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purple permaculture vs. brown permaculture  RSS feed

 
gardener
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As much as I have looked askance at people labeling their specific approach to saving/repairing farmland, this quote:

if it does get more formalized, does start growing rapidly, does start making significant progress, and does start heading in a direction that is profitable (or threatens the profitability of the status quo), then it will become 'worth' hijacking, and then folks will start trying.

by Tim Bermaw got me thinking that maybe having a whole lot of different colours for what at the root is really permaculture, is a way of keeping it out of the eyes of big business. Big Ag is certainly doing its best to hijack the "organic" movement ("organic" root vegetable chips have to be a healthy choice?) because they've realized it's cutting into their bottom line. Getting people to heal the land, change their planting approach to multi-cultures, finding ways to hold water on the land and build carbon in the soil, all while keeping Big Business out of it, sounds like a fine approach to me.
 
master pollinator
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Because permaculture is a design system for integrating human settlement with the natural environment, it's difficult to conceive how it might be taken over and perverted by Big Business.  Aspects of it might become attractively profitable, such as designing and creating housing developments.  Would we be sad to see a bunch of permaculture communities replacing the ghastly housing developments we have now?  How could large-scale permaculture developments come to be if not through some level of "big business" (large amount of funding)? Some people think that permaculture can not be successful until it becomes large-scale.  Creating large-scale permaculture within the current economic-political system seems more plausible to me than an economic revolution before implementing permaculture.

 
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The danger there lies in the threat that permaculture will just become another commodity sold by the status quo, rather than an alternative to the status quo.

In some regards, you can already see this happening with permaculture becoming a brand. Some people just take a PDC, learn the basics of the design process, and turn around to sell it to others immediately to make money. You see dozens of workshops, lectures, products, packages, magazines, books, and the like all being produced and sold to make money on the concept of permaculture rather than practice it. If anything, I think the opposite should occur, and this knowledge and the skills-training should be as broad-based and accessible as possible. Luckily, a lot of permaculturists, even those making money off it, offer a lot of good free content. Professionalization of permaculture, which has been the trend over the past few decades, inherently aims to house the knowledge and skills of permaculture in a professional class, rather than dispersing this knowledge as broadly and deeply as possible. In effect, we already see permaculture becoming commodified.  

Making a deal with the devil doesn't tend to turn out well.
 
Tyler Ludens
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George Bastion wrote: If anything, I think the opposite should occur, and this knowledge and the skills-training should be as broad-based and accessible as possible.



Anyone can get a PDC and then teach the PDC for free to as many people as they want to.  I have often proposed this, that a bunch of people who think the PDC should be taught for free could pool their money, send one of the group to get a certificate, and then that person could teach the rest of the group for free. All those other people could then teach the PDC to as many people as they want to for free.  There is no requirement that anyone charge for teaching the PDC or for teaching permaculture in general.  There is nothing restricting people from teaching permaculture for free.  Plenty of people do it via websites, videos, and community outreach.

 
George Bastion
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Can you point me to a free PDC? I know there are some great intro courses and Youtube videos, but an in-person, full-on PDC, I've never seen.

I think your solution sounds good on paper, but it's a hard pitch, especially to anyone with little time or money trying to make ends meet these days. It assumes a pre-existing group of people who are passionate about the subject and have the commitment to pool their funds in such a way. Otherwise, the proposal is that someone who wants to learn and teach these skills should try to rally a dozen or so strangers around a common cause, instill enough passion into the group, and then convince these people to fork over their sparse resources on the hope that the person they send will be able/follow-through to teach them all.

Anyone who has tried any form of community organizing will understand how difficult this is, especially if you are in a small community.

My point is, the professionalization and commodification of permaculture makes the goal of broad, deep knowledge dispersal an systems change secondary, at best, to the aim of marketing the system for profit to people who can pay for it and who, in turn, wish to do the same. When the ethic of "right livlihood" is prioritized to the extreme and one person's or a small group of people's right livlihood takes precedence over the broader goal of dispersing knowledge and possibilities, it is no longer right livlihood at all. It only serves to gradually package and sell knowledge, social capital, and skills in a way that is acceptable to and does not threaten the current un-ecological systems.
 
pollinator
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Well, there are some folks who don't think they're getting any value unless they pay for it (what else to do with their $$).  And others who have to count their pennies and are experts at finding the 'free' stuff.  Being one of the latter, I find permaculture info is quite available, in pieces, on line (like right here!), and in whole at the library (books, CD's etc galore - does anyone need a list of authors/titles?).  I'm just glad that the principles, in their various flavors, are seeping into the zeitgeist... through many channels and labels.  (Of course, I have a personal 'problem' with 'true believers' of every stripe, i.e, the 'my way or the highway' types...maybe being raised Catholic, it started when I learned that the Pope was supposed to be 'infallible' lol!)
 
Tyler Ludens
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George Bastion wrote:Can you point me to a free PDC? I know there are some great intro courses and Youtube videos, but an in-person, full-on PDC, I've never seen.



I don't know of one. I have been proposing the free PDC plan here on permies for years and as far as I know no one has been interested enough in the idea to follow up on it.  People come on here periodically to complain about there not being any free PDC but none of them to my knowledge has been interested in providing one themselves.  It's a perennial problem nobody wants to solve, apparently.

Edited to add:  I googled "free PDC" and here's what I found: https://openpermaculture.com/

It's not in-person, possibly because hosting people at one's land for free could be very expensive and maybe nobody is that charitable, no matter how strongly they feel about free PDCs.  But someone who does feel strongly enough about a free PDC could take this free course and then offer the PDC in person for free on their land or someone else's.
 
George Bastion
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I'm intrigued by the idea. If that is a full on PDC and not just an intro course, I might take it and at least ponder the idea of teaching a free one in person. Though I think anyone hoping to teach should at least practice for a few years, and it's hard to set a "start date" for when I started practicing permaculture.

I also wonder if anyone would bother taking a course from someone who doesn't own land.
 
George Bastion
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As an update, I checked out the free permaculture offering, and I could not register. It appears it may have been a time-limited thing. Oh well.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Dang, I couldn't get an account either.  Didn't see a place to contact anyone.

 
pollinator
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I would welcome the day that permaculture becomes a mainstream commercial entity.  I'd jump up and down for joy to see it promoted and "sold" by Walmart or Amazon.  That would signal mainstream acceptance and widespread adaptation.

For the life of me, however, I can't imagine how Walmart or Amazon would make any money off it.  But lets say that they were to figure out how to do so . . . we'd have millions of Americans ripping out their grass lawns and converting millions of acres into productive agricultural space.

We'd have millions of people digging swales, building water catchment systems from the roofs of millions of homes and buildings.

There would be 10's of millions of trees planted, fixing nitrogen, producing fruit, providing shade and shelter, and sequestering hundreds of millions of tons of carbon.

Urban food deserts would turn into food forests.

People in the heart of Walmart land (the deep south) would stop breading and frying everything and would start to enjoy nutrient dense veggies and fruits.

People in the heart of Amazon land (Seattle, the Bay Area) would grow their own organic produce rather than buying the shallow organics offered and stupid prices from Whole Foods.

A whole lot more chickens would be pooping on a whole lot more land, eating bugs, pumping out delicious eggs, recycling food wastes and providing entertainment to the delight of millions of people.

Kids would ask for a new garden trowel for Christmas instead of a video game system.

Hugelkulture would be more popular than Kardashiankulture.

Compost.  Zillions and zillions of pounds of compost, as far as the eye can see.

And instead of poodles and random poodle-mix puppies at the local pet store, they'd be selling livestock guarding dogs, heritage breed chicks, and poultry processing equipment.

Heck yeah --- I'd love to see permaculture become so popular and so profitable that big corporate entities would go all in to popularize it further, seeking to cash in with ready-made chicken tractors and A-frame levels.  May that day come, and may it come soon.
 
pollinator
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Didn't Oregon State University offer a couple of free PDC courses online? I took parts of one and learned quite a bit, but I wasn't able to complete it due to other obligations in my life.

Ya know, the organic movement was adopted by commercial ag, and although there are some detrimental aspects, overall there has been significant benefits from it. The public has become more aware of organic vs chemical. And generally they have been primed to move to the next stage -- permaculture. Where I live, I'm seeing people asking for veggies that are grown "better than organic".
 
master steward
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Marco Banks wrote:Kids would ask for a new garden trowel for Christmas instead of a video game system.



I can vouch for this! My son wanted a wheelbarrow for christmas one year, and this year he spent his Christmas money on a fiskars hand drill, that he totally LOVES.
 
George Bastion
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Su Ba wrote:Didn't Oregon State University offer a couple of free PDC courses online? I took parts of one and learned quite a bit, but I wasn't able to complete it due to other obligations in my life.



They offer a free intro course, which I am going to take, but not a full-blown PDC.

As for the mainstream thing, I get what folks are saying when they talk about Walmart selling permaculture and such, but I still doubt it would be a good thing overall for permaculture to become commodified further to that point. True, organic becoming more prevalent (I wouldn't say mainstream - so little of the overall farmland in the U.S. is actually organic) has raised awareness of the issue of chemicals in the food chain, but at what cost? The designation is already becoming so watered down and the powers that be so focused on finding ways to be "organic" but still practice industrial agriculture as much as possible, that the term is beginning to lose its meaning. I've even heard of so-called organic farms using all sorts of so-called organic chemicals (everything is chemicals, after all) that disrupt the ecosystem and affect the food, and otherwise just operating business as usual. This is an age-old trend when it comes to radical new ideas. The market latches on, big business markets the hell out of the new thing while developing its version, lobbyists and regulators conspire to make it "official," (here meaning as friendly to moneyed interests as possible while retaining a small amount of the original intent of the movement), and it becomes another product on the shelf, and nothing more. Not transformative in any way. All you have to do is convince people they want your version of organic, and they just accept it as the latest "good thing" sold to them by the market, without ever developing a deeper understanding of what it is.

