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The problem with permaculture...

 
rowan eisner
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I did a google search for "the problem/trouble with permaculture"
(autocomplete suggested "is the solution"!)

Got about 4000 hits, 9 of which at permies.com. Here's points from the the first page of results for each term and the hits from this site. What do you reckon? The more sophisticated discussion was here, of course! I relate to some.

• it cannot be defined: it is not really a thing, just a vague collection of vague notions that seem to bond people together;
• an image problem: Too many people still think of permaculture as just a gardening or organic-farming thing.
• no one is making a living at it 
• too much to integrate and too much to know
• rubber stamp the certificate to get paid
• impression of permaculture practitioners is a bunch of hippies rolling in the mud or sitting around a fire beating on drums and getting high.
• cost, permaculture design courses are usually out of the question but for a select few.
• -the cost of books
• -Some recommend using expensive equipment
• -Permaculture teachers view sharing their knowledge as income generators, very much different to agroecology  
• -Courses sometimes seem like a publicity campaign for companies
• it demands a lot of people -- namely that they understand both ecology and agriculture
• people still think of permaculture as just a gardening
• It's a threat.
• biomass from surrounding areas is used to fertilize the permaculture area, [which] is depleting those surroundings
• runs on Nice Ideas rather than evidence.
• fizzing with ideas, many of them excellent, but unfortunately many of them duds. And it is rather hard to tell which are which
• 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.
• claim of ‘something for nothing’ is a powerful draw and easily degenerates into a cult
• array of feel-good, untested notions
• over emphasis on salad leaves, berries, “beneficial plants” and lack of calorie crops
• seem more interested in selling/attending courses than actually growing anything.
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!"
• seems to lack direction toward an end goal.
• wanted to be in no way associated with "purple" 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.
• lack of qualified designers
• tons of work, if I wanted to work for nothing
• 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
• no land over which you have durable tenure
• 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.
• “positive” results are more likely to be published than “negative” ones) gives the whole a Credibility Problem.
• a lack of intellectual rigour and often a reluctance to share results
• woolly thinking, a pseudoscientific approach. In some quarters there is even a rejection of science
• seen as dishonest and inhibits the broader adoption of permaculture
• such thinking is presented as empirical fact
 
Rene Nijstad
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This subject comes up many times it seems. I sometimes have the feeling that when the word Permaculture is used every time it means something slightly different. Let me share some descriptions from the wikipedia.org page about permaculture: ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture )

General description:

Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered on simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. The term permaculture (as a systematic method) was first coined by David Holmgren, then a graduate student, and his professor, Bill Mollison, in 1978. The word permaculture originally referred to "permanent agriculture", but was expanded to stand also for "permanent culture", as it was understood that social aspects were integral to a truly sustainable system as inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka’s natural farming philosophy.

It has many branches that include but are not limited to ecological design, ecological engineering, environmental design, construction and integrated water resources management that develops sustainable architecture, regenerative and self-maintained habitat and agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.

Mollison has said: "Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system."


I honestly see no problem here.
Then we have the three ethics, maybe people have a problem with them?

1. Care for the earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
2. Care for the people: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
3. Return of surplus: Reinvesting surpluses back into the system to provide for the first two ethics. This includes returning waste back into the system to recycle into usefulness. The third ethic is sometimes referred to as Fair Share to reflect that each of us should take no more than what we need before we reinvest the surplus.


The 12 design principles:

1. Observe and interact: By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.

2. Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.

3. Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.

4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.

5. Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.

6. Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.

7. Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.

8. Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.

9. Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.

10. Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

11. Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.

12. Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.


Then the book (and the course) go into pattern understanding, climatic factors, trees, water, soils, earthworks, it compares the different climates on earth, explains aquaculture and closes with a strategy for creating a different social and functional structure for settlements and people. In all of this I read suggestions and ideas which can be followed, ignored or altered. There are a lot of observations and explanations. Taken out of context maybe they can be used to define problems with permaculture?

What I really think causes problems is how people try to operate with all this information:
- wanting immediate results and then disappointment that things in nature don't work like flipping a switch
- not taking time to observe
- not trying to fine tune any approach
- not learning from mistakes
- seeing problems rather than solutions (everything is a resource, but it might take time and thought to figure it out)

This list probably can go on for quite a bit. However if you check the principles above a clear pattern emerges. If people don't realize that their site, or any other site, is specific, which asks for analyses and a well thought out plan, which allows for feedback and the time needed for nature to do what she does. If people just try to copy someone else's approach without applying the design principles, then of course you get claims that permaculture does not work.

Just re-read the design principles list above again, it sounds pretty solid to me. Maybe the problem is not so much with permaculture but with how people apply techniques without much thought?

As for the costs of the PDC courses, that's another subject on which I don't really want to comment much. It seems that nowadays a lot of young people go heavily into student debt to after that work as a waiter because there are no better jobs available. Compared to that a PDC is relatively cheap.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Sigh, let's not leave out the fact that just as there are idiots and superficiality in all walks of life, we have our share a plenty.  I think "permaculture" is appealing to a large faction of humanity for various reasons, NONE of them having anything to do with permaculture as described above by wikipedia.

