Author: John Cassel
The discourse on design has often situated it as a science of the artificial, but it has always been necessary to design our interaction with natural systems as well. One tradition for doing so is permaculture, a systemic design approach that aims to develop sustainable (permanent) agriculture and settlements. This paper will present permaculture’s relationship to systemic design, providing historical context to understand its ecological, agricultural, and design origins. Permaculture has made many contributions to systemic design, including simple-to-remember lists of guiding ethics and principles, a clever vocabulary of categories that allow the discussion of interactions, a toolbox of design methods for selecting and assembling systems of elements, overall design processes, and some agroecological and social system design insights. However, this exchange of ideas can go both ways, as there are current challenges to permaculture in which systemic design can assist, including forming objectives, assessing appropriate technology, stakeholder engagement, and launching viable projects. From there, this paper highlights new developments that show progress in addressing these challenges, and illustrates that systemic designers can join permaculture practitioners in these efforts. Overall, agroecological design is an area of systemic design that shows much need and promise.