by John Todd *

l\. s the read ff"r s of Gaia's Garden will disriver, Nature is an extraordinary designer. I teach : ilogical design to university students and one of Hiv favorite teaching tools is a simple one. My stu-lt1 :>tH collect samplaB from at least three aquatic ;o:tats, such as a wet pool in the woods, an ani-i'-'. allow on a farm, and a pond or lake, and mix :n together in a glass jar. With lids screwed on rightly, the students turn their jars upside down lad place them in sunny windows to watch and orcl the unfolding drama within. 1 myself have k it such a jar near my desk for several years. In the presence of sunlight, a microcosm, or nature world, begins to organize itself. Tiny ~. >bk*k of oxygen congregate under small aquatic pimts and on the surface film of the water. Within an internal physical structur^or architecture is 'o evolve, complete with biological zones of ¿•Ltirmv. Life burrows on the bottom in the sediment ione. Aquatic weeds, fragments at first, grow miniature "forests" that reach up into the - column.The water itifelf teems with a diver-ot microscopic life. With magnifying glasses -tudents discover creatures reminiscent of pnmp and other minute creatures resembling " from one's imagination. The water/air ice is another zone with its own activity, tiny insects skate across the surface film.The «am above plays its own rolei^exchaiigiug f- ■■ ■. ■ .1 li the water below. At night, when the air a tools, water droplets condense at the top ■j^ ; jt with a pencil and it rains inside.

Within thfciirst few weeks an observer can notice grazing and predatory cycles. Swimming animals, called zooplankton, appear swmingly out of nowhere, then disappear to be replaced by other species. Snails lay egg clusters on the walls. Thit aquatic plants grow into complex shape** to gather lisjht and nutrients. Some plants penetrate the water/air interface and grow up into the air. Algae on the walls cweate a green carpet that consumes carbon dioxide and saturate* the jar with oxygen gas during tha day, Thtffcnails graze the algal carpets, leaving winding and spiraling paths that let light through to the rooted plants within.

The communities that adapt within are unique, part forest pool, part farm wallow, and part pond. All the life forms in the jars are familiar to biologists, bufc the combinations of species are unlike anything in the ecosystems from which they have baen derived. Ecologically they are new. And each of the students' microcosms develops differently from the others. The water and sediment samples that seed the jars vary for each student and those differences will affect the life within the jar. Even where the jars are placed on the window will determine their fate.

What is perhaps most fascinating and relevant to my tale here is that despite their difference», all the glass'jar commuiiitiw havs-four basic attributes in common. First, th^ have the ability to self-organize in the presence of sunlight. (In darkness or dim light, they do not. W'aste products accumulate and most of the organisms

die.) Sunlight generates nutrient cycling, gas exchanges, growth, amazing, prcgiation, death, and an ecologi^l dance.

Seijondlyij sejf-organizationipads ta s^lf-cfesign. A living "architeetma»" ifcdorip#d whase, space, and the limits of th^jar interact with all tJup life' within. Tlie jar's inhabitants (issupy tlii space optimally. Self-design lfigds to a beauty and a deep aesthetic within the jar that an observer immediate ly^j^f s.

ThiiJ^', the(| microcosrrtf can rep^r themselves. If a window blind-is ¿eit elided and sunlight blocked i#ir»ai^ral days-the ecosystem within will collapse. But if the jar is (pturned to ths light jj)on <&nough, die living systeeas will la^gin to reorganize itself. The ^l&-*epair process generates a new s|isiem, usually different than the omfrom which it was deri^ad. Tk» attribute of self-repair is essential to the sustainabilii^ of the s^-tem. Pertu '(ntions, whether ihey be nuvriranes, drought^*)* totfcic i^ault, happen in all systems, but life-in-«oncert ha^the mechanisms to adapt.

A final cJaarac^pstifi^f the mieiieceism is tW abilit^i-tc«elf-perpetuate. Th^ microbial life within the jar r^>rodu<|0s qv®- tir^f periods measured by minutes it>r bacteria and hours|^|- alga#. Higher forms perpetuate th«(f epeqjf s in d^ or«v*eks. Cycles ft ax and^ane with the season, but with any luck the syste«a will peraeviaii«,. In tW jar»on my office desk, a microcosm has beer unfeilding for yease.. Over time some^of the original lif&ifrms havsigoi&e extinct, for ths^mall size of the jar teste the limit" of lifenfrirking in coacert.Yet as a whole, the svstem toamazingjiy ipecsistent.^flie miniature ^®>sysifljm that 1 am looking into now as I write may well outlive me.

