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David Holmgren promotes "baronial" permaculture...

 
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While I was aware that Geoff Lawton referred to Paul Wheaton as "the Duke of permaculture," I was surprised to discover, while reading "Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability" by permaculture co-founder David Holmgren, that the author explicitly advocates the very model of "baronial" permaculture. Here's the quote:

Models for the management of public land are more likely to emerge from innovations in common land management within intentional communities. Perhaps more fundamental to the future sustainable society will be the tenure and management of our more fertile agricultural land. Without models of common ownership, redevelopment and management for the broadacre farmland commons, the default model for a low-energy future will be some sort of feudalism. Although this word conjures up all sorts of negative emotions, ownership of vast tracts of land by a single family or company does have the potential to institute some sort of "baronial sustainability" where land is worked by non-owning farm labourers. The aggregation of most of our better farmland into very large holdings makes this feudal future most likely. At present most large farms tend to be industrial monocultures; in energy descent, more diverse and integrated uses of farm land will develop, which will be much more labour-intensive. Large farms will again become communities of some sort. Within this structure it is possible to imagine highly integrated communities of some sort. Within this structure it is possible to imagine highly integrated and ecologically sustainable land uses, and even benevolent owners who look after the interests of their workers.

 
Nathanael Szobody
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Ok, fixed the quote, now you can read it.

I know of a descendant of land-owning aristocracy in England who is letting portions of his extensive land out for free to various communities--religious, gardening, hippie, etc. If this trend indeed continues, it would constitute historically continuous feudalism!
 
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:While I was aware that Geoff Lawton referred to Paul Wheaton as"the Baron of permaculture,"



Duke of permaculture.

 
Nathanael Szobody
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Nathanael Szobody wrote:While I was aware that Geoff Lawton referred to Paul Wheaton as"the Baron of permaculture,"



Duke of permaculture.



Ok, Duke. So the question is, do I go back and edit the OP, thus rendering our previous comments obsolete, or leave it as is?

Edit: Ok, I corrected it. Thanks.
 
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The idea assumes a collapse into a lower-energy future, which is far from assured.

As at least one major energy plan for the future involves the processing and cleanup of contaminated materials and nuclear waste into fuel, and we have a lot of that material that requires processing, if it isn't to simply remain "sequestered" in a concrete vault somewhere, I wouldn't put my money on that bet.

Holmgren's reasoning is sound, in my opinion, but with the slightest amount of forethought, those baronies could easily be co-ops instead. And no, I don't only mean the forethought of those who would otherwise end up landless farm workers, but the forethought of those landholders with many landless farmers working for them. We all know what can happen to those in charge if those being governed in such a situation are unhappy. Better to arrange things, however it is decided, so as to include relief valves for social pressure buildups, like some amount of self-determination, guaranteed rights before the law, that sort of thing.

Otherwise, the book discussing the "Baronial Permaculture Model" might as well end with an appendix on how to construct a guillotine.

-CK
 
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I wait for the day when Jeff Bridges becomes active in permaculture, and we see a picture of him and Paul standing next to one another.  The Duke and The Dude.  Abiding.

But I digress.

Joel Salatin talks about "stacking fiefdoms" on his farm.  That is, if someone has an idea that will add value and they just need a little bit of land or resources, Joel will work with them to create a micro-business as a part of his larger Polyface enterprise.  For example, someone wants to care for honey bees and market the honey through the Polyface label.  Joel says, "Sure -- lets find a great place for you to place your hives."  Someone else wants to start a CSA distribution operation.  OK -- lets find a way to get our produce and meat to these people.  Someone wants to start raising rabbits or ducks or heirloom turkeys . . . again, Joel will work with them to stack this new fiefdom within the greater Polyface enterprise.

Everyone wins.  The new farmer (beekeeper, mushroomer, etc.) gets to start their business, they kick-back a small percentage of their earnings to the land owner (in this case, Joel . . . or Paul), and the synergy of the whole will be greater than just the sum of the individual parts.  

See video below where Salatin describes how he creates these agreements and incentivizes people to take risks and build their own fiefdom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbJc8i5B9RU
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Chris Kott wrote:The idea assumes a collapse into a lower-energy future, which is far from assured.

As at least one major energy plan for the future involves the processing and cleanup of contaminated materials and nuclear waste into fuel, and we have a lot of that material that requires processing, if it isn't to simply remain "sequestered" in a concrete vault somewhere, I wouldn't put my money on that bet.

Holmgren's reasoning is sound, in my opinion, but with the slightest amount of forethought, those baronies could easily be co-ops instead. And no, I don't only mean the forethought of those who would otherwise end up landless farm workers, but the forethought of those landholders with many landless farmers working for them. We all know what can happen to those in charge if those being governed in such a situation are unhappy. Better to arrange things, however it is decided, so as to include relief valves for social pressure buildups, like some amount of self-determination, guaranteed rights before the law, that sort of thing.

