Principle 9: Use small and slow solutions

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” “Slow and steady wins the race.”


Principle 9: Use small & slow solutions

Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.

The snail is both small and slow, it carries its home on its back and can withdraw to defend itself when threatened. The proverb “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” reminds us of the disadvantages of excessive size and growth while “slow and steady wins the race” encourages patience while reflecting on a common truth in nature and society.

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Growing a baby – and a garden

While babies may not come from cabbage patches, you’ll sometimes find them nearby. Four week old Verti, along with this huge cauliflower, are being transported around the garden so that her parents can harvest and weed while she sleeps. The ever changing demands of small children can come as a shock to new parents, so it’s important not to set too high expectations of what can be achieved. Enjoy time caring for the young, and consider any completed tasks a bonus.

Principle 9: Use small and slow solutions - Growing a baby - and a garden

‘Growing a baby – and a garden’ photo contributed by Nelson Lebo and featured in the 2014 Permaculture Calendar.


Principle 9: Use small & slow solutions

Principle 9: Use small & slow solutions

Principle 9: Use small and slow solutions - The Chikukwa Project

The Chikukwa Project

After decades of land mismanagement, the last natural spring of this region had silted over. A communal effort to restore them 20 years ago has culminated in the reinvigoration of the land, providing an example that’s spreading all over Africa. Core to the project has been slowing water run-off using techniques like contour planting, terraces, swales, and bunds, all made by hand. These reduce erosion, recharge the springs and rehydrate the soil, feeding orchards, crops and people.

Project co-ordinated by CELUCT in Zimbabwe, Africa. Photo contributed by John Champagne. Documentary now available.

Principle 9: Use small and slow solutions - Spaghetti Eastern

Spaghetti Eastern

“What are Nora and Cassie doing with their spaghetti? In this game, going slow works much better than going fast. It’s a spaghetti race involving teams racing each other sideways towards a finishing line, while balancing spaghetti between you and your partner’s face. If you drop or break a strand of spaghetti, you have to go back to the start. Please try this at home!” – Christian Parr

Photo by Bob Parr

Principle 9: Use small & slow solutions

Adventures in urban sustainability

Small home food gardens in our suburbs play such an important role in creating sustainable, resilient networks of diverse food producing spaces. By gently tending to our fruit trees and veggies, giving them time to grow organically at their own pace in rich living soils, we can create food with incredible vibrancy and nutritional value like no other – right at our own back door.

Photo taken in Wollongong, NSW Australia by Richard Walter, text by Alison Mellor and Richard Walter

Principle 9: Use small & slow solutions

Permablitz – changing the world, one garden at a time

At this winter permablitz we prepared the soil, and planted fruit trees and berries in this neighbour-shared food garden. Permablitzes are sociable and reciprocal working bees for installing edible gardens where people live, with free workshops, and shared food. They give homemakers and the city “a boost along the path of self-reliance and minimal ecological impact.”[Holmgren] They are relatively small events, with broad and lasting influence.

Photo taken in Melbourne, Australia and contributed by Michele Margolis, text by Adam Grubb.

Principle 9: Use small & slow solutions

“Our Seeds”, Sankranti (harvest) Festival

Local Seed Networks conserve local varieties, the basis of genuine local cuisine. Unlike frozen “doomsday” seed banks, they keep traditional knowledge about breeding, growing, and utilising food plant varieties alive within the community. Instead of being frozen in time the varieties themselves adapt to climate change. Small and slow solutions, such as the grassroots seed savers movement, can be more powerful than top down centralised strategies.

Photo taken at the Chinnakatte village temple, India by Michel Fanton, text by Jude and Michel Fanton

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