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Mollison's Permaculture Zones - what happened to Zone 5?

 
pollinator
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:

In the end though, it seems like we may have a contrasting view of how much Zone 5 is needed?

Your position appears to me [though I could be mistaken, please clarify if I have it wrong] that privately owned land should have large swaths of Zone 5, perhaps in the vicinity of 1/2.

Mine is that people should focus on making the very best use they can of the land they have so we stop pirating resources from other lands and a greater portion of land can be gradually returned to wilderness. If that means the average zone 5 is no more than 10-15% of the person's property so be it.

[That being said, I feel every zone- even zone one- should include a certain amount lush habitat for living creatures. Hedgerows, ponds, etc etc etc]



This is where I think it pays to have some grasp of the science of ecology.

Some species, especially smaller ones, can get away with small areas of habitat, but may suffer from catastrophic inbreeding because the patch just isn't big enough to maintain a wide enough gene pool.

Broadly, the bigger the species, the more space it needs. This means we need to be retaining, restoring and creating (probably in that order) landscape-scale areas of wild space left to nature, including apex predators which, as for some reason I keep having to repeat myself, are responsible for complex trophic cascade effects that create habitat for any number of other species. The habitat consequences of having wolves and bears around differs wildly from having deer around plus a few ****heads with guns, sorry, I have to call them "hunters" around here, running around looking for an excuse to "control" them for "fun".

Having a garden pond is great. I'd encourage everyone with a garden to dig a pond. Having a hedge is great. A couple of hectares with iguanas and tapirs is to be actively encouraged as well. On the other hand, it's no more than tokenism in PermieWorld. Millions of hectares of restored prairie or temperate woodland linked by wildlife corridors supports much greater biological diversity. That's why I support the restoration of, for example, the Caledonian Forest, including the return of the beavers and wolves, along with the land reform required to keep the sociopathic toffs with their rifles off the hills and out of the glens.

It would mean much nicer places to hike and camp as well.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Kyrt Ryder wrote:
So far as I'm aware Mollison's primary goal in Zone 5 was encouraging Permaculturalists to leave the bush alone, not to create productive human systems and then give them back to the bush. [Not saying there isn't a certain amount of place for the latter, but that seems more like a multi-generational project to me.]



From Chapter 1, page 6-7:

"As the basic of permaculture is beneficial design, it can be added to all other ethical training and skills, and has the potential for taking a place in all human endeavors. In the broad landscape, however, permaculture concentrates on already-settled areas and agricultural lands. Almost all of these need drastic rehabilitation and re-thinking. One certain result of using our skills to integrate food supply and settlement, to catch water from our roof areas, and to place nearby a zone of fuel forest which receives wastes and supplies energy, will be to free most of the area of the globe for the rehabilitation of natural systems. These need never be looked upon as 'of use to people', except in the very broad sense of global health."


So far so good, we're in total agreement here.

Page 7:

"We abused the land and laid waste to systems we need never have disturbed had we attended to our home gardens and settlements. If we need to state a set of ethics on natural systems, then let it be thus:

- Implacable and uncompromising opposition to further disturbance of any remaining natural forests, where most species are still in balance;

- Vigorous rehabilitation of degraded and damaged natural systems to stable state;

- Establishment of plant systems for our own use on the least amount of land we can use for our existence; and

- Establishment of plant and animal refuges for rare or threatened species."



Sounds good. Using the least amount of land for our existence rather sounds like Zone 5 is more a community design thing than a thing for individual properties though. Even so I still like having a little Zone 5 on my land.

Page 9

"We create our own life conditions, now and for the future. In permaculture, this mean that all of us have some part in identifying, supporting, recommending, investing in, or creating wilderness habitats and species refuges..."


"As will be clear in other chapters of this book, the end result of the adoption of permaculture strategies in any country or region will be to dramatically reduce the area of the agricultural environment needed by the households and the settlements of people and to release much of the landscape for the sole use of wildlife and for re-occupation by endemic flora. Respect for all life forms is a basic, and in fact essential, ethic for all people."


To me, the message seems clear - Zone 5 is made up of natural ecosystems and created refuges, and that it is our responsibility to reduce the amount of land for human use and to return most of the land to ecosystem functions.


Somehow, we're almost arguing past each-other when we mostly agree. Or at least that's how it seems to me.
 
pollinator
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@Neil L: ".... we need to be retaining, restoring and creating (probably in that order) landscape-scale areas of wild space left to nature, including apex predators..."

@Gilbert F: "I think there is a huge difference between a wet, densely settled, European country where people have lived for thousands of years, and the dry and sparsely settled west of the USA where most of the land is actually still wilderness or near to it.....I think though, that some people don't realize just how much wild or near wild land we have."