Otherwise, the book discussing the "Baronial Permaculture Model" might as well end with an appendix on how to construct a guillotine.

-CK



True. And that is the weakest point of his book, in my opinion. Though to his credit he speaks of "energy decline," which seems much less alarmist than Geoff Lawton's "energy collapse." Less fear-mongering. Nevertheless, he predicates the entire book on this presumed energy decline.

Aside from that, I think the use of the word "feudalism" goes way beyond the sort of tenant permaculture that we're already seeing. Feudalism is actually a form of government where lesser lord pledge their lives and resources to more powerful ones in exchange for protection. This assumes not only an energy descent, but a complete collapse of existing government and law. Quite a stretch really.  
 
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Marco Banks wrote:
Joel Salatin talks about "stacking fiefdoms" on his farm.  That is, if someone has an idea that will add value and they just need a little bit of land or resources, Joel will work with them to create a micro-business as a part of his larger Polyface enterprise.  For example, someone wants to care for honey bees and market the honey through the Polyface label.  Joel says, "Sure -- lets find a great place for you to place your hives."  Someone else wants to start a CSA distribution operation.  OK -- lets find a way to get our produce and meat to these people.  Someone wants to start raising rabbits or ducks or heirloom turkeys . . . again, Joel will work with them to stack this new fiefdom within the greater Polyface enterprise.

Everyone wins.  The new farmer (beekeeper, mushroomer, etc.) gets to start their business, they kick-back a small percentage of their earnings to the land owner (in this case, Joel . . . or Paul), and the synergy of the whole will be greater than just the sum of the individual parts.  



Yes, everyone wins--which is why I'd like to see no cash kick-backs at all. If the ecological model is designed right, Mr. Salatin is already benefitting from said beekeeping, or whatever, in the very role it plays in Polyface ecology. I think if the contract is clear enough in stipulating the parameters and obligations of the 'tenant' then their contribution to the whole should be recompense enough. It's up to the owner to design the tenant into the system in a mutually beneficial way.
 
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:

Yes, everyone wins--which is why I'd like to see no cash kick-backs at all. If the ecological model is designed right, Mr. Salatin is already benefitting from said beekeeping, or whatever, in the very role it plays in Polyface ecology. I think if the contract is clear enough in stipulating the parameters and obligations of the 'tenant' then their contribution to the whole should be recompense enough. It's up to the owner to design the tenant into the system in a mutually beneficial way.



Yes, for something like bees.  But if someone is using water, land, electricity, equipment . . . I would have no problem asking them to pay a share back into the greater enterprise.  If they are simply asking for a small footprint to place their hives, then the trade off (land for pollination) is more than fair.  But sometimes its not possible to create a mutually beneficial system that is equitable, so you have to find a fair balance.  

Perhaps the word "baronial" is a bit loaded, as it connotes "Lord" and "serf".  But shared relationships are still normally structured with patrons and clients.  This is how most economic and social relationships work in the developing world.  That patron gets something, and the client gets something.  Often, that's incentivized and measured with good old fashions dollars.  However, I'll go further.  Its perfectly OK to make a profit.  I want the people who are creating their fiefdom to make as much money as they can, and I fully expect 10 or 20% return on their ever-expanding profits.

This has been discussed at length elsewhere on many other threads, but it bears mention here.  There is a commonly held perception within the greater permaculture community that sees profit as a bad thing.  We've got to get over that.  Leveraging your resources for profit is a good thing.  This does not mean exploiting people or the land, but it keeps the end goal in mind.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Marco Banks wrote:

This has been discussed at length elsewhere on many other threads, but it bears mention here.  There is a commonly held perception within the greater permaculture community that sees profit as a bad thing.  We've got to get over that.  Leveraging your resources for profit is a good thing.  This does not mean exploiting people or the land, but it keeps the end goal in mind.



No, I've got nothing against profit. What I would like to see is a greater clarity on what constitutes value.
 
Tyler Ludens
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To me, "value" in this context is something which promotes the ethics and principles of permaculture, and "profit" is surplus which is returned to the "barony," system including all humans and non-humans who live there.  Exactly how this is done would be up to the individual baron and team, I imagine.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:To me, "value" in this context is something which promotes the ethics and principles of permaculture, and "profit" is surplus which is returned to the "barony," system including all humans and non-humans who live there.  Exactly how this is done would be up to the individual baron and team, I imagine.



Good definition. If the baron is a permaculture practitioner, he will "return surplus" to the system in recognition of a healthy ecosystem function.
 
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