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What group of Permie are you?
Interesting article from The Land Magazine from Summer of 2013. Talks about some of the misconceptions with Permaculture and splits the permie camps into 2 groups.

What group do you fall into?

Me, I fall into the "Smart Permaculture" group by age and views, although I cringe when I see Smart vs Cult, which could further divide the movement intp Purple and non-Purple (I like how Paul puts it). I am not a "prepper", in the current definition, and understand that money drives the marketplace, which then drives the society. I live in a urban/suburban environment and don't have more than a tenth of a acre of land to work with (although I would LOVE to have a couple of acres to play with), as does more than 50% of the world (and growing). I beleive that if we can spread the word about permaculture to the urban masses, that will have the greatest amount of impact for the effort. That is not saying that Paul, Geoff and the others that work on large tracts of land are no doing any good...those fine gentlemen/ladies are doing the pioneering work that we all can use to fix the future mess our kids are going to have to deal with.
While I've been reading about permaculture a few years now and somewhat applying it in projects I don't know that I fit either of those groups. Not that anyone would admit to the "cult" association that way he puts down that side of things. But I do want to live rurally and somewhat self sufficiently, and want to develop over time a wild-simulated forest garden and animal habitat that will still thrive if some weeks or months I can't tend it much. I don't see myself getting so deep into it that I follow a philosophy about it at all though, just learn some techniques and ideas.
I've been thinking about this article for a while, and posted my response here: http://interdependentweb.com/blogs/ben_stallings/picking_gantlet

Basically, I liked to think of myself as being a "smart" permaculturalist, but I took way too much on faith. Harper's article has been a wake-up call for me to take a step back and examine some of the assumptions I have swallowed over the years about permaculture.
Well, I am more smart than cult but really neither. common sense, proven methods and learned form other goes a long way but, intuition has a place too. I do live in a rural location and, we are as self sufficient as is practical given the land we have and the location.

Our food does fine with minimal care, the animals of course need at least a daily check and some more attention than that but, that takes less than 30 minutes a day.

I didn't start out intending on going to permaculture, I started out wanting to be a self sufficient as possible and, wanting to get the various chemicals and other garbage out of my food. Being lazy at heart, I simply found the least labor intensive ways of doing that, and being a cheap skate, chose native and heirloom or, at the least no hybrid plants so I could replant them as needed. I chose animals that required minimal to no vet care, could eat what I could grow, hunt or, fish for to save money.

Of course everything had to be suitable for my zone, and thrive here. Pretty useless if I have to go to extremes to keep it alive or get anything useful from it.

Yes it turned out to be permaculture but, I did not have even the term in my head when I started, I just wanted as natural and self sufficient a life as I could create for myself and my family with the minimum cost and work involved - I don't want to have things that need doing and I can't do as far as day to day living and getting my food when I'm 80 or 90 and, I'm not going to spend a small fortune doing it.
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I'm going to associate myself with both groups.

I was so impressed with geoff lawton's insistence that if we subdivide ourselves into groups then we limit our audience. So I will proclaim myself to be a part of any group that does not bring harm to others - regardless of what label the group wears.
I have a scientific background, so I pretty much fall into the "smart permaculture" group. I understand the importantance of, and how to design, a controlled experiment. I very much agree with the author's conclusion "The PC movement runs on Nice Ideas rather than evidence". Sorry, but I very much am a "show me the data" kinda guy.

This however isn't limited to just the permaculture movement. If it was, I wouldn't have invested my money, my time, and all my effort into a 40 acre homestead parcel. In just about every field or organization there are so many decisions based on "Seems like a good idea to...", rather than "what I've determined is...".

this was discussed before based upon a similar article


I don't know if I would called myself "smart" I've enough mistakes
but I have a science background and like to see results
I try to avoid "hype" when I talk about permaculture
I even avoid the word permaculture when I talk about permaculture

I think it's important to take criticism and evaluate it sincerely, not personally

There's two types of people in this world. People that agree with me and people that are booger eaters. You're not a booger eater are you?

This is my concise interpretation of this article. It has some reasonable points but presents them in a way that is designed to put people on the defensive. If his goal was to get people to talk about the article and not ways to get permaculture theories tested, then mission accomplished.
I believe the term is "false dichotomy"
I'm a scientist who idolizes Masanobu Fukuoka, because I have read all his translated writings, and appreciate his philosophy, not because I saw the video...
Yep, I think the article was a false dichotomy and kind of rude.

I am a big fan of smart but I also admit that there is a lot more unproven about permaculture than proven. The ideas make enough sense to me for me to try anyway. I'm watching and waiting and trying and seeing. This is a life long process.

The most interesting things to me are the ideas people have and the results they get. Putting permaculture into boxes and labeling others who I don't agree with/understand is more boring.
Interesting article, and I support the call for trials in Permaculture. But the tone of the article and his division into two camps is caustic and ham fisted.

It's telling that he has a problem with people who take Permaculture as a fuzzy synonym for 'sustainable living', as if this were really a problem. I think that humanity has been thrashing the environment for too many years and we need all of the tools, vocabularies, and even Nice Ideas to get people motivated and activated back towards an ecological way of living as possible. If Permaculture courses need to come with a warning label that says "conventional organic farming methods may produce greater horticultural yields", that's fine. Permaculturists may be falling short on some accounts, by not doing scientific tests in their own back yards, or by having a preference for "perennial and woody species" but they're not exactly the problem, are they? Right now there are uncontrolled nuclear leaks going directly into the ocean, rampant fascism and police states breaking out, sky-rocketing incidence of cancer, alzheimers, slavery and human trafficking, fracking, monsanto, etc... and his beef is with people who regard Masanobu Fukouka as a hero?

