Observe and Interact

By observing systems before interacting we can make better use of our energy and time.

The eye reminds us to observe before interacting when approaching a new situation in life or a problem in the garden.  By observing first, we can be efficient and effective with our time spent managing project as well as our daily lives.  Before we can comprehend a solution we must look for patterns in a system or low hanging fruit within a design project. Environment 391: Sustainability and The Campus is a shining example of a permaculture related course at the University of Michigan that teaches students methods of systems observation and interaction.

“This “hands-on” interdisciplinary course explores environmental (and, to a lesser degree, social and economic) sustainability in higher education generally and at the University of Michigan specifically in a dynamic, interactive way. Drawing upon theory and practice in sustainability, environmental management, organizational change and social advocacy, students conduct a substantial, hands-on group project in conjunction with a university sponsor. Past projects available at http://graham.umich.edu/leadership/campus-course have led to the creation of the “How to be a Green Wolverine Guide”, the planting of a campus garden, a campus sustainability interactive map and many other direct outcomes. Through site visits, guest lectures, discussions, lectures and this project, this course addresses the real life challenges of campus environmental sustainability. The focus is on active, participation-based learning, and students leave the course with an understanding of the campus as a lever for environmental change and with the personal tools to act as change agents. Beyond directly impacting the campus, this course helps develop professional skills in environmental project management.” -Mike Shriberg from the LSA Course Guide


“By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.

This icon for this design principle represents a person ‘becoming’ a tree. In observing nature it is important to take different perspectives to help understand what is going on with the various elements in the system. The proverb “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” reminds us that we place our own values on what we observe, yet in nature, there is no right or wrong, only different.” -Holmgren Permaculture Principles