Nov 3, 2010

The Chaos of Prescribed Order and Complexity of Self Organized Systems

Recently as you see in previous posts I have been working on new designs for local community gardens. I have also been taking a class in Chaos and Complexity Theory and been puzzled as to why the energy expended on the highly ordered grid garden designs exceeds that expended using a naturally ordered design. The observations are obvious, but not until I saw the systems side by s did I see some quantitative explanation.

Common grid gardens are tightly coupled and controlled spaces. The immediate proximity and rigid planting regimes within the spaces is counter to natural patch dynamics. Plants compete with other plants and defend the constant barrage of heat, evaporation, disease and insect pests. Also, the internally simplistic order of the grid plots combined with the immediate presence of connected plants and bare soil reduces the "K" value, internal complexity (Diversity), and raises the "C"  coupling value, or in this case pest connections with other plots. S.A. Kaufman describes this as the pre-Nash dance from chaos to stability. John Nash (also famous for the movie about him, A Beautiful Mind) devised the Nash Equilibrium in chaos theory.

Our annual and perennial gardens are a dance floor for the plants, diseases, and insects. If we create a "weak", low "C", network of plants, spreading them randomly or within beneficial polycultures in a highly complex spatial pattern, the pests cannot create a tight network, high "C", of predation and propagation. We are mimicking the natural pattern of plants that exists in nature where an equilibrium is established between insects, plants and other plants.

To paraphrase S.A. Kaufman, an Environmentally Stable System (ESS) is one with high internal complexity, (diversity), and low spatial inter-species relationships (proximity).

                                                                        State of the System

                                                                                     K (Diversity)
                                                                                           Low        High 
                                                                        High          Chaotic   Variable                         
(Species Number and Proximity)     C       Low          Variable   Stable                                    

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Permaculture and Polyculture Consulting and Design

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