How Do We Fix Fragile Systems?

We need to replace fragile systems before they break, not wait until they do.

A fragile system is one which will break rather than bending. One which will fail to thrive when conditions get tough. One which cannot change and adapt to changing needs, but which is brittle and will not survive whatever the future brings.

Fragile systems, both in the garden and in society, can be identified and addressed when a permaculture approach is taken.

Identifying such systems is easy. We can often intuit that things are not right, or even see the cracks beginning to appear – literally or metaphorically. By taking a good long look at resources (available and conceivable), needs, and practices, we can soon begin to see where things don’t stack up.

For example, in a garden we may soon discover that the plants and growing methods we have chosen do not thrive in extreme weather conditions that many of us are experiencing on a more frequent basis. A growing area succumbing to drought is just one example.

In societal systems – we can identify the strain on health systems now better than ever before. And the cracks are showing in many of the support structures on which our societies depend. Fragility is, of course, easier to spot in times of crisis.

Identifying fragile systems, however, is the easiest part of the process – and only the very beginning. More crucial than our ability to spot these systems is our ability to implement systems that are not so fragile, and which will stand the test of time and be truly sustainable.

How we replace fragile systems and what we replace them with is obviously a complex question. But it is one that we should all be asking ourselves. And one problem that we should all be trying to solve.

Though it is by no means a complete or full answer, one key step, in my option, is to begin to match up resources and needs in a more holistic way.

Identity resources (renewable, earth-conscious resources of course). Identify need. Then find ways to connect the two to increase resilience. Thinking about how we can generate more of the resources we need (both tangible and intangible)… Pondering how to increase the number of beneficial interactions in a system… Considering how to meet needs in new and interesting ways… These thought processes can be a step towards getting rid of fragile systems for good.

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