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Jack Spirko to discuss new requirements for Permaculture teachers Mon. Feb. 17, 2014  RSS feed

 
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So there was a thread started here that started getting a little .... outside of my publishing standards. But I thought there was a lot of good info, so I'm going to ressurect what I can:

Care to weigh in on the Permaculture Institute of North America's initiative to change the standards for teaching Permaculture? http://pina.permaculturenorthamerica.org/assets/eduDiploma.pdf

Specifically:

1.) Do you really need a minimum of 1,440 hours of additional training, spanning 10 years under the close supervision of an expert, AFTER completing a 72-hour PDC course to be an effective teacher? I believe Paul Wheaton, Geoff Lawton, and Jack Spirko all started out teaching with just a standard 72-hour PDC certificate, and they seem to do OK.

2.) Why must we meet PINA's requirement for "Documentation of how the candidate is implementing permaculture in personal life, including the design and status of the candidate's home site and livelihood, to illustrate permaculture ethics in action." Even the great Eric Toensmeier lived in an apartment when he first began teaching Permaculture. By this proposed standard, Toensmeier would be disqualified as a teacher for not showing right livelihood.

3.) Will the originators of Permaculture get a yield from PINA's initiative? Who will get the $200 fees collected for teacher applications? I could find no endorsement on the PINA site from the originators of Permaculture, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison, who set the original standard. Why do we need a different North American standard, anyway?

Jack Spirko will discuss it on The Survival Podcast on Monday afternoon, February 17, 2014. He wrote this preliminary comment on YouTube:

"To involved for a rant of 2-3 minutes, will discuss this on air Monday on TSP though. Short answer they have no authority at all. They can put out their certification and compete with it and see if anyone gives a shit. The PRI in Australia is the original and run by the founder and his hand picked successor. There is nothing to what they propose unless people care enough to chose them and their certification over Bill and Geoff's. There is no legislation of this, no law. Different certifies have different requirements. " 

Please send your feedback to PINA through their survey at https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1530086/08a62bacf288. Podcast will be at http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/. If you miss the original podcast, please look for it in the Archives. Thanks.




And here are some of the responses:

Sounds like people trying to limit and control the permaculture movement. Not good.



how can they suddenly decide who can teach permaculture when they don't even own the word permaculture

they can maybe invent some new system and then set certification requirements for that, but Bill seems to me to be pretty far out ahead of them with legal protections on the word permaculture, and a pretty clear agenda on how he wanted it taught and spread.



Eh, I doubt it's that big of a deal. If you read the certification document, it's not that they're saying "WE ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO CAN USE THE WORD PERMACULTURE". That *would* be ridiculous. But that's not what they're saying.

PINA (the Permaculture Institute of North America) looks like it's a relatively new organization, but it's board is made of people who have been around a long while and have good reputations- Jude Hobbs, Penny Livingston, Peter Bane. These aren't newcomers, and I think all/most of them have direct teaching from BM and GL.

It looks like PINA is just setting up a "accreditation" program- their graduates are held to higher standards than the standard PDC graduate. There is a Tiered system where "senior teachers" have 10 years of experience, "experienced teachers" have 5 years of experience, and "new teachers" have limited experience.

They are not asserting or seeking to assert exclusive use of the word Permaculture- They're trying to create a more rigorous, detailed standard for their own graduates.

It will be interesting to hear Jack's thoughts on this, sometimes he tends to get on a rant about something and then walk back his criticism after hearing the real story.



I think it's a good idea for the community to define, strive for and certify a higher standard for those instructors who want to demonstrate mastery of their subject. Right now, the PDC student-to-teacher transition can look little better than a MLM scam. I'm all for sharing the stuff I just learned, but I have a problem with someone taking a course this week and hanging a shingle out next week as a so-called expert and instructor. And if I were a real expert, I'd be looking for ways to differentiate myself from that sector of yahoos.



 
paul wheaton
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I've heard about some different institutes wanting to set up certifying stuff. There have been some serious problems with some very poor quality PDCs being taught.

