Thursday, 21 August 2014
Permaculture science, holism and reductionsim (online)
Permaculture emphasizes holism. It addresses problems through wider relationships and patterns scaled at different system levels, avoiding the reductionism that isolates a problem within a specific sub-system of the wider whole. The science from which it draws most inspiration is ecology, the biological discipline of relationships, systems, and levels. Yet this article focuses on some tensions between permaculture as an holistic practice and ecology as a reductionist science. It makes a reductionist biological critique of some aspects of permaculture’s holism, but also a holistic critique of certain forms of scientific reductionism. The result will be some pointers toward improving permaculture’s scientific grounding, without losing the movement’s wider insights. Or to put it another way, sometimes it’s good to be holistic, whereas at other times a bit of reductionism fits the bill.