I like the designated Wilderness Areas of the U.S. As unrealistic at this point as his proposals are, I more like the suggestions by the late Paul Shepard that, if we have to *have* wilderness areas, it means that we still don't have a good enough relationship with wild lands and the wild in general. (I think he was a proponent of being able to live with other wild things the planet over without having to resort to specific lands for this or that purpose.) So actually, I can agree with a position of eliminating wild lands but only if, in some magical averaged way, we've become ethically better in interfacing with that non-human world.

Neil, when you say "left to nature" are you indicating no human presence and/or observation of that wild space? Gilbert F, what concerns me often is the perspective that many have when they see these wild open spaces. I had a friend who, in his first year at a university in Oregon, was watching a film in natural resources class about the old growth forests in the Cascades in preparation for some class excursions into the hills. Coming from the Midwest US, he was enthralled at the fantastic mountains, waterfalls, and upward reach of the Douglas fir and other trees of the region. His marveling was cut short by a gal next to him who leaned in and whispered in his ear ".....and they say there is not enough land in the world for more people". So obviously context, perspective, and one's value system are quite important.

The Steens Mountain area (with exception to the Steens Mountain Wilderness per se) in eastern Oregon (photo below) are a good example of what you describe as "near wild", not technically a wilderness area, and as a consequence the marks of grazing...and what could certainly be called overgrazing in many instances....are clear to the eye. And I think more to the point would be that, even with those sparsely-settled, vast open areas, there seems to be "over-reach" in terms of the methods used to eliminate predator influence on livestock. The abundance of, say, coyote and elk would give it a certain wild feel, but that abundance may be somewhat artificial due to the more targeted removal of wolves over the decades. An example of such an effect: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18488620

But, all these would be just MHO.....
steens-kiger.jpg
[Thumbnail for steens-kiger.jpg]
 
Neil Layton
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John Weiland wrote:

Neil, when you say "left to nature" are you indicating no human presence and/or observation of that wild space?



That's a more complicated discussion. At present there seems to be an objection to having wild land at all - or having ranching and calling it wild land.

I'm tending towards breaking it down to areas in which humans can visit, deeper areas in which humans can visit with some sort of permit system in order to restrict numbers, and true wild lands where humans can only go for study and monitoring purposes. There are similar schemes elsewhere in the world, although not on the kind of scale I have in mind.
 
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:I guess I don't see why one couldn't have a zone3/4 AND a zone 5.



I agree, as long as we don't turn Zone 5 into Zone 4, and thus eliminate Zone 5.

Gilbert Fritz wrote:I would support shrinking (not eliminating) zone 5 on small patches of private land, especially in suburbia, so we could expand zone 5 in big swaths elsewhere. That would be more conducive to large wild animals and natural processes.



Mollison seems to put the greatest responsibility for land restoration and return to natural systems on farmers:

"What is proposed herein is that we have no right, or any ethical justification, for clearing land or using wilderness while we tread over lawns, create erosion, and use land inefficiently. Our responsibility is to put our house in order. Should we do so, there will never be any need to destroy wilderness. Indeed, most farmers can become stewards of forest and wildlife, as they will have to become in any downturn in the energy economy. Unethical energy use is what is destroying distant resources for short-term use. "

Small plots of land may only have room for a tiny Zone 5:

"Even the smallest garden can reserve off a few square metres of insect,lizard, frog, or butterfly habitat, while larger gardens and farms can fence off forest and wetland areas of critical value to local species. Such areas should be only for the conservation of local species."
 
Tyler Ludens
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John Weiland wrote: is there some quantitative description of how much wildland/wilderness per unit landmass is needed for safeguarding the biodiversity in question? Is this covered in Mollison's arguments? (I don't have his work and don't know if he stipulated a certain percent to be zone 5...



"One certain result of using our skills to integrate food supply and settlement, to catch water from our roof areas, and to place nearby a zone of fuel forest which receives wastes and supplies energy, will be to free most of the area of the globe for the rehabilitation of natural systems."

So, more than 50% of the total land area.

A related thread: http://www.permies.com/t/55801/books/Earth-Planet-Fight-Life-Edward

 
Neil Layton
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Thanks Tyler. You beat me to it.

I tend to take Mollison's figures with a pinch or two of salt. His attitude to empiricism was lacking, but I would be inclined to accept E. O. Wilson's figures: Wilson knows a lot more about ecology than probably everyone on this site put together. Wilson's figure is 50%, even if I have issues with some of the practicalities.
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

Rene Nijstad wrote:I know there are a lot of people who cannot afford to take a PDC, and some who somehow feel it's a pyramid scheme, but why don't we all at least get the book?