I thought the PRI approach was good. Not sure why they are doing something different to that. I wonder if any of them are PRI certified. And if they are not, i wonder why they want to set up a different certifying body.

 
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If you look up on Permaculture Global, you can see some of the PINA board members and their PDCs

Penny Livingston took her PDC from Bill Mollison.
Jude Hobbs took her PDC from Max Lindegger, who was a Mollison student (i think he is mentioned in the Designers' Manual)

This reasearch led me to a wonderful article about the history of permaculture.
 
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I find it ironic that PINA board members are apparently proud of being students of Mollison but don't seem to respect his work enough to accept what he says is and isn't Permaculture.

Anyway as promised I did cover this today. I talk about it due to a listeners questions starting about 1 hour and 3 minutes in for about may be 15 minutes. I think if nothing else it will make you laugh, well unless you are a mud fairy hippy permaculturist and then you might be mad at me. In the end I call it like I see it. I don't think many people will care about PINA certification in the end. Good teachers have a reputation for being good, crappy ones don't make it far. This is a solution in search of a problem. The truth really is they don't like the pragmatic approach to pemacutlure promoted by the PRI, they want to force metaphysics and politics into Permaculture.

Here is today's episode, you can jump to one hour and three minutes if my critique of PINA is all you want to hear. http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/feedback-2-17-14

PINA has every right to set a PINA standard, it is up to them to get anyone other than the hippie contingent to care about it though. I can set up my own Permaculture Certification Program tomorrow, and it would be up to me to do the same.

Sorry but all I see in this is people that want to control something that was never meant to be controlled. Quoting Mollison as I so often do, "Permaculture is anti-political. There is no room for politicians or administrators or priests. And there are no laws either. The only ethics we obey are: care of the earth, care of people, and reinvestment in those ends."

These people are making up rules and setting themselves up as the authority as to the rules being met at the same time. They require you to have their diploma to be on their board! I guess the founders will just give themselves a diploma? Anyway, I wish them the best but most such acts of rebellion only ever matter to the people doing it. No one else ever seems to care. I can tell you I will never seek PINA certification, I doubt most anyone else not connected to this thing right now will either. Some of the best teachers and pioneers we have are certified by no one. Holzer, Greg Judy, Joel Salitin, etc. Who certified them?

I say it in my show today but by the time I took my first PDC I knew more than the instructor. I am most proud of my certification from Lawton and I am very proud he called me a contemporary, really proud of that. Yet in the end my teaching, my videos, my work and my results speak louder than any piece of paper. Does it strike no one as ironic that Bill hated universities and did all he could to keep permaculture out of the hands of them and that these people are trying to force a quasi college model on this?

Let them do as they want though, I won't get out of sorts about it, I just don't expect that anyone will care. The fact is PINA has no legal rights to the word and no right to say that anyone else's certification is of lesser value. All they can ever do is set their own standard for their own label and again try to get anyone other than their own little contingent to care.

This is basically seagulls fighting for scraps on the dock. People wanting to control the existing market. Folks like Geoff, Paul and myself are far more concerned with growing the numbers of the total market vs. fighting over control over one niche of the existing market.

 
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jack spirko wrote: The truth really is they don't like the pragmatic approach to pemacutlure promoted by the PRI, they want to force metaphysics and politics into Permaculture.
.....
This is basically seagulls fighting for scraps on the dock. People wanting to control the existing market. Folks like Geoff, Paul and myself are far more concerned with growing the numbers of the total market vs. fighting over control over one niche of the existing market.



Learning is never about metaphysics and politics and educational institutions and is always about mastery of the subject matter.

Educational institutions are never about learning and mastery of subject matter and always about metaphysics and politics and the pettiness of money and prestige (real or imagined).

 
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I think most people with actual experience in anything have learned to be distrustful of the ones claiming experience but offering only a pretty piece of paper

Since Permaculture is a copy written term I guess someone will inevitably set the standards - but what matters is the content of the education whether accredited or not. I'd even buy into plant spirits and faeries if they were explained in a way that made sense and got results.

Also, for what its worth - I've check out a few of your videos Jack, and I thought they where really informative and presented in a style which was easy to grasp. That would be the number one thing I would look for in a teacher.