I have shared elsewhere that the people I first encountered who "loved" permaculture were enough to make me give it a wide berth for more than a decade.  Flaky, unreliable, insubstantial stoners.  As the years went by, and other people commented that I was "doing permaculture" I was offended.  I still don't want to be associated with "that other group".

So, I guess I am saying the only problem with permaculture is that a full spectrum of humanity participates, each using the word for what ever it means to them.
 
Judith Browning
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impression of permaculture practitioners is a bunch of hippies rolling in the mud or sitting around a fire beating on drums and getting high.
 

Well, don't knock it if you haven't tried it

I think it's a mistake to try to disenfranchise folks for behavior we don't understand or just because it is out of our comfort zone. 

It's kind of like trying to disassociate ones self from the human race...we're all in this together and I think we've  all got different ways of getting 'there'.

Maybe instead of trying to find the folks involved in permaculture who we 'think' are giving it a bad name, we could promote the fact that permaculture, by it's very nature, is very broad and inclusive and appealing to many from many different lifestyles and we want to include everyone.....

 
Devin Lavign
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From my POV, there is only one problem with permaculture at this point.

That there isn't yet a good well publicized working example of it for the public to latch onto as a functioning alternative.

This is not to say there aren't working examples, there are many. Or that there aren't publicized or public examples. The Seattle Beacon Hill food forest is definitely public and publicized.

But what I mean is that permaculture has yet to see "large scale" implementation that becomes a functioning example of replacing the standard agriculture dynamic. Permaculture doesn't have a region of many permaculture farms that supply an entire city or region with the majority of it's food. Like say S California valley farms that are producing the majority of food for the country. Or the Midwest grain belt. What we have in permaculture is scattered small scale examples around the world doing impressive things but not necessarily replacing the standard agriculture in the areas they operate.

I think until a city or region gets the majority of it's food from permaculture farms, permaculture will always be marginalized and put down as just a wacky experiment by hippies or dreamers. To gain a foot hold permaculture really needs a region where it has become the norm not the exception.

I don't know how to necessarily implement this, other than try and organize permaculture folks in regions to work together in some way to exert power in the region for getting into stores and markets. To do outreach to the other farms in their region to try and get neighboring farms to switch to a permaculture model. But to gain a foothold in a region is to try and rebuild an infrastructure that has been built over centuries of traditional agriculture. It will take a lot of time and effort to convert a region into a permaculture region.

But this is what I see as what is needed to eventually have permaculture taken seriously. For someplace to be the example of how permaculture has worked on a large enough scale that it is feeding a city or region. That it is large enough scale to have replaced standard agriculture. This doesn't mean it needs to be one big permaculture farm, but that enough permaculture farms are in the area to push out standard agriculture as the less viable method it really is.
 
Hibah Bahzad
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Cute post. Thanks. I think the problem is a messy looking garden. But then aren't most roadsides? I want to carry my tools and gurella garden.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Devin, I agree with most of what you posted, but ...  I think there are fine examples, Mark Sheperd's New Forest Farm for one, which is part of the Organic Valley cooperative.  Another part of the problem is that there is a lot of money and power going in to marginalizing everything but agri-chem- farming.  In addition, in the USA at least, we, as a people, have been told big farming (of wheat soy and corn) is the only "real" kind of farming, the only viable option, when it is not really viable without the subsidies. Commodity trading is also "anti" farmer, in that people that have nothing to do with generating a crop can control the price, causing hunger on other continents, and people can make money by selling short, or what ever it is called... 

IMO permaculture is about maximizing returns on effort, in real time, but a  more powerful paradigm has taken hold of our food supply, and they are in vested in maintaining the status quo, so anything substantial, like permaculture, is marginalized, because "what if everyone did it"?  If everyone set about food sovereignty and self sufficiency, then there would be no workers' efforts for the financial overlords to harvest money from.
Sorry if that sounds paranoid.  It's really not.  I'm just short of words to describe it, elbow deep in the apricot harvest and it is milking time.
 
Devin Lavign
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:Sorry if that sounds paranoid.  It's really not.  I'm just short of words to describe it, elbow deep in the apricot harvest and it is milking time.


Just because your paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. I fully agree, there is a big financial and power concern invested in keeping alternatives marginalized. The organics community for example has to go through ridiculous hoops and payments to maintain the organic label which helps keep the chem agri business able to easily cost less even though they are spending more in inputs. Those industrial farm subsidies don't help keep things competitive either.

As I mentioned there are great examples of functional and even profitable permaculture, yes Mark Sheperd is a good example, as is Joel Salatin, and many others. Where permaculture concepts are doing a good job of starting to set positive examples. But permaculture has yet to displace traditional industrial farming in any region, and I think it really will take something along those lines to truly get public awareness up on the topic.

