Bite-sized Design Essentials – Climate, Sectors and Risk

spoof on whistlers mother

Face your risk from climate change with guided planning. You can then feel more secure, comfortable and fruitful.

We are powerful, creative individuals. But do we know how to be effective changemakers? Each day that we avoid thinking about the design of our lifestyle we are probably living by someone else’s design. This post offers worksheets at the end to help you design to reduce the impact of climate change and enhance the best features of any space.

permaculture visions design

CLIMATE, SECTORS AND RISK

Climate change is no longer up for debate. For many of us, it is real and now. And for many more people it is urgent. The risk is not evenly spread. One region will suffer far worse than another. There are inexpensive actions that make us more comfortable and safe.

Firstly, assess your overall risk. Then find what you can change and what can’t be changed. Rather than waiting for things to happen to us, lets plan some improvements and prepare for a dignified exist if required.

Plans can enhance the microclimates (using an awareness of energy sectors). But ultimately, calculating the risk informs the design and helps our community prepare better for future catastrophes.

MICROCLIMATE MITIGATION

Design cannot change the regional climate but it can create more liveable microclimates.
There are goldilocks “Life zones” that support living systems. But even Goldilocks needs to become adaptable because we are living through a period of rapid climate change. And not everywhere is changing in the same way or at the same rate. Every space is unique and the design team can assess what the space has and how it can be enhanced. 

Action: Research the climate site and map existing microclimates. Determine likely climate changes and how this informs the design. Finally, design to reduce the impact from a range of climate extremes.

SECTOR PLANNING

Sector analysis determines the direction, frequency, intensity and effects of both welcome and unwelcome energies. Designs that work with energies provided by nature require less imported energy and are more climate resilient.  To create a design that harmonies with the site we observe and measure the various energies, identify where they come from, their potential impact and how we can use or deflect this energy at different times of the year.
First we identify and map existing external and internal natural energy sources. We also consider predicted changes from climate worksheet. Next, we determine what design interventions could optimise the use these energies.

Action: Create a sector analysis for the space and propose modifications.

Dragon of climate change

RISK ANALYSIS AND MITIGATION

Design to reduce risk in order to save habitat, lives, effort and resources as well as minimising pollution. “Risk is the balance of consequence and likelihood .”  Lizzy Smith. Risk can be a negative or positive opportunity. An example of a (hopefully) positive risk occurs when we set out on an adventure.  Whereas a negative risk common occurs when someone moves onto a property that is subject to flooding then finds out they are not insured and can not afford to relocate.

Our risk analysis develops design strategies to prepare for and overcome risks. We determine the likely risks through a SWOT analysis. Then we design to mitigate the risk. 

Actions: Identify Strengths, Weaknesses. Opportunities and Threats or Constraints then Identify ways to reduce the risks and enhance the strengths. One of the actions that we can adopt is to keep some of the plants in relocatable wicking vessels. In the event of any type of emergency, or an opportunity to relocate, you can take young plants with you.

Earthcare secretary, Amanda Argent seeks to connect people to environmental stewardship, increase people’s skills and knowledge on how to regenerate food growing spaces following a natural disaster, and prepare for future climate extremes. This will strengthen flood affected communities collective resilience.

Tiffany-HENBURN

WORKSHEETS

Here are the worksheets we are presenting at Earthcare to help participants develop their design skills. The files are pilot samples from our upcoming Permaculture course and book called the FIELD GUIDE TO PERMACULTURE DESIGN. If you are keen to join our upcoming course to develop your design skills, write to us.

  1. Climate
  2. Sectors
  3. Risk
  4. Zones

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Plan a Natural Irrigation System

It is easy to move water across the landscape without pipes or hoses. Natural irrigation simply uses gravity. This video tutorial shows us making an irrigation channel on site. Lets dig in and move the conversation beyond swales and trenches.

We used a simple A frame to map out the contours. Yes, you can buy equipment to do this, but A frames can be made with very little expense. And when you use the A frame regularly you get good at it.

