The University of Diversity


I was maybe 8 years old when I came across this book at a car boot sale in Fremantle. It was some ridiculously affordable price like 50c, and I had the pocket money to buy it.

It is my first memory of the broader diversity of nature. It showcased to me a wider world of nature beyond the local flora and fauna that I was aware of. I have recently sat down with my young boys to share with them this amazing book of biology.

About another 8 years later I was laying on my parents bed watching the small TV that we had then. I don’t recall the show, probably a documentary, but it was highlighting the destruction and magnitude of the rapid loss of rainforest in South America, particularly the deforestation of the Amazon. I watched quietly, through great globs of tears as a guy with a chainsaw effortlessly sliced through a tree that was probably older than several generations of my heritage.

It was around the same time that I gave up some of my time to promote the cause of saving the area surrounding Mt Lesueur on the west coast of Western Australia from coal mining and a possible coal-fired power station. It really wasn’t a well known area at the time unless you were into birdwatching or wildflowers. As a bioregion it has incredible diversity, especially for a very unassuming looking place of coastal heathland.

So it is not exactly a surprise that I was intrigued and fascinated by the concept of permaculture when I first saw it as a teenager. It is a major component of a good permaculture design. An intrinsic part of it. A good permaculture design builds diversity. Over time this diversity grows and develops. This wider diversity leads to stability when then leads to an increased fertility and which by design, leads to a potential productivity.

However, diversity simply for diversities sake is a collection. It doesn’t mean that there are meaningful interactions occurring within the system. There needs to be inter-active diversity. Each element must interact with other elements. There is a process to this of observing and analysing a systems interactions for feed back in order to better place elements.

Gradually I am building a network of potential relationships between elements of our design for the new garden. Ideally, every element has more than two relationships with other elements in the system. For example, I am building on the concept of having some kind of flowing water passing through the chicken yard. For the following reasons:

  • to make redundant the necessity to have to change their water. They will have fresh water on tap all the time.
  • within the water I plan to grow Lebanese watercress which will be a forage of fresh greens available at call for the hens to pick.
  • watercress in turn cleans and purifies the water with its root system and will replenish itself constantly as being in water the chickens are not able to totally destroy the plant. 
  • this micro-environment of watercress and running water may also provide habitat for frogs if set up appropriately. And so another element is introduced. The frogs will benefit the garden by reducing pest species naturally.

With each element that is introduced I am looking for the beneficial relationships and their potential. If the relationship is not particularly beneficial, it simply means identifying a way in which it can become so. I am aiming to design ‘convenience’ into the system to facilitate the events that I wish to include in the design.

Between the garden system as it evolves and the nearby environs of native bushland, swamp and wetland, coast and estuary we are situated within a University of Diversity.

Happy learning.



2 thoughts on “The University of Diversity

  1. I shall do. I have various plans for utilising water in the backyard and having it circle and pass through the system, using it as much as possible before it passes passively into the garden itself. I will record this on the blog. Still awaiting the day we can ‘flip’ the switch on the grey water system!


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