Right now, Russia is feeding 80+% of it's population with small scale organic farming. The UN has published two papers saying small scale organic farming is the solution to world hunger and that industrial ag is the problem. But the public still buys into the industrial ag lies of they need more GMO and industrial farms to feed the world.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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OUR public buys into it, but all those people in other countries?  I don't think they're buying in.  What a pain in the neck we must be to everyone else... kind of the elephant in the living room.
 
Jason Hernandez
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rowan eisner wrote:
• too much to integrate and too much to know

• it demands a lot of people -- namely that they understand both ecology and agriculture


Isn't that the reality of the world today? To solve any environmental or indeed sociopolitical problem, it is increasingly necessary to understand all this. If objections like these have been raised, it could only have been by reactionary, anti-intellectual or anti-science people.

rowan eisner wrote:
• biomass from surrounding areas is used to fertilize the permaculture area, [which] is depleting those surroundings



Now this is a real problem. When I signed in today, what do I see first but a whole lot of references to diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is a fossil resource, as nonrenewable and hence unsustainable as fossil fuels. There is nothing "perma-" about it. If we want to make permaculture truly "perma-," it will require breaking dependence on any nonrenewable resources.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think one way to solve some of the problems of permaculture, in a way which doesn't require a bunch of people somewhere, over whom we have no control, to do something, is for each of us to make a permaculture example in our own neighborhood or community.  We can't force some people somewhere, such as a bunch of farmers, to change the way they do things, but we can change our own selves and be an example to our neighbors.  Having at least one permaculture example (even an imperfect one) in each neighborhood could go a long way toward making permaculture mainstream. 
 
Rene Nijstad
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In the replies above a number of different issues are mentioned, I totally agree that there are people out there doing what they call permaculture without knowing much about it. I think it's inevitable, those things are common for many other activities as well. Instead of focussing on that we could indeed focus on what is said here on permies. This site is a truly huge resource of information and I think it's important that we guard against misinformation or distractions from what permaculture is. I think that posts that could be confusing for people, who come here to learn things, need replies that clarify what exactly we're talking about. Permaculture is in my view quite clearly defined.

Applying permaculture to huge farms I believe is problematic. Big farms require machinery, and when using machinery things have to be simplified so harvesting can be done easily. At the same time, due to the big distances on big farms, in a permaculture approach we would define most land as being zone 4. That would then have to be low maintenance crops, like wood production, and not really huge fields of grains or vegetables. The whole idea of big farms and permaculture as defined by Bill Mollison don't seem to match.

A question I personally have is what happens to big farms if oil prices get too high, or the availability of oil and fertilizers gets problematic. Bill Mollison states that most land can be returned to nature if permaculture were applied for our food production. That statement by itself I think implies to not think in big farms, but rather in relatively smaller scale production. Maybe what to strife for would be cutting those huge farms up into a number of small ones and reforest the rest of the land?

I don't think keeping our current systems and our current big-ag, while trying to go in a more permaculture like way is a good goal. I think spreading of permaculture is better aimed at many people who can run smaller operations, to eventually make our current systems obsolete. That for sure won't win us the support of big corporations.

Another point for me is that a lot of what is done now within the permaculture movement is more or less a transition from the 'old' ways to the goals we have in mind. To just get started means moving from a situation that most, if not all, fertility somehow has to be imported to a damaged landscape. Building up the life in the soil takes time, but those imports will get lower and lower. You might have to bring in mulch to get started, but a few years down the road it could be produced on your own property. However, if we cannot find a way to properly recycle nutrients, then having for example a market garden will require the import of nutrients to continue. You cannot keep selling produce of your land without somehow bringing nutrients back in. But that point just as well shows a transition, we're not there yet, because our social and economic systems are still dominant and require people to earn an income by selling things to other people.

Our personal experience when we started is that we knew 'what' we were going to do, but that figuring out 'how' to do it was the difficult part.

I think in this era we can maybe better look at doing permaculture as a journey. We're moving from one way of doing things to another. On this journey we find people who just started and people who are further down the road. Experience is building up and will get more results on the way forward. Because permaculture is not mainstream yet, it does not mean we're not going there. As I see it we're on the front of a big wave coming. We can't flip a switch, but when that wave starts to hit, we need as many people in place as possible who know what they're doing.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Applying permaculture to huge farms I believe is problematic. Big farms require machinery, and when using machinery things have to be simplified so harvesting can be done easily. At the same time, due to the big distances on big farms, in a permaculture approach we would define most land as being zone 4. That would then have to be low maintenance crops, like wood production, and not really huge fields of grains or vegetables. The whole idea of big farms and permaculture as defined by Bill Mollison don't seem to match.


The biggest problem with huge farms doing permaculture techniques is not that machinery is involved, it is more about the use of poly-culture and multi plantings, Big farms use the row system so they can harvest a crop as close to peak conditions for harvesting as possible. The huge farm is all about profit and loss it is not currently about growing large amounts of actual food (wheat has to be processed into wheat germ, flour and bran for example). The huge farm provides the raw materials for an industry of food product producers, huge farms don't provide ready to eat foods for the most part.

