Social Technology Overview

Social technologies are an integral part of solutions for a functional future.

“No-one would deny that people are the most difficult factor in any design or assembly. It is not that people lack the will to cooperate; it is more often that they have not adapted those sensible legal and administrative, or social mechanisms which allow them to cooperate.” p. 532, Permaculture Designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison

The Solution. Two Changes.

The only solution needed for one planet thriving is to deal with reality early, often, and skillfully. If we do this, we humans can evolve from being the most destructive force on the planet to the most restorative. We have all the physical technology (e.g., solar panels, swales, flow forms) we need to do this. 

The hard part? The social technologies necessary to cooperate, communicate with, and organize people to implement and maintain known solutions. In short, to deal with reality early, often, and skillfully, we need only two changes, both related to social technology.  

First, we need to learn how to use all the data that tells us about reality, especially when those data are associated with unpleasant emotion. Currently, we mostly try to avoid unpleasant emotion internally and in relationships with others. Thus, to the extent reality is unpleasant, this avoidance skews our view of reality. This article discusses this. 

Second, we need to use our ability to deal with unpleasant reality while we equalize power of all kinds at all levels of our culture. Due to power asymmetries developed through unfortunate current and historical feedback loops, we ignore important aspects of reality because we listen to the lucky and largely ignore the unlucky. Therefore, our view of reality is skewed, resulting in physical and social ways of life that are unsustainable and destructive.

“The profound change we must all make is internal; everybody needs to realise that there is no group coming to their rescue, that it is only what each of us does that counts; thus, those who cooperate with others, and take on a task relevant to all people, will be valued above those who seek personal survival.”

p. 557, Permaculture Designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison

“I believe that only group or community (bioregional) survival is meaningful and possible; individual survival is meaningless, as is survival in fortresses…The profound change we must all make is internal; everybody needs to realise that there is no group coming to their rescue, that it is only what each of us does that counts; thus, those who cooperate with others, and take on a task relevant to all people, will be valued above those who seek personal survival.”

p. 557, Permaculture Designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison

Darwinian “Fitness actually can be looked at as connectivity, the survival of the most connected which means the ones that fit into diversity. Diversity is the strength of ecosystems. Elements that fit together because they perform more than one function and every function supported by more than one element gives you this strong web of life. We, as humans, are potentially designers of this system…The science of connectivity…the way we fit things together. That is survival…for all species.”

Geoff Lawton, Q&A 1.1 of PDC 2.0 (8/2022)

Permaculture’s 3 ethics are earth care, people care, and fair share (share the surplus with the first 2). In social permaculture the prime directive within “people care” is to get along while having integrity. To get along without integrity is to be a social chameleon, changing your nature to fit what everyone else wants (but doesn’t necessarily need); as such, you can cease to exist as an element in the system, pseudo-fitting everything but truly connecting to nothing. 

“In this book, I am concentrating on people and their place in nature. Not to do so is to ignore the most destructive influence on all ecologies.”

p. 57, A Permaculture Designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison

Here are some of the important social technologies for one planet thriving related to both the first and second needed change:

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