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The problem with permaculture...  RSS feed

 
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my meaning was misinterpreted.  when i said "whatever you want it to be" i did not literally mean those exact words, i was saying within the context of permaculture... Obviously Mollison's definition is idealized or a standard. within the context of permaculture, what i was trying to say, "permaculture is what you make of it".

before any further discussion, people seriously need to visit the link i posted. this topic was vvvveeeeeerrrrryyyy well covered there(as well as my thoughts, no point double posting them here also).
 
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You posted a bunch of links, can you repost the one you're specifically referencing?  Thanks.

 
Evan Nilla
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Evan Nilla wrote:i forgot to say, the OP did a good job of pretty much rounding up said issues, even more or less the entire possible things in this thread. "said it all" basically. think it more or less standardized what was beaten to death in http://www.permies.com/forums/posts/list/40/55689#466588

 
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Tyler, I provided a practical example of the definition you quoted of permaculture for discussion asking a question? I have a feeling based on the speed of your response you did not look at the community page? If you try and practice these principles or read of those that have you'll find it is one thing to discuss the issues on the internet, another to solve them in practice. I'm in the middle of talking to jurisdictions about alot of this in urban areas makes me want to head for the hills since it is a two year unpaid process to change most cases so, I came here to get some feed back. Today I need to go read the health codes to see if I can fit compost toilets on a development with no sewer, for example. Lots of other obstacles to overcome.

What I find of most interest is alot are loosing respect for the "Greenies" shying away from that word now since it has been so abused!
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:How does it help permaculture to perpetuate problems with permaculture in this thread?  How does it help permaculture to claim that it can be whatever you want it to be, when the word "permaculture" has been defined as a specific thing - a system of design?  

People rarely talk about design here at permies, they mostly talk about techniques, so in some ways I guess it isn't surprising that permaculture as a system of design is almost completely obscured.

If people are unaware of the system of design, how does it help to claim it is shamanic drumming?  If we want permaculture to help solve the worlds problems, wouldn't it be of more value to correct these misapprehensions rather than perpetuate them?  

http://www.permies.com/forums/f-123/permaculture-design



Isn't this a case of shooting the messenger?  Facing up to reality and talking about problems equals "perpetuating" them?

The alternative would be to pretend those problems don't exist, but still keep blaming mainstream culture / society for their lack of acceptance for what permaculture is trying to do.  

You are saying that permaculture is a design system etc. (your quote of Mollison), and I agree that that's what it SHOULD be, but in reality isn't, because some people have taken it down a myriad of paths leading to nowhere meaningful. That's what I meant to say with the example of shamanic drumming. I'm not claiming permaculture is that, but some people throw in plenty of such ingredients into the mix that THEY call permaculture.

How can you "correct misapprehensions" if you advise against even mentioning those misapprehensions?
 
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Levente Andras wrote:Isn't this a case of shooting the messenger?  Facing up to reality and talking about problems equals "perpetuating" them?

The alternative would be to pretend those problems don't exist, but still keep blaming mainstream culture / society for their lack of acceptance for what permaculture is trying to do.  

You are saying that permaculture is a design system etc. (your quote of Mollison), and I agree that that's what it SHOULD be, but in reality isn't, because some people have taken it down a myriad of paths leading to nowhere meaningful. That's what I meant to say with the example of shamanic drumming. I'm not claiming permaculture is that, but some people throw in plenty of such ingredients into the mix that THEY call permaculture.

How can you "correct misapprehensions" if you advise against even mentioning those misapprehensions?



please follow the link i provided. the 'details' are well illustrated there already. as well the OP more or less said everything.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:How does it help permaculture to perpetuate problems with permaculture in this thread?  How does it help permaculture to claim that it can be whatever you want it to be, when the word "permaculture" has been defined as a specific thing - a system of design?  

People rarely talk about design here at permies, they mostly talk about techniques, so in some ways I guess it isn't surprising that permaculture as a system of design is almost completely obscured.

If people are unaware of the system of design, how does it help to claim it is shamanic drumming?  If we want permaculture to help solve the worlds problems, wouldn't it be of more value to correct these misapprehensions rather than perpetuate them?  

http://www.permies.com/forums/f-123/permaculture-design



Except for the fact that I don't think discussing, trying to define, what the problems with permaculture might be perpetuates those problems, nor impedes the acceptance of permaculture practices, I agree.  In fact I think these are the kinds of questions that will bring about the much needed focus.

I think many of the difficulties with the adoption of permaculture guided design have to do with human nature itself, and semantics.

There is just no getting away from the fact that the same word means different things to different people. Further, as much as I appreciate the atmosphere here at permies, created by the be nice rule, there are times when people ARE wrong, times when what they are saying is NOT valid or true in any sense or way.  What we have a chance to observe is the way participants here go about "countering" the misinformation that gets posted.  I think  nonconfrontational responsess have a higher success rate in bringing about a real exchange of ideas, and "changing" an erroneous belief.

In the same way, I think, we need to take that into the world at large.  It's a method in direct opposition to the current (lack of) discourse and exchange of ideas.  (The book "I'm Right and You're an Idiot" is about the phenomenon if you don't know what I mean by this).  What I find exhausting (away from permies) is the amount of work it takes to maintain the "be nice" attitude of non-disagreement when there is so MUCH of the other.  I see it as one more manifestation of what happens when violence comes up against non violence, aggression comes up against inclusiveness.

It's hard to say what I mean, here.  And that too, is the same problem.  Communication requires something from the listener, and in person we can observe whether our ideas are getting through or not.  Same problem, someone can think they know what I mean, but what is observable is that they know what THEY mean by the words I just said.  Trying to clarify is like going down the rabbit hole.

And so, it comes back to the value of focusing questions, "What am I trying to accomplish? How is what I am saying / doing helping?".

