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"Bill Mollison makes it pretty clear that a big part of permaculture is replacing petroleum with people"

In a thread started by Paul a while ago (which I only just discovered), he made the statement above. Now while I don't disagree with the principal of petroleum reduction, I don't really buy into the dichotomy that Paul  (and Mollison?) present. Is it really the case that it is petrol or people? If it was the case when Mollison was laying the building blocks of permaculture in the 1970s and 1980s, is it really still the case now? It seems to me that technology is rapidly catching up with the goal of "replacing petroleum" without necessarily needing to switch to people power.

Given that one of the permaculture ethics is people care, is it not reasonable to look at where technology can lighten the burden on people while still fitting within our ambitions for a society that drastically reduces dependence on petroleum?

A case in point: A normal man with a chainsaw can cut far, far more wood in a given period of time than a man with a hand saw. The chainsaw depends on a long and rather complex supply chain and uses petrol fuel, but it has a massive multiplying effect on human productivity. These days you can also buy battery powered saws. They obviously have a construction cost, but in use they don't use petrol. If a renewable electricity supply is used they can be charged without fossil fuels. My feeling is that in some situations fossil fuel reduction has become somewhat of a point of dogma and hasn't kept up with the pace of technological change.  Is it necessarily true that permaculture must be "low technology"? I can see this gulf between ideology and technical possibility widening. Some of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels are agricultural enterprises that consume large amounts of artificial fertilisers. Going to permaculture systems can reduce fertiiser demands.. but in exchange for higher input of human labour. If we could make that transition easier - for example through "skilled" robotic labour - we might go a long way to reducing the consumption of fertilisers, by facilitating uptake of other systems.


Here are some "thought experiments" of permaculture and technology.

Robotic Agriculture
Permaculture frequently uses mixed species planting for their mutual supporting benefits. These mixed plantings usually require more human management and intervention compared to monocrops. For example, an orchard could be planted with an understory of supportive guild plants like comfrey.  In other systems that same area might be sprayed to keep grass down to reduce competition. The technology does not currently exist to allow robots to manage such a complex network of species, all with different needs at different times. But the time might come when a robot could eg - apply targeted "chop-n-drop" to specific species in within a guild system without human oversight. Such a machine might pull or hoe certain undesirable weed species, rather than spraying, and with the ability to visit frequently it's interventions can be perfectly timed - pull the thistles once the pollinators have visited, but before the seed have spread. Cut the comfrey the week before the apples are harvested, so the stems are not in the way of the pickers etc...  Rather then a giant heavy vehicle, I'm visualising something about the size of a quadbike that can trundle up and down rows day after day managing its landscape and returning to a charging station as needed. The result is a low input system, with rich diversity of species, producing a wide array of potential crop products.. while still keeping the "human power" low.

Electric Vehicles
These are finally becoming mainstream on the roads, and with expanding usage the development of technology is accelerating - especially in the field of battery energy density and longevity. It is a small step to consider a range of small to medium size off-road vehicles suitable for heavy duty work. I could do with a powered offroad vehicle for carting large quantities of firewood around my property - with the distances I am going wheel barrows are back breaking work. Similarly, people running larger permaculture farms need efficient ways to get crops off their land quickly. Human power puts a pretty hard cap on how much can be achieved in a given time.

I personally would view such technologies as very much in keeping with the ideals of permaculture, and don't view permaculture and technology as incompatible. I also feel quite strongly that if we want to see permaculture taken up on larger scales as a system for feeding millions then we need to find methods for scaling up efficiently.

Any thoughts on this? Can anyone see other places where a high tech approach might yield benefits?



(Mods - I wasn't really sure where this thread might belong. If you see a place that is a better fit for it, please do move it!)
 
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The problem with petroleum is that there is an incredible amount of energy in a given gallon. It does not matter what work is being performed, that requires energy whether it be human powered or fuel powered. A gallon of diesel fuel has a staggering 131,000 BTU's and that is a lot in a teeny, tiny amount of fuel. A finite resource yes, but a lot of potential energy. Getting beyond that is a hurdle.