I haven't checked out your podcast yet - but since the link is right here I'll give it a whirl this evening.
 
jack spirko
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Landon Sunrich wrote:I think most people with actual experience in anything have learned to be distrustful of the ones claiming experience but offering only a pretty piece of paper



Indeed and years don't equal experience unless applied, and years of teaching don't equal years of practical application either do they? I often say our nation is now full of educated idiots. People with multiple college degrees and no meaningful job in their lives related to said degree. Permaculture isn't in need of a failed educational model in my view. I don't even teach PDCs and I don't want to. I guest instruct for others on occasions because I have a knack for explaining some of the more complex components in a way that is easy to understand but a two week PDC is too much board and book time for me. I teach hands on, lets go, fire up the excavator, break out the laser level and roll classes. If you leave one of my classes you will be able to go get a system installed and do so with confidence. I won't teach you how to color with pencils and what have you, I will teach you to actually implement the design.

The problem that these folks say they are trying to correct stems directly from the fact that we put way too much emphasis on PDCs in the fist place. The following is a excert from an article I recently wrote for Brink of Freedom Magazine,

I have had a few conversations with “successful permaculture businesses” and when reviewing their revenue teaching 2-6 PDCs a year provided from 75-95% of their income. Whoa! Talk about exposure to a down economy! Hey guys, isn’t this supposed to be about sustainability? How sustainable is a field with one crop? Now bridge the gap in your mind, how sustainable is a business with one revenue source? The PDC is the big money maker for many “pros”, some because frankly they are simply that good and that in demand. For those folks, great, rock on. Yet there can only be so many people of that status in what is, at least for now, a relatively small emerging market. For many the reason PDCs are the main source of revenue is only because it’s the one thing they can sell enough of at a high enough price to survive.

The focus on PDCs as a gold standard for revenue, to me is a boat anchor because while I wish every person on the planet would do it, it simply really isn’t for everyone. A PDC is really quite demanding, it requires a very high level of thinking and like most educations; it is more about how to learn rather than what you learn. When you leave a PDC one of two things happens.

1. You now have a way of thinking that leads to a lifetime of developing, teaching, designing but above all learning. You have been converted into a student of permaculture forever. A status you will never graduate from.

2. You think to yourself something like, “none of my real questions about what to plant in my yard where answered with anything other than ‘it depends’, why did I pay 1200 dollars for that”?

You see, a PDC doesn’t actually make you to be a great designer; it gives you a foundation so you can become one. A PDC is a gateway to a lifetime of study, research and gaining experience. A permaculturist if he or she is really good is an architect of natural systems. One doesn’t become an architect in a 72 hour course. Many people take a PDC and sadly end up with feeling like option 2 vs. option 1 above and I think at least to a degree it is because we oversell PDCs.

I recently taught a course with a fellow teacher. An individual with what I would call a Ferrari level permaculture education. A teacher certified by the PRI as a teacher, a guy with almost every course you can take under his belt. The man is brilliant in every way a permaculturist can be. Yet, at the end of this class as students presented designs (this was not a PDC) he kept saying things like, “you did that design and you don’t even have a PDC”. Frankly about 90% of the students had not taken a PDC before this class and my co-instructor was actually apprehensive about teaching a course as complex as we put together to people who had not yet taken a PDC. Again I think this is because we have over sold the PDC to even ourselves.


If PINA really wants to solve a problem vs. controlling a market simply encouraging all well known teachers to explain the above would do 90% of it, I will give you the final 10% in response to your next quote. My point though is part of why some people are unhappy with a PDC is because it wasn't what they really wanted and they didn't know what they were buying. Indeed much of the problem is too many PDCs and not enough practical application level classes. The way we teach permaculture today would be like school teachers actually parroting the class they took to their classes, vs. applying the knowledge to meet the needs of the student.

Landon Sunrich wrote:Since Permaculture is a copy written term I guess someone will inevitably set the standards - but what matters is the content of the education whether accredited or not. I'd even buy into plant spirits and faeries if they were explained in a way that made sense and got results.