A question I personally have is what happens to big farms if oil prices get too high, or the availability of oil and fertilizers gets problematic. Bill Mollison states that most land can be returned to nature if permaculture were applied for our food production. That statement by itself I think implies to not think in big farms, but rather in relatively smaller scale production. Maybe what to strife for would be cutting those huge farms up into a number of small ones and reforest the rest of the land?
 

This is the million dollar question, the other million dollar question is what will the huge farm farmer do when he can't access his money because the current credit system has fallen apart and banks have ceased all access via ATM's, checks. credit cards/bank cards.  Since the USA is credit based now, and the fact that the USA is really bankrupt (only the fact that the US dollar is the trade currency other wise known as the Reserve currency, has the USA managed to not go insolvent and default on all loans). If (or more likely) 'or' when the US dollar is replaced as the Reserve currency, is a bigger question when talking about current big farm methods. With out access to money, the farmer can no longer buy fuel, seed, fertilizer, herbicide, insecticide, tires or other machinery parts they need to keep farming. Add to that the number of farms that have fallen to the subdivision developers and not only do we not have enough flexibility but we also don't have enough farm land left.  Since most of the fertilizers and "cides" come from the oil industry, if oil ceases so does 'modern" farming, period.  There are big farmers out there trying a few fields with the "new ideas" but until they see big benefits to their bottom line, all these will be are trials, if what most term "the unthinkable" occurs, then you will see many farmers turning towards the permaculture type techniques as fast as they have to, not as fast as they can. The reason for that is that almost all of the big farmers currently follow the "this is how my grand daddy did it, my dad did it and now it is how I do it", this resistance to change is normal for humans, but it is also the thinking of the defeated, with out new methods ready to be instigated as soon as the need arises, there will be at least a one year lag in production of food stuffs. I call them food stuffs because most farmers now only grow items like rice, soybeans, corn, and wheat. These farmers will soon find they need to be growing real foods that don't have to be oven dried or put through other processes to be able to be eaten. Since they don't know how to grow these items, they will go through a learning curve period which will mean leaner times for grocery store chains (we have precious few small grocers today, they have gone the way of the 5 & dime stores.  Today almost every grocery store is part of a big corporation and dependent upon food processors to supply them what they sell.  The few "vegetable farms" are mostly located in the area of the country where extreme draught is occurring, this lack of water availability will create the situation of no more vegetables from the big farms out west. Combine that shortage with no access to your money and you have a very real crisis coming straight at the USA.  Factor in the fact that the USA has managed to alienate almost every country we were allies with at the end of WWII and you have a perfect storm brewing that will result in nothing less than complete chaos when it strikes. When that day comes it will be very interesting indeed to see what the average US citizen does, it most likely will not affect the rich portion of the people since they will have protected their money in ways the average man can not.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Farmers, especially large-scale farmers aka corporate farmers,  are not a large enough percentage of the population to provide sufficient actual food, in time of the sort of crisis you mention, Bryant.  They are, in my opinion, nearly irrelevant, because of what you point out, they only produce "food stuffs" not actual food.  In a crisis situation, most of this tiny percentage of people will simply stop farming, in my opinion.

In the US, 2% of the population are farmers.  It's even lower in the UK.

In my opinion, it's just not relevant, in terms of a permaculture future, to worry about large-scale farming.  It's a dinosaur which doesn't know the meteor is about to strike.  The day that happens (energy, or economic crisis), the dinosaur will simply keel over and die.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I just remembered a huge example, a huge success.  The restoration of the Loess Plateau in China, a region wikipedia says is about 640,000 square kilometers.  I watched a documentary on You Tube.  The region had become degraded to the extent that it was exposed dirt and more dirt ran  off every year.  I think the yellow mineral parent material is what gave the Yellow River its name.  Anyway, it was essentially a wasteland, and though they did not call it permaculture, it could have been called that.  The region now prospers. 

This is an example of a resounding success, shared by ~ 50 million people.  With this project here on the planet, it seems to me the "problem " with permaculture is not that there are no big examples of success, but that the media does not report it, and the "masses" both do not care and/ or  do not know.  And the not caring enough to know is where the "problem " lies.
 
Tyler Ludens
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That is a huge problem with permaculture, that the solutions to problems are at our fingertips, but as a society we don't seem interested in them.  The Loess success was "advertised" with an important film, but I think most people watching it said "oh, that's cool" but didn't think that it has anything to do with them.  Our society seems very ingrained with the idea that somebody somewhere is going to solve our problems - some scientists or "leaders," but not us.  That's why I think, short of government programs as in the Depression and WW2, the only way to motivate people will be on a one-on-one basis with immediately local examples, in our own neighborhoods.
 
rowan eisner
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Thanks Thekla and Tyler for the example of the Loess Plateau. I had heard of the Great green wall, but I hadn't watched the video. Here's the link to the full length version (52mins - I watched at 1.25 speed).
There is a 14 min edited open university version, but the video definition is very low
. Now I'm off to watch 'Africa's Great Green Wall'!
 