Tkc Lilliputian world within tjie*jar has a isal power: it revealsM^turewisiisigi>e£. geologists have be^n to (^qq^ th^anguage^)f natural systems on a larger scale than in m\ jar. from the.ram forests,, cxrral reefs, mangre^e *®mps, prairies, d^^rts, lakes, and northern lurests, they ar^ deciphering principles qlhyiatural Resign. This knowledge embodies the genius of evolutionary time and tha collective expesieo^ of all lif^as a whole system. Like th^titl^iljthiiliiook, if is (¡iaian knowigdge.

Seeing the world as an ongoing pro«ss of ecological design trarigforms hojj(i|^ne-appr.Qachfis tke basic problem of supporting humanity. Ecological knowledge is now |Mi§g used to develop new living technologies that can repair damaged environments and recycle wastes into beneficial ae-w products. Thq|g eco-technologies are beginning to influence the design of infij^stufctur^s for humangeprnmuiiities. In Gaia's Gmfden, author Tob\ Hemenway takog this thinking a poWerful s^p fcr-ward by bringing living -systems' inielligeiu:e to the household. The book »eie-fiorth the radical notion that aaological design, applied at the Wei of the home, can utterly transform hew landscape? 3X% sustained and humans fed. This book pravides a genuine alternate to the -contemporary industrial/global machine, whichitatragifi^iaiouices and «^ploits humans and lan^capes«j£or its own ends and means. If the ideas prassnted here are widei^i adapted, then we, have tha possibilitv ot forging a<eulturai>aised upon Earth stewardship. In my opinion, ecological design as developed in Gmia's Gmrden represents the-on|y long-term hope for humanity.

-GaitkStirden owes its heritage to the Perm-ac«lturc teachings pionaated by Bill Mollison and David Holmgi«n -the last quarter century. In its quiafaand wise way, this book-outlines a radical re<^iign for thejfutur^' of gardening and agricu turij organizail around the basic premise that in the growing of foods and tte crafting ot landscapes, it is possihjtrto substitute^eological information and human ^wardship far todav? dependence. on capital, hardware, chemicals, machines, genetically engineered organisms-, and d?nrii"tiirritiif hn"l"gi"" Hemenwa^ishows us that the tesk of restoring the Earth begins in>»ur own gardens.

On^of my favorite tales from the book i*nliod-ias tlae wsorldvi^w ol the ecologiq^ designer in practical ways——through what. Hemen waiter ms "poi^cultuteflj and what I shall icall "gardening in the image of a meadow " Instead of the often back-breaking labor that goes into tilling, «owing, weed-ifig wid chemically controlling a conventional - ---- .-r garden. Tobv Hemenway's meadow-id garden works on totally different ■cqpff? 'ft provide* its own fertilization, has ■nal weed suppression and pest-control mech-•tis, and manages its internal moisture lfepels agh drv times and wet, functioning as a self-lg ecology The cycle begins aboutf^me " before the last frost, when the gardener .Dares the garden bed with sheet composting or jng. After tlw last frost, the gardener broadcasts seeds of radish, dill, parsnip, calendula, and ■ arieties ot lettuce over the garden and r ids onJlquarter inch of compost over the "hat's it. Then Nature goes to work. After ^eks, the radishes are ready for harvesting, ge seedlings can fill the holes thev leave. By i six, the dense lettuce crop begins yielding schin, leaving other lettuce varieties to grow ti® over (he next several months. When the up in late spring and earlv summer, ans and buckwheat take the space formerly ; -'d In the lettuce. Dill and calendula, whose ■ are edible, are harvested next.The cabbage mature over an extended period, and by . parsnips are ready to harvest.The gardener pokes garlic cluves and fava beans into these newest openings, to be harvested the following year. The polyculture provides enough botanical diversitv to control pests and disease as well as to protect the plants from excess rain and drought.

Variations on this polyculture theme through out the book exp.fnd tht meaning of gardening from the traditional battle to control Nature to a conscious and conscientious attempt to imitate and re-create natural systems in the backyard. Saia's Garden shows how ideas and patterns from Nature can be blended and integrated to create larger systems. These larger s^tems in turn connect with each other to create a self-tending and co-evolving garden landscape.

Ecological design is predicated upon place, fcach garden, each valW and each region is different. Thaee differences, in the hands of an Earth stewanl^/an be honored and used toward creative and diverse ends. Each garden is a reflection of the potential of place and the intimacy with which the gardener can connect with the needs and latent forces <tf the land. Earth wisdom becomes an expanding univei* for th» seeker, until the garden becomes an Eden where the gardener and garden exist in true harmonJMThe world vwe dream of, sustainable and beautiful, takes shape in the ecological garden. Gaia's^arden is a fine plase to begin.

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