Well, that is a common misconception. In the late 90s there was a dispute over who controlled the word permaculture. In the end the courts decided NO ONE DOES, yep no one. The copy write claim of even the PRI was rejected and it was ruled that Permaculture had simply become a common word and no such protections should apply to it. Hence no one gets to control it and I LOVE THAT. We know who founded it, we know what it is and we all really know what it isn't. It ain't mud fairies, it is a practical design science that can grow a field or grow a business (and I mean a conventional business not a farm or Permaculture consultancy).

Hence all PINA can ever say is "this is our standard for Permaculture" that is all, goodbye go out, done. You can do the same and so could I. I won't, I teach the principles based on the original founders intentions because in my view that is the ETHICAL THING TO DO. If you want to do something totally outside the founders intent, call it something other than permaculture. No one can force you to, but if you don't in my view you are being unethical. And, while I do not believe in mud fairies, I do believe in Karma and Karma indeed can be a bitch.

As to the supposed problem that some PDC teachers suck, fine. Here is a solution that could be implemented in a week by any two bit coder that knows word press. Develop a stripped down version of Permaculture Global. No pages for students, instructors only. No published projects, limit it to nothing but instructor bios, classes offered and contact info along with links to their personal sites and blogs. Allow students to review the instructors and rank them on a 1 to 5 star basis.

If you want to go this far require that an instructor get at least 5 4 star or higher reviews with reasonable comments to go along with them. Let the instructor pay a small verification fee to have someone personally contact and verify the 5 reviewers are real students. Once that is done they get a "badge" PINA Certified or whoever does it. If an instructor gets two many negative reviews that are verifiable they loose their certification.

Done the end, the supposed problem is bad teachers. Well public education has taught us that TEACHERS SHOULD NOT BE IN CHARGE OF RATING OTHER TEACHERS. Talk about the fox managing the hen house. The students of Permaculture teachers are the best suited to rate them. Not some group of people that have decided for themselves what a standard should be and appoint themselves judge, jury and jailer over said standard.
 
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Done the end, the supposed problem is bad teachers. Well public education has taught us that TEACHERS SHOULD NOT BE IN CHARGE OF RATING OTHER TEACHERS. Talk about the fox managing the hen house. The students of Permaculture teachers are the best suited to rate them. Not some group of people that have decided for themselves what a standard should be and appoint themselves judge, jury and jailer over said standard.



That about sums it up.
 
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Thank you Jack for a great podcast. You had me laughing my arse off.
Thank you Theresa for the original post.
Thank you Paul for changing your mind.

Great thread
 
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Bill Mollison said something specifically about this kind of stuff if I remember.

Bill Mollison on how to become a permaculture teacher.



Watch video at 1:50 for the quote on American teachers.

A lot of teachers, at least more true of Americans anyway, don't want anyone else to be a teacher.....right. They think, they're a teacher, your an inferior object so they'll do anything they can to discourage you from teaching courses. It's cause they see you as competition which we don't see you as, we see you as a little bit of assistance. (laughter)



More specifically when asked at 2:28 on the video, Bill Mollison specifically states field work is not necessary to teach once a PDC is received. It would be easy to draw that they specifically express ideas against these professional societies, particularly ones that propagate a culture of restrictiveness and competition which are prominent in American societies.
 
nathan luedtke
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Oh my gosh, it's Darren Doherty asking the question!

And Geoff Lawton in a suit!

What a trip.
 
Amedean Messan
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I thought the video is a near perfect fit for this discussion. It sounds like the idea Bill Mollison envisioned for teaching and professional organizations are much more relaxed. I do think a professional society is a good paver for a more mainstream acceptance so I do not want to sound too cynical. Particularly in the U.S., the government relies heavily on professional societies (engineering, law, etc..) when drafting standards because they possess a wealth of relevant information so hopefully one day permaculture and aspects of sustainability would be more prevalent in the planning of state management, commerce and law.

