Scale of Permanence Revised

I’ve upgraded the scale of permanence diagram. It’s a little more readable and a little more interesting to look at. See the tiny cows?

I continue to see folks start their designs somewhere in the middle of the scale, being concerned with soil, vegetation or even aesthetics before they’ve considered climate, landform, water, or access. Not only will they smack their foreheads when they’ve realized they put their trees in the perfect spot for a swale, they’re missing out on the transformative powers of working higher on the scale.

I’ve seen how changing the way water moves through the landscape powers the growth of plants. Or how just being able to access that far corner of your land begins the process of interaction that creates something entirely new. Not every situation is appropriate for earthworks to harvest water or a path to that far unreachable corner of the property, but even a change in the plants (for example changing a lawn into wildflowers or a food forest) can have big effects on down the line.

Even just the organization in peoples thinking changes things!

I’m also proud to say it’s been included in Midwest Permaculture’s Step by Step Site Data, a free document that shows you how to collect data for many of the steps on the scale. I highly recommend checking it out.

Published by Milton

C. Milton Dixon is an permaculturist, forager, educator, and computer wizard. He is co-manager at the emergent Cooperative at Dawn Farm and teaches with Three Waters Permaculture. You can reach him at or 773.789.8887.

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