Letting Nature Show Us What Works: Observation
Sustainability is about working with nature, rather than against it. We can choose to impose our own agenda (often at great expense to ourselves and to the local ecology), or we can appreciate the forces and processes that exist on the land, and work with them to benefit ourselves and the environment at the same time. The way to begin working with nature is to start by observing it, noticing and appreciating what nature is doing on a site. The observation process is a key tool that means the difference between results that are ecologically sound, and ones that are not. Observation is about letting nature teach us what works.
A well known permaculture teacher, Lea Harrison of Australia, recounts that as she was starting out, she was unable to work on her farm for an entire year as a result of a motorcycle accident. She was forced by her injury to sit back and watch her fallow land from the balcony of her house, and she couldn't DO anything! While frustrating at first, in retrospect she realized that waiting that whole year to observe natural processes on her land enhanced her farm design tremendously, lowering her overall costs and resulting in higher yields and reduced maintenance.