That said, its a difficult sell. Permaculture is not nearly as profitable as other professions and sway in society correlates to revenue. There currently is little institutional support to promote a professional society for permaculture so the founders of PINA have a lot of work ahead of them in their efforts to draft a plan. There may be many nay sayers, but in America a professional society is a conduit for adoption in government.
 
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Amedean Messan wrote:
That said, its a difficult sell. Permaculture is not nearly as profitable as other professions.



I would say that is only because most people in permaculture either don't know how to make money or think making money is bad is some weird way. Permaculture can be and is very profitable for many. For that to happen though people have to first stop hating money and hating people with money. I am not saying you do, I am saying many in Permaculture do and frankly that they don't even know it themselves. If you have a negative view of money and a negative view of people with money you likely will never have money, no matter what your profession is. Even if you earn a lot you won't end up with a lot.

Money is energy, just like water on a contour, you manage it right or it all slips away. It is really simple actually. If you want to make money with permaculture you need to be a LOT MORE than a one trick pony teaching PDCs and say Earthworks and Soils courses. You should be propagating and selling plants for one thing. You should be doing a lot of LOCAL consulting for another. This is also were many stumble in a bid to become a "pro" in permaculture. They set up shop and expect people to care that they are certified and have a nice shinny website. It won't work, you actually have to BUILD YOUR OWN MARKET.

I am telling you guys, until we in Permaculture stop seeing the world as unfair we won't accomplish much. The world is what it is, and it is what we make of it.
 
paul wheaton
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Observation. Some people look at an oasis and see the desert. They conclude that no matter the effort, you still have desert. Other people observe and see that oasis was created - they conclude that with effort you can make more oasis.

For all permaculturalists, some people see Sepp Holzer, Joel Salatin, Mark Shepard and Ben Falk. Other people can only see the dozens of people that seem to have taken a vow of poverty.

I think that sorta comes back to: if you think you can or you think you can't, you are right.

I have long ago grown weary of the people that see only the desert, or only the poverty. I am no longer interested in persuading them. Instead, I wish to have long, rich, meaningful discussions with the people that see the oasis, or see the potential wealth or permaculture.

 
jack spirko
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paul wheaton wrote:For all permaculturalists, some people see Sepp Holzer, Joel Salatin, Mark Shepard and Ben Falk. Other people can only see the dozens of people that seem to have taken a vow of poverty.

I think that sorta comes back to: if you think you can or you think you can't, you are right.




Well said! The thing is I don't get why anyone sees getting into permaculture like becoming a monk? I guess it is the counter culture element or something. In my audience which is more of an anarchist/libertarian counter culture we have literally dozens of people building successful businesses with permaculture. I think it is mind set indeed Paul. The average person from my Podcast isn't attracted to Permaculture for some metaphysical reason, they simply see that it works.

Oh and Paul, we have an amazing guest on today, Byron Joel from Australia, he worked on the PRI in Australia for over a year and did a year at the PRI in New Zealand as well. Give a listen, he is also building a business and consulting practice. Lots of talk about low energy systems, no talk of low wealth systems.
 
Amedean Messan
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paul wheaton wrote:Observation. Some people look at an oasis and see the desert. They conclude that no matter the effort, you still have desert.



Now I am not a pessimist so I hope I did not give the wrong impression sounding too cynical. Permaculture may do well to have a professional society, but the obstacles persist. The way I see it, as it stands right now permaculture as a product has a limited niche market and there is no institutional incentive (i.e. tax benefits, laws, regulations) to promote a professional society of this nature. I think because of this, there is little incentive to support PINA currently other than for emotional interests. In the website, its mission statement sounds contradictory to Bill Mollison's vision when he created the PDC and I think there is additional reluctance to support this endeavor purely out of respect for a founder's vision.

But I understand flaws on the loose nature of a PDC. The commitment is not entirely extensive. The quality control is structurally flawed, specifically when students attend a limited number of hours in a course and a permaculture discipline (contrary to an idea) is not hardwired. With limited discipline, teaching deviates and you get what you see in the video below. It seems like PINA is attempting to supersede the PDC turning it into an equivalent of a highschool diploma and a PINA teaching certification as a college degree qualifying credentials.

 
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" you get what you see in the video below."

