The notion that the Earth is a living system with regenerative power is not new, though it has been suppressed for centuries by a paradigm that regards nature as dead, a resource to be exploited. Even now, on the brink of global catastrophe, our scientific and cultural narratives are still largely based on an assumption that planetary cycles mechanically obey physical laws. Happily, this is changing and from the new paradigm springs an ecological design practice based on the regenerative power of nature.
Earth system science recognises what indigenous peoples have always known: that ‘life creates the conditions conducive to life’ (Dr Janine Benyus, Biomimicry Institute). This new paradigm validates new narratives in which the role played by the web of life is fully appreciated. From the tiniest microscopic organism, to the vast arboreal organisms that girdle the planet, life collaborates with life to regulate the functioning of ecosystems and the entire biosphere. Exciting new studies appear almost daily to uphold the alternative worldview, embracing holistic thinking and empowering us with the knowledge to design as nature itself.
As ecological designers we can now visualise the web of life as a dynamic system of relationships and interactions that regulate the climate, the trade winds, the weather, the carbon, nitrogen and nutrient cycles, even the oxygen we breath. We can work with life itself to meet human needs by designing symbiotic relationships into agriculture, sanitation, water management, natural building techniques and low impact energy. Focusing on bioregional resources, we can create edible ecosystems, constructed wetlands, biogas digesters with anaerobic microbes, regenerate the hydrological cycle and the soil food web, reduce dependence on energy through passive heating and ventilation and much more. We can mimic natural cycles and rhythms by including natural feed-back loops and closed loop systems in our designs. Ecological design is the exciting and empowering new approach to living that returns us to the natural cycles where we belong, allows us to design for health and well-being as individuals and communities, transforms our worldview, our core values and our economic system.
As a permaculture and ecological design facilitator with experience in various cultures across the world, Jacqueline Fletcher has been researching ways to introduce ecoliteracy into mainstream cultural narratives and education for some time, advocating school gardens and training for ecological designers at community level. She is an ecological design facilitator for Gaia Education’s Design for Sustainability course.
- An understanding of the symbiotic relations in nature and the role they play in regulating the biosphere
- Understanding how the knowledge of symbiotic relationships in nature can be used in permaculture and ecological design at bioregional levels
- Understanding how integrating ourselves into the web of life implies a shift in core values that inform new narratives and an invigorating transition to regenerative cultures.