There it is, the basic “Home Garden,” an ancient, evolved forest garden system, similar to those found throughout the tropics, and in one form or another, almost everywhere trees will grow. This beautiful version is from Cuba. (www.hunger-undernutrition.com.)
At its most basic level, it’s surrounded by a forest garden planting or enclosure, a mixed function productive hedgerow membrane designed to exclude harmful energies while welcoming and containing beneficial energy flows. Inside, there are areas (organs?) devoted to all the functions necessary for the unit to survive and prosper, areas for vital exchange of information (social functions,) areas for production, areas for growing food, sustaining internal health, and so on. It has units for photosynthesis, converting sun energy into useful energy for the homestead. It has various apendages for affecting the outside world, for reaching out and bringing in vital resources, sharing information with outside units, and exporting its wastes. It has a sort of central nervous system which regulates the distribution of resources within the unit and responds to external stimuli. It even has a nucleus home structure to protect its most vital information processing, organizing, and storage units.
The very word “garden” comes from the word enclosure, “garde.” This is true in most languages.
As these units grow, they eventually reach out with their genetic information, sharing it with other units and reproducing itself, splitting into separate units to reproduce the pattern. Each new cell adapts to its specific environment, its place, its resources and landforms. It fulfills its role in maximizing life enhancing energies and performing particular duties as part of a larger fabric of human communities. Each naturally grows, shrinks, exchanges resources and acts according to the needs of the whole.
(Toft and croft pattern of home garden “cells,” organized into communties [tissues?] which were in turn surrounded by hedgerows and borders… Wyrtig.)
It is likely that this is the fashion in which humans, and our companion species, generally spread around the globe. It’s a pattern that follows the dictum “life makes good for life,” enriching its ecosystem and ensuring biodiversity and resilience for all species.
Is this self-organizing cell-like basic home garden structure a “poly-species” super organism? (super-organisms are those made up of multiple individuals, such as a bee hive.)
Is this some basic, hard-wired pattern of biology that we evolved in order to adapt our environment in a way that made us beneficial keystone species?
Do we instinctively utilize the ridgid, lignin-rich properties of woody perennials to create our “cell walls” and define our “tissues” (communities) just as plants do?
Is this pattern the ideal result of simple, logical ways that biological organisms thrive in interaction with each other? Is it shaped in some fundamental way by the laws of nature on our world, regardless of scale: cell, tissue, organ, organism, community, ecosystem?
Architects such as Christopher Alexander have pointed out that we seem to inately feel “right” inside these enclosed, cell-like spaces. We love plants, rich, lush gardens filled with fruits and vegetables. We thrive on the loving companionship of non-human animal companions. We do indeed seem programmed to order our environments to create this home-garden pattern….
(Forest garden “enclosure” at Lillie House)
So, how did we get stuck into the self-destructive, eco-cidal patterns of agrarian civilization, where “cells” stop acting beneficially, and instead maximize “consumption,” the conversion of raw energy into ever more humans, ever more cells, without regard to role or the health of the whole? …into “expansionist” units that infiltrate, and convert healthy cells into similarly single-minded, anthrocentric, tissues with poorly defined borders? …until inevitably, the growth causes the breakdown in the healthy function of the whole super-organism “ecosystem,” and with it, the humans that depended upon it.
Of course, it’s probably inaccurate (to say the least) to compare the self-destructive nature of agrarian civilization units to cancer cells. But the underlying biological mechanism and behavior characteristics look very similar, and unless we’re careful, they’ll have the same end result.
Whether or not our homesteads are surrounded by the literal “cell wall” enclosures of traditional home gardens, it’s interesting to me that Permaculture seeks to solve our problems by recreating this basic “closed loop,” celular pattern of humanity, in various ways.
Are we witnessing the death throws of a failed, self-destructive human system which has finally destroyed its super-organism host?
Are ideas like Permaculture and biomimicry an instinctive reclaiming of our biological role – the basic “genetic” motivating information that will organize a new, healthy, diverse super-organism to take its place?
Of course, I’m being metaphorical, rather than metaphysical. Ultimately, these questions are unanswerable, unscientific, and verge on being meaningless.
But I do believe that when we turn away from the destructive global system to build our own personal Permaculture systems and communities, based on caring, mutually-benefical interactions between species, we create a powerful, beautiful way of life that will spread, endure, and provide comfort and security for generations to come.