Permaculture could be said to have a process that uses three primary principles, in a repeating cycle:
Expand – Encourage the most diverse range of animals, vegetables, minerals, and otherwise, to join your system as possible. Every unique element in the world has different things it inputs and outputs, and for every individual who needs X, there is another individual who produces X in excess. The more diversity you have in your system, the more chances there are of everyone getting what they need from someone else. Not everything will work in every ecosystem on the planet, but, within your region of the world, there will most likely be something that fills every need. Everything that voluntarily joins your system is valuable in some way, even if it’s not obvious right away.
Contract – Reduce the size of your resource footprint as much as possible by bringing symbiotic elements closer together, so that you meet more of each individual’s needs closer to where that individual usually is. This reduces waste both in the sense of making it easier for everyone to get their needs met, but also in the sense of putting surpluses to better use. This process is sometimes called “closing the loop” and making the system more independent and self-sufficient, and results in the three R’s of reduce, reuse, recycle. Rather than having what you need shipped in from elsewhere, find a way to use what you have in abundance to serve the same purpose whenever possible (i.e., collect rainwater and use “weeds” as mulch and compost, rather than getting water and fertilizer from some outside source).
Stay Still – stop and observe how things are flowing around you. Use your observations to better reduce conflict and create more symbiosis within all the individuals in your system. Also, use your stillness to remind yourself to mostly stay out of everyone’s way, and let them have as much freedom as possible so that they can more easily do what they do best.
Start by expanding your diversity by bringing in a few new promising individuals into your system that seem to offer something valuable to you, then do some research and find out how you can contract all the elements you’ve already got into a more intimate collaborative relationship. Then stop, look, and listen to all the activity going on, to see what’s happening and what might need some attention. Then start all over again with expansion by bringing in some new individuals who might be able to make things flow even better, and contract everyone together in a more collaborative way, and pause for a bit to watch the magic. And on and on as you and your ever growing system continue to evolve into something even better…