Ernie Schmidt
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I consider myself a follower of permaculture- maybe it's more like I wander around behind it.  I think this whole thing is being way over thought.  Everything in life doesn't have to be strictly labeled and adhered to.  I run a 5 acre farm, been here for over 30 years, started by following the Mother Earth News movement.  Do I consider myself a Permie? Sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not.  Use some permaculture, but not all the time. I am almost entirely natural.  After over 30 years of my life style the one major focus I have developed here on the farm is a sense of peace and balance.  Many of the folks that have visited over the years have sensed it, so that is what I call it now- The "It" feeling, you either get it of you don't.  It took a life time of sometimes brutally hard work, but I never feel as alive as when I collapse into bed after a day of work on the farm.  It is the hardest work I have even loved.  I describe what I do here as- "Hard work with manure on it" However, as a follower of Gene Logsdon, (goggle him) I totally agree with something he said many years ago- The most important tool you should have on your farm is a hammock and the most important thing you should do is use at times to admire your work.  If you don't have the time, you are doing something wrong.  I can only close by saying this life style isn't for everyone and-  If you don't get "It" it's not for you.                 
 
Evan Nilla
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probably a little contradictory to what i've said before. But, geoff lawton had it correct when he said "start simple and let the system complicate itself". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3riW_yiCN5E&index=149&list=PL55CB88225B603524 ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhv7kN2DM7k&index=161&list=PL55CB88225B603524  ; Our society pushes a very rigid mentality. the idea that everything should be 'sterile' and hyper organized into simplistic geometric patterns is pervasive. take someone spraying herbicide on a gravel driveway.... changing minds is nearly impossible. is what it is. 
 


there is zero doubt it works in the tropics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swW98MxJJEs ---  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBctG_5jCdw&list=PL55CB88225B603524&index=39 --- 



in temperate zones like 6-7 and colder hardiness most of the fruit comes from the same family, we need breeding programs in the north. end of story, not enough diversity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L74WkW1rWKU&index=143&list=PL55CB88225B603524 this is cool, but, most people will not like the lack of 'organization' as we are taught to see 'organization'. we need breeding programs.


in the 'west' people don't care about stuff like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UwrCLvbc1s&index=176&list=PL55CB88225B603524 --- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1B0ejq06PSU&list=PL55CB88225B603524&index=87 ; far to distracted. running around a city doing whatever is way more 'fun'.

in this type of movement, information has to flow freely or it doesn't work. people need to survive in this society, so that creates inherent contradiction.

Time-money-mindset. mindsets are rigid, those that understand why this is important are more or less doing something, the rest don't and won't have the money. unfortunate reality of the world we live in.

as an analogy of humanity, i'm going to use these guys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5Pj7IjG1Pk ; They had some like crazy life intervention of some kind and realized a big issue with their lifestyle. essentially because they wanted to have their cake and eat it to, couldn't deal with the draw on their ego, they reversed their decision and look at the comments. People just don't care. i realize that hits pretty hard, but, it is what it is. we aren't seeing the issues in the world just because of overwhelming propaganda, even when people have the information, most won't do anything with it.

Permaculture is an answer, but, the western world is far to distracted and disolussion to realize any 'issues and solutions'.  :/

to sum it up
there is no real issue with permaculture. in the north there needs to be breeding programs. otherwise its just humanity's lack of care. permaculture in my eyes has always been one of two things. something people do for themselves with their own land, or on a large scale something a group does to live a certain lifestyle. achieving either is easier said than done. just because a 'cure' exists doesn't mean implementing it is anything remotely easy.

we don't do whats right for the validation of the majority of anyone, we do it because we know it to be true. so we continue to do whats right, and someone thats looking for this example will come along and this example will be provided. we just do what we can, and permaculture follows that pretty closely it seems.
 
Seva Tokarev
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Devin Lavign wrote:
Right now, Russia is feeding 80+% of it's population with small scale organic farming.


Sorry about going OT, but do you mind pointing to the source? Being Russian, I am genuinely interested. I think you refer to dacha phenomenon and 80% is a stretch, even in 1990s, when commercial agriculture all but ceased to exist.
 
Devin Lavign
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Seva Tokarev wrote:
Devin Lavign wrote:
Right now, Russia is feeding 80+% of it's population with small scale organic farming.


Sorry about going OT, but do you mind pointing to the source? Being Russian, I am genuinely interested. I think you refer to dacha phenomenon and 80% is a stretch, even in 1990s, when commercial agriculture all but ceased to exist.


Just FYI, permies has a rule that sources are not required. I don't mind providing more info, but just figured I would explain that.