One thing we do have to watch out for though is; and assuming the battery charger is grid-based, then it is most likely being charged by petroleum. It's source is rather hidden, and while the grid is comprised of both green power and fossil fuels, no one can determine just where their power is being derived from. Even here in Maine...a deregulated power state, while I might opt for only green based power, that is a paper-billing type of thing as the umbilical cord from the grid going to my home could have any type of power on it. The second part of that is, batteries are made from some very rare metals and that takes mining, often in exotic and very poor parts of the world. We may not see the social carnage that takes place there to get the much sought after metals, nor the environmental destruction that can take place...so in both cases, it may be hidden things that may not make batteries as "green" as a person initially thinks they are.

But robots in agriculture are amazing, and have proven to be superior to humans on our farm. Before robots replaced the two woman who feed the calves on the dairy farm, mortality was high. They just could not keep proper track of the calves, and honestly generosity killed. When calves would clamor for more milk replacer, they would get it. Soon they had diarrhea and they would die. No more. The robots read the id ear tags and allow the calves to drink when they should, and the right amounts. When they approach the calf feeder and it has been too early, or they linger too long at any one feeding, a stream of water is sprayed in their face. It sounds mean, but our mortality has dropped to like 1% over that of 15% or so. Producing more calves mean buying less replacement heifers which means better genetics, and ultimately more milk in the tank...PROFIT!

As for battery powered vehicles, again it goes back to how they are powered. If they are recharged by solar arrays in a non-grid-tied way, that is about as green as it gets, but if they are grid-tied, then it is a concern. Certainly the rare metal issue of environmental damage, and humanitarian concerns in foreign lands also is concerning.

But technology does move ahead. When I was a kid my Grandfather hauled wood for money; for himself and others. Log loaders were out there, but following the no-debt mantra that he abided by, we did not have one. Yet to make people think we did, we use to load the biggest 4 foot wood at the TOP of the pile. It was murder on our backs and stupid...but that is what we did. This was in the 1970's! Today I have a log loader that would load that 6 cord truck in no time, yet is powered by a tiny 6 hp engine. It is fossil fueled powered, but will run all day on 1 gallon of gasoline. It can also have a backhoe installed, and dig post holes with a drill. It actually has a ton of functions it can do; a swiss army knife of homesteading, but granted is powered by a 6 hp gasoline engine. My Grandfather had to get done farming because his sons (my father and Uncle) did not want to farm and he could not do it himself alone. Today, I farm the same farm alone mostly because I have tools like that that allow me to do more efficiently. I do need gasoline to do that, but at $2.30 a gallon per day, can operate for 4 days on just what 1 hour of labor would cost in a traditional employee/employer situation here in the USA.







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Hi Michael.

I think that petroleum was just a place-holder for Bill. The real issue is the commoditisation of food. As soon as one person or corporation can have thousands of acres under cultivation, they control that food. It is inherently not democratic. I think getting as many people involved in the production of the food they eat is the best idea.

We live in a society where everyone specializes to such a degree that, in many cases, if it doesn't come out of a box in the freezer and if it doesn't microwave, few know how to actually prepare the food they eat, let alone produce it from seed. Do you really think that pushing that further is going to lead to a good place?

Don't get me wrong; I think there's a huge place for technology in farming. I just don't think that it should replace people. People can already be trained quite easily to recognize different plants at different stages, and with a pair of loppers, they can quite easily do the job. They can't as easily gather data on plant conditions and health with a glance, like perhaps a drone-mounted camera with refractometer or other specialised tools could. Humans are also pretty bad at holding thousands of megabytes of data in our minds, let alone collating them into some semblance of order and gleaning meaning from them. Computers can do this, too, better than people.

I suggest that the best use for high-tech solutions is gathering information about the land, and helping us to do our observation. If we know what microclimates we're dealing with in any given scenario, we can accomodate them, or at least plan for them, selecting specific guilds for specific conditions. They could also track germination dates, growth rate, and a host of other variables that would, for instance, tell you when the best timeframe is to chop and drop based on life cycles, or when the next paddock is ready, or when the current paddock is sufficiently grazed that it's time to move on.

The appropriate use of technology has the potential to enable individual farmers or family farms to do more work and realise greater returns than otherwise possible. But the inappropriate use of technology can do to plant farming what industrial feed lots have done to animal farming.

On a less dramatic note, we have entered an age where governments are experimenting with Living Wages as an answer to unemployment. Should automation continue to replace people, we will all have a lot of time on our hands, thereby obviating the need for expensive technology.

