"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"
Good design depends on a free and harmonious relationship to nature and people, in which careful observation and thoughtful interaction provide the design inspiration, repertoire, and patterns. It is not something that is generated in isolation, but through continuous and reciprocal interaction with the subject.
Permaculture uses these conditions to consciously design our energy descent pathway.
In hunter-gatherer and low-density agricultural societies, the natural environment provided all material needs, with human effort mainly required for harvesting. In pre-industrial societies with high population densities, agricultural productivity depended on the large and continuous input of human labour. Industrial society depends on large and continuous inputs of fossil fuel energy to provide its food and other goods and services. Permaculture designers use careful observation and thoughtful interaction to reduce the need for both repetitive manual labour and for non-renewable energy and high technology.
Thus, traditional agriculture was labour intensive, industrial agriculture is energy intensive, and permaculture-designed systems are information and design intensive.
In a world where the quantity of secondary (mediated) observation and interpretation threatens to drown us, the imperative to renew and expand our observation skills (in all forms) is at least as important as the need to sift and make sense of the flood of mediated information. Improved skills of observation and thoughtful interaction are also more likely sources of creative solutions than brave conquests in new fields of specialised knowledge by the armies of science and technology.
The icon for this principle is a person as a tree, emphasising ourselves in nature and transformed by it. It can also be envisaged as the keyhole in nature through which one sees the solution.
The proverb "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" reminds us that the process of observing influences reality and that we must always be circumspect about absolute truths and values.