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Flavors or "Flavours" of Permaculture
I just want to throw this idea out there, with the awareness that it may be deleted or edited by Paul.

I just got done with the Symbiculture podcast, and I got to thinking that perhaps we should look at the thing from outside the box.

A) Relatively few people on this earth have ever heard of anything related to permaculture. I'm pretty sure, for instance, that I and my few friends are probably the only people in walking distance who have ever heard the term.

B) If permaculture is to grow, it probably needs to come to full fruition, rather than breaking into little pieces, each of them in some mysterious way connected to the other. That means that we need big, monstrous projects which are calling themselves permaculture. They need to be funded by whoever has the money to get it done, and they need to be funding something concrete.

C) Some people, mostly in affluent societies (in the "minority world") where permaculture is well known, might be attached to the aspects of permaculture not necessarily related to the practice of tending the land. This is less of a reality, I presume, in the poorer "majority world".

What I propose is acknowledging that "your" permaculture might be different than "mine", first of all. I think that there are important connections to be made (think "edge") where two different flavors of permaculture meet, and these edges should be emphasized and expanded upon. Where they are not similar, we should just ignore the differences.

I think what we have is something like this:
Rich Soil Permaculture - Anything dealing with sustainable agriculture
Rainbow Permaculture - People interested in the social aspects of permaculture.
Geeky-P Permaculture - Botanists and plant geeks and environmental studies graduates.
Dark Green Permaculture - People of the activist/Down with the System/Survivor-Apocalypse-Collapse type.

These are four interwoven "kinds" of permaculture. I could forsee, for instance, a Rich Soil person getting interested in Social things that may help his ag-projects (co-housing/building methods/heating/etc.). There are tons of other relationships. There are also flavours that perhaps we in our little world don't even know about.

As in everything, there comes a limit when it moves outside of the sphere of what can be defined as permaculture. As in the podcast, both dancing and monsanto for me falls outside of this sphere. What is important is that a specific sphere (whose edges are known to the group) does indeed exist and that people can agree on some necessary tasks to move it forward. Oh yeah, that and that things mingle at the edges and produce friction and foment things a bit, as in any worthwhile system.

Anyway. My 2p.

I understand permaculture to be a design science, so the question is what do you want to design? Anything you create based upon thoughtful observation, while holding the care of earth, people, and the future in mind, is permaculture.

Every persons designs will be different and therefore the manifestation of their designs will be different too. I recommend you take a look at David Holmgren's work, especially his permaculture flower.

I think dancing could very much be a part of permaculture while monsanto is most certainly not.


William Hatfield wrote:
Rich Soil Permaculture - Anything dealing with sustainable agriculture
Rainbow Permaculture - People interested in the social aspects of permaculture.
Geeky-P Permaculture - Botanists and plant geeks and environmental studies graduates.
Dark Green Permaculture - People of the activist/Down with the System/Survivor-Apocalypse-Collapse type.

I fit into all those categories except to disagree with the use of the word "agriculture" in the first definition, because for me the word "agriculture" has a particular anthropological meaning.

Ludi: Right. I usually don't use the word either. [evil, evil, spit, spit] I was writing fast.

Milton: I read the pathways book. Yes dancing can be permaculture. I guess my point is that it's useful sometimes to look not at the edge, but at two centers, where they might not connect. I guess can understand why. As for Monsanto not being permaculture, I think Geoff covered that question in the other podcast, which seemed pretty convincing although I can't remember the point now. I think he said that monsanto would have a hard time convincing people they were permaculture, nor should we be worried.

I think that whatever Paul is into fits into permaculture, but not everything permaculture is fits into what Paul is into.
That's why I like "Paul Wheaton Permaculture" and "Sepp Holzer Permaculture" so much. It's like, "here's my take on the thing".

On Mark Shepard's <forestag.com> site it says: "Whether you call it Permaculture, Agroforestry, Eco-Agriculture, Reconciliation Ecology, or Restoration Agriculture..."

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I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm old school Church of Mollison. If it doesn't contain the ethics upon which permaculture is based, it isn't permaculture. In my opinion. It's something else, for instance it might be symbiculture or Natural Farming.

I just wanted to point out, and I guess this is aimed at Paul, that the book "Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability" which you may have all read, is pretty good in explaining what the principles mean. I was looking for a "technique" book when I bought it, so perhaps the material didn't stick the way it should have, but I think it's the best thing out there for understanding what "permaculture" is, means, and does.

It's something to dive into once in a while to refresh one's memory. There are a lot of things that you don't think about (resource depletion and increasing demand being one) that can smack you in the face or make a seemingly brilliant idea fall on it's face. Straw and woodchips come to mind. It also looks into parts of permaculture (spirituality) that may not be up your alley, but gives you food for thought nonetheless and helps to see the bigger picture.