I think that is why there is so much more discussion of techniques than philosophy, because there is nothing fuzzy or woo-woo about success or failure in a project undertaken and accomplished.  For one, I get exhausted by trying to communicate.  I prefer to go DO what I am talking about, and SHOW the results that are possible possible.   In my current situation - side by side with land being managed with expensive equipment and additions, my soil is markedly different. While their's does not feed their animals or retain moisture, and it is not developing its own fertility, mine grows richer each season.   However, this year, with grasshoppers at plague levels, they have next to none, while I have millions.  I did have guineas which kept the grasshoppers in check, but this one neighbor did not like them, this one who believes  violence and aggression are legitimate means to get what you want, and so now I have no guineas and lots of grasshoppers, and they have no soil and no grasshoppers.

And what's there for the unbiased curious individual to observe, is their clean green (non)pastures, and my ragged pastures mowed to destroy grasshopper habitat.  And it would be up to each individual observer to choose what s/he preferred.  In a good year, they might choose my place, but the neighbor's place has the look of affluence, and the socially agreed upon "norm" of desirability, as shown in magazines.  The richness of my soil is not evident to the untrained eye.  The benefits of that soil goes unrecognized as well.

And so, to try to bring this back to the value of focusing questions, this is where I am.  I continue to do what I believe is right, what it suits me to do and believe, and that has to be enough for me.  It is out of my control, what others believe, and it is focusing questions that bring me back home to what my beliefs and values are, and allows me to accept that there are other people in the world who have different values and beliefs, no matter what they are founded on, or superficial or ridiculous or nonsustainable they might be.  (Some people are just not interested in sustainability.)  When I encounter those others, I am obligated by my own values to see if there is anything to learn from them, obligated by my own values to demonstrate my values with my own behavior and communication style, and it is focusing questions that keep me from reciprocating in their style.  I keep relying on the innate mirroring that exists in humanity, keep on believing that eventually, if I do not mirror them, they will have to mirror me.  And I can only do this by asking myself the kinds of questions in Tyler's post.

 
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I know this doesn't mean much since the word has so many different meanings but to me 20 some years ago when I heard it. It meant a growing ecosystem that when properly set up, even a food forest, that it will continue without man's further help. Such as what happened in Jordan with Geoff Lawton's desert experiment. To me that's permanent which I assumed perma meant.

.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Levente Andras wrote:

Isn't this a case of shooting the messenger?  Facing up to reality and talking about problems equals "perpetuating" them?  



To me it looked like people were agreeing with the statement that permaculture means whatever people say it means.  I was disagreeing with those people.

So I may have been misunderstanding what was being said.

 
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Terry Ruth wrote:Tyler, I provided a practical example of the definition you quoted of permaculture for discussion asking a question? I have a feeling based on the speed of your response you did not look at the community page?



I was responding to this post

Levente Andras wrote:
In other words: Permaculture can be whatever you want it to be.



And disagreeing with the idea that permaculture can be whatever you want it to be.  

 
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:
Except for the fact that I don't think discussing, trying to define, what the problems with permaculture might be perpetuates those problems, nor impedes the acceptance of permaculture practices, I agree.  In fact I think these are the kinds of questions that will bring about the much needed focus.



I think I have been misunderstood.  I am not saying we shouldn't discuss the problems of permaculture.  I'm saying that claiming permaculture is whatever anyone says it is, or that permaculture can be whatever you want it to be, is perpetuating a problem with permaculture, and I disagree with that.  If nobody in this thread is claiming that permaculture can be whatever you want it to be , then I have no disagreement with anyone in this thread.  Perhaps I misunderstood what was being said, perhaps nobody in this thread is claiming that permaculture can be whatever you want it to be.
 
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The problem with permaculture...

Don't want to step on any toes, great discussion just wanted to add my two cents.
Permaculture which we have defined to death is at it's heart a design tool box wrapped in an armour of Ethical principals.
In theory you can apply the principals and all of the tools on ANY aspect of the world around us. This starts of course with Living Biological systems in what is left of nature. But it does not end there.
Permaculture whether this be permanent-agriculture or permanent-culture.

cul·ture
1.
the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively."20th century popular culture" synonyms: the arts, the humanities, intellectual achievement; "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

Sort of can't have one with out the other.
So following this thought train, Law, politics, economics, medicine, engineering, social engineering etc. could all be run through our tool box that we call Permaculture.
The result would be incredible. The reality is it may be in the very distant future.

So in summary It is not stating that

"permaculture can be whatever YOU want it to be."

Permaculture IS an Ethical Design Tool Box PERIOD>  well defined and solid.
That which can be applied to ALL aspects of human culture.

The problem with permaculture... IS the perception of NON-practitioners.
That is our greatest challenge, I finish with a QUOTE

"The tasks of these "Warriors of the Rainbow" are many and great. There will be terrifying mountains of ignorance to conquer and they shall find prejudice and hatred. They must be dedicated, unwavering in their strength, and strong of heart. They will find willing hearts and minds that will follow them on this road of returning "Mother Earth" to beauty and plenty - once more."
 
Terry Ruth
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Don't want to step on any toes



Do thread lightly some may be attempting to define permaculture on this thread,  

Permaculture which we have defined to death is at it's heart a design tool box wrapped in an armour of Ethical principals.
In theory you can apply the principals and all of the tools on ANY aspect of the world around us. This starts of course with Living Biological systems in what is left of nature. But it does not end there.
Permaculture whether this be permanent-agriculture or permanent-culture.



Vague and ambiguous, undefined,

Definition of the word "perma" I like the third so I'll use it in my business model since I can. I fail to see how a permanent condition can be applied to all aspects of "permaculture" which in practice is just another word for green and eco freindly that has the same rules of engagement to better life.

