Tyson Yunkaporta on permaculture, systems thinking & the pattern of creation (E62)

It was my pleasure to yarn with Sand Talk author Tyson Yunkaporta on permaculture and much else. Tyson’s perspective complements and contrasts with that of Leah Penniman in the last episode. Please do tell me what you got from the chat in the comments below!

Tyson Yunkaporta

Permaculture isn’t a form of gardening – it’s a method of inquiry about relationships – that’s all it is. And it’s awesome and in that way it’s similar to traditional ecological knowledge from all over the planet and it’s a constantly shifting evolving body of knowledge too, that’s never the same in the same place twice. Love it!

Tyson Yunkaporta

The above quote comes from this talk between Tyson and my friends at the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance:

Also a big shout out to my my three friends Woody, Meg and Patrick who make up Artist as Family who Tyson speaks about in the yarn. Coincidentally Woody is to appear in our upcoming documentary film about reading landscape. To learn more about that project visit the website www.ReadingLandscape.org and either subscribe to the newsletter or donate to get invited to a free project zoom call on July 15, 2021, with David Holmgren, filmmaker Dave Meagher, and myself.


  1. Loved this conversation, Dan, including your singing! Thank you.

    I’m reading Tyson’s book now, and am learning so much, and resonating with much as well.

    SPIRIT, HEART, head, hands!

  2. Connect

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful pattern.

    Since hearing this in your conversation together it has been imprinted in my mind when meeting other beings individually or in groups as well as when hiking or being introduced to spaces new to me (such as in my permaculture work).

    A colleague of mine and I also applied this pattern to hold space for a meeting several weeks ago. I felt that it went profoundly well (though still need to follow up to hear how the others felt about it).

    I like this pattern also for it’s complimentarity to the dipole one of
    Immersion>>><<<Emergence you have shared before Dan (nice to have that simple one to carry around, but of course also to be imaged in 4+ dimensions such as in Sonja Hörster and Jascha Rohr's Field Process Model)

    Tyson's mentioning of how the quality of larger systems can be evident in the smaller details nested within (his Bracken Fern example) reminded me of Adrienne Maree-Brown's writing about this as an emergent strategy principle: "Small is good, small is all (The large is a reflection of the small)" in her book Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. https://static.6seconds.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/06205440/emergent-9-principles.png

    This got me thinking (only seemingly contrarily) about what Carol Sanford has said about the idea of scalability.. that what works in one scale can't just be scaled up or down to the same effect (because that would be a formulaic approach.. because this is not working with 'essence' and instead applying leverage.. and a lever, particularly when used metaphysically in complex situations is very powerful and can break all sorts of things!).

    With these two ideas in mind I felt that something shifted in my understanding of scale and scalability.. in particular about capitalism (or rather, with corporate capitalism as my thought experiment).

    Up until this I always felt that "capitalism" is evident in all scales and occurs 'naturally' (and that of course that capitalism as we know it did naturally occur through the events of time and biophysical phenomenon..).

    But then after hearing this episode I began to be able to image this in a much more nuanced way.. to see how capitalism is not just like in the forest or the gut, etc. But that corporate capitalism is founded on the core impetus of greed and arrogance.. which must obviously be rooted in dis-eases (insecurities and emotional/biophysical lack). It is no wonder that when this essential core is "scaled up" that it re-presents such tension in the world.

    With this shift in perspective I also thought about how it has been said that the US constitution was based on the democratic principles and ideas originating in the Iroquois (Haudensosaunee) Confederacy's "Great law of peace" (https://thecollege.syr.edu/anniversary-issue/taking-root/haudenosaunee-peoples-longhouse/)

    Yet these original (Haudensosaunee) ideas and principles were evoked through a process specific to it's place, time and people. On one hand I'd like to think that with a core of love, trust, respect and peacefulness that there must be a permeating effect on the largeness of the US constitution (in a way that regenerates this love, trust, respect and peace).. however I also wonder if in the scaling up of these originating bioregional ideas and processes is even possible when applied to an empire (the scale of many thousands of bioregions and nations) could ever have worked out as intended (eg: Sanford's reasoning around the phenomenon of applying a formula to other situations or scales).

    As you may be able to tell, I've been stewing on these thoughts for a while and was hoping for an easier way to share them here in as simple a way as possible, though had to get them out as they kept rattling around my mind.

    ("Dancing With Systems" by Donella Meadows: The Dance, principle #3: Expose your mental models to the open air)

  3. Hi Dan, I’ve been wanting to get to this for a long while now. Busy summer for me. I have to say I’m so damn grateful to your podcast for continually pointing to relevant and necessary considerations. Tyson Yunkaporta’s interview got me straight to a local bookstore to buy Sand Talk. I read it one chapter at a time and had some serious time to contemplate it recently. He cuts through social/personal-paradigm systems with a sharp, witty, and simultaneously loving blade. I have not felt this way about a book in a few years. There were times when I felt like he was explaining parts of myself to myself, and times where I realized how short of wholeness I can fall. There were also times that reenergized me about permaculture’s own true nature. Lot’s to come from this, and I just wanted to reach out over the lightening speed of the web and say thank you for all your efforts Dan. They are recognized, appreciated, and incredibly useful to my life as a designer, thinker, and nature immersed critter.

    1. So good to see your comment Jason. I have been thinking it is high time for a catch up with your latest adventures! Thanks for your appreciation and so glad to hear Tyson’s book and style hit the spot for you.

  4. Utterly fascinating – he’s such an original thinker and disruptor. It’s definitely time we started learning from Aboriginals and their culture. Lucky (in spite of our efforts in the past and ongoing) we have so many brilliant minds we area able to listen to in that community.

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