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earth care, people care .... future care

 
paul wheaton
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This was brought up at the table this morning here at wheaton labs.

The idea is that people like the rhyming "earth care, people care, fair share" coined by David Holmgren. Unfortunately, "fair share" has been used by a lot of unethical people to justify their unethical behavior. It has become something of a sore spot for many.

The official third ethic right now is "return of surplus to the first two".

jack spirko has come up with what he calls "the pillar of permaculture" which (from my feeble memory) has something to do with taking responsibility for your children and grandchildren.

I remember when I first read about the ethics in permaculture how I felt so .... "I am home - I found my people". And so began my deep, romantic relationship with permaculture. And then, through thousands of discussions there were hundreds of times that the ethics came up and .... those discussions nearly always were terrible. So I developed a "cringe" around the ethics. Whenever they were brought up, I felt like "uh, oh. here comes a big bucket of psychotic-crazy-shit-storm."

So, I have found that when building a better world with permaculture, there are a lot of tools in my toolbox. The ethics are in there, but they gather dust. I just haven't found a need to whip them out to solve something. And when I see people using the ethics, it tends to be to use them as a weapon "you have to be a slave to my words because of the permaculture ethics!" So, I've become pretty disenchanted with the ethics.

But this idea of the third ethic being "future care": I like it about a thousand times better than "fair share". I even like it better than "return of surplus to the first two". I wonder what Bill Mollison and geoff lawton would say?

 
Peter Ellis
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I don't know what Geoff or Bill would say - have you asked them?

Personally, the third ethic, phrased as "return the surplus" is redundant. If you are following the first two, then "surplus" is what is left over above and beyond what was necessary for caring for the earth and for people. And what gets done with that surplus is... it goes back to the earth, in more "earth care".

If the third ethic is phrased as "fair share", then it is still redundant, as it is "people care".

I can see "future care" as adding a perspective that may have some value beyond just reiterating the other two ethics.

 
Craig Dobbson
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I like it.

Whether it becomes the official third ethic phraseology or not, I'll probably use "future care" when explaining permaculture to new folks. It seems a little more easy to grasp to a lay person. And hell, who doesn't have at least some care for the future? At least most of us are planning to wake up tomorrow at some point, right?
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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I like future care, too! A quick Google search shows two sites crediting Starhawk with coining it as the third ethic.



In the first post I found, authors Milton Dixon and Sarah Spotten use integral theory to test the relationship and, some would say logic, of the three ethics. They conclude that future care fits better than fair share and return the surplus because
we can truthfully say, “if there was neither earth nor people there would be no future.”

Read through their post and I think you'll find it interesting, too.

And from P2P Foundation, we have this:
Ethan Roland & Gregory Landua:
"Although Bill Mollison originally stated the third ethic of permaculture as “Setting limits to population and consumption,”(6) many of us (especially in the more recent waves of permaculture) have been taught different forms of the third ethic. Some learn
  • “Fair Share,” a toned-down and friendlier version of “Limits”.
  • Others learn “Resource Share,” which directs attention away from scarcity and towards re-investment of abundance. And more recently I’ve seen Starhawk refer to the third ethic as
  • “Future Care,” which synthesizes the call for “Fair Share” and “Resource Share” into a focus on creating thriving inheritances for future generations."

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    Bill Bradbury
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    It seems to me that there is only one permaculture ethic; future care, the rest is redundant.

    I like to borrow a phrase from my teacher; Living for a time beyond our own.
     
    Tom Rutledge
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    Well this is complicated for me.


    "fair share" is not the same thing as "equal share", though many people in democracies think it may be. The use of the word fair implicitly calls for a discussion or definition and that's just a stinky kettle of fish to get into. It back doors into the politics debates and tends to focus on the people who do politics.


    I'm ambivalent about the third ethic due to getting hung up in clause one. Surplus implicitly requires a mission or end goal to over achieve. This goal will typically be in the context of some subsystem. My understanding is that the only way this works is returning the surplus is in the context of that subsystem. Returning the surplus to another system or subsystem is called yield.


    To return a surplus there must first be a surplus. Many missions, causes and tasks operate on a timeframe such that by definition there is no surplus. With the state of the world the way it is today there is no surplus from efforts to save the biosphere for posterity. To that end there is no surplus and probably won't be for quite some time.


    None of this discussion so far directly helps with the reformulation however. Bare with me.


