards.
– Dispersal of Yield Over Time: Base design decisions on how they will effect seven generations. Use energy to construct these systems now, providing that in their lifetime, they store or conserve more energy than we use to construct them or maintain them.
– Use and (p)reserve biological intelligence.
– Small Scale Intensive Systems: start small and create a system that is manageable and produces a high yield.
– Principle of Disorder: Order and harmony produce energy for other uses. Disorder consumes energy to no useful end. Tidiness is maintained disorder. (the manicured lawn)
– Eliminate the concept of waste
– Evaluate and optimize the full life-cycle of products and processes, to approach the state of natural systems, in which there is no waste.
– Observation: Protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor.  Watch and wait one year.
– Make Least Change for the Greatest Effect: The less change that is enacted, the less embedded energy is needed to endow the system.
– Hold water and fertility as high (in elevation) on the landscape as possible.
– One Calorie In/One Calorie Out: Do not consume or export more biomass than carbon fixed by the solar budget.
– Unlimited Yield: The yield of a system is theoretically unlimited.  The only limit on the number of uses of a resource possible is the limit of information and imagination of the designer.
– Utilize Appropriate Technology as it applies to cooking, lighting, transportation, heating, sewage treatment, water and other utilities.
– Consider entropy in complex systems: Disorder is an increasing result unless decomposition is balanced with life-force.  Together they balance each other in systems, maintaining the universe to infinity.
– Law of Return: Whatever we take, we must return. Every object must responsibly provide for its replacement.
– Watch for Stress and Harmony in the systems: Stress here may be defined as either prevention of natural function, or of forced function. Harmony may be defined as the integration of chosen and natural functions, and the easy supply of essential needs.

Rely on natural energy flows. Human designs should, like the living world, derive their creative forces from perpetual solar income.  Incorporate this energy efficiently and safely for responsible use.
Energy Use: Use on-site resources – Determine what resources are available and naturally occurring and maximize their use.
Utilize energy as much as possible before it becomes waste.
Stacking Functions: Build in multi-level functions for each element: for example, in garden design incorporate trellising, forest garden, vines, groundcovers, root crops, livestock rotations, host native pollinators and beneficial insects, on-site nutrient cycling, etc.

Understand the limitations of design. No human creation lasts forever and design does not solve all problems. Those who create and plan should practice humility in the face of nature. Treat nature as a model and mentor, not an inconvenience to be evaded or controlled.
Succession Planning and Planting: Recognize that certain elements prepare the way for systems to support other elements in the future.
Native forests, fields and riparian ecologies are our reference libraries.

Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge. Encourage direct and open
communication between colleagues, patrons, manufacturers and users to link
long-term sustainable considerations with ethical responsibility, and re-establish the integral relationship between natural processes and human activity.
Listen to every voice in the design process.  Everyone is a participant-designer.  Honor the special knowledge that each person brings.  As people work together to heal their place, they also heal themselves.
Listen to the “collective intelligence” characterizing the human and biotic community.
Open our processes to learning for all ages from research and design to implementation and maintenance.

Permaculture’s Core Design Ethics:
Permaculture works with a set of ethics that suggest we think and act responsibly in relation to each other and the earth.

1.Care of the Earth – includes all living and non-living things–plants, animals, land, water and air

2.Care of People – promotes self-reliance and community responsibility–access to resources necessary for existence

3.Setting Limits to Population & Consumption – seeks to eliminate surplus–contribution of surplus time, labor, money, information, and energy to achieve the aims of earth and people care.

Permaculture acknowledges a basic life ethic, which recognizes the intrinsic worth of every living thing. A tree has value in itself, even if it presents no commercial value to humans. That the tree is alive and functioning is worthwhile. It is doing its part in nature: recycling litter, producing oxygen, sequestering carbon dioxide, sheltering animals, building soils, and so on.

Every function is supported by many elements – Build in redundancy: Good design ensures that all functions can withstand the failure of one or more element.
Every element is supported by many functions Each element we include is viewed in terms of its systems, chosen and placed so that it performs as many functions as possible.

Finally, Sustainable Settings’ Ethics and Principles should be seen as a living document committed to the transformation and growth in the understanding of our interdependence with nature, so that they may adapt as our knowledge of the world evolves.

In designing, developing and operating our projects and site we have chosen to optimize the strategies, old and new, best suited to our local culture, site and climate conditions.

We believe the skills required to build a sustainable community are already actively employed in our everyday activities.  We need only to apply them in the right way.  If we would attend to water, energy, waste, architecture and land as carefully as we attend to our cars, money, children’s education, and our gardens we would access skills that are part of our daily life, tools vital to the building of a sustainable community.

Some action steps each of us can do everyday:

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (in that order).
Grow a garden and eat and use what it produces.
Avoid imported resources where possible.
Use labor and skill in preference to materials and technology.
Design, build, and purchase for durability and reparability.
Use resources for their greatest potential use (e.g. electricity for tools and
lighting, food scraps for animal feed).
Use renewable resources wherever possible even if local environmental costs appear higher (e.g. wood rather than electricity for fuel and timber rather than steel for construction).
Use non-renewable and embodied energies primarily to establish sustainable systems as in
passive solar housing, food gardens, earth moving for land reclamation, water storage and forests).
When using high technology (e.g. computers) avoid frequently discarding equipment in favor the newest, most “state-of-the-art” models; encourage extended maintenance of older machines.
Avoid debt and long-distance commuting.
Develop a home-based lifestyle, practice domestic responsibility.