"Perma," "PERMA," or "perma-" may refer to:

Perma, a town in Benin
Perma, Montana, a place in Sanders County, Montana, United States
PERMA, an acronym for five components of positive psychology
perma-, a prefix indicating a relatively permanent condition, e.g., permafrost

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perma

I would not get too caught up on the word or wording to define it, rather practical examples.

So following this thought train, Law, politics, economics, medicine, engineering, social engineering etc. could all be run through our tool box that we call Permaculture.
The result would be incredible. The reality is it may be in the very distant future.



Not at all in the very distance future, much of it is already in place in practice, it's just another buzz word for what many are already doing that creates a better environment to live in that has been quantified and proven. I posted a practical example and there are many more.

I read the OP, thread, and links all they do for me is create confusion, long winded philosophy, lack of quantifiable definition or practical examples especially high impact....

Permaculture which we have defined to death is at it's heart a design tool box wrapped in an armour of Ethical principals.



Once again vague and ambiguous, left to interpretation by anyone. There is no imaginary "permaculture toolbox" if there is define these "unique tools" by practical example within legal boundaries. Since it is a function of land use land usage laws/politics will apply. That is the "tool box" and filter, laws/politics well defined. Land usage laws or "standards" or "Ethical Principles" are well defined in code(land, building, health etc) as is permaculture and where cultures are also defined, where is green, eco, or anything else one wants to drum up and call it. I doubt those international laws will be changing the wording to include permacuture anytime soon or ever, therefore low impact. One could attend their local Community Development public hearing's to have a voice and try and change law. High densities urban land usage will have the highest impact, suburbs low. Economics, engineering, medicine, is also defined by these laws/boundries.

"permaculture can be whatever YOU want it to be."



In the collective not plural context "you" meaning legal jurisdictions that govern land usage, cultures, engineering, etc, they will define any use of any term as they see fit. Even if one could write an "International Permacuture Code" if you will, it would not apply to entire world nor could it in practice. Look throughout history this is the case as in any building, health, zoning, or any laws/codes.

The problem with permaculture... IS the perception of NON-practitioners.
That is our greatest challenge, I finish with a QUOTE

"The tasks of these "Warriors of the Rainbow" are many and great. There will be terrifying mountains of ignorance to conquer and they shall find prejudice and hatred. They must be dedicated, unwavering in their strength, and strong of heart. They will find willing hearts and minds that will follow them on this road of returning "Mother Earth" to beauty and plenty - once more."



I don't agree with this at all. In recent years looking at similar cultural if you will movements like "Green" that surfaced all kinds of money making "Subject Matter Experts" and/or "Advisors", that did the MOST damage to word. People that claimed to represent the word and culture that did not have all the credentials which is complex btw, or even know what experts to call on for advise.

In the plural sense of the word "you", these SMEs did more damage than collective law and I have seen many examples where law would not allow what they advised. My take away and advise as a professional practitioner is, be careful what word you call your business or self. I see now the Green SMEs once followed by the public have lost respect and people are looking for the next word to follow that in time will result in the same.
 
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Terry, have you read the Designers Manual or taken a PDC?  I'm not saying someone can't practice permaculture without having done these things, but, I think a basic understanding of what the word "permaculture" means comes from studying the Designers Manual.  I see a lot of people who haven't read it or taken a PDC, say that permaculture is vague and undefined.  I'm pretty sure any subject is vague and undefined if you don't know much about it.  Most of the criticisms I've seen of permaculture seem to come from people who don't know much about it, and don't care to know much about it.  But they are pleased to criticize it.

I guess what I'm saying is, I think an understanding of what the word "permaculture" means comes from studying permaculture, and not from a sound bite.  I think many complex disciplines are like this, that one can not have a real understanding of them without studying them, which may take a long time, even years.

 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Terry, have you read the Designers Manual or taken a PDC?  I'm not saying someone can't practice permaculture without having done these things, but, I think a basic understanding of what the word "permaculture" means comes from studying the Designers Manual.  I see a lot of people who haven't read it or taken a PDC, say that permaculture is vague and undefined.  I'm pretty sure any subject is vague and undefined if you don't know much about it.  Most of the criticisms I've seen of permaculture seem to come from people who don't know much about it, and don't care to know much about it.  But they are pleased to criticize it.



Pleased to criticize it, say it is what ever you or anyone else want/s it to be, or say they "practice" it, or label what others are doing as "permaculture".  It would be nice if everyone valued precision in their word choices.
 
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On a certain messageboard I used to frequent, there was one guy whose apparent sole purpose for being there was to trash permaculture.  It wasn't a permaculture board, but I would sometimes post about permaculture because I was trying to learn about it, and this guy would do sort of drive by trolling to trash permaculture and specifically to trash Geoff Lawton and his work.  So, I don't know that we always need take criticism of permaculture seriously, if a good deal of criticism is coming from what are essentially trolls - people who don't know what permaculture is, but they are certain they don't like it and that it is wrong and bad.  I agree there is legitimate criticism of permaculture, and things about it that need improvement, but not all criticism is valid, in my opinion.


 
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I'm totally with Tyler on this. I'm really amazed that this conversation keeps going on. Somebody said that the OP in the first post documented a good list of the problems permaculture has (seems to have). If these are indeed the comments people make, based on ranking in Google search results, then let us look at each of them.

• it cannot be defined: it is not really a thing, just a vague collection of vague notions that seem to bond people together;

Based on not knowing the subject and commenting based on a persons own beliefs. Can be solved by taking a PDC, reading the designers manual, or searching the internet for 'what is permaculture'. For people who don't want to search, here are some links:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture
http://permaculturenews.org/what-is-permaculture/
I even have an ultra short definition on my own blog: https://permaculturesj.wordpress.com/permaculture/

• an image problem: Too many people still think of permaculture as just a gardening or organic-farming thing.
Can only be solved by spreading information. Still if people are not motivated to learn, they can maintain any position on anything. This is not specific to permaculture.