It's not petrol or people. It's automation or people. There are niches where automation can make human work more comfortable and efficient, and those should be pursued for their beneficial effect on family farms. But if Bill Mollison's point in the seventies was to replace petroleum with people, how does it make sense, in the 21st century, to put people out of work through automation?

-CK
 
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Chris, I think that is a great summary.

It is interesting that the old Luddites were only interested in smashing SOME types of machines; those that would replace too many people, thereby destroying the community.

Michael, I think the chainsaw would be fine, since it does not replace people as such; there still needs to be a person guiding it. It simply makes the job quicker and easier. (Though there are other effects to consider, such as pollution, greater danger, noise, etc.)

For instance, I did some hobby blacksmithing in a replica 1903 blacksmith forge. They had a big bellows, which had just been superseded in 1903 (in my location) by an electric fan powered blower. The fan didn't displace people as such; it automated a non-skilled, repetitive mechanical task, but somebody still needed to work the hot metal with skill and effort. The person who would have been pulling the bellows handle all day could now do other, more productive and creative, things.

For that matter, the fan could have been water powered, with the same result, and some medieval forges did have water powered bellows.

Many Amish communities are allowed to use skid-steer loaders and chainsaws, because these simply make things easier. They are not allowed to use tractors, because these allow one farmer to replace many farmers using horse drawn teams. A machine that replaces 30 men means thirty men out of work, and a failed community, as the services those thirty men would have required also pull out; you can see such failed communities all across the rural USA. (Not suggesting that we live like the Amish, but that is how they see it. )
 
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:
Michael, I think the chainsaw would be fine, since it does not replace people as such; there still needs to be a person guiding it. It simply makes the job quicker and easier. ...


For instance, I did some hobby blacksmithing in a replica 1903 blacksmith forge. They had a big bellows, which had just been superseded in 1903 (in my location) by an electric fan powered blower. The fan didn't displace people as such; it automated a non-skilled, repetitive mechanical task, but somebody still needed to work the hot metal with skill and effort. The person who would have been pulling the bellows handle all day could now do other, more productive and creative, things.


Gilbert, it seems to me like you are drawing the line in an arbitrary place.  A chainsaw certainly replaces people.  One person can easily cut the lumber that it would take many, many people to cut with a handsaw.  ALL machines make a job quicker and easier.  Otherwise there would be no point in having the machine.  Your bellows example is the same.  You replaced the guy running the bellows with a machine.  To say it freed him up to do other things is the same as saying that the robot that builds cars on the assembly line freed up all those people to do more creative things.  I'm not sure it is as simple as saying a machine that replaces three people is okay, but a machine that replaces three thousand is not.

The entire question of automation being good or bad is very, very complex.  The only conclusion I have come to up to this point is that the number of people on the planet currently is not sustainable, in my mind.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Gilbert, it seems to me like you are drawing the line in an arbitrary place.  A chainsaw certainly replaces people.  One person can easily cut the lumber that it would take many, many people to cut with a handsaw.  ALL machines make a job quicker and easier.  Otherwise there would be no point in having the machine.  Your bellows example is the same.  You replaced the guy running the bellows with a machine.  To say it freed him up to do other things is the same as saying that the robot that builds cars on the assembly line freed up all those people to do more creative things.  I'm not sure it is as simple as saying a machine that replaces three people is okay, but a machine that replaces three thousand is not.

The entire question of automation being good or bad is very, very complex.  The only conclusion I have come to up to this point is that the number of people on the planet currently is not sustainable, in my mind.


I guess I should have said that pumping a bellows is not a "human" action; it does not take any creativity or art.

The Amish example is a good one. The chainsaw replaces human effort; the Amish farmer will have more time for leisure. The tractor replaces humans; the Amish farmer would have to stop farming and go elsewhere. A farm that owns a chainsaw may very well employ the same number of people as one that did not; (since they are likely all friends and family;) the firewood cutting was not a business, just a chore, and getting it done faster doesn't replace people as such.

But I agree that it is hard to draw an clear line; in fact, it is impossible. But some technologies are more likely to replace mere human drudgery, others to replace human beings all together.
 
Chris Kott
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I think it important to consider the role of people in a high-tech world.

