Integrate Don’t Segregate

Integration in the forest garden.

In our gardens and in our lives, integration can be integral to positive change. Lockdowns have left many of us feeling isolated and cut off from others. But in some ways, facing challenges together has brought people closer. Communities have come together – even as we have physically been kept apart. In a world of increasingly divergent values, there are glimmers of hope for collaboration and consensus… There is hope that people can come together to create a fairer, more ethical and sustainable world.

In an organic, permaculture garden, integrating plants rather than segregating them is a key idea. Companion planting, intercropping, and the creation of polycultures is key to creating diverse and productive ecosystems – such as forest gardens and polyculture kitchen gardens.

But this permaculture design principle – integrate don’t segregate – can also be applied to other areas of our lives.

  • Value and appreciate conversations with people who don’t necessarily come from the same place or have the same ideas as you. Even when we don’t always agree – we have to keep talking.
  • Keep friends and family close – making the effort to maintain ties, even at a distance. There are plenty of ways to stay connected.
  • Do not think of yourself as separate and apart from nature. We are a part of the ecosystems we inhabit. Finding a closer connection with the natural world can help us feel more grounded, and to live in a more sustainable and eco-friendly way.
  • Don’t compartmentalise your life too much. Don’t put work on one box, and leisure time in another, for example. Ideally, the goal should be to find work which is something which you are good at, passionate about, provides what the world needs, and which (at least in today’s economic system) you can be paid for. (The concepts of ‘right livelihood‘ and ‘ikigai’ may be useful.)
  • Do not try to find solutions to individual issues. Look holistically at an environment, a system or a problem. Looking at the big picture, and practicing joined up thinking, could make it easier to find a pathway forwards.
  • Co-operate in a range of different ways. When it comes to living more sustainably, we don’t have to go it alone. Co-operation and collaboration can take many forms. And often, we can achieve a lot more when we come together.
  • Engage with groups, engage with democracy. Use your voice, and remember, our voices can have more power when we raise them together.

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