    I really like the book 'Thinking in Systems' by Donella H. Meadows. and some extremely interesting results around the Tracy-Widom distribution. In short it is a mathematical description of why poly culture is awesome sauce, having to do with the stability of dynamic system filled with populations of different things.


    The feedback loops must balance or the system crashes.


    “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.” paraphrased Albert Einstein. I think the shortened two word ethics are too short. 'care' can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. If it is a race to being concise, rather than future care, how about just one word, maybe balance, restraint, moderation, stability, abide, or abide-ination (made that one up).









     
    Shane McKee
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    Thanks for bringing this up, Paul. The way I see it is that Earth Care and People Care (as they sit) provide direct specific things To Do in the ethical structure, whereas if we adopt "Fair Share" or "Return the Surplus" we are kinda begging the question - the implicit assumption is that if we do the EC and PC thang, we're going to automagically have a surplus to share or distribute or whatever. However I feel we need to lift our sights somewhat - as far as we know we are the only intelligent species in this frame of reality. I'm a scientist - I want to find how the world works. We're not going to explore the galaxy by blowing the proverbial rainbows out of our collective behinds, and much as we might eschew standard earth-based economic growth models, we still only have one very fragile basket in which to keep all the eggs of our civilisation.

    Which means we need to look ahead - not just to a green and pleasant Earth, but permaculture off-world too. As the captain of the Axiom in WALL-E said, "I don't wanna SURVIVE - I wanna LIVE!". The great news is that there is nothing in the laws of physics or the outworkings of biology to suggest that this cannot be achieved while still paying due regard to Permaculture's ethical entirety.

    More thoughts on the Mars thing...: http://answersingenes.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/terra-perma-permaculture-to-terraform.html
     
    Dan Grubbs
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    I guess I’d have to say that maybe we’re all assuming what our goal is with permaculture. To make a determination if the current third ethic is applicable, we need to be sure we understand the objective.

    I agree with what others have said about sharing in the surplus assumes the first two ethics are happening. However, I think there is still value in the third ethic being described this way. Here’s why.

    The way I articulate the objective will not be accurate to many, but it will be for illustration purposes only. So, if we are actually trying to change the way humans think about, produce, and consume food on a global scale while living in that environment, then sharing in the surplus is a key message. If you just want to personally live in a really cool way, then permaculture works for that, too. However, I vote for the former.

    Surplus implies abundance. What will cause a conventional row-crop farmer to change practices is the relative assurance that there will be abundance from effort. Broadacre application of permaculture is the goal, in my mind. If there’s not going to be a surplus, there is no way today’s farmers are going to give up their petroleum-fueled, chemical-based way of farming. We won’t transform the globe’s landscape.

    Think about it this way. Most industrial farmers fully realize they are putting harmful chemicals on the ground and into the hydrologic cycle. Why would they do that, we ask? Because those detrimental practices arguably deliver increased yields. It will be through abundance, or what a farmer thinks of as yield, that we will begin to make a fourth-generation row-crop farmer think about changing practices.

    How are farmers convinced to change practices today and during the last three decades? They were convinced by what they believe is scientific evidence that the newly suggested practice will provide a return for their investment – improved yields.

    As Doherty alluded to, if we truly are in the anthropocene, then let’s apply permaculture and other techniques much more broadly so that the human effect on the planet is regenerative and not degenerative. To do so will mean changing the minds of thousands of farmers around the globe who won’t be convinced unless we can show them surplus.

    So, in my mind, sharing the surplus – or a very similar message that is not purple – is key to spreading adoption of permaculture practices on a broadacre scale. And, will meet the first two ethics.
     
    John Wolfram
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    paul wheaton wrote:Jack Spirko has come up with what he calls "the pillar of permaculture" which (from my feeble memory) has something to do with taking responsibility for your children and grandchildren.


    I believe the actual quote is "The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children," which Jack Spirko does like to repeat a lot, but it is actually a quote from Bill Mollison. It certainly seems to fit nicely with the "future care" idea.
     
    Kevin EarthSoul
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    I think a lot of people in Western Culture, especially Americans, have a bit of an allergic reaction to the words "fair share", because it smacks of communism: "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs". They have been told that to be worthy, we must be remunerated according to our merit. Poor people are just lazy or stupid. Whenever they hear "fair share" being spoken in a public forum, it's usually those damn socialists, union members, etc... who just want a free ride on the backs of the productive citizens.

