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More than Sustainability  RSS feed

 
Bill Kearns
Posts: 159
Location: E Washington steppe
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What if there existed a Permaculture major at an accredited four-year college?

Would you be interested? Your kids? Anyone you may know?

I see requests for this all the time, both here and on the PRI forums, but we're trying to find out how much demand there might be. This is in pursuit of information for an actual project we're working on, for a real ivy-covered college back east.

The curriculum would look somewhat like this:

- Basic undergraduate courses required for general education (math, biology, chemistry, humanities, etc)

- 2 semester "deep-dive" PDC. Daily classes rigorously investigating the concepts, techniques, and applications of the Designer's Manual. No student exiting this series would fail to understand that Pc is a "holistic, ethical design science" that is applicable to any project/problem. An appropriate and thorough design project exercise to receive certification is mandatory. This course could be taken without following the complete degree'd curriculum.

- Survey of the Scientific Method, including history, purpose, and methods. Complete understanding that the scientific method is applicable to any project/problem.

- Physics to include thermodynamics, energy systems, and statistics. Tailor this course to essential concepts necessary to understand the world around us and how it works.

- Ecology: Soil science, microbiology, etc. Huge possibilities here and multiple tracks.

- Systems theory, theory of constraints, resilience, anti-fragility

- Economics/Finances: Not a Keynesian course, but an eye-opening examination of the IMS, how reserve currency works (and the abuse of such), and alternative approaches to financial systems

- Business: basics of business operations, taxes, approaches. Geared towards the Permaculturist as business owner.

- Horticulture, botany from the "in-concert with nature" perspective. Include insect studies (biology crossover).

- Basic engineering discipline, mechanical/structural essentials

- Pc-track History: How did we get to "Sustainability" from infinite growth? Examine energy as a catalyst to human technological and population growth. Chart resource discoveries, extraction, and shortage cycles.

- Hydrology. Deep understanding of water cycles, patterns, utilization, and limits. Include meteorology.

Students following the Pc curriculum would graduate with perhaps the finest Pc Certification available plus a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science - Permaculture. We also believe that students would graduate with a realistic, aware, broad-based education that would allow them to address the world of today and make intelligent, conscious choices about their lives and future.

So, how about it? Do you see any demand for this type of program
Thanks.
(And special thanks to Dr. Berman for curriculum inputs!)


 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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I know some young folks that might be interested in this type of major.

If I was going to college all over again I might be interested!

You are thinking of these students as business owners and designers, do you have any other career tracks in mind for them? I'm just curious, I'm sure there are plenty. Their parents might be more inclined to pay for college if there was a variety of well paying jobs at the other end. College loans are seriously burdensome these days.
 
Scott Jackson
Posts: 37
Location: Córdoba, Argentina
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Hi Bill -

I think your proposal is fantastic. Regarding the previous comment, I also feel that having some career paths present in the program would help. Better yet, I think permacultural thinking always leads in some way to entrepreneurial projects, which in university-speak might be articulated as "self-guided career path development" or something like that. Another important piece of the puzzle would be having plenty of hands-on real permaculture projects as part of the course work.

I got a bachelor's degree in 2003 (Arts and Letters), and only then got interested in Permaculture around 2004. If I had had the option to do a degree path in Permaculture like the one you're proposing, I think I would have done it in a heartbeat. I now have my PDC, and am starting to work as a teacher, consultant and entrepreneur here in Argentina. As far as demand goes, I don't know how to gauge what that might be in the US, but in general I feel that Permaculture design needs to be in the mainstream of education, and that it will be a fundamental part of "solutions thinking" in all of our foreseeable futures. Here in Argentina (Córdoba) almost everyone that has participated in my Urban Permaculture workshops has said "this needs to be in the curriculum of all schools, starting with elementary schools." So from my perspective, there will be not just a demand on the part of individuals, but a societal demand as well.

Looking forward to seeing how this develops. Cheers!!!

Scott

www.gnognosdejardin.com

 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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I think it's a great idea. Even if it weren't a stand-alone major it could be an integral part of the many "sustainability" programs out there. I also like the idea of having career paths laid out for the prospective major. This would not only increase the "cred" of permaculture (yes, you can make a living doing it) but also make it more appealing to "mainstream" as in "hey look - this isn't just a bunch of hippies re-using greywater, raising chickens and hugging trees" which is what many people think we're about.