Yes I am referring to the dacha, and no I don't remember the source of the 80% figure as I had learned and researched it several years ago back in 2010. In a quick search I found more than 50% of total agriculture comes from the dacha from a 2004 source, but that does not count in that much of that total agriculture is produced for export not domestic use. But certain dacha crops are in the 80-90% of domestic supply.

Here is a link to a 2015 article explaining some of it http://russia-insider.com/en/russias-small-scale-organic-agriculture-model-may-hold-key-feeding-world/5669 Maybe not the best source, but just a quick one of recent date.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Evan Nilla wrote:in temperate zones like 6-7 and colder hardiness most of the fruit comes from the same family, we need breeding programs in the north. end of story, not enough diversity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L74WkW1rWKU&index=143&list=PL55CB88225B603524 this is cool, but, most people will not like the lack of 'organization' as we are taught to see 'organization'. we need breeding programs.

That's the initial impression one gets, but dig a little deeper and you discover a surprising amount of diversity down to zone 5-ish, even including the overstory.

Overstory Families:

Rosaceae- Apples, Pears, Plums, Cherries, Peaches? [peaches are a pretty small overstory tree by my standards, but probably makes a ton of sense on a sub 1 acre lot.]
Moraceae- Mulberry, Figs, Che
Cornaceae- Cornelian Cherry [also Kousa Dogwood, but it has less productivity breeding behind it]
Annonaceae- Pawpaw
Ebenaceae- Persimmon
Fagaceae- Chestnut and Oak
Juglandaceae- Walnut and Pecan
Eleagnaceae- Autumn Olive or Sea Buckthorn
Rhamnaceae- Jujube


Understory Families:

Rosaceae: Raspberries, Blackberries, Aronia Strawberries, Dwarf Trees
Grossulariaceae: Currants and Gooseberries
Vaccinium: Blueberries, Lingolnberries, Cranberries
Adoxaceae: Elderberry
Caprifoliaceae: Haskap aka Honeyberry
Betulaceae: Hazel aka Filbert
Eleagnaceae: Goumi or Sea Buckthorn
Solanaceae: Goji Berry


Vine Families:

Vitaceae: Grapes
Actinidiaceae: Kiwi Vines [the most cold hardy extending down to zone 3 or so]
Lardizabalaceae: Akebia Vines
Dioscoreaceae: Japanese Yam
Passifloraceae: Maypop
 
Evan Nilla
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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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i'm not really going to get into this, i've well covered everything you went over in the above link... ........................... i don't need to 'delve deeper' and its not an 'initial impression' ................... just for 'kicks' though...
http://www.pearltrees.com/swansen/plants-growing-permaculture/id3845858#l683

-Cornelian Cherry is very sour, needs breeding before its really viable, its like crabapples.
-Mulberries are great, big trees create a real issue about obtaining a lot of the fruit. still probably useful for an individual. as a kid i went on mulberry diets during summer days(literally just ate mulberries all day, but i also weighed half as much, was small, and climbing around a tree all day wasn't a big deal so much).
-pawpaw and persimmon are not overstory trees.
-while autumn olive can get large, again is not an overstory tree and i enjoy eating the berries, this 'issue' was actually pointed out by the OP... needs breeding... ..............
-sea buckthorn... have you ever picked sea buckthorn?? industrially, the branches are broken every year, not permaculture. even after 'processing' they have a very 'strong' flavor...
- have you seen a jujube fruit in the north?? i haven't(already covered this issue more or less in the above link) oikos tree crops tree hasn't flowered yet..(10-20 years i think??)

Rosaceae family has the longest historical breeding lineage, hence the reason there are so many productive cultivars.

yes i know, many good shrubs and berries, the majority of which my grandfather had on his 'home garden' but, it was like 3-4 acres, so..

your post could be covered in the OP's post... and its off topic.

also, there are a number of other vines you didn't mention, but, again, not the place for it really. vines.. more or less covered vine issues in these climate zones with issues with over storys..

chinese yam Cornus mas, japanese yam as you are calling it is zone 5 hardi.. pushing it. similar for jujube, zone 6 ish, but, seems it doesn't really flower so well when cold.... ...................

i'm not saying anything else on this however. the OP mostly nailed it, and this topic is fairly well beaten to death "permaculture issues".

um.. as a final thing. cold climate permaculture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQf7eP6o1zQ&list=PL55CB88225B603524&index=151 --- http://tcpermaculture.com/site/ and then obviously Eric Toensmeier's example which is probably about as good as it gets really. that being said https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brlrcZIGyeU ---  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znZXcQIRJYM  ; He more or less has it nailed for permaculture on a personal level in a cold climate. BUT! the 'issues' in why i didn't post that were already laid out by the OP, sssoo.. i didn't post anything....

please do not take any of this as a personal attack. thanks, have a good day.

Kyrt Ryder wrote:
Evan Nilla wrote:in temperate zones like 6-7 and colder hardiness most of the fruit comes from the same family, we need breeding programs in the north. end of story, not enough diversity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L74WkW1rWKU&index=143&list=PL55CB88225B603524 this is cool, but, most people will not like the lack of 'organization' as we are taught to see 'organization'. we need breeding programs.

That's the initial impression one gets, but dig a little deeper and you discover a surprising amount of diversity down to zone 5-ish, even including the overstory.

Overstory Families:

Rosaceae- Apples, Pears, Plums, Cherries, Peaches? [peaches are a pretty small overstory tree by my standards, but probably makes a ton of sense on a sub 1 acre lot.]
Moraceae- Mulberry, Figs, Che
Cornaceae- Cornelian Cherry [also Kousa Dogwood, but it has less productivity breeding behind it]
Annonaceae- Pawpaw
Ebenaceae- Persimmon
Fagaceae- Chestnut and Oak
Juglandaceae- Walnut and Pecan
Eleagnaceae- Autumn Olive or Sea Buckthorn
Rhamnaceae- Jujube


Understory Families:

Rosaceae: Raspberries, Blackberries, Aronia Strawberries, Dwarf Trees
Grossulariaceae: Currants and Gooseberries
Vaccinium: Blueberries, Lingolnberries, Cranberries
Adoxaceae: Elderberry
Caprifoliaceae: Haskap aka Honeyberry
Betulaceae: Hazel aka Filbert
Eleagnaceae: Goumi or Sea Buckthorn
Solanaceae: Goji Berry


Vine Families:

Vitaceae: Grapes
Actinidiaceae: Kiwi Vines [the most cold hardy extending down to zone 3 or so]
Lardizabalaceae: Akebia Vines
Dioscoreaceae: Japanese Yam
Passifloraceae: Maypop
 
Evan Nilla
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Devin Lavign wrote:
Seva Tokarev wrote:
Devin Lavign wrote:
Right now, Russia is feeding 80+% of it's population with small scale organic farming.


Sorry about going OT, but do you mind pointing to the source? Being Russian, I am genuinely interested. I think you refer to dacha phenomenon and 80% is a stretch, even in 1990s, when commercial agriculture all but ceased to exist.


Just FYI, permies has a rule that sources are not required. I don't mind providing more info, but just figured I would explain that.

Yes I am referring to the dacha, and no I don't remember the source of the 80% figure as I had learned and researched it several years ago back in 2010. In a quick search I found more than 50% of total agriculture comes from the dacha from a 2004 source, but that does not count in that much of that total agriculture is produced for export not domestic use. But certain dacha crops are in the 80-90% of domestic supply.

Here is a link to a 2015 article explaining some of it http://russia-insider.com/en/russias-small-scale-organic-agriculture-model-may-hold-key-feeding-world/5669 Maybe not the best source, but just a quick one of recent date.


during the fall of the soviet era, and during difficult climate years during the soviet era. the small individual russian cottage gardens were feeding the majority of the population. english russia is my source, they ran an article on it, interviewing older russian people. also, in the comments section, russians.
 
Seva Tokarev
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Devin Lavign wrote:
Yes I am referring to the dacha, and no I don't remember the source of the 80% figure as I had learned and researched it several years ago back in 2010. In a quick search I found more than 50% of total agriculture comes from the dacha from a 2004 source, but that does not count in that much of that total agriculture is produced for export not domestic use. But certain dacha crops are in the 80-90% of domestic supply.


Thanks for triggering my curiosity; after some research I found official statistics. Looks like overall share of "household production" is now at 40%, only honey and potatoes (according to this table  being at 94% and 80%, accordingly.

Even now, Russia is still net importer of agricultural products ($24B import vs $18B export, as this article suggests; compared to $60B produced); so, your  "right now...feeding 80% of its population with small scale farming" is even further from being accurate. It's more like 35%, still significant. Also, I don't think "dacha" necessarily implies "organic".

I agree with your point, just the numbers looked a little exaggerated.
 
Evan Nilla
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Right around 15:00 Paul brings up a really good point i've kinda realized. with permaculture, bad press is not good press really. so, "what is permaculture" its very diverse, like with my last statement in my first post in my thread.  Permaculture is about doing what works for your, and not worrying about the outside perception.
 
Levente Andras
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The issues listed in the original post should be taken seriously.  We can stick our heads in the sand and pretend there are no problems with permaculture, but that won't make the problems go away. An honest self-examination would be beneficial.

In my view, the first bullet point in the OP is the key issue:

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


In other words: Permaculture can be whatever you want it to be. That's not necessarily a good thing. You can put the permaculture label on almost anything, and no-one will dare challenge you, because there are no standards, and no-one has the authority to say what permaculture is or isn't.

But we seem to be okay with this and seem to want the permaculture community to continue to be 'inclusive' and non-confrontational. That unfortunately often translates as uncritical. Again, not necessarily a good thing, in my view.