Ahhh, the guy with the "herb spiral haircut"

seems like "transcendental meditation" * morphing into permaculture

*for those old enough to remember

I agree there's nothing wrong with money
but many are turned off by how's it made today
clear cutting trees, that you didn't plant, is a quick and easy way to make money
but managing those trees for improvement and abundance is another way to make money
so people need to understand that you can (and should be allowed to) profit by doing the right thing
 
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I had seen that video and some others. That is why before signing up for a workshop with Grant Schultz and Mark Shepard on keyline design and forest based agriculture I asked a lot of questions about what was planned and especially if there was going to be mud dancing and such. The P word had been dropped by both a couple times and I was worried what I was going to. It cost me a lot of money between the course fee, flights, and hotel for the weekend and while I am willing to invest in my farm, if I wanted weird white light, foo foo stuff, mud dancing, and drums I would go to CMA Beltane.
 
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jack spirko wrote:
Oh and Paul, we have an amazing guest on today, Byron Joel from Australia, he worked on the PRI in Australia for over a year and did a year at the PRI in New Zealand as well. Give a listen, he is also building a business and consulting practice. Lots of talk about low energy systems, no talk of low wealth systems.



Here is the link to the interview: http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/1305-byron-joel-permaculture

Lots of good information in that podcast.
 
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This is generally what happens when a movement turns into a process and principles turn into requirements.
 
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With limited discipline, teaching deviates and you get what you see in the video below.



Has anyone else watched this video and considered that it might be corporate trolls trying to discredit permaculture? I hope so. It's too much like a Southpark parody to be real. Anyone?
 
Landon Sunrich
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Cory Collins wrote:

Has anyone else watched this video and considered that it might be corporate trolls trying to discredit permaculture? I hope so. It's too much like a Southpark parody to be real. Anyone?



I saw this video like two weeks ago and for the first time was like "OHHH.... So that's what everyone means when they talk about purple permaculture" I mean I guess more power too um for all the drumming and getting dirty in the mud. I like those things too. But it was pretty content-less which might turn off a first time viewer... or not - some people want to get out of the city and dance around in mud....
 
Landon Sunrich
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I just re-watched it. I think I'd get along fine in an atmosphere like that if it wasn't for the blokes rolling around big ol' rocks in freakin' flip flops! I have to draw the line somewhere!

In all seriousness though it looks like a good time was had by all and it did provide some sort of hands on inspirational learning experience for those involved. But I agree that the presentation as they decided to make it to the Youtube community was devoid of content and did come off as wishy washy hippy dippy dreamy pie in the sky. But corporate trolling...

I hope not. You're making me paranoid.
 
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That video shows one camp in the wide spectrum that permaculture encompasses.

I think that most people here at permies.com are from a different camp.
More of the homesteader that wants to make his homestead more productive and sustainable.

That video does not represent my view of permaculture, but probably has a better impact with the city bound college student who has never really experienced nature. A new cult where their new found freedoms can be expressed.

It certainly isn't something that I would show to the conservative alfalfa grower down the road who I would like to see develop a safer/saner growing system.

But to those who seek that kind of environment, I wish them the best of luck. Regardless of which color of permaculture you choose, they all teach us how to be better stewards of the land and its flora and fauna.

Each person that we can wean from the Ortho catalog, the better our planet's future becomes.

 
pollinator
Posts: 1454
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Thanks John,

Personally I would go hang out with them in a skinny minute. Fun and learning - together. Yeah, I like it. But it is not how I introduce my neighbors to permaculture. I try to use language that is appropriate for the situation.

I'm pretty sure that as long as we are all out there doing something sustainable we could consider ourselves on the same team. Diversity ....... it applies to plants, people, languages, methods.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
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Location: Western Washington
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But the flip flops while rolling boulders!!! I'm sorry but I can't get over that. Fun and learning together sounds great until someone looses a toe!
 
And then we all jump out and yell "surprise! we got you this tiny ad!"
2019 ATC (Appropriate Technology Course) in Montana
https://permies.com/wiki/101802/ATC-Technology-Montana
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