Because I don't have an extra $124 to spare . So, thank you for suppling the quotes and knowledge for those of us who can't afford it but would love to learn form it!



Could your local library get it in? If they don't have it, they could probably get it via interlibrary loan.

At risk of wandering off topic, perhaps a used book exchange/buy/sell/iso forum on this site would be of use... then again, maybe not. This seems to be one of those books that once one gets it, they won't let it go. It must be pretty amazing.


Tyler, thanks for starting this thread and sharing what you know about it. I thought zone 5 was just pristine wilderness before, which made no sense to me as I couldn't think of a wilderness that is pristine, at least not one on my land. We have a spot, well half the land really, that we try to maintain as close to native forest as possible, with the least amount of work. It's also our woodlot, so we choose to harvest the trees that will open up patches of forest floor to the sunlight. These areas now have such dievesity of life, that we've had university researchers ask to do servays there. They did a survey of our neighbour's property which had two species of plant in their 10 square metre section. Ours had a record amount, almost all native to the area. We tap the maple trees if the winter gets cold enough for the sap to run, we occasionally harvest firewood, and smaller trees for fence posts and such, but otherwise, it's left alone for nature to do her thing. I always thought this was zone 4... but maybe it isn't? I'm curious what your thoughts are.
 
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It sounds to me more like zone 4 than 5 because you do some management there. Great about the diversity you invite by the 'controlled disturbance'. It's also mentioned in the book edible forest gardens as a good way to keep things divers and productive.
 
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I don't know enough about Bill Mollison's context there in Australia to know how he dealt with the thorny problem of wildfire, and especially its lack.

An example from the land I inhabit: there's a considerable acreage (close to half the total) on the back of the property that is left wholly to its own devices -- Zone 5 as I understand it. However, it's becoming overgrown with tree species (especially the juniper they call "Eastern Red Cedar") that would be reduced by periodic wildfires in a true state of nature. Controlled burning is not an option for this property because of nearby infrastructure; it will not burn until that fateful day when the fuel load for the whole region is so high and the firefighting conditions so terrible (drought, heat, high wind) that everything burns catastrophically. That hasn't happened on this property since prior to 1900.

So, if I were to go back there with a tractor and tear out a bunch of the red cedar, would that make it no longer Zone 5? Or am I simply substituting a bit of human management for ecosystem functions that have been damaged, destroyed, or impeded by human management practices affecting the entire region?

My own view is that some amount of management is compatible with a Zone 5 designation, especially if you are doing your best to resolve ecological imbalances caused by human impact, and if you are doing so with a light hand and the maximum sensitivity you can bring to bear.

Another example also applicable to this property would be management of surplus deer. Missing all the top predators above coyotes in the food chain as we are, deer populations can get problematic for best forest health. We currently don't take deer on the property (we haven't seen populations get too out of control) but it's easy to imagine that some deer management would be consistent with a Zone 5 designation.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Dan, you bring up the exact challenges I'm dealing with at our place - too much cedar and too many deer. I don't know if my post got deleted, but again I will say: I believe it is the intention/purpose of the land which determines if it is Zone 5. Zone 5 is solely for the purpose of ecosystem support, it is not intended to supply any products for human use. If we choose to designate our cedar-and-deer infested land as Zone 5, the purpose is not to grow timber or raise deer for food, it is to manage the land for wildlife. Too much cedar reduces diversity, so is not good for wildlife, therefore I feel it is appropriate to remove some of it, being always mindful of the wildlife. We only cut cedar with the chainsaw during the winter when the birds aren't nesting. Small amounts of clearing with hand tools is ok during other times. I don't consider Axis deer/Chital to be "wildlife" - they are feral exotics. The Whitetail Deer belong to the State of Texas. I wish the state had the sense to manage them appropriately, but they don't, in my opinion but to discuss it more might go into Cider Press territory. Suffice to say that I believe mindful hunting of over-populated herbivores is appropriate in Zone 5 as a stop-gap in the absence of non-human apex predators. The long-term goal would be to restore a complete ecosystem with predators, but since neither the state nor my neighbors are interested in that, it isn't going to happen. But the purpose of Zone 5 is not hunting. Mindful clearing of cedar is appropriate in the absence of wildfire, but the purpose of Zone 5 is not to grow fence posts.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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While it doesn't exist for the purpose of hunting, Geoff Lawton is on record including hunting in the legitimate activities on Zone 5 land.
 
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