There are many examples of organisational systems in nature.
From the self-organisation of molecules to form crystals, or entrancing displays of a murmuration of starlings, to the stigmergic communications of ants and the growth of a whole animal from just two starting cells. Can we use these ideas to improve the permaculture system? Are there simple tools that will help us to benefit more easily from interactions with other practitioners in and beyond permaculture, and so become more effective in what we do?
Swirling patterns of a flock of starlings against blue sky
One commonality between these natural systems is that from simple rules or processes, complex and dynamic results are obtained. For systems with many individuals, clear communication rules are critical to their success. If a bee ‘dances’ in a particular pattern, or an ant releases a particular pheromone, then others need to know how to interpret and respond to this for the communication, and ultimately the system, to be effective.
Human communications are complex. A shrug, the twitch of an eyebrow, the nuance of vocal expression, or emphasis of a particular word can all add meaning beyond the simple words we speak. Or type. Today I was speaking with a colleague in India on a video link. As she answers me “yes” she is shaking her head. In the UK and Canada, shaking the head means “no”. In India and Nepal, it indicates agreement. I find this simple gesture leaves me uncertain as to whether she really agrees with me, until I understand the communications system she is working within.
There are a number of great systems emerging to aid human communications and help people around the world to work together. Wikipedia is a great example of a system with simple rules that people can engage with like “this article needs additional verifications” or “this article is a stub” or disambiguation pages. From these simple directions, a wealth of content has been created which is robust and well-organised.