Summary: Neil Bertrando just authored a great article, in which he adapts my adaptation of the Scale of Permanence to generate some extremely useful strategic discussion of permaculture education and research in the USA. The content of his article is worthy of it’s own discussion, but here I’m just discussing method.
Over the past few years I’ve been ‘experimenting’ with the underlying structure of Yeoman’s Scale of Permanence - trying to see what it is about it that makes it so compelling and useful for site analysis and design. My interest has been to see what concepts it might be related to in other disciplines, and how it might be applied in other domains than landscape planning. I’ve come to think of the Scale of Permanence as a form of ordered constraint analysis. At it’s most general, it involves identifying all the most pertinent factors that shape the possibilities and potentials of the design challenge, and then ordering them by malleability. Notice that I say ‘malleable’ rather than ‘changeable,’ since some of the most dynamic conditions may also be the least responsive to our efforts to influence them – e.g. climate, or floodplain hydrology (Hi, Keith Morris!). The process of identification and ordering structures the investigation of the design context – aka site analysis – and the ordered list structures the sequence of the design process. In Yeoman’s Keyline system – and thereby in permaculture, which imported Keyline wholesale – we design around the least malleable constraints first (climate, in the case of site design) and then proceed stepwise through list.
The first time the generalized take on the SoP saw the light of day was at the School for Designing a Society (where I taught a ‘liberation ecology’ course in the Fall of 2011), and then in a more realized form at Financial Permaculture, in Miami last month. Our design group in Miami used it as a way of structuring the strategic business planning process for the Earth Learning Farm at Verde Gardens – and it seemed like it worked well. (Our design team definitely kicked ass, but that was influenced by multiple factors.) Now, to my excitement, one of the design team participants has adapted the adaptation for another design context. Neil Bertrando just authored a great article, in which he uses a version of ordered constraint analysis to generate some extremely useful strategic discussion of permaculture education and research in the USA. (The content of that article is worthy of it’s own discussion, but for now I’m just focusing on method.)