I think also that it is possible to design our high-tech future in a way that augments human activity by providing us more information, and probably by expanding our computational abilities on-site (setting aside the idea, for the moment, of actual physical computational augmentation).

It could be argued that being able to do a soil analysis with some tricorder-like device, or with a peripheral for your smartphone and an app, takes work away from lab technicians and cuts out all sorts of middleman economic activity. But I think that, honestly, it's a problem of middlemen. Farmers first shell out for heavy equipment, 'cides, fertilizer, and 'cide-resistant seed, then pieces of the remaining pie are slowly taken away by, essentially, the whole marketing and logistical arm of business.

So another application of technology that, while ubiquitous today, is still rather advanced, is social networks to change how people view, purchase, and consume food. I see all sorts of things being traded on the local bunz page for subway tokens or tall boys of beer. I myself got rid of a TV that was reparable for cheap for a person working in AV. That person contacted me, took it away (I helped him carry it down three flights of stairs), and we got three large terra cotta pots out of the deal.

Is it ridiculous to think that such a setup, using ubiquitous social media, would be used to barter farm and garden produce, fermented goods, and even black-market raw dairy?

-CK
 
Travis Johnson
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I think finances should dictate what is, and what is not done. I say that because my single most expensive farm cost per year is property taxes...and there is no getting around the fact that I HAVE to pay them. Every year, no matter if I sell apples, or produce lamb, I have to make sure that cost is covered. Sadly, after that, feeding my family, to paying my other bills, gets prioritized.

But I did have an interesting conversation with on of my foresters a few weeks ago. I asked him what his other mechanical crews were getting for logging production. He said on the average day, a crew of (4) loggers with Hot Saw Feller/Buncher, cable delimber, grapple skidder, and log loader were getting 60 cords out per day. All totaled they have about $750,000 worth of equipment pumping out $4,200 per day in wood. That is a no-getting-out-of-the-cab kind of logging operation called mechanical logging. VERY high tech. They are not making very much money as far as I can figure out.

Equipment depreciation over 5 years, on a 5 day work week, per day=$576
Insurance=$200
Fuel per day=$400
Splitting the profit 4 ways=$606 per logger

In contrast:

I have a 1979 cable skidder and a chainsaw. I have a $12,000 skidder and a $750 chainsaw all paid for. Working alone I get out 10 cord per day for $700. I burn about $30 a day in fuel, but have no other bills. They make $606 per day, and I make $670...but I suspect I do even better because they probably have more frequent, and more expensive breakdowns then I do. Now I have broken a few cable chokers here and there, chainsaw chains and chainsaw bars, and I just blew a $1800 tire, but in comparison it is not really equal.

But here is the kicker: I do NOT need to find wood lot after wood lot to make my equipment payments and feed my family either. The mechanical crew needs at least 2 acres of forest to clear cut per day in the State of Maine based on the average here of 30 cord per acre. Now I have been cutting on the same 40 acres now for 2 straight years, and have another 6 years to go before it is completely logged off (to make way for new fields). This does not count my other forested acres, so at the current rate I am logging off my woodlot, it it is growing back faster than I can cut it. A lot faster! In fact we put axe to tree in the year 1800, and have to clear our forest entirely into field...I am not sure it is even possible.

So in running the numbers, it seems in some instances automation is not really profitable.

But here is the kicker; I do use a chainsaw and skidder to move wood, but if we subtract the petroleum I use to do it, it is only $30. Even then, because I am twitching wood on an adverse grade, I could not even do it by axe and oxen.
 
Todd Parr
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:
Gilbert, it seems to me like you are drawing the line in an arbitrary place.  A chainsaw certainly replaces people.  One person can easily cut the lumber that it would take many, many people to cut with a handsaw.  ALL machines make a job quicker and easier.  Otherwise there would be no point in having the machine.  Your bellows example is the same.  You replaced the guy running the bellows with a machine.  To say it freed him up to do other things is the same as saying that the robot that builds cars on the assembly line freed up all those people to do more creative things.  I'm not sure it is as simple as saying a machine that replaces three people is okay, but a machine that replaces three thousand is not.

The entire question of automation being good or bad is very, very complex.  The only conclusion I have come to up to this point is that the number of people on the planet currently is not sustainable, in my mind.


