Permaculture and Money – Part 5

Why Work? Re-imagining What ‘Livelihood’ Can Mean

During this article series, we explored how our behaviour with money can be seen as closely linked to acts of environmental destruction and feelings of disconnection1, and looked at some ways to re-imagine the stories we have around money and ways of engaging with abundance2. From there we explored the practice of being open3, and new ways of interacting socially, especially through events such as so-called “transformational” festivals where art can help us to explore new realities4. This final part will take a look at the relationship between money and work, and explore different ways of interacting professionally which could stem from the re-evaluation of money as part of a holistic and considerate worldview.



Money As Energy

Permaculture design can be used not only in a physical landscape but as part of the so-called “invisible structures” of human society5&6 which includes those created by money and monetary transactions. One way we could utilise permaculture design with the money which we personally use in our lives could be to include it as an energy in the ‘Zones and Sector Analysis’7 part of the design process as part of our invisible garden. When we become aware of which energies flow into and out of our system, we can start to direct them towards places which would benefit from the energy being there. This can also help us to see that all energies are moving continuously, and are part of a wider abundance of interconnected entities and flows.

Seeing money as a flow can be helpful for a number of reasons. For example, if we are re-imagining our relationship to money as that of a situation of givers and receivers of gifts8, then seeing money as a flow can reinforce non-attachment and trust that when we give, we also open ourselves to receiving. Also, in designing to direct physical energies such as wind and water, we can see that although it is possible and often desirable to ‘Catch and Store Energy’9, it would be very inefficient and probably unachievable to try to catch and store all of any one flow of energy. This can help to put our situation into perspective and help us to make the most of what we do have.


Streams Of Abundance

Many permaculture practitioners advocate organising your personal finances so that you have “multiple income streams” of financial energy flowing in from different places5&10. Practically, this creates more resilience within your system5. Also, the spiritual benefit of having multiple things you do for work is that there is the opportunity to put into practice many different skills or different aspects of the same skill. The idea of having a number of different professional skills can help to enhance your work as different parts of your professional life can inform each other. For example, teaching children helps a lot with my work in the world of festivals, and vice versa. Such “symbiotic relationships”5 as Looby Mcnamara calls it can be seen as especially important in any profession where you are responsible for the health, well-being or development of others, such as any kind of healer or teacher. It could be seen that we are most able to give to others and provide care and attention when we have also taken care of our own needs and are feeling fulfilled.

Multiple Streams
Photo by Matheo JBT on Unsplash

Multiple income streams can also be a helpful way to gain experience doing different things so that you can find more easily what it is you really want to do and how you can practically do it; in other words, in finding your “right livelihood” 5,11.

“Your purpose of life is not only to earn a living; your purpose is to make a life. Therefore, your work must be based on your vocation, your inner calling. Do not seek success in terms of fame or fortune but seek fulfilment.”

Satish Kumar11



Compassionate Business

As we looked at in part 11, we can see those actions and behaviours which, directly or indirectly, cause harm or destruction to the world around us as part of an inherently violent system based on the illusory but very convincing concept of humans as being separate from nature1,11&12.  Insofar as any workplace values bureaucracy over human feelings or profit over the health and well-being of the employees (and the planet), it can be seen as part of this same violent cycle. In order to find truly new and regenerative practices with money, it may be necessary to re-imagine the way in which businesses themselves are organised.

“We can initiate and implement the great transition from a capitalist economy to an ecological economy and value natural wealth above financial wealth. Money and finance have a place but we must put them in their place and not allow them to dominate our entire way of life.”

Satish Kumar11

One possible manifestation of this new way of doing business could be to re-imagine the structure of organisations. Many traditional business models use a hierarchical, ‘top-down’ structure. If we were to visualise such a structure using natural patterns, we could see this as the pattern known as ‘dendritic’13, like that of rivers or blood vessels. Such a pattern has a key role in nature for allowing efficient flow from one place to another, but may not be suitable where creativity and connection are of a higher value than direct action. To create the “new story”14 of connection and inspiration, a more effective model could be to follow more of a “net pattern”13 or node-like structure, like that of honeycombs and some cobwebs, wherein every member of the organisation plays a key role, interconnected as part of a network. Such structures are already somewhat in place in any case of a sociocracy model of organisation, for example De School15 in Zandvoort, The Netherlands, where “children meet in classroom circles to discuss classroom conduct, problems, and solutions, and make other policy decisions including spending the budget for toys, books, etc.” 16

