Chapter Three: Patterns and Process of Nature

‘The operational definition of sustainability implies that the first step to build sustainable communities is to become ‘ecologically literate’, i.e. to understand the principles of organization, common to all living systems, that ecosystems have evolved to sustain the web of life’. (Capra 2003:201)

The defining characteristic of ecological literacy is that it recognizes ecological systems as the context in which humankind is situated and acknowledges the necessity to construct human systems that are mutually complementary and symbiotic with natural processes. This chapter introduces ‘Nature’s Patterns and Processes’ concept promoted by The Center of Ecological Literacy (CEL) in San Francisco1 and developed by its co-founder Fritjof Capra. Capra writes that ‘it is no exaggeration to say that the survival of humanity will depend on our ability in the coming decades to understand these principles of ecology and live accordingly’ (2005:29). The patterns and processes of nature proposed by the CEL examined in this section are: networks, nested systems, cycles, flows, development, and dynamic balance. This chapter expands on each of these principles by linking to a concept in systems design: resilience, epistemological awareness, circular design, energy descent, emergence and planetary boundaries. By linking each process to an ecological design principle this chapter briefly explores how ecological literacy can inform design processes for sustainability. These concepts suggest a dramatic reorientation of design principles and practice.

This chapter can be downloaded here.

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