During the analysis phase of permaculture design, the scales of permanence can be adapted into a design tool. Understanding the range of aspects in the site we can and cannot change can help us set realistic goals within our time frame and develop design strategies to make our ideas a possibility.
The top of the list includes aspects of the site that are harder to change, or can't change. As you move down the list, these aspects become easier to change with our decisions and actions:
Harder to change / can't change
- landform and slopes
- water access
- water flow
- vegetation and wildlife
- zones of use
How we applied this in design practice
When assessing our backyard design site during the summary analysis phase of design, we converted each of these 'scales' into layers on separate sheets of trace paper. When put together, they helped us see the whole system, with everything from climate (zone 6, to slope, to what animals visited the garden often). When separated, they allowed us to use this data to flesh our our niche analyses and begin to lay out the design.
These scales of permanence also help us to design for the future, for succession, by providing a framework for thinking out 30 years and working backwards.