Center for Ecological Culture 
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What is "culture"?

There are many definitions of this term, derived from both common usage and multiple disciplinary traditions.  In the organizational learning context, culture may be understood as shared assumptions about how to think and how to live in the world, as informed by experience.

More precisely, culture may be understood as “a pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration,which has worked well enough to be considered valid and,therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.”-  Edgar Schein, 2010, p. 18 

What is "permaculture"?

According to David Holmgren, the australian ecological design engineer who co-founded the concept along with tasmanian naturalist Bill Mollison, the term refers to a design system guided by the vision of “[c]onsciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs.”  

What is the relationship between “permaculture” and “ecological culture”?

The term permaculture refers to a design system derived from a multidisciplinary body of scientific, practical and traditional knowledge about how to live sustainably on the earth and guided by espoused ethical precepts and principles aligned with the enduring patterns and processes of nature.  In a nutshell, it is the application of conscious design to “co-creative evolution of agriculturally productive ecosystems.” 

The term “ecological culture” refers to the application of conscious design to achieve “cooperative and just social and economic systems that have the diversity, stability and resilience of ‘nature’.”  (Jacke, 1999, see publications link).  

The common thread between these two concepts is the idea of conscious evolution, and the proposition that culture itself is a natural phenomenon, constituting “the primary adaptive mechanism of humankind.”  (Jacke, 1999). Therefore, if we are to survive and flourish as a species, given our capacity for massively reshaping the very ecosystems and natural processes that sustain us, we must strive to align our assumptions, beliefs, activities and artifacts (i.e., our cultures) with evolutionary imperatives.  This notion is captured well in a recent statement by Dr. Otto Scharmer (2010), Senior MIT lecturer and founder of the Presencing Institute, before the World Economic Forum.  We must, through enlightened leadership, “create deep innovation through moving from egosystem to ecosystem awareness.” 

What is "ecological design"?

The term, popularized by the foundational work architect Sim Van der Ryn, Ph.D. founder of the Ecological Design Institute, and c0-author Stuart Cowan, Ph.D. founder of autopoesis, is defined as " 'any form of design that minimizes environmentally destructive impacts by integrating itself with living processes.'  This integration implies that the design respects species diversity, minimizes resource depletion, preserves nutrient and water cycles, maintains habitat quality, and attends to all the other preconditions ofhuman and ecosystem health."   Van der Ryn & Cowan, (2007/1996), p. 33-34.

What is "sustainability"?
 
This is another term that has been defined in many diverse ways, even as it has served as a unifying and integrative concept guiding contemporary change initiatives around the world.  The concept of sustainability emerged in common usage from the term "sustainable development" as defined by the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (aka the Bruntland Commission Report), meaning "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
 
Given the complexity of today's global challenges, the term sustainability may properly be understood to encompass the aforementioned concept of intergenerational equity, and in addition encompass the notion that regenerative design and capacity building are essential to securing a sustainable future.  Specifically, in today's highly-networked society, organizational change leaders are increasingly adopting a notion of sustainability that encompasses a capacity to innovate.  These leaders understand the need to build social and ecological resilience, even while confronted with the press of day-to-day problems.  In the 21st century context, sustainability is best understood to involve commitment to cooperative problem solving through generative relationships that allow use to co-evolve with the Earth's living ecosystems.  In recent years, the related term "sustainable value" has gained currency in some sectors, suggesting a growing awareness of cultural dimensions to sustainability.  
 
For a one-page synthesis of current thought regarding the multi-dimensional meaning of the term "sustainability" click the following  link .
 
Also, for a ready reference on sustainability in the organizational setting, link to the 7 Domains of Sustainable Organizational Vitality along with an article by Bob Doppelt entitled:  Overcoming the 7 Sustainability Blunders.