Permaculture Tips - Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback

Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback: ‘Permaculture is a direction not a destination’

How much do we need?

In a natural ecosystem each plant or animal uses as much resources as they need to survive and thrive. Self regulation is an intrinsic part of the way things work.For us then -what is need? We humans have wildly different interpretations and levels of 'need'. 'Accept Feedback' is the key. We are asked to carefully observe the effects of our needs on the world and adjust our actions accordingly.


When cycling a bicycle we constantly adjust ourselves to keep our balance. We swerve to avoid potholes, move into the side to get away from passing traffic, and shift our own weight with each push of the pedal. We are responding to observations of ourselves & our surroundings in relation to our aim of staying upright & moving towards our destination!

On the bicycle we manage to to maintain a dynamic stability' If we were not doing this we might find oursleves faced with bigger issues to respond to, like falling off the bike, crashing into something or being in the way of traffic. To keep ourselves safe on the bicycle we need to be alert, observant, and responsive.

In effect it is the consequences of our actions that we are observing. We're then making small adjustments to keep things in balance.

This Permaculture Principle 'Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback' asks us to do this in relation to the Permaculture ethics. It reminds us to reflect on the impacts of our actions, and to gently realign them with our values of Earth care, People care, and fairshares.

Relocalising: Think Global, Act Local

Deforestation, Exploitation of people, pollution of landscapes, erosion of communities... Just some of the problems we hear about through the media. Not investigating the consequences of our actions and our impact of our choices, we are often contributing to such problems. So how can we help? It can be difficult to get accurate information about things that we don't directly experience, messages can become distorted when they travel. So in Permaculture we focus alot on 'relocalising'. It's much easier to see and feel the effects of our our consumption habits when for example we produce and use our local resources.

When we harvest trees in our locality we might feel the effects of loosing a windbreak, the water table might change, and we could hear a nearby road more clearly. We can respond accordingly to these observations on a small scale by replanting appropriately, or using a controlled coppicing system rather than clear fell. In doing so we can take resposibility for our own needs, rather than relying on something far away & out of sight which can quickly escalate into a huge problem before we notice. To quote a wise priest: 'this cow is small Dougal.... those cows are far away'.

Things can only get better!

This principle is one which kickstarts a spiral of abundance. Whether it's gardening, learning a new skill, building a house or working in a group of people, simply looking for and responding to feedback can improve things fast!

In a group setting I could 'self regulate' by offering my own opinion less and waiting to hear what others have to say. Then when I do share my ideas I could ask 'What do you think?' In my Permaculture Teaching I have learnt to appreciate feedback from students, other teachers, and myself. Rather than keep repeating the same thing, I can accept the feedback and use it to help improve my work.

Mimicking Nature

In Permaculture design we want our systems to regulate themselves as much as possible so as to minimize the energy we have to put in. We want our gardens to be able to recover from changes in weather conditions, adapt to the presence of potential pests and be low maintenance with high productivity.

The classic example of this is the slug scenario! Every gardener has their own personalised way of dealing with the age old slug 'problem'. From a Permaculture Perspective we consider how 'the problem could be the solution'. In this case, slugs could be a resource for alchemist ducks who transform them into eggs which we can use! “You don't have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency” says Bill Mollison one of the co creators of the whole Permaculture concept. By integrating ducks into the garden ecosystem we have willing slug hunters at work, and added to that we get the extra egg extra yield.

Self Assessment

Of course as with all of the Permaculture Principles we can take this idea and translate it into any context.

Four questions which are very helpful in doing so are: 'What is going well?, What is not going so well, or is challenging? What are my/the long term visions, goals and values here? And then in respect of that -What are the next acheivable steps that I could take to get back on track with those goals?'

Apply Self Regulation & Accept Feedback is the 4th of 12 Permaculture Principles which together can help to guide us towards reinvigorating a culture which embraces a Care for the Earth, Care for People and Fairshares.

About the author: 

Hannah Mole is an Organic farmer, Gardener and Permaculture teacher and designer, living in County Roscommon. For more info, events and courses see