Two Ways to Prioritize Climate Action at the Scale of Community

Here are two approaches to consider when using participatory engagement for joint action planning in community development for climate adaptation and coordinated economic development.

Stack Functions.

Solve three or more problems with one solution. When looking at a list of known issues or problems facing the community, and a list of possible actions, weigh each of the actions by issues they are addressing. If it is not really clear, go get more data.

Everything in nature is multifunctional. Stacking functions is a phrase coined by Bill Mollison and repeated for some forty-some years since, with great joy in the now global permaculture community that signifies an ecological design principle:[1] Before you add something to what nature is already doing, make sure it serves three or more functions. It takes humility to not assume we know better than nature but that is the shift from ego-system to ecosystem. Isn’t it?

To stack functions means that we have to be aware and understand something of what nature is already doing before we intervene. By stacking functions, we can use our agency to restore natural cycles, enable greater functionality, or distribute as generously as nature. Stacking Functions sort of a meta (or design) principle as it weaves many other ecological principles together. You can use a list of permaculture principles in the assessment phase of the design process to help inform a design, as a prioritization activity.

Obtain a Yield.

Obtaining a yield is about alignment with place. It is really pretty rational. Basically this principle in permaculture design refers to productivity. “Make hay while the sun is high,'' they teach at If you push it in the heat of the day to do your chores, the animals (that is you) get dehydrated and the tools get dull. The hips of the day are better times for working! There is more beauty and joy there too and that counts too!

You siesta when it is hot, right? Creatures and plants in the ecosystem learn this intrinsically, as does anyone that lives close to the land. In contrast, if your work harnesses a lot of fossil fuels, or refinements of that, this might not be innate at all.

Point is: If our intention is to prioritize work or action, we can look immediately to align with the place, an organization or a culture. The manner to do this is to sort out the list of all the possible actions, and weigh them if they are relevant to any of the following, (or all of them):
  • Ecological ethics and principles
  • Known community needs
  • Rules such as articles of organization or bylaws,
  • Operating missions and visions
  • Goals of legally adopted plans such as a town's comprehensive plan
  • Aims of completed community development plans
  • Sets of standards like Complete Streets
  • Zoning rules
  • Shared values
  • Funders targets
These strategies will keep the process and leaders learning and accountable to the systems they are a part of.

by Rachel Lyn Rumson
[1] Mollison, Bill (1988) Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual. Out of print.

Photo credit: Sage Hayes 2022