Permaculture Principle #10: Use and value diversity; the more the merrier

“Diversity isn’t involved so much with the number of elements in a system as it is with the number of functional connections between these elements. Diversity is not the number of things, but the number of ways in which things work.”

~ Bill Mollison

Diversity is the party planner of a permaculture system. She makes sure that no matter what happens, that party is going to be a hit. “The more the merrier!” is her motto.

The actual definition of diversity is: “a range of different things.” How boring is THAT?

To me, diversity conjures images of abundance and lushness; of gardens overflowing with vine ripened tomatoes and bright flowers, and tree branches laden with apples and pears and peaches; of water flowing, solar panels shining, and windmills turning. Just . . . abundance!

Increase diversity in your permaculture design

When we’re building a compost pile, we should put in as many different ingredients as possible, because the more diversity in the mix, the more diverse the micro nutrients and microorganisms which are present, and that will create a healthier and more effective compost.

Diversity adds stability to a system. If you have diversity in your soil, you can grow more and healthier plants. If you have diversity in your animal systems, you will have a variety of food, a diversity of manure for the compost and garden, and a variety of ways to integrate animals into the landscape systems – i.e. helping you clear land, make compost, or clean up pests.

Redundancy is a form of diversity. For example, having more than one way to get water will help ensure that you always have some, no matter what happens. If one system fails, others may keep working, so you’ll lessen your chance of running out.

In the garden, diversity can be achieved in many ways. Planting different varieties of the same crop can help ensure that at least something grows, no matter what the weather does, or what pests come calling. Planting a diversity of plants can help to attract a variety of beneficial critters, or deter the nasty ones.

And mixing everything all up together in a polyculture (as opposed to a monoculture) helps deter garden pests: the diversity just confuses their little buggy senses.

Where else can we use and value diversity’? What about our power sources? Relying on only one source of power can leave us in the dark. Having two or more sources of power will help ensure that if one fails another will kick in.

Diversify income streams

Diversity can also be a good thing when it comes to making a living. If you are a business owner, selling only one product or offering only one service is most often not enough to make a living. We must learn to diversify our income streams, to ensure that no matter what the ‘economy’ does, we’ll still be able bring in money.

For example, I am a freelance graphic designer. I’ve done lots of different tasks for clients over the years, from creating logos to designing websites to illustrating books. There is a lot of diversity in that line of work.

But I’m finding that it is getting harder for me to find new clients, and to be honest, I’m having a hard time keeping up with all the new technology. Or maybe I’m just tired of staring at a computer screen all day. Either way, I find myself wanting to diversify and create other income streams.

I am also a painter, so I am trying to learn how to market my art. Not an easy or pleasant task, but I’m working on it. And there are other avenues of interest that I am pursuing, such as more illustrating work, affiliate marketing, and writing.

So I I am trying to diversify my income, by following my interests. (My ultimate dream is to teach permaculture, design gardens, and write and illustrate my own books. But that’s another story for another day.)

My story is just an example of the benefits of diversity, and how we can apply it to all areas of our lives. There are so many unexpected things that can happen in life, and it behooves us to find many ways to reach the same goal, whether it is growing a garden, producing energy, or making a living.

So, whenever you are introducing a new element or system, try to find ways to diversify. Plant lots of different varieties of fruit trees, grow different varieties of vegetables, and reap different kinds of energy. A permaculture design that does not integrate diversity into every aspect, well . . . it’s just not a permaculture design.

The permaculture principle ‘use and value diversity’ can be applied to many areas of our lives. From the people we bring into our lives, to the varieties of fruit trees we plant, diversity just makes life more interesting.

Health, Hope & Happiness


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