Image by Anja🤗#helpinghands #solidarity#stays healthy🙏 from Pixabay

How much more fulfilling might it be to work for a company whose resources come, not from outside investors, but from the community around one? Where decisions are made not by a few people whose main incentive is financial gain, but by those directly involved in the creative process, whose well-being depends on it? Such a re-organisation of responsibility and decision-making would probably, in many cases, involve more communication than in existing models. With extra communication would come the inevitable extra disagreements, exposing of traumas, biases and conflicts. As you can find in the work of John Paul Lederach17, Byron Katie18, and probably your own experience, however, it is often disagreements or so-called ‘negative’ emotional judgements which, once communicated and out in the open, can help us to gain deeper clarity and understanding in the long-term.


Moving Forwards

It seems we may all benefit from learning how to work together more if we are to continue sharing this beautiful planet with its other inhabitants. Such needs to begin inside ourselves, and once we are ready, we can begin sharing our new stories with those around us as we find our own new “creative myth”. Money and the way we react to it is just one part of this new story, and the ideas given in this series are just a few suggestions out of many options. I hope they can inspire you in your own journeys.



  1. Ashwanden, C, 2020. ‘Permaculture and Money part 1 – Cash, Conflict and Crisis: How is Money Connected to Limited and Violent Beliefs, and How Can We Transcend These?’. Permaculture News, 24/4/20.
  2. Ashwanden, C, 2020. ‘Permaculture and Money part 2 – Living and Giving Abundance’. Permaculture News, 27/4/20.
  3. Ashwanden, C, 2020. ‘Permaculture and Money part 3 – The Practice of Being Open’. Permaculture News, 7/5/20.
  4. Ashwanden, C, 2020. ‘Permaculture and Money part 4New Ways of Interacting Socially’. Permaculture News, 27/5/20.
  5. Macnamara, L, 2013. People and Permaculture: Caring and Designing for Ourselves, Each Other and the Planet. Permanent Publications: East Meon, UK
  6. Morrow, R, 1997 (2014). The Earth User’s Guide to Teaching Permaculture. Permanent Publications: East Meon, UK
  7. Deep Green Permaculture, 2020. ‘Zones and Sectors – Energy Efficient Planning’.
  8. Eisenstein, C, 2011. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition. North Atlantic Books: Berkeley, USA.
  9. Permaculture Principles, 2020. ‘Catch and Store Energy’.
  10. Hedvig’s Permaculture Adventures, 2009. ‘02 Economics – Designing More Sustainable Finances’.
  11. Kumar, S, 2013. Soil Soul Society: A New Trinity for Our Time. Leaping Hare Press: Brighton, UK.
  12. Abram, D, 2996. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. Vintage: New York City, USA.
  13. Mollison, B, 1988 (2002). Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual. Tagari: Tasmania, Australia.
  14. New Story Hub, 2020. ‘About’.
  15. De School, 2020. ‘De School [in Dutch]’.
  16. Sociocracy, 2012. ‘De School, Zanvoort, Netherlands’.
  17. Lederach, JP, 2005. The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace. Oxford University Press: Oxford
  18. Katie, B, 2008. Who Would You Be Without Your Story?: Dialogues with Byron Katie. Hay House, Inc: Carlsbad, USA.


Charlotte Ashwanden

Charlotte Ashwanden (nee Haworth). Born in London, I am very interested in peace and community and have a degree in Peace Studies. I got my Permaculture Design Certificate in 2011, from Treeyo at Permaship in Bulgaria, and my Permaculture Teaching Certificate in 2018 at Aranya in India. For me, permaculture is about so much more than garden design; I am mainly interested in applying ‘human permaculture’ as a complement to peace practices. In particular, I like to look at how human permaculture can be applied through psychology, communication and education techniques. In 2015 I got married in a pagan ceremony in a field to David Ashwanden and changed my surname to Ashwanden. With my husband, I’ve travelled a lot in Europe and Asia and encountered many permaculture and community projects. I have lived in various situations, from squatted land to intentional communities, as well as more ‘normal’ places, in the UK, Spain, Italy, Thailand and Vietnam. A professional dancer, I do fire and hula dance and sometimes run dance meditation workshops. Currently, I live in the Andalucian mountains.


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