    In my own path, I have reinterpreted the Three Ethics as The Three Sacred Relationships:

    1. Relationship with the Earth (and by extension, the body)
    2. Relationship with one's Social Community
    3. Relationship with Spirit

    These are derived from the values of many indigenous cultures I have studied. The last, "Spirit", is not some vague theological/philosophical concept, but a symbol for indigenous honoring of one's ancestors and consideration of one's children/posterity.

    "Sacred" is used as opposed to "Exploitative", and is defined as a balanced, circular relationship, which gives back as much as it takes. "Exploitative" is to take without giving back.
     
    wayne stephen
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    "Earth Care , People Care , Future Care" - That is profound!
     
    Landon Sunrich
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    Kevin EarthSoul wrote:Poor people are just lazy or stupid.


    Kevin,

    I would like you to retract this statement and apologies for it or I will be forced to comment and things will most definitely stop being nice.
     
    Jessica Gorton
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    Landon, I interpreted that part of Kevin's post as being indicative of a certain subculture's viewpoint towards the poor - not Kevin's opinion of those in poverty. It probably could have been worded better, but I think that his point (at least as I read it) is that in Western (American, particularly) culture, there is an idea that we must be compensated according to our merit, and that the Communist ideal of compensation according to needs is a dangerous line of thought that leads to (again, in some people's opinions) laziness, entitlement, etc.

    I'd agree that the "fair share" part of the triad seems redundant if you are doing the first two. It's certainly important, I think, to acknowledge the rampant inequalities across our global community - the fact that I can sit here in this comfortable chair having an intellectual conversation through a magic box made of oil and electricity speaks to my abundant privilege. However, if we are really working the "people care" part of the equation, the "fair share" is going to come naturally from that, right? "Future Care" seems like it springs naturally from the other two, and it's way easier to wrap the mind around than "Return of the surplus". And it widens the picture wonderfully - it's not just this piece of earth and this community that I am trying to sustain, but the earth that our descendants will tend and the communities that will evolve from the work we are doing now.
     
    Kevin EarthSoul
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    Landon Sunrich wrote:
    Kevin EarthSoul wrote:Poor people are just lazy or stupid.


    Kevin,

    I would like you to retract this statement and apologies for it or I will be forced to comment and things will most definitely stop being nice.


    Landon,

    I can't retract it, because it's not what I say. Let me repeat how I introduced the paragraph---

    I think a lot of people in Western Culture, especially Americans, have a bit of an allergic reaction to the words "fair share", because it smacks of communism:


    Note the colon at the end of that sentence. What follows is an elaboration on the Western (American) Cultural reaction to the idea of people receiving a "fair share".

    These are the anti-communist/meritocracy attitudes of that culture that I am characterizing.

    Since I don't share those attitudes, there is nothing for me to retract.

    Kevin
     
    Landon Sunrich
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    Ah, my mistake. I was reading to fast. Apology accepted.
     
    Upgeya Pew
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    I was recently directed to this older thread by the daily-ish e-mail. I tracked down something closer to the original source of Starhawk's evolution of the 3rd ethic:
    http://realitysandwich.com/165219/2012_climate_change_and_permaculture/

    I found her article inspiring and think it is really worth reading in its entirety. In it she says:

    "The three ethics work together. We cannot truly care for the earth unless we take into account the people and the long term impact of our interventions. Ecological solutions that ignore issues of justice are doomed to fail. And we cannot care for the people if we don't take into account the life-support systems of the earth that sustain us all. Social and economic justice movements that ignore the environmental constraints and ecological realities cannot truly improve peoples' lives. To care for the future, we must share the surplus we create and limit our consumption. When we bring people care and earth care together with an eye to future generations, we create a synergy that has immense power for healing and regeneration. Climate change can be seen as a symptom of myriad dysfunctional relationships. Our technology, our energy systems, economic systems and food growing systems, our whole way of life are in warped relationship to the greater realities around us. To avoid ultimate climate catastrophe, we must heal some core relationships, with place, with food and soil, with community [Upgeya: and I would add, with ourselves]. When we do, we can wean ourselves off stuff as a filler for the emptiness within, step out of the competitive ballpark and into the singing garden."

    My understanding of the three ethics is that they arise from a single ethic, the Life Ethic: living organisms are not only means (to meeting our needs), but also ends, having intrinsic worth, in themselves. In addition to their instrumental value to humans and other living organisms, they have an intrinsic worth.



     
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