And finally, another point in the OP which we should ponder:

too much to integrate and too much to know


Too much?  Well, yes and no. I think it's important to learn the permaculture thinking, which involves knowing about all the aspects that Mollison's Designer Manual touches upon (design of water, food, shelter, energy, and waste-disposal systems), and learning a certain way to think about those aspects. However, it would be silly to try to become an expert in all those fields. Personally, I focus on the things I know I can do very well, and I seek the help of real experts in the other areas. If it's true that permaculture is a design method, and if I want to apply that method to my living environment, then I want to create the best possible design based on the vision that I have, without being limited in any way by my technical skills. 

To give you a concrete example: my wife and I designed our off-grid house with all its water and energy systems. We were able to draw a very detailed
house plan; however, for the design of the various life-support systems, we created a rough sketch based on our own vision, which we then fleshed out with the help of qualified experts (plumbing and electrical engineers, etc.).

I'd say that permaculture should produce generalists rather than experts: you need to know about as many of those things as possible, and learn how think about those things in an integrated way, but you don't need to (and shouldn't try to) be an expert in everything.


 
Ron Duft
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Rene Nijstad
"Applying permaculture to huge farms I believe is problematic."

I do agree but here is a Great example.

http://brownsranch.us

Having met Gabe early this spring was a great experience. He is a fantastic pioneer in building healthy soil on a large scale.

I do agree that the agro chemical/fossil fuel intensive mega farms in the long term are unsustainable.
Still waiting for proof that any of MONSANTO'S products actually produce more or better (read nutritionally complete/chemical/GMO free) food that is not going to Affect/Effect/Impact the health of my grandchildren and BILLIONS of others.
As I live in the middle of large 1000 - 10000 Acre commercial Monsantoized farms. Permaculture is a dismissed concept on the fringe of society and not a threat to the commercial industrial machine.
Keep the Faith
 
Tyler Ludens
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Levente Andras wrote:
In other words: Permaculture can be whatever you want it to be.


I strongly disagree.  I think permaculture is what Bill Mollison, who invented it, said it is.

"Permaculture (permanent agriculture) 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.

Just because someone claims permaculture can't be defined doesn't make it so.  It has been defined by the person who invented the word.
 
John Saltveit
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Evan Nilla: Kurt is right. Many of those plants are extremely productive. None of those nuts are related to the rose family.  I like cornus mas, but that was a huge list with a ton of very productive plants. YOu can't dismiss all of them because you don't like sea buckthorn, which is very nutritious, by the way.  Breeding might help, but it isn't needed. Familiarity with other plants is what we need. Lee Reich wrote a great book about uncommon fruits for Northern areas.

John S
PDX OR
 
Rene Nijstad
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Ron Duft wrote:Rene Nijstad
"Applying permaculture to huge farms I believe is problematic."

I do agree but here is a Great example.

http://brownsranch.us

Having met Gabe early this spring was a great experience. He is a fantastic pioneer in building healthy soil on a large scale.


Hi Ron,

I took a quick look at their website and it indeed seems a nice example. What it does look like to me is that it works because they focus on livestock. Animals recycle most of what they ingest back to the soil. If they would be growing grains or veggies only it would be way more difficult. I'm still wondering though how they harvest their crops with machinery since they write they do polycultures only. Or do they grow their crops for animal feed?
 
Tyler Ludens
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It looks like the cover crop does not interfere with the cash crop,  because of height difference or perhaps the cover crop is dormant during the final growth and harvest of the cash crop:  http://brownsranch.us/cropping/
 
Levente Andras
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Levente Andras wrote:
In other words: Permaculture can be whatever you want it to be.


I strongly disagree.  I think permaculture is what Bill Mollison, who invented it, said it is.

"Permaculture (permanent agriculture) 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.

Just because someone claims permaculture can't be defined doesn't make it so.  It has been defined by the person who invented the word.


Tyler,

I strongly agree with you that Mollison wrote those words. 

But would anyone - including Mollison - go out on a limb and point a finger and say: 'what you do IS permaculture' or 'what you do is NOT permaculture' ?  You know that the answer is no.  There are no standards. It seems that permaculture is everything, from aquaponics to lettuces grown on a window sill to shamanic drum beating. It suffices to start with some good intentions, make an effort no matter how small, stick the label of permaculture on what you do, and you're "doing" permaculture. Showing actual results aligned with the concept of "agriculturally productive ecosystems" is an optional.

QED: Permaculture can be whatever you want it to be.

And we are wondering why mainstream culture is suspicious of permaculture...
 
Thekla McDaniels
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OK, you're just joking about the shamanic drum beating right?  How does that fit in?
 
John Saltveit
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Thekla,
Can't you feel it in your soul? I thought you were free, man.  Spiritually, I mean.
John S
PDX OR
 
Kyrt Ryder
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John Saltveit wrote:Thekla,
Can't you feel it in your soul? I thought you were free, man.  Spiritually, I mean.
John S
PDX OR

No man is free while he's owned by the Man, man.
 
Tyler Ludens
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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? 

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
 
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