You also get a feel for the slope and have a visual estimation of what you think each contour line should look like. Rowena explained how she saw how the contour hugged the landscape. “Well, I’ve just gotten down low, closer to the the ground so that I can visualize it. I’m visualizing the slope of the land and where the water is running and perhaps where we could capture it. It feels like it’s wrapping around um at the base of a hill.

Moving the topic of swales, trenches and channels along

In previous tutorials I have explained the difference between a trench a ditch. And how a swale is a similar to a ditch that sits perfectly on the contour. It catches water and it allows it to seep deeper into the soil.

On the other hand, a keyline irrigation channel can look almost the same but it it’s used to move the water slowly out from the wetter areas to the drier areas. So, the swale a trench a bit like a long bucket with holes in it we don’t have any plastic lining in it we need to be really precise because the swale sits level on the Contour it catches the water and it allows it to seep through the soil. Sometimes I check if the swale is level and not leaking by filling it with water or checking it on raining days.

Grant Lubyckij testing then re-digging the swales to create irrigation channels at Gillys Kitchen Garden in Otford
Grant Lubyckij testing then re-digging the swales to create irrigation channels

Check and Plug Leakage Points

Rainy days are perfect for checking for leakage points. Sometimes I check if the swale is level by filling it with water or checking it on raining days. Digging a channel requires a little bit of preparation. You don’t just mark the contours. You need to do the mathematics and mark a fall from that contour. [I’ll show you how to do that]. But the good news is that extra bit of preparation means that the irrigation is self-cleaning. This is because as the surface water moves along, it washes out loose debris.

Comparison of Swales and Irrigation channels

Swales hold the water but channels move water from wet gullies to dry ridges. This is a small part of the key line a method that was pioneered by PA Yeomans Snr during the 1950s. His method has rehabilitated many large farms around the world. At the end of the video I showed ways to apply this gravity fed irrigation system to regenerate a site.

Two Ways to Move Water in a Channel

The two ways to use gravity to move water across the landscape are: 1. having the trench with a slightly downhill direction and 2. Digging deeper to get to where you want to go. Grant Lubyckij is re-digging the swales here at Gilly’s Kitchen Garden in Otford. One area of the garden was always dry. We plugged up the leakage point on that garden and Grant re-dug the swale deeper to convert it into a channel and get the water to move in the opposite direction.

Tiffany-HENBURN
Exercise Your Mathematics Mind

Simplified Mathematics for Channel Irrigation

Imagine you’ve walked across the slope of a hill when you walk across the contour. One foot is slightly lower than the other. But, we’re feeling pretty balanced. Whereas, when you walk uphill you can feel pressure in the heel of your boots. And when you walk downhill you’ll feel pressure on the soles of your feet.

A Steep Slope

When we drop downhill by 1 m in height for every meter that we’ve gone across the slope we’re walking down a steep path. Most landscape standards call this a slippery slope and you would be advised to install hand rails, retaining walls and steps prevents people falling.

A 1/3 Slope

Now, let’s imagine you’re walking across open fields going downhill as you walk. You’re walking across a slope but you go down only 2/3 of a meter instead of the whole meter. It still feels like a slope but by landscaping standards it doesn’t require steps or a retaining wall that’s called the 1/3 drop. This is a slope of 30°.

The Goldilocks Slope 15°

We all know that the easiest way to get down a steep hill in a very open space is to go slightly downhill as we travel across. Now imagine you drop downhill by only a third of a meter or yard for every meter that you walk across. This gets us the magical 15° off contour. You feel like you are gently gliding.

This gentle slope is sufficient to enable rain water to travel along without causing erosion.

Overcoming Obstacles

If you find that there are trees or rocks in your way you might need to do a combination of deeper digging and going off contour.

keyline channels and bare garden beds
Grant and Tim market garden

Grant and Tim have now developed a productive market farm using these natural irrigation technique skills.