That being said, I do think that people kinda have three choices.
1) Know and and apply permaculture concepts and principles
2) Know but not or ill-apply the concepts and principles.
3) Not really know but apply the principles.

I'm purposely leaving out (4) not knowing and not applying, because, well, it doesn't apply.

Paul has said on the podcasts that he doesn't know the principles all that well. Big deal. I'd just say he falls into (3) and just does what he feels those principles should be and enacts them without being so mental about it.

Then again, I could be wrong...thoughts?
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As we all know there is something very wrong with the state of the world at this time. I've been pondering for quite some time now how we can approach the ideas of change without falling into the same sort of traps that got us into this situation in the first place. I seem to have settled on the concept of direction in the analysis of process; that is Top-down, or Bottom-up.

Every authority figure uses the Top-down approach, that is, "Do as I say and everything will be great" and most people will go along because they then don't have to take responsibility for their own actions, "just doing as I've been told". This is where the world is now.

My personal take on Permaculture is that it is a Bottom-up process (literally starting with the soil). From this springs personal responsibility. The responsibility to research, observe, question and act. If the actions don't work, its more questioning, researching, assessing, analysis and action. Ad infinitum, ad nauseum. The idea of work as something to be avoided at all costs has to be overcome, it is a Top-down concept. I prefer to think of it as activity if not downright play.
I like the idea of "flavors". Very good.

The thing that is most important to me is that I can say "this is what permaculture means to me" and I can say "Ludi has a different idea of permaculture".

And then if some crazy person wants to stand up and say that they have THE permaculture definition, and Ludi and I are excluded for one reason or another, then I can move forward with my "flavor of permaculture" which looks unacceptable to the crazy person, but Ludi and I can still talk and move forward.

I think that the idea of "flavors" helps those of us that wish to build ideas together, continue to build ideas together.

Without it, it seems that a few hostile people would say "you can't call that permaculture" and then most folks ended up sorta getting confused looks on our faces and a few people would engage the hostile party with "I sure as hell CAN call that permaculture!" But with "flavors", we embrace the hostile flavor of permaculture and recognize that there might be attempts to impede the other flavors. And simply step past it and move on with our work.
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I tend to dislike purist who like to imply (or just say) that if you don't do it all, you are doing nothing. I tend to be in the camp of "better something, than nothing". With all we have done for environment, all the land we have protected and nurtured, all the jobs we have created, I have actually had people say it doesn't count because we actually harvest wood because it would have been better if we put 900 acres as pure reserve.

Hogwash. We didn't have the money to do 900 acres as a pure reserve, so we did what we could which is much better than nothing.

The same for permaculture in my opinion. Anytime someone companion plants, I applaud it. It is a step in the right direction. Anytime someone feeds the soil, instead of the plants, I think it is wonderful, and should be encouraged. And anytime someone waits for nature to deal with their pests, instead blasting them with a spray, well, my hat is off to them.

Is it permaculture? Heck, I am no judge, I just try to get a little closer every day and learn from my mistakes.
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Do we really need to name specific types/flavors of permaculture? It seems as if it manifests itself differently depending a million different variables - location, culture, resources, climate, capacity of the individual, personality to name a few. It is our western tendency to break things down into ever smaller variables in order to define and describe them - is this really necessary? I think by compartmentalizing it we further constrict its potential uses (some of which we many not even be aware) and open it up to being co-opted or used for damaging purposes. It always looks different and takes on many different forms depending on the situation, always leaving room for innovation (which is what makes it so dang exciting). I think we all agree that it is way more than just growing organic veggies. It is a way of seeing the word and once you start to "gets it" the world looks different through your new "permie goggles". After all, its just a name - did Fukuoka or Holtzer think they were doing permaculture? Who knows what realms it will spill over into. Hopefully, in the future we'll all look around our communities and say "look what permaculture did, I had no idea!"
I think that if we embrace the idea of many flavors, and the hostile folks get wind of it, then that just might take the hostility out of them - after all, their way is no longer the only way.

And on the permaculture ethics, i would like to take this opportunity to make my position clear: 1) I think the ethics are so vague that even chem-ag folks can honestly embrace them (they could even make a case that they follow the ethics more than permies). 2) I think the track record of the ethics to date has done far more harm for permaculture than help. 3) While I like to think I live every day with ethics, I choose to leave these particular words out of my permaculture toolbox because they just have not helped my efforts.

Any single ethic by itself is pretty vague. Combine them though, and I think it creates a pretty precise framework to work within. It would seem like chem-ag is taking care of people at the expense of the other two ethics.

I would be very interested in examples of how the use of all three ethics has done more harm then help.
I've started a new thread for discussion of the ethics:


Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more ... richsoil.com/wd-gardening.jsp

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