Permaculture as Philosophy: How to Apply ‘Turning Problems into Solutions’ in Real Life

 An excerpt by Charlotte Ashwanden from

Probably one of Bill Mollison’s most often-quoted phrases is –

“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”

This view is woven throughout the permaculture principles, especially in Mollison’s original design principle, “Turn Problems Into Solutions”

A problem is usually defined as the opposite of a solution. How can it change so drastically?

Firstly, it seems important to understand than in order to ‘turn a problem into a solution’, we do not have to physically change the problem. The change can be achieved through our use of language and through our widening of perspective.

Unless we can take away the power of the problem by changing how we talk about it, and transcend the problem by accepting it as part of a wider picture, then it may well be difficult to solve it. Once we do these two things, however, it can open our imaginations and ability to create effective solutions.

When we describe something as a problem we are giving it the power to be a problem with our words and intentions. 

However, if we can expand our perspective and look at the problem another way, it is usually possible to see how the thing – whatever it is – can in fact be in some way beneficial for us.


And example of turning a problem into a solution is taking a look at the benefits of stinging nettle. Ironically it is wonderful for soothing itchy skin when prepared as a decoction. It is highly nutritious and can be used in soups. Click HERE for Growing Home harvesting tips and uses. 




This widening of perception can be applied to any problem…

Large or small, from purely internal psychological crises to conflicts between people, or between humans and nature, or between entire countries or states. Many traditional cultures and ancient philosophies also advocate this way of looking at the world, and it has been written about by many Western thinkers such as Taoism-inspired Ursula K. LeGuin:
“Only in silence, the word:
Only in darkness, light
Only in dying, life…”

We cannot have one without the other and once we accept this, it can become much easier to accept any problem which comes our way as merely the counterpart to a beautiful solution.

[Continue reading the full article here >>]


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