OK, let's bring on the trials:

Trial number one: is the author's existential manure well-fermented to the point of fine humus, capable of giving life and renewed abundance, or simply a load of shit?
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Scott Jackson wrote:Interesting article, and I support the call for trials in Permaculture. But the tone of the article and his division into two camps is caustic and ham fisted.
<snip of some good points>
Trial number one: is the author's existential manure well-fermented to the point of fine humus, capable of giving life and renewed abundance, or simply a load of shit?

I'm in my early 50s, but I consider that I fall into both camps - ipso ergo sum - the article needs composting to make it useful, aka a load of raw shit.

I'm old hillbillie jarhead who lives semi-rural with the intent to move from my almost in town house to something that blends in better and is easier to heat. Develop my lands in a sustainable food forest and savanna way that my lazy butt doesn't have to work to the bone to receive benefit from. I can harvest at need and let my critters do the work as well as feed themselves. Farm chores can really suck. At the same time, I'm an engineer by trade (electrical, mechanical and chemical) and I like to see data or successful experimentation that is repeatable. Sustainable is repeatable, thus it works for me. Polarizing arguments like the one presented in that article aren't nice. I may be a crusty, foul-mouthed type, but I'm still nice.
I don't fall into either group. Nor do i believe that I must. But then, there are people who wouldn't say that I use permaculture on my homestead farm because its not 100% permaculture based. .....sigh...... You see, my farm supports my family and thus utilizes several different methods of growing. I use whatever actually works, rather than being a disciple of any one particular dogma or other, whether it works or not.

Per permaculture:
Most of my fruit production is done via permaculture principles.
I use hugelkultur principles for windbreaks and food producing trees in an semi-arid location.
I use hugelkultur principles for filling in pits on the homestead, which once filled support perennial food production.
I maintain a forested area on the rear of my farm, incorporating food and useful trees among native trees.
I maintain a lightly wooded pasture zone midway on the farm, raising sheep and ducks in this zone in addition to some food bearing trees and useful trees among the native trees.
All my water is rainwater catchment stored in tanks or in underground beds of cinder beneath growing areas, or in hugelkultur pits and beds.

In gardens featuring permanent beds and aisles, I tilll between each crop, apply compost/manures, use significant mulches to produce annual food crops.
I grow annuals.
I purposely sow seed with precision, rather than say, use seed balls thrown out onto unprepared ground, or expect plants to reseed themselves.
My hens spend part of their day in confinement pens, part out in pasture.

Why do I incorporate some permaculture into my farming? Because it saves me time and resources and it is productive enough for a my homestead. Why don't I try raising most of my food crops via permaculture? Because much of our food comes from annuals. Annuals grow best in weed free, light, airy soil (that means tilled). I cannot afford low production out of my efforts. I must produce good yields for the time I put into it. I can't afford failures.

I'm still experimenting with permaculture ideas, seeing what works and if it saves me time and effort. I keep discovering new little tidbits as I explore. But one thing I believe in......farming is work, even at the homestead level. Permaculture isn't going to change that. Personally, I don't want to have to survive strictly on crops that can be produced only via permaculture. I am doing well and my health is good to date on my very varied diet.
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Su Ba wrote:You see, my farm supports my family and thus utilizes several different methods of growing. I use whatever actually works, rather than being a disciple of any one particular dogma or other, whether it works or not.

probably more permaculture in terms of sustainability and sustenance than most of the systems.
Good ecological science (meaning in this case the quantification of change or difference in a complex plant-soil system) requires investment--thousands of dollars or hundreds of hours and access to specialized equipment, and significant training. I don't say this lightly--Its my work. There is some research occurring in agroecology, and agroforestry, and in other disciplines--which can be useful or not depending on whether that work applies to your site. You can do it on the cheap--using simple measures and good record keeping.

Permaculture has always been a design approach (hopefully) informed by science. It is pretty far reach to propose to test a "design approach" using scientific methods, however you can evaluate specific systems, developed by particular individuals, who report using a particular design approach. However those individuals and their systems have only really applied specific hypotheses in specific situations to solve specific problems, and then reported that they were following a design approach.

At the end you really only learn how a individual system is working. This doesn't prove or disprove the design approach--it only builds understanding of the site being observed (and perhaps about the mental constructs of a specific designer or set of designers). It takes an enormous number of these site analyses to be able to generalize about even simple principles. It would take thorough analysis of the conceptual frameworks of many designers to even understand if there is actually a cohesive 'design approach' underlying their work (that we could then label "permaculture". I suspect that the authors duality would be better represented in multi-dimensional space using at least three or four axes.

Magical <----> Rational (do you incorporate assumptions about system dynamics that no-one has been able measured)
Production <----> Efficiency (are your actions focussed on production quantity or are you more focused on the energetic input-output ratio)
Philosophical <----> Practical (do you spend more time thinking or manipulating)
Engaged <----> Disengaged (are you actively involved in the work of community self-governance within existing nation-states)

I think the author provides a personal cultural critique about the unscientific methods of a poorly defined community--using unscientific methods. I sense a depth of passion, but I don't see a lot of deep work. I think the most unscientific assumption is that there is a cohesive "permaculture community" that represents some consistent conceptual framework. This "permaculture as community" model is not real by any definition of "community" that I understand. We are a very diverse aggregation of communities and individuals that are attracted to information networks that include but are not exclusive to the work of a group of Australians and their diaspora that use the term "permaculture" to describe a general approach to system assessment and design based on ecological sciences. While we are want to be part of something clear and of substance, that's about all that actually exists that I am aware of.

I suspect that as we pause for naval gazing, we all struggle to remain humble.
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