I guess I should have said that pumping a bellows is not a "human" action; it does not take any creativity or art.

The Amish example is a good one. The chainsaw replaces human effort; the Amish farmer will have more time for leisure. The tractor replaces humans; the Amish farmer would have to stop farming and go elsewhere. A farm that owns a chainsaw may very well employ the same number of people as one that did not; (since they are likely all friends and family;) the firewood cutting was not a business, just a chore, and getting it done faster doesn't replace people as such.

But I agree that it is hard to draw an clear line; in fact, it is impossible. But some technologies are more likely to replace mere human drudgery, others to replace human beings all together.


I'm having a lot of trouble understanding your logic.  The tractor and the chainsaw do the same thing.  They enable one person to do the work of multiple people if they were doing the job with human labor and hand tools.  Pumping a bellows is a human effort.  If you don't have a machine to do it, a human has to.  A tractor doesn't take anymore creativity than a chainsaw does.  It just makes it easier for a person to do a manual labor job.  Plowing a field, cutting firewood, or whatever else is a chore if you are doing it for yourself, and it's a business if you do it for someone else.  Many of the Amish people here cut firewood or lumber for a living.  If one of them were to use a chainsaw, or a tractor, it would replace people that do the job now.  The Amish here don't use chainsaws, or tractors. 


Travis, I understand your point, but the bigger, more "high tech" operations necessarily pay more upfront, in return for a much higher profit after their equipment is paid for.  If not, no industry would stay in business.  The trick is finding the sweet spot of lowest outlay for equipment while still having everything you need for maximum productivity.
 
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It is an interesting question - I tend to feel torn myself because I'm fairly drawn to technology but I consider permaculture and the study of ecology to be my passion. One thing to consider when thinking about technology such as farm robots is the amount of material and energy it took to construct that piece of advanced tech.

An advanced farm robot that could harvest a food forest at a pace that matches or surpasses a person is going to require some fairly advanced tech. This will require the use of rare earth metals for the onboard computer. There will also be a need for complex materials to construct the robot so it is not so heavy or big that it compacts the ground or damages surrounding vegetation. All in all this is a very complex robot with a high embedded energy cost.

Even if all the energy used in the mining process, the processing of the materials, shipping the materials, the construction of the robot, etc. was provided by alternative energy sources that is still a very large amount of energy dedicated to that one robot. Also, that requires a complex infrastructure that will likely be global and would also have a very large physical footprint. Is it worth it?

Hard question to answer and depends on who is answering it. The farmer might say yes! A farm robot could pay for itself by reducing labor requirements, etc. The robot company, mining company, etc. would likely say yes. But a local community might say no since it could result in less local jobs, consolidation of farms, etc. What about society as a whole?

Well if we have (or at least the perception of) unlimited resources and energy then likely the answer would be yes go for the robot. Especially if it is easy for individuals to move and follow the jobs. But if energy and resources are limited and it is hard for people to move to follow jobs then it is likely not worth it. Or if it is worth it then something else will have to give since there is only so much to go around in a limited resource and energy society. So which society do we live in?

My view is that our world and the available energy and resources are limited. But our society does not seem to share this view at least based on its collective actions. All in all I think permaculture based food production will require more people not less. I don't think using advanced tech to replace people in permaculture is worthwhile even if it exists and is not fossil fuel based.

I see the world as one that can only support so many physical projects, infrastructure, etc. I would want the advanced tech used to explore the hidden areas of the world such as the deep ocean trenches. I would want the tech used to explore our solarsytem and potentially beyond. I would want the tech to be used to improve our medical systems, our long range transport systems, etc. Robot doctors could provide care to rural communities that are currently seeing a shortage of doctors.

With an unlimited amount of potential uses of our tech but a finite number of uses that can be supported at one time I think it would be better to direct our limited resources to other aspects of our lives and let permaculture rely more on nature through good design to reduce our work instead of relying on technology to do it for us.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hi Todd,

I agree that it is not very logical. Its just my gut feeling that some devices could give an individual more free time, and other devices enable a removal of multiple individuals from a job, thus destroying a local community.