• no one is making a living at it  
Enough examples out there. Hobby permies probably are not making a living out of it, but I doubt they want to do that. Again a point because of lack of research.

• too much to integrate and too much to know
Yes, some people would say that. This got addressed in a few posts already. If you want to use something you'd have to properly study it.

• rubber stamp the certificate to get paid
I assume this points to how 'easy' it is to get a PDC? Just be present at the classes, attempt something for your design exercise and voila you get a rubber stamped certificate that does not mean anything? Or do I miss what this means?

• impression of permaculture practitioners is a bunch of hippies rolling in the mud or sitting around a fire beating on drums and getting high.
Those exists I'm sure. Others are different and stay away from mud rolling. People express themselves in any way they like. Mud rolling however is not part of permaculture and there is also no requirement he be a hippy. Personal perception of people, not of permaculture is behind this argument.

• cost, permaculture design courses are usually out of the question but for a select few.
Buy the designers manual. Somewhere at some point in your life I'm sure you can free up a hundred bucks. Ask it for your birthday. Borrow it from someone else.



• the cost of books
See above

• Some recommend using expensive equipment
Some do all by hand, what's the point of this 'problem'?

• -Permaculture teachers view sharing their knowledge as income generators, very much different to agroecology
Some don't. If you have a problem with somebody asking to get paid for providing a service, why not study it yourself?

• Courses sometimes seem like a publicity campaign for companies
No idea what that means and how that relates to permaculture. Maybe that's why the word 'seem' is in there?

• it demands a lot of people -- namely that they understand both ecology and agriculture
Yes, at least some basic knowledge would be helpful. I don't see a problem with that though.

• people still think of permaculture as just a gardening
Already addressed

• It's a threat.
To whom? How? What does this mean?

• biomass from surrounding areas is used to fertilize the permaculture area, [which] is depleting those surroundings
Yes, but that should be temporary. However if you transport too much produce off your site and don't bring nutrients back in, this remains a problem. Permaculture states that you need to recycle all nutrients as much as possible. If you keep bringing things in from outside, maybe you'd better call your operation organic instead of permaculture.

• runs on Nice Ideas rather than evidence.
Can you provide evidence of that claim? Kidding aside, read the book, evidence is documented in it, observations are explained.

• fizzing with ideas, many of them excellent, but unfortunately many of them duds. And it is rather hard to tell which are which
Right, it's hard to tell which ones are duds. Comment based on a guess.

• abysmal levels of productivity that have nevertheless persuaded their creators that they are virtually self-sufficient in food. A few measurements and numbers would quickly dispel this illusion, but Permies just don’t do numbers.
I think this person does not know what permaculture is.

• claim of ‘something for nothing’ is a powerful draw and easily degenerates into a cult
Where is that claim of 'something for nothing'?

• array of feel-good, untested notions
Sigh

• over emphasis on salad leaves, berries, “beneficial plants” and lack of calorie crops
Sigh

• seem more interested in selling/attending courses than actually growing anything.
Depends on your aim. Examples of both exists. Learn to Google.

Permies.com
• to outsiders it looks like some kooky, hippy idea. "maaaan, these carrots are like, so tasty- I grew them in cow sh1t dooood!"
Perception problem, probably just a guess, or an attempt to be funny.

• seems to lack direction toward an end goal.
Food Forrest could be a nice end goal, but permaculture being a design science that encourages acting on feedback, the end goal will often be the health of the system rather than a static goal.

• wanted to be in no way associated with "purple" permaculture
Then don't associate with them. This argument is about people, not about permaculture.

• the price tag on PDC's. Who else would you expect to attract at $1500 - $2500 a pop? People with money to spend who typically use money as a solution to problems to begin with.
See above, buy the book.

• lack of qualified designers
Let's have more qualified designers

• tons of work, if I wanted to work for nothing
Setting up yes, if it remains lots of work, you need to respond more to the feedback your system gives you. Stop fighting nature.

• not fully developing and exercising our design skills in socio-economic settings.  We don't control much land, which is the foundation of our art
We're still in transition. If the growth of permaculture is just a few percent per year, it will be growing exponentially. This is an adaptation problem every new thing has.

• no land over which you have durable tenure
Not a permaculture problem. Same problem applies to anything that needs space to be able to do it.

• two broad groups of people doing this. One group sees it as a way to have their work provide a more fulfilling life and others who see it as a way to halve their work, the former works the later doesn't.
Not a permaculture problem. People make choices, good for them.

• “positive” results are more likely to be published than “negative” ones gives the whole a Credibility Problem.
Right, and that is not the same with any other field of work? Maybe the 'problem is the solution' way of thinking also could mean that in permaculture you try to turn negative results into positive things for your system?

• a lack of intellectual rigour and often a reluctance to share results
Permies share lots of results, and I see a lot of intelligent conversations on this site. Again a personal perception about people?

• woolly thinking, a pseudoscientific approach. In some quarters there is even a rejection of science
Permaculture is based in observation. Science is based in observation. Traditional science is reductionist, the amount of variables included in traditional science has to be limited else you cannot be sure about cause and effect. This type of science produces varying results and often is difficult to reproduce, indicating it might not be the best method to understand everything that goes on in our world. I'm happy to see holistic sciences are on the way up. Permaculture was an early example of more holistic science.

• seen as dishonest and inhibits the broader adoption of permaculture
I guess this means that some people are seen as dishonest?

• such thinking is presented as empirical fact
Sigh

I think the problem is not with permaculture but with people. I can see two broad groups of people:
- People who do not adhere to permaculture ethics or principles and claim that what they do is permaculture. This confuses other people, or in case their practices are bad, unwanted, too woolly, etc, it drives other people away from permaculture.
- People who make claims about permaculture without studying it first.
Both of these 'problems' you can encounter everywhere in life, on every subject. None are specific permaculture problems.
 
Terry Ruth
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I was not criticizing permaculture in my last post I was defining the legal practice of it in most urban areas by describing what many have been experiencing as obstacles, laws. I like what Thelka posted two ago that you cannot understand someone if you have not had their experiences.

Last year I went before our building code “variance committee” and presented alternate natural building materials such as earth and straw for adoption, since we have not adopted them. I ended up debating with the city PE kid about the need for corrosive steel rebar in a low classified seismic and wind zone, that 24” thick (not 6”) walls will not fail if built to proven tested codes. To adopt another more natural rebar material like fiberglass or basalt another battle, I have to show proof as in tested including smoke and fire. I’m pretty sure natural building is part of permaculture and I’d love to see a PDC that would change this committees mind in addition to addressing the higher cost of implementing unexperienced unavailable trades. I’m pretty sure I could write books on the subject matter or teach at universities and sell them to at least locals, including professionals. The SME permaculture building practices I have read and here are on permies for the most part I find more toxic, unfounded, or won’t sustain our climate at a min., less natural, why I would want to pay for that I don’t understand. BTW: I ended up designing a natural next generational home to local codes at a competitive cost @ $140 SF.

Renewable energy – I have VERY accurate software from NREL, ASHREA, BEOPT from DOE that uses three local towers as climate files, that produces very accurate technical and financial model/analysis I produce to clients. Why do I need PDC training here?

Agriculture, again, I have models with very accurate info based on decades of empirical data, local farmers, Dept of Agriculture, etc, again governed by land usage laws. Why do I need PDC training here?

Land usage -  We have a planning board that reviews changes based on law, community petitions, much of the tiny and micro home designers are currently battling with nationally to resolve issues since many have too high of a square foot per dwelling. For example, my jurisdiction has a minimum 5000 SF for single, duplex, multi-family, mobile and manufactured homes…what is needed is 1000 SF for low impact high density tiny or micro affordable housing, after easements and set backs and smaller allowed lot widths. Please show me a design manual to bring to the board that addresses all the zoning, health, and building issues?  

Don’t want to be viewed as a troll or critic or step on toes either, so I’ll stop there with the real issues on the table. Is any of the above “permaculture” developed issues exclusively by design, no, it’s part of the green eco movement said and done many times across the globe, yes, that overlaps with and already defines permaculture. The historical overlaps are there no matter how you define the word. Not much new here.

I’ve been a successful degreed international structures/mechanical design engineer by profession for over three decades with designs in practice in several industries, now design-building communities as a Architect/developer/builder. My days of school theory and on-line courses are over. If I don’t know I know where to go to find out in the best place more often than not my local community with local experiences. I’m surrounded by many trade professionals. If I were to spend any money on training it would be on software like WUFI and SAM renewable energy. I’m fortunate to sit around college kids that keep me up to speed on it.

If one wants to design I’d suggested creating a legal entity pay the price for errors and ommisions insurance. As the saying goes, if you want to play you have to pay. Good luck with that.

Enjoyed the thread, got what I needed, back to solving issues at hand forging the way for a low impact solutions and a better way of life in urban areas with the rest. What a PITA but I enjoy the challanges.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Terry Ruth wrote:Agriculture, again, I have models with very accurate info based on decades of empirical data, local farmers, Dept of Agriculture, etc, again governed by land usage laws. Why do I need PDC training here?



This seems to reflect what has been said about some people just not being interested in knowing what permaculture is.  Permaculture is not agriculture.

Here's an article I like which discusses some of the differences between permaculture and agriculture:  http://kennysideshow.blogspot.com/2008/05/agriculture-or-permaculture-why-words.html
 
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I think the big thing here is that there is no 5 second answer. Permaculture uses the processes of nature to provide for humans and the earth.  That's as good as I can do.

We live in a short answer time period.  Some things, like history, jazz, marriage, economics, religion,  baseball, and permaculture, are best studied in a deep way.

Permaculture will never be, and is not supposed to be, the thing you click on because it's trending right now, like celebrity romances or gruesome car crashes.

People are slowly adapting in subtle ways. In a few years, it will have become the obvious answer.  We need to be the models to show that it can.

John S
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Rene Nijstad
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I was thinking a bit if there maybe is a way to do a bit more justice to this topic. Are there problems with permaculture that are real? I can come up with one, but that one is not really a problem, but it's a challenge for sure.

When we started with our farm a little over 2 years ago, we had a lot of theoretical knowledge from the PDC course, but very little experience. I tend to say: we knew exactly 'what' we were going to do (facilitate an eco system, figure out what grows well together, learn from feedback, make everything as efficient as possible, use energy flows, etc) but we don't really know 'how' to do that. Especially at the beginning that's a huge challenge. You come in knowing that about everything is site specific: the climate, your soils, prior use (damage), etc. It takes time to figure out even the basics of that.

But then we also learned that by just starting to try things you get your first answers to the 'how' questions. Although challenges remain, they start to fall into categories that you become increasingly familiar with. You also notice that there are differences between areas of your land and slowly but surely you begin to build some type of mind map. You start to notice patterns that you did not see before. You have to keep observing though, don't attack everything that looks like a problem, but try to figure out how it fits in the whole of things around you. Slowly but surely things get more and more interesting as time progresses.

I know I cannot define this as a problem, but maybe it helps to understand how perceived problems can be turned into solutions.
 
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> wrong w/permaculture...

I got a question that's risen before me many times considering permaculture: Let's just say there are huge food forests and hills of polyculture every where with woofers running all over them... Then:

Harvesting/Delivering. That is, harvesting enough to feed millions of people who no way are going to go picking their own - and getting to them. Looking at the mobs and masses around me, I don't see them surviving if the local supermarkets didn't receive semi's full of edibles every day. So far I haven't heard even the faintest hint of a concept where permaculture fills semi's full of food every day, year in year out. For every city in the world. "Picking" a polyculture farm is vastly slower and more labor intensive w/much lower yield per hour than machine harvested row crops.

Saying people should do this or could do that... I just doubt that will happen. We're already pushing the envelope of what's possible foodwise. Starving is really close and easy for most peoples the world over - rather, that is, finding oneself starving. So far when I imagine a world where permaculture is all that feeds us.... I see a LOT fewer people there.

"Wrong" is probably the wrong word for the harvest problem. Permaculture is fine. It just can't deliver to the world as we know it using the homestead 'culture this site is primarily about. If _somebody_ doesn't deliver to the world as we know it, then lots (more) people die. "Scaling" permaculture/polyculture looks like a possibly impossible problem. I just don't see a way to fill 10,000 semi's w/food every day w/out mono row crops which machines can mostly harvest and load.

Well, who knows. I'm not god so I don't.  But if permaculture has a problem, that's it, far as I can see. Although, actually, I don't have a problem w/a world w/a lot fewer people. It's just _getting there_ that doesn't appeal to me. <g>

Rufus
 
John Saltveit
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Good point Rufus. I think the idea is that if we can't figure out a way to live more sustainably, we will damage the Earth so much that the current number of people can't survive. When they're starving, I think they will be willing to pick their food rather than die.  It's a gradual process. For me, the excitement is in seeing how we can make it happen.
John S
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Rufus Laggren wrote:> wrong w/permaculture...

I got a question that's risen before me many times considering permaculture: Let's just say there are huge food forests and hills of polyculture every where with woofers running all over them... Then:

Harvesting/Delivering. That is, harvesting enough to feed millions of people who no way are going to go picking their own - and getting to them. Looking at the mobs and masses around me, I don't see them surviving if the local supermarkets didn't receive semi's full of edibles every day. So far I haven't heard even the faintest hint of a concept where permaculture fills semi's full of food every day, year in year out. For every city in the world. "Picking" a polyculture farm is vastly slower and more labor intensive w/much lower yield per hour than machine harvested row crops.

Saying people should do this or could do that... I just doubt that will happen. We're already pushing the envelope of what's possible foodwise. Starving is really close and easy for most peoples the world over - rather, that is, finding oneself starving. So far when I imagine a world where permaculture is all that feeds us.... I see a LOT fewer people there.

"Wrong" is probably the wrong word for the harvest problem. Permaculture is fine. It just can't deliver to the world as we know it using the homestead 'culture this site is primarily about. If _somebody_ doesn't deliver to the world as we know it, then lots (more) people die. "Scaling" permaculture/polyculture looks like a possibly impossible problem. I just don't see a way to fill 10,000 semi's w/food every day w/out mono row crops which machines can mostly harvest and load.

Well, who knows. I'm not god so I don't.  But if permaculture has a problem, that's it, far as I can see. Although, actually, I don't have a problem w/a world w/a lot fewer people. It's just _getting there_ that doesn't appeal to me. <g>

Rufus



That is a very accurate assessment in my opinion.  

John Saltveit wrote:
...I think they will be willing to pick their food rather than die.



I don't think there is much doubt about that.  The problem is that they didn't plant anything to pick before they were in the pick-or-die situation.


 
Rene Nijstad
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In response to the posts above, starting with the one of Rufus, I would say that it depends where in the world you are. Where we live for example, in the mountainous rural region of Colombia, it's all small family farms. Machines cannot operate on these fields, it's often way too steep, so what people have here are small fields.

Transport is not such a big issue here either. Most people bring their produce by mule to the market in little villages all around the country, where traders buy it and transport it to the cities, so these problems can be solved one way or the other.

Another aspect is that chemical agriculture is relatively expensive, you need to buy the chemicals, in permaculture you don't need them. So costs per unit can turn out lower and adding animals to your farm to help supply fertilizer opens up another income stream.

A lengthy article about how organic agriculture can indeed feed the world: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/4060
I would personally think that if organic agriculture can feed the world, permaculture could possibly do the same on less land. But yes that will be more labor intensive (but cheaper inputs and multiple products instead of just one or a few) and distribution systems would need to be adapted. I do think that is possible over time.
 
Terry Ruth
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http://www.worldwatch.org/node/4060



“Permiculture is not agriculture” and won’t be able to take credit or hang this one on its tree, just like the others. Take note the word is not in the document.

US Department of “Agriculture”, “Agribusiness” Executives, “Agriculture” Scientist, International “Agriculture” Experts can take credit for Organic “Agriculture”. Until Permiculture drums up some nationally or internationally recognized findings of its own, Rufus statements remain valid.  

Besides, were not replacing population at the rate we are losing and won’t be starving anytime soon. Price of food is ridiculous regardless: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_fertility_rate
 
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Yes Terry, that's what I wrote too, organic agriculture.

Did you read the article? Because it made quite a clear point that to maintain worldwide food production levels it can be done (or even improved in certain environments) without the need for artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or other chemical stuff.
 
John Saltveit
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Cuba did it. We did it until 1945. Permaculture doesn't mean everyone moves out into the country and buys a homestead. I live in the suburbs, for example and I have a tightly packed food forest.  Will Allen is doing amazing things in the city of Milwaukee, WI. In China, Italy, Russia and many countries of the world, people stuff a berry bush here, a vegie there and a fruit tree over there. There is no question that this is happening.  Organic food production doubles every couple of years. In Europe, they just call it food. We are moving in that direction. The only question is will we do it gracefully or painfully. Permaculture helps us do it gracefully.
John S
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Terry Ruth
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Yes Rene I read it, thanks good read. So I think it is safe to conclude Permiculture embraces inventions from other legal entities, is not claiming a patent or anything, for any component in it's assemble or interface design tree shown below. If that is the case Rufus is incorrect, it is not Permicultures mission statement to solve world food shortages or world hunger, Permaiculture leaves that to other professions it embraces the best parts of in theory.  

The design components (or tool box if you will) shown in this integration tree are VERY complex, especially at the interfaces. These components can be quantified and qualified in science, engineering, economics, and law. 99.9% of the people practicing Permaculture will never solely come remotely close to accomplishing it all robustly and proven over time (ie 30+ years) and as we see in agriculture there will be change nothing is "permanent", that is called advanced technology. The extremely large groups of highly educated, highly skilled craftsman, "experts", in these entities are struggling as a result of teaming efforts between the best minds and trades in the world that wont be replaced by a PDC crash course. It will be teams of professionals to accomplish this, especially on a large scale, and that effort is already well underway under the green_eco terminologies. The best leaders will be large entities like the US DOA/DOE/ETC.

BTW the "what and how" of land observations, usage, and human integration has been conducted since the beginning of human existence.....as part of just about any robust design process of this magnitude are phases, design, peer reviews, test, and sustaining. Been around a VERY long time. With the test and sustaining data comes empirical information and design guides to design to one can find an abundance of in any component of the permiculture design tree, and as I said governing laws of the land. Those decades of empirical data have been captured and put into documents, code, law, engineering models, etc, not always right but far, far, more accurate than human guess work.....these days we can run 20-100 year land integration_human factor_engineering simulation models to remove alot the guess work and sustain at a low cost. The days of having to purchase land, develop it, unite to it, has been redefined and far, far, removed by technology, much of which is now available at the residential home levels at a reasonable cost.

Permie-Design-Tree.JPG
[Thumbnail for Permie-Design-Tree.JPG]
 
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Rene Nijstad wrote:Another aspect is that chemical agriculture is relatively expensive, you need to buy the chemicals, in permaculture you don't need them. So costs per unit can turn out lower and adding animals to your farm to help supply fertilizer opens up another income stream.



I hear this a lot and I am not so sure that it is true; at the very least it is not true on my farm, in fact it is the other way around; chemical fertilizers are cheaper.

I have sheep and as such I have plenty of their manure from the winter months...about 184 days a year. Since winter grazing is impossible here in New England and we must shelter them for the winter, that manure is scooped up daily and put on a stacking pad so it does not leach into the soil. For now we'll ignore that cost since it is just proper animal husbandry and what I save in mortality rates I make up for in what tiny bit of fuel is used doing so.

The sticking points come in in regards to spreading that manure on my hay and corn fields.

While it is true I have "free fertilizer", the absolute truth is, spreading it costs a lot of money. By the time you add up the diesel fuel costs to scoop, haul and spread that manure, you are well above the costs of what it would take to simply buy urea and spread it and get the same end result. When you buy urea they bring it right in bags right to your fields. Just dump it in the spreader and it starts slinging it in nice big paths...very little fuel required. You also have a lot less in machinery costs and a lot less time. It is a short cut I know, and I spread my manure diligently, but people should not be fooled into thinking doing the right thing is the least expensive option; it actually is far more expensive. In the long run I think it is better...it always is to do things the hard way, but I admit too I have cheated. My fields are at optimum or over on organic matter, so this year I spread urea just to get a nice second crop without spending a lot of time and money on spreading sheep manure. I don't plan on doing it every year, but a quick shot to the arm once and awhile, it helps the bottom line.
 
Rene Nijstad
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Hi Travis, always good to read your posts for a bit of a reality check. Being in the tropics sometimes makes me forget the effects of the 4 seasons most people on permies have to deal with.

I think what you describe is also one of the reasons that the writer of the article I metioned above wrote that going organic would reduce output in the developed world a bit, but raise it in most of the developing world. (Article here http://www.worldwatch.org/node/4060 )
 
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@Rene

Good point about the difference between "developed" and "less developed" agricultural economies. The "developed" population has always been moving farther away from it's sources with each person becoming more and more specialized and dependent on the working of the "system". (Although here in the U.S. it's not politically proper to say that since official myth has it that a person gets their place in the world on their own merits and don't owe nuthin to nobody! We can all be anything we want if we just work virtuously...<g>)

Yes, it was the huge developed economies I was thinking of, not the close to the earth folks.


> get hungry ==> pick food

Except that is not physically possible for most of the population. No skill, no access, no time and no welcome. Who would want (or allow) a horde or locusts to trample their fields and leave _everybody_ hungry next winter? Jeeze Louise, would make immigration policy look like Sunday School games!

Our complex systems are wonders of some sort or other but we have become dependent on them and they do not function on magic - there are things that will and things that will NOT work. Since most of us are "developed", I think we should not gloss over our system's  hard facts, needs, requirements, etc.  After all, the INTERNET might depend on the health of the developed world! <G>


Rufus
 
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Rufus Laggren wrote:> wrong w/permaculture...

I got a question that's risen before me many times considering permaculture: Let's just say there are huge food forests and hills of polyculture every where with woofers running all over them... Then:

Harvesting/Delivering. That is, harvesting enough to feed millions of people who no way are going to go picking their own - and getting to them. Looking at the mobs and masses around me, I don't see them surviving if the local supermarkets didn't receive semi's full of edibles every day. So far I haven't heard even the faintest hint of a concept where permaculture fills semi's full of food every day, year in year out. For every city in the world. "Picking" a polyculture farm is vastly slower and more labor intensive w/much lower yield per hour than machine harvested row crops.

...rest snipped for size, using quote to just give reference to what I am answering to...



Not saying this is the answer, but one might consider that along with changing from industrial agriculture we might need to also change urban design. There are people like Paolo Soleri or Jacque Fresco who propose drastic changes in how we build and live in cities. Soleri developed the Archology design, that incorporates food production within the city itself as well as ringing the city with farms. Fresco developed the Venus Project that similarly rings the city with natural spaces and farms. This sort of incorporating food production into city planning might be required if people want to keep living in cities. I am sure there are a lot of other ideas like these, and I have seen some others but forget the proponents names.

Most cities these days have large wasteland areas of run down and empty buildings. While not cheap or fun, turning these sectors into food production land could drastically change the issues of how cities would get food. Though one problem with many of these areas is lots of super fund sites from abandoned industrial facilities.

Much roof top space could be converted to living roof designs that were also food production. Even city streets can have mini food forests along them where food is produced along streets and sidewalks.

If there is a will there is a way. But since people have gotten used to food on demand in cities, they at this point just don't have the will to change. Most people don't even realize that much of the fruit and veggies they eat regularly aren't actually in season for 4 seasons and are imported from other countries or grown in greenhouses to give them fresh fruit and veg in the middle of winter.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Devin Lavign wrote:

Not saying this is the answer, but one might consider that along with changing from industrial agriculture we might need to also change urban design.



I think permaculture can only solve our problems if we implement permaculture.  If we don't implement permaculture in cities, I don't see how it can solve the problems of cities.  Permaculture, as I understand it, is not about farming, it's about how we live.  It's a design system for living.

It almost seems like there's an idea that permaculture can just replace our current method of farming, and we'll go along otherwise living the way we do now.  That's not what I've gotten from reading the Designer's Manual.  I get the idea that permaculture is about a completely different way of living from what we have now, a way which integrates people and nature in designed ecosystems.

Since a lot of our problems are in cities, and most people now live in cities, it seems to me that permaculture will need to be implemented in cities most of all.  Which will definitely require enormous changes to how we design cities.  

"Permaculture... is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.  It is the  integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way."  Bill Mollison, Permaculture a Designers Manual, Preface.
 
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"Permaculture... is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.  It is the  integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way."  Bill Mollison, Permaculture a Designers Manual, Preface.



Here is the problem, this has been going on for at least 10 years now and from what I can see most are not referring to it as “Permiculture”. I provided one example of it in the burbs of San Diego, CA she is calling “Habitats” with a community food production. Food on the streets here would never last, due to weather this is homeless capitol, as with most of the nation for many other reasons like road maintenance access, etc, people would steel it and the police are already swamped.

I think permaculture can only solve our problems if we implement permaculture.  If we don't implement permaculture in cities, I don't see how it can solve the problems of cities.  Permaculture, as I understand it, is not about farming, it's about how we live.  It's a design system for living.



Easier said than done, now we’re getting somewhere. I’ve been talking to our planning department the past several days and reading our 2035 community comprehensive investment plan, looking at the existing zoning map on our online portal.

Despite fed and state budget cuts to improve city infrastructure, the incorporated city and unincorporated county have finally united and decided to concentrate on the center city high density developed area in an effort to grow capital. Like alot of cities the buildings are on zero lot lines with no room to grow food, dual purpose use, commercial businesses on the lower floor and loft/apartment multifamily zoning above. Many flat roofs with parapets under utilized but in the central plains there is an abundance of farmlands within a short ½ hour drive, although residential burb crawl in in full force, price per acre on the rise and less available. Most farm land being rezoned as single family only, sold to rich private investors/developers, alot in flood plains, high winds, limited ag.

Lots of run down housing surrounding center entertainment district we call “old town” bars and restaurants, no land.  The only option demo and rezone as needed. To rezone I need a licensed civil engineer I’m not but I can cut my cost for the entire process around $5,000 by doing my own plat layouts to take to the city for board pre-approval, they meet every Wednesday. I’ll run a prelim drawing by them before I buy land to make sure I can get the rezoning I want. There will also be a public hearing to deny me of it. Past those timely costly hurdles is putting a business plan together that accounts for demo, land development, legal fees, see if it makes sense financially, very difficult! After complete make the units affordable with available financing for those in need, get lease purchase contracts, new rent comps, marketing cost etc

I’m thinking high density micro-units with a retail commercial business below would get approved easier than a farmers market if there is even a market for it, and I can either own or rent to develop positive cash flow to perhaps my investors and me, since the capitol upfront investment here can be low as .25 mil or over a million dollars, I may get bank loans for if a bank sees a good profit on interest.  New designs banks may not be interested in, too risky, requiring more than 20% down commercial lending from me I may not be able to get my hands on. Thanks to OBAMA and the Frank Dodd Act that money can not be from a private source that is not registered with the bankers commissioners office.

City sewer and water is the only option I can see. PV needs a 7/12 pitched roof, weigh that return on investment against paying my/tenants food bills with live flat roofs. I need to run some PV simulations and pay back periods, my guess PV makes more sense but maybe not since in our case we are only @ $.9 KWR. In sunshine states PV would win.

I read of one developer in DC did micros next to trader joes, to get cash flow a night club below. http://www.npr.org/2015/02/26/389263274/living-small-in-the-city-with-more-singles-micro-housing-gets-big

Well back to reading 500+ pages of boring zoning codes and community development plans on my weekend day off work, some of which I don’t understand since I’m not a planner or city official.

If I could get something to work here I'd be open to utilizing the word "permaiculture" IF it was part of a catchy title the general public understood and like it or not buy/rent the units. Most I run it by never heard of it.
 
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