Solving for Pattern

Written by Paul Hawken

The term solving for pattern was coined by Wendell Berry, and refers to a solution that addresses multiple problems instead of one.  Solving for pattern arises naturally when one perceives problems as symptoms of systemic failure, rather than as random errors requiring anodynes.  For example, sustainable agriculture addresses a number of issues simultaneously:  it reduces agricultural runoff, which is the main cause of eutrophication and dead zones in lakes, estuaries, and oceans; it ameliorates climate change, because organic soil sequesters carbon, whereas industrial farming releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and is the second-greatest cause of climate change after fosil fuel combustion; it improves worker health because of the absence of toxic pesticides; it enables soil to retain more moisture and is thus less reliant on irrigation and outside sources of water; it is more productive than conventional agriculture; it is less susceptible to erosion; and it provides habitat for pollinators, birds, and beneficial insects, which promotes biodiversity.  On top of all that, the resulting food commands a premium in the market, making small farms economically more viable.  Solving for patter is the de facto approach of the movement because it is resource constrained.  It cannot afford "fixes," only solutions.

Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest, p. 178.

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