In permaculture, you will often hear talk of designing from patterns to details. Most frequently, this idea is applied to garden design. We think about the patterns of sunlight and water, plant growth and human interaction.
Since permaculture can also be applied in other areas of life, patterns can also refer to a range of other things. Cultural and societal patterns of human thought and human behaviour can also be important in shaping our decisions and actions.
The patterns of response – both reactive and pro-active – are interesting to consider. How people have responded or reacted to the pandemic have been important to understand in shaping response to the crisis. Understanding the patterns of human thought processes and how individuals and society think and behave is crucial to creating resilient and anti-fragile systems.
The same is true of the climate crisis. Understanding how adaptation occurs, and how thought and intention transform to habitual change and real and lasting behavioural alterations is vitally important. It is only when we can begin to recognise common patterns of human thought and behaviour that we can design for a better future.
Understanding natural patterns and understanding social patterns are often considered to be two different schools of thought. But the two must be understood concurrently. Natural cycles and systems act upon human thought processes and societal patterns more than we are often aware.
For example, when designing any human system, it is important to take into account the ways in which the seasons and daylight patterns influence behaviour. Winter is a time for many natural systems to retreat, recuperate, and store energy. Humans too are influenced by shorter days and colder nights. We must recognise that we too need time to take stock and ‘hunker down’.
Of course, winter is not a time of true hibernation or dormancy for us. But recognising the impact of the changing seasons on our thought processes and behaviours can help us avoid stress and strain. It can help us to design systems suited to our physiologies and minds. Winter may not be a time when we are filled with energy and drive. But it can be a great time to reflect on the previous year, and to look forward and plan for the year ahead.