The Principle of Transformative Action

“Invest in growing connections to nature and community.”

—The principle of transformative action

For us involved in Transformative Adventures, the principle of Transformative Action is our “North Star,” guiding every action we take.

When we start to see Permaculture as a way of guiding transformative ACTION, we need one simple, easy check-in to gage whether our actions will be beneficial or destructive. And so this quick question can help guide Permaculture in Action.

The key insight here is that almost all of our major personal and societal problems have arisen from an economic system that destroys these connections so that a few powerful interests can benefit.

For example, in a healthy ecosystem, every being gets their sustenance sustainably from the excess produced by the ecosystem. Then our friends and family members in the community turn it into food, getting meaningful livelihoods from the activity. That energy is our direct connection to the sun, flowing to us from our community members, our ecosystems and our soil! Healthy human societies have always functioned sustainably by harvesting that sun energy from ecosystems.

The idealized traditional meal, image from Growing FREE.

But in our modern dysfunctional society, we start by destroying ecosystems. We make up for that by unsustainable fossil fuel and fertilizer use. Then we transport, refrigerate, and process. Instead of our community members and friends making our food, it goes through distant corporations that exploit under-paid labor. Each step further degrades our food, our communities, and our earth.

All the connections broken for profit, each step creating waste and pollution.

We could build similar examples from housing, clothing, transportation, healthcare, landscaping, waste management, etc. All our major systems have been broken for the profit of the few.

So the great work of our era is to rebuild those broken connections. Each action we take can be guided by that goal: worthy actions build connections. If we find ourselves doing the opposite, we should consider long and hard as to why.

The Holmgren principles rephrased as questions to help us in growing connection.

For a deeper reflection, we can delve deeper into the different aspects of this principle. For example, we can look to some of the other sets of principles of Permaculture design.

These questions are adaptations of Permaculture principles created by David Holmgren. All of permaculture’s principles can be seen as subsets of the principle of connection. Here, stated as questions related to connection, they are optimized to help guide our actions and adventures.

While Holmgren says his principles can lead to destructive practices of not all followed together, the Principle of Transformative Action helps us avoid this problem. I can think of no way in which building mutually beneficial connections to nature and community can cause harm. So keeping this principle at the forefront can help guide us in truly life-enhancing and effective directions.

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