When we work with nature, we are giving nature a chance to recover and repair.

Learn more about Permaculture with us at PermacultureVisions.com

Permaculture on a Shoestring

Do Permaculture design on a shoestring. Harness natural energies, turn waste into a resource and boost social connections and well being.

A chicken fairy god mother
Be a green fairy god-mother.

10 Permaculture Living Skills on a Shoestring

  1. Live with principles
  2. Get clean energy
  3. Cut the waste
  4. Use resources well
  5. Build biodiversity
  6. Breathe cleaner air
  7. Save water
  8. Creatively Make-do
  9. Invest in Social justice
  10. Start positive

1. Apply Permaculture Principles

Apply Permaculture Principles to Everyday Life. Multiple functions for each element in the design is a key principle. “If I can’t get at least 3 reasons for having something, I’m not having it.” says Permaculture Elder Judith Collins. And then, integrate the elements, so that nothing sits alone in the system. Everything connects and contributes to the other things. For example, the bushes shade the paths. These paths are shaped to direct water. The water nurtures the garden. The garden attracts birds and insects. This give us joy. Then, we share joy and food with others.

This also applies to skills. These skills have many uses beyond the home. They can be applied in the workplace and for the good on your community.

2. Get Smarter Energy

https://www.saulgriffith.com/ promotes electricification for better future universal energy systems

Change to better energy sources such as solar systems. Saul Griffith explains how electrifying our energy network builds better future energy systems for all.

Permaculture Elder, Judith Collins EarthKeepers, Buxton, NSW

3. Cut the Waste – Stop Buying Stuff! And Grow

Judith Collins of EarthKeepers challenges us to know where our food comes. And if you really need to buy something, check out local makers and support the markets rather than so called ‘super-markets’. And farmer Gerard Lawry at EagleRiseFarm points out “There is no co-incidence that the supermarkets present their fresh foods to look like market stalls”.

4. Use Resources Well

Now that you have decided what to waste cut, look to see what other waste materials from the home can be converted. Identify and reduce your waste by conducting a home audit.

If you don’t have much space, you can use Bokashi to convert your food scraps, if you have a balcony, then you have room for a worm farm. If you have a garden, there is room for worms, compost and chickens. Grow food in wicking pots or rain gardens.

Utilise things more by saving the seed from the foods you eat. Get creative by repurposing stuff that you can no longer use. Mend, redesign your clothes. Then when they are finally no longer useful, compost them.

5. Build biodiversity

Design your life to blend with the surrounding wildlife. Build awareness of the natural world. Stop to smell the wildflowers. Find the unique perfumes of native plants. Create space in your domain for wildlife. You don’t need anything, not even a shoestring, to enjoy nature.

6. Cut the Chemicals – Breathe Less Toxins

Stop polluting your home. Cut out chemicals by using low toxic cleaners. You can easily make your own cleaning fluids. In fact, vinegar and sodium bicarbonate will clean nearly everything. Another permaculture principle is to start small so you can feel successful. You can do this right now, in your home. Try sprouts, food and herbs, and making your own vinegar. For outside the home, try minimal disturbance techniques to handle weeds. Get to know how nature works and work with her.

strawberry guava

7. Save Water

Saving water is vital because clean water is a valuable resource during dry periods. Plants and animals depend on clean rain water. So do the river systems. We can contribute to the healthy rivers by building carbon in the soil, planting trees and supporting insect life. A basic start would be to create birdbaths. Next, install rain gardens. Catch and store rainwater in a tank or direct it to a pool. Something that takes a bit more research but is radical and resourceful is to install a compost toilet and an outdoor shower.

redirect path water to reduce erosion

8. Get Creative and Make-Do with Shoestrings

There are various types of waste. And this includes having too much stuff because stuff demands requires storage and maintenance. Other forms include wasted opportunities.

Simple steps to cut waste are to seal out drafts. Mend things like leaking taps or frayed clothes. Learn to use basic tools, how to sew, tie knots and make do.