Very interested in how this all will turn out!
 
Zach Muller
gardener
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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I like the idea. I can imagine permaculture design degrees would fall somewhere between sustainable architects, environmental engineers, civil engineers, horticulturists/arborists, forestry and agricultural engineers. If I saw a program at university I would be suspect about a career path outside of teaching. I do not think any of those professional groups named want to give up any of their commercial stake in their areas of expertise.
If everyone in the community wanted to build eco friendly houses and buildings then that would be one example where I could see a permaculture degree holder being able to find a solid career path, but currently in many places in the US we just are not there yet. There are sustainable elements in more and more architecture/engineering firms all the time, and someone holding a sustainable architecture degree or environmental/civil engineering degree has solid career possibilities in firms and agencies. If those engineers and architects became project managers and either got certified in a PDC or hired a permaculture element to consult, there would be no place for a permaculture degree holder to plug into it. That is just an example obviously, but I would personally give a program like this a while to ruminate since they will be creating the degree program in hopes of creating the specific market of jobs/careers.
If anyone want to get an idea of what a college course in permaculture is like this is a full semester course in sustainable design and permaculture at NC state. Which is a lot like what I would imagine as an introductory course at the beginning of a permaculture degree.
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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Sounds like a pretty amazing idea to me and something that I have wished for myself.
 
Bill Kearns
Posts: 159
Location: E Washington steppe
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Thank you all for your great comments. Believe me, I've taken them to heart and had a long weekend to closely examine this in the context of college realities. Made a couple of diagrams to get the big picture.

1) While I have great enthusiasm for the potentials of a degree'd Pc program, we are working in the face of a faculty with nothing but cursory Pc knowledge. They have quickly (for a number of reasons) put together a sustainability program (as an academic minor we discovered). Our slant is that, at this stage, it's "yet another sustainability program" and without some key discriminators (such as Pc) it will get lost in the noise.
2) In trying to establish the rationale and process to offer a 2 semester (~150 hours) deep-dive PDC, we are running up against the realities of 10 credits (for the PDC) within the typical juggling a college student struggles with to fulfill requirements and still get in some elective courses. We've put together a couple of options as "nitrogen-fixing support species" approaches to preparing and initiating the incorporation of a full Pc curriculum.
3) To date, we've decided that an incremental approach to a full Pc degree is called for and are preparing material to support each step (with options). We've constructed "energy sector" and "energy zone" graphics to describe the political/social/economic "energy storm" within which the college operates (in other words, we're attempting to apply Pc design principles and tools to this proposal).

This is a lot of fun and quite a learning experience! Much of this exercise is social Pc, a way to understand the college environment and design a succession-oriented program to enhance their fledgling sustainability program that can grow into a 'climax' degree'd course of study. It is also very enlightening to actually applied Pc (holistic, ethical design science) to a more esoteric design environment.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Bill - I LOVE how you approached the analysis of this project. I hope you are documenting all of it because it's pretty amazing work and we need more of these kinds of applications of "social permaculture".

Keep us updated on your progress. If there's a way to engage with you on this project (from afar) - let me know. I'm very interested in this type of permaculture application.

Best,
Jen
 
Sylas Lau
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The curriculum is brilliant, but as much as I like the idea I agree with Zach that the career possibility feels less solid than other professionals holding a PDC cert.

Although it’s perfectly sensible to make permaculture a 4 yr undergrad as it span across many disciplines, it seems risky from a student’s point of view. Permaculture encourages hands-on and many students might be ready to start their career after a Bachelor. However, let’s say if some students are interested in particular technical areas and would like to go for post-grad study, for examples: green architectures/ mechanic engineering/ root biology. The entrance requirement for post-grad programs tends to include a Bachelor degree majoring in related subjects. How would the admission see permaculture as a related subject?

I discovered permaculture during the search for a graduate program in sustainable agriculture, and see that there are many PDC cert course options around the world. None that I have come across would judge one's education background to enter. Hence when choosing a major as a cautious student, the mentality would be: I can do permaculture without majoring in it, but it's not the same in other fields... hm....
 
Watch the full PDC and ATC from home. As much or as little as you want: http://kck.st/2q6Ycay.
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