I realize that every field has its jargon, and that some of it has value to accurately express a concept. But I am noticing an increase of permaculture buzzwords (not just on this site) that really annoys me. It has an air of smugness / holier than thou that I think is really detrimental to spreading the permaculture message. 1/20 of an acre garden becomes an 'urban farm'; a house in the city with a couple of raised beds becomes a 'homestead'; a bed with a few perrenials intermingled becomes a 'guild', or better yet a 'food forest' .... really?
Yes, really. The Path to Freedom Farm in California is on something like an 1/8 or 1/10 acre and they produce aprox 6000lbs of food a year.
I am on one and ½ acre and I call my place the Farmlette. I produce 90% of my own meat and eggs and a small, but steadily increasing, amount of my own vegetables, fruit and nuts.
Also, when city councils, HOAs, and other ‘authorities’ call what we are doing on our tiny lots farming and want to regulate or restrict it then we are kind of stuck with dealing with the whole farming issue.
But the bottom line when it comes how we choose to name or label our little patch of dirt: We all define our own dreams in ways that allow us to make those dreams a reality and sometimes it is not in the same way that someone else would do it.
What I choose to call my space might not be suitable for someone else but I have to do what works for me and they have to do what works for them.
Edited to add: My mothers house in suburban Chicago is on a lot that can only be described as postage stamp. Back in the early 1800s this was, even then, a heavily populated urban area. The family raised all of thier own meat and eggs on that lot and just about all of the vegetables -- in that tiny area. They are not ''allowed'' to do that anymore -- Farming is not allowed with in the city limits.
What I worry about is what happened in the building industry.
A couple decades ago someone from my college decided to get being ecological legitimized. I think it started with the noble pursuit of encouraging people to use energy-efficient double-paned, argon-filled windows. This was hugely successful. Maybe too successful, so that now you can only have a non-manufactured, non-tested, non-rated window in your front door and all the materials in your entire house have to be calculated for energy use. Okay, so that's noble and everything but starts to exclude all materials that aren't assemblies made of manufactured materials. Then those same people took it a step further and started the LEED program. So now jurisdictions are only willing to look at green materials that are recognized by LEED, which again exclude materials that aren't manufactured to death. The LEED program is now more about navigating the myriad manufacturers and learning to shop wisely. Alternative (as in local and natural) energy systems and materials now have an even longer road of testing & certification to go.
So yes, permaculture is improperly co-opted by many. But I wonder if seeking legitimacy for permaculture through codification could backfire into a horrible maze of certification that penalizes experimentation and innovation?
I honestly think that permaculture has a lot less gratuitous jargon than most fields, interests and hobbies I have come into contact with. I like this about permaculture.
I don't usually hear permaculturists running around going on and on about anyone who isn't into permaculture, calling them "mundanes", "muggles", "sheeple" or anything like that. I've seen that a lot in other communities. In fact, a lot of communities that I could technically belong to because we share interests I tend to just watch from the outside for this very reason.
Permaculture also has a lot fewer gratuitous abbreviations. These are all over many communities and fields. I recently bought a book that is an introduction to energy efficiency in the home and it had three pages of abbreviation glossary. In survivalist communities, WTSHTF you want to grab your BOB, get in your BOV, GOOD to the BOL and pray that it's not TEOTWAWKI.
The buzzwords do not really bother me, mostly because they often do not seem to be so much buzzwords as romantic dreaming. A tiny urban yard becomes an "urban farm" and a suburban yard becomes a "microfarm", both being what I've always known to just be a kitchen garden. Sure, I've sometimes raised an eyebrow when I've seen a plan for a "food forest" that turned out to be two appletrees, a pear and a plum, with some shrubs in between, and wondered "Where's the forest?", but I don't think the people using these words are trying to be pretentious or divisive. I think that they dream big, have certain values, incorporate certain methodologies/theories, and want to reflect that in the words they use.* And while four trees and some berry shrubs being called a "food forest" may confuse the newbie, I don't think such terminology is really so "out there" that if they saw it applied to something much bigger they wouldn't "get it" rather instinctively.
* I'm guilty of this myself. This autumn we're planting the first dozen trees on our tiny smallholding, and although it'll probably end up being no more than 30 trees total, on account of space, I still call it our food forest when talking to the husband. I don't do it when talking to others, but I'm sure one day, when it's more than just a plan, I'll grow tired of saying "a food forestry inspired orchard" and just refer to it as a "food forest" in quotation marks without trying to be pretentious.
Le blog d'Emma: Homesteading, vintage sewing & knitting, renovating, wildcrafting, etc. in Brittany, France.
I sort of understand the problem with the tiny "food forest" but I guess I have to wonder who decides what's big enough to qualify as a "food forest"? Some of Geoff Lawton's food forests are tiny individually but are added on to other tiny systems into one big system over the course of several years (see "Establishing a Food Forest" DVD). I'm working on some "food forest" experiments which are probably small enough to offend a lot of people
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
posted 7 years ago
Tyler Ludens wrote:I'm working on some "food forest" experiments which are probably small enough to offend a lot of people
Oh Tyler, I really can't imagine anyone being offended by your food forest experiments - no matter how large or small. At least I would certainly hope not. Some of the best Bill Mollison videos I have seen are where he goes into inner city areas to get urban farms going on what were formerly wasted gravel lots -- bringing fresh healthy food to people who might not otherwise have access.
And then of course there is Will Allen of Growing Power who has done so much to encourage and empower youth in Milwaukee Wisconsin by teaching them how to farm in the city, using what resources they have available in creative ways.
I think that is what I like most about Permaculture; the idea that we learn to make our culture, what ever culture it may be, a bit more sustainable. That will mean different things to all of us.
I think of permaculture as a theoretical framework in which the best of other techniques are applied.
For me, it's not the principles of permaculture which are hampering mainstream acceptance, but the actual name "permaculture" itself. It's just not engaging-sounding or descriptive to the typical person on the street...it almost sounds like something fake made to last....as they are accustomed to "green" "eco" and "organic" references. I think the gratuitous jargon is, instead, bringing people IN to explore permaculture.
To me, it doesn't really matter what you call it, so long as you're doing something that moves in the right direction. There will always be people and companies that attempt to co-opt a name or title for marketing purposes. There will always be folks who don't understand terminology enough to realize they aren't living up to the definition the terms originally were set to mean. Really, the tragedy is when folks spend all day trying to correct these errors (innocent or not) instead of going out and doing something to make a real difference on the land. Who cares what you call it, just do something.
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
posted 7 years ago
Craig, you are right, it shouldn't matter, but....
People want labels to give them a quick understanding of a position or a process. Others label things in order to describe a position or a process or to disguise a position or a process. Maybe labels and "buzz words" only matter if you are trying to run for an office or sell something.
I have been disappointed in the change in meaning of some seemingly important words, but when I am in the place I grow food without any synthetic chemicals or petroleum run tools, as you say, none of this matters.
"We're all just walking each other home." -Ram Dass
"Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder."-Rumi
Location: Oakland, CA
posted 7 years ago
what i meant to say but said badly is that, it was the "wrong" gratuitous jargon used by many organic people/sites that exposed me to permaculture in the first place: their use of permaculture jargon introduces the notion there is something of more substance which needs to be explored. just like with celebrities, even bad press is still press. that it crops up more and more indicates that permaculture is a) making a foothold and b) that people need a place to locate their values.
educating misconceptions is just a life-long responsibility of anybody who believes in anything.
You ought to ventilate your mind and let the cobwebs out of it. Use this cup to catch the tiny ads: