Permaculture Designers Manual





Section 4.21 –

Introduction to Pattern Applications in Permaculture

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There are two aspects to patterning:

  1. The perception of the patterns that already exist and how these function, and
  2. The imposition of pattern on sites in order to achieve specific ends.


Both are skills of sophisticated design, and may result in specific strategies, the harmonious resolution of problems, or work to produce a local resource.

Given that we have absorbed some of the information inherent in the general pattern model, we need some examples of how such patterning has been applied in real-life situations.

A bird’s-eye view of centralized and disempowered societies will reveal a strictly rectilinear network of streets, farms and property boundaries.

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It is as though we have patterned the earth to suit our survey instruments rather than to serve human or environmental needs.

We cannot perhaps blame Euclid for this, but we can blame his followers. The straight-line patterns that result prevent most sensible landscape planning strategies and result in neither an aesthetically nor functionally satisfactory landscape nor streetscape.

Once established, then entered into a body of law, such inane (or insane) patterning is stubbornly defended. But it is created by, and can be dismantled by people.

A far more sensible approach was developed by Hawaiian villagers, who took natural ridgelines as their boundaries.

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As the area was contained in one water catchment, they thus achieved very stable and resource-rich landscapes reaching from dense cloud-forests to the outer reefs of their islands.

The nature of conic and radial volcanic landscapes with their radial water lines suits such a method of land division. It is also possible for a whole valley of people to maintain a clean catchment, store and divert mid-slope water resources for their needs, catch any lost nutrients in shallow ocean enclosures (converting first to algae, then to crabs and fish) and thus to preserve the offshore reef area and the marine environment.

Zulus and American Indians adopt the circular or zonal modes in their plains settlements.

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Such models can be studied and adopted by future (bioregional) societies as sane and caring people become the majority in their region and set about the task of landscape rehabilitation.
The sensible land division is a long-delayed but essential precursor to a stable society.