That's the thing - if you do not address the underlying logic of commodification and profit-above-all mentality, permaculture, like organic, may be somewhat popular as commodity, but not nearly as beneficial and transformative as it could be. And it would become less and less so until is was no longer transformative at all, but just another product that does nothing to threaten or change the status quo poisonous system we operate in. If we addressed the root causes of industrial agriculture, global food and supply systems, and resource/land/monetary concentration through private property, permaculture would not be just another thing for Lowes or Home Depot to sell a watered down version of. It would be a truly transformation force unconstrained by a market system that only wants to extract all value from it.

Luckily, as has already been expressed, I do think permaculture has sufficient a sufficient ethics/principle-base and inherent design limitations regarding scale to not be so easily commodified, which is a good thing in my mind. But I don't for a minute think the current economic system is not fully capable of completely absorbing and diluting permaculture in the long run, given enough time. That's why it's important to have this conversation I think.
 
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Marco Banks wrote:For the life of me, however, I can't imagine how Walmart or Amazon would make any money off it.  But lets say that they were to figure out how to do so . . . we'd have millions of Americans ripping out their grass lawns and converting millions of acres into productive agricultural space.



Let's not forget that both Amazon and WalMart are powerful not because they have particularly innovative products, but because they are the absolute experts at supply-chain management and consumer connection.
It doesn't matter to them what they sell, even if it's permie produce and products. Amazon could design a system to automatically offer products only from farms or affiliates within X miles of your location, easy to use online merchants representing your local permie farms and friends. WalMart's distribution network is itself mostly local in terms of regional distribution, their truck drivers work 8 hour days because they've decentralized their network.
 
master steward
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How about this one:

https://permies.com/t/107991/Geoff-Lawton-Free-Online-Masterclass
 
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I find it funny that anyone could be on Permies and still looking for a free PDC... you're already logged on to the biggest, freest, permaculture resource you could ever find!  I've spent almost a year reading and asking questions here, and have only scratched the surface.  Maybe I'll take a PDC in a few years, after I've read more of Permies, worked through the foundational 10+ books, and watched all 177 hours of Paul's PDC videos.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Josh Garbo wrote:I find it funny that anyone could be on Permies and still looking for a free PDC...



That's the reason I came to permies--it was a place where I could actually find free permaculture info. I've learned SO MUCH from this site over the years, and why I volunteer hours every day to keep it going strong.
 
George Bastion
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Permies is great. A structured, hands-on, and in-person experience working through the concepts on a very micro-level, shared with others, and with the focused guidance of a more experienced practitioner whose purpose is to facilitate your growth, however, it is not.

And Geoff's online PDC is $1,500. The four videos are free, and useful, but not a PDC.
 
Tyler Ludens
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George Bastion wrote:A structured, hands-on, and in-person experience working through the concepts on a very micro-level, shared with others, and with the focused guidance of a more experienced practitioner whose purpose is to facilitate your growth, however, it is not.



That's a lot to ask for, for free.  Housing, food, cleaning up after students.  That's a lot to provide for free.
 
George Bastion
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If we conceptualize it in the ways PDCs are typically conceptualized, yes. A person having to own private property and host people on their land and provide all those things, etc. etc.

But there are infinite alternatives. For example, this is just off the top of my head, so not a lot of thought has gone into it, but bear with me. What if an experienced permaculturist booked some time at the local library to do any lecture-like portions of the PDC? What if they constructed small examples of applied permaculture that could be easily replicated and done in a common space, or someone's backyard? What if they incorporated nature walks to illustrate the flows of energy in a particular area, the functions of existing earth works, the concepts of zones, etc? What if instead of paying for it, people were just expected to bring a dish for each day potluck style?

These are just a few ideas, and I'm sure they are not perfect. But I'm just trying to emphasize that the model of person owns land, person invites people to land, person provides everything, etc. is just one way a PDC could be structured.

I fully intend to provide intensive, free PDCs that tick all those boxes. But I can;t right now. I don't have the experience under my belt.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Anyone can teach permaculture, but only people with a PDC certificate can teach the PDC.  You don't need a PDC to learn permaculture or to show people how to design a permaculture yard.  Not having a free PDC does not prevent anyone from learning or teaching about permaculture.

You could get a bunch of friends together at the local library and study the Designer's Manual as a book club of sorts.  You could gather at a friend's yard to do practical exercises.

"There's no free PDC" seems to be a complaint made by people looking for a reason why they can't learn or teach permaculture.  It seems like a complaint looking for a problem which doesn't exist.

 
Josh Garbo
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I'm glad people like the online PDCs, but for me the only reason to take a PDC would be to get in-person, tangible, real world experience for my specific bio-region.  You can't get that remotely.  However, I still have a lot of agro-forestry YouTube videos and books to get through, so my silvo-pasture knowledge base is up to par and enables me to fully utilize PDC resources.
 
Do not set lab on fire. Or this tiny ad:
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