Use paper mache and old cotton rags in the garden to create swales, cover weeds or feed the worms. Good soil can be created from food scraps and paper waste.

Above all use the shoestrings – walk, cycle and use public transport. These simple steps keep us fit and reject the the fossil fuel industry. Plan to make your next car an electric car.

cockatoo dropping a macadamia nut
cockatoo enjoying a macadamia nut

9. Invest time and effort in others

Invest in a Circular economy by spending your money on products and services that are created locally. This builds social justice. Social justice is a vital part of reducing the pressures on our planet. Without social justice, we get more pollution, more harmful chemical use and more frequent environmental destruction through wars.

Be generous and kind. Fix stuff before you give it to charity. And be generous. Better still, fix things for others. Repair cafes are wonderful ways to link skilled retirees with young people in need. Better still, show a young person how to do stuff. Or help a local family that needs a hand. Have an informal meeting with neighbours and find out what your community needs and has the passion to do.

10. Start Positive, Act Now

Knowing how and where to start is a skill in itself. Stuart Hill recommends we do one thing before we go to bed that will move us closer to our goals. Starting small is one way to achieve this. He encourages us to take action by refreshing our mindset. This enables us to make bigger changes. If it requires us to lie boldly to ourselves about what we can achieve, then do it.

Scale Up for Bigger Impact

At the National Permaculture Convergence 2023, Mitra Ardron presented and facilitated a session on Speed, Scale and Permaculture. Mitra is currently working to deliver clean water to billions of people in Bangladesh. He challenges us to ramp up our efforts to effect change and build a better future.

Mitra’s steps for scaling up projects

Firstly, set the size and speed of your project as a goal from the start. Design the project so that it can grow.

Can we responsibly make decisions at the speed of change?

What happens if we don’t ? Can we focus on solutions rather than the problems ? Tackle the challenges of scale & speed. And maintain people care, earth care and fair share.

Observe and interact – the Problem is often the Solution.

Mitra says “Ask which patterns are ripe for disruption at scale? “

Self reliant elders

Use edges & value the marginal

Mitra invites us to explore the edges of what we are working on.

Produce no waste

Ask “How would your costs, and your unit economics, change with massive scale or a different biz model, or by eliminating waste or unnecessary steps, how would that cost improvement impact the uptake?”

https://www.mitra.biz/ explore alternative strucutres for scale

Explore Some Alternative Structures for Scale

The different models are B2B2C (B to B2 to C) like a supermarket model versus B2c (B directly to C) like a farmers market set up. Then there is Partnering, and Facilitation which Mitra employs in getting producers to link directly with sales team by supplying technology that makes it is cheaper and faster to link them.

Use & value renewable resources & services

What untapped resources could you use to scale up your project?

Epping forest, London IPUK delegates from Africa and Hong Kong marvel at the wasted abundance in a major city

Obtain Your Yield

How can you create a yield? For all those involved the yield needs to exceed input.

Create a positive feedback loop

Creatively use and respond to change, apply self-regulation and accept feedback. Ask can your organization stay cantered in the middle of chaos? And without knowing all the facts, is it able to allow responsible people to make, and change decisions at the speed needed? Responsive projects listen to the internal and external feedback.

Design from patterns to reach scale

What are the key parts of your project? And the edges between the parts? And the edges with other participants ? How do these edges change as it scales?

Understand and Work with Succession

Use backcasting to envisage alternative futures. How would your solution look at the scale of the problem ? How is that different than it looks now ? What initial steps do we take to get there ? Apply that to each of the detail elements.

In Summary

When we apply Permaculture principles to our projects, think big and long-term from the start. There is one principle that Mitra sees as an anti-pattern – it is the concept of using small and slow solutions. Mitra and the world need the opposite. With good collaboration models, you will increase the project’s reach and impact.

Once we start thinking bigger, we make lasting impact and tackle the big polluting industries that engulf us.