Again, it is just a guess. But I would suspect that if we found a low-tech society of 100 subsistence farmers working on 10 acres each, and gave each one of them a magic chainsaw that didn't require fuel, all those families would still be farming there in a hundred years, baring other factors and any chainsaw injury deaths. On the other hand, if we gave one of them a large magic tractor, human nature being what it is, I would guess none of them would still be farming there in a hundred years. If we gave each one of them a tractor, they would sit idle for most of the time, and it would be a waste of resources.

Now, maybe if we gave it to the community as a whole, it would be different. It very well might be. But then take away the magic part, add in fuel and repair costs and upgrades, and the whole community starts sliding down the slippery slope of exporting raw materials and importing finished goods. It has killed every third world community that tried it, so far.

I'm not saying that the tractor couldn't be used in such a way as to preserve the local community. Neither am I saying that the chainsaws couldn't destroy it ( add in an export market for wood, and they probably will kill it.)

I'm simply saying that some technologies are less likely to do so, and we should focus on those ones.

Maybe a shovel is an even better example then a chainsaw; moving from a digging stick to a shovel is unlikely to destroy a community.
 
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I feel like the discussion is getting a bit to caught up in particulars here. I always read this sentiment as a statement about the broader (non-agricultural) goals or principles of permaculture. I think that the idea behind it is to create a situation where human community can thrive and a greater number of people can return to a connection with the land and more people can be sustained off of a given area of land. And Travis, while your comments and maths make a lot of sense in the context of modern culture and modern reality I think that this sentiment again points more to an ambition of permaculture broadly. To create a new culture where individual wealth (meaning even just basic individual financial sustenance) is transmorgafied into communal abundance. I don't think the sentiment is meant so much as a luddite battle cry as it is a call to a return to a more tribal and communal way of living on the land.
 
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I had a couple of reactions to this post.

First, the idea that machines are relatively neutral if they don't use much petroleum in their operation.  I tend to disagree with this.  It takes a lot of petroleum to mine the metals, make the plastics, manufacture parts, and transport the stuff.  That is all embodied in the machine/technology before it even starts to do its work.  I don't recall where I read it, but one author suggested that the 'greenest' car is a second-hand one, as buying a brand-new electric vehicle, even if you power it with solar or wind, still uses a huge amount of 'hidden' energy in its manufacture.   It also takes a lot of petroleum to pump or mine, refine, and transport the 'few gallons' of gas that the machines might use, and you don't see that energy when you fill the gas can.

All of this contributes to climate change, pollution, mining in the oil sands and sensitive environments, poor working conditions in third world mines and factories, environmental degradation, etc - and none of that really fits with the permaculture ethic.  Hand tools almost certainly contribute to some level of all of these things, as well, given that they are normally manufactured 'somewhere else', but there is a much better chance of re-creating small-scale local manufacture of something like bow saws as opposed to chain saws.  On the whole, hand tools are typically simpler to make, using fewer resources, and can frequently be maintained and/or repaired by the user with minimal inputs. 

Second, what if there are people who enjoy cutting down trees (for instance) by hand?  Is it better to put them to work with a (more efficient) machine they don't enjoy, or in a field that they enjoy less (because they have been replaced by a machine)?  If efficiency is what you are shooting for, the answer is generally yes, but my impression of permaculture is that efficiency is not the primary goal; rather, it is more about healing and supporting people and ecosystems. 

I routinely cut grass on my acreage with a scythe, and far prefer it to a gas mower, as I find it to be a nice, quiet, meditative exercise, and in tall grass, I go faster than the mower anyhow (though I tucker out a lot sooner!), though in short grass, the mower beats me every time. 

I also do a lot of work around here with a bow saw, and just acquired a 2-man crosscut saw for work that is too big for me by myself.  We are excited to try it out.  We don't have huge amounts of trees or wood to cut, but I could imagine that a group of people who enjoy the work would find that to be a useful occupation, and not a chore, and get a lot done. 

I'm no purist in this - I commute by car, for crying out loud -  but I don't really see how (environmentally costly) advanced technology meets permaculture ideals enough to be worth embracing. 
 
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The use of technology is always a point of where to draw the line. A mechanised tree-feller the type that hold the tree cuts it then eats it to remove the branches, a chainsaw, a steel axe, a copper axe or a stone axe or simply waiting to find enough small fallen branches. Which of those is where one draws a line? Any line one draