Permaculture Designers Manual




Section 4.13 –

Dimensions and Potentials in Permaculture

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Our patterned systems may exist in two or more dimensions.

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We can tessellate two-dimensionally but need to envisage three dimensions for a tree form or glacier.

The tree-forms of rivers flow down along S-shaped gradients; the generator of such a pattern is gravity.

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Sand dunes form on near-flat platforms of the desert and have wind as their generator, as do waves on the sea.

Neither gravity nor wind may much affect the creeping tree patterns of mosses, dendrites in shale’s, or the tree like forms of mycorrhizah in plant cells.

It is here that we see our tree form as the best way to grow or to gather nutrients in the absence of violent kinetic processes. The generator here is life or growth itself.

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When kinetic forces do not act strongly, as in flat and essentially sheltered desert environments, lobulation and latticing still occur as freeze-thaw or swell-shrink patterns, as they do in ice flows on quiet ponds or in the hexagonal patterns of stones on tundra.

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The slow growth of crystals into rock cavities or ice is still related to our general model; the generator of pattern here being at the level of molecular forces, as in many purely chemical processes, and the forms generated are fractals.

In hill country, energies are usually a combination of stream flow and gravity. On plains, icepacks or flat snowfields, it is freeze-thaw or the swelling of clay in rain that produces lobulations or networks of earth patterns.

Lobulation, the production of such shapes as in Figure 4.7, differs in origin and mode of expression from the kinetic-energy (flow) systems we have been discussing. I sometimes think of the lobulated forms as a response of nature, or life, to a world that threatens “no difference”.

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If the hills wear down, then the antepenultimate surfaces will produce their lateral, two-dimensional life patterns, as does the lichen on a rock.

Kinetic erosion processes are then exchanged for physical and chemical process at the molecular level, but even this creates a sufficient difference in media for life forms to express themselves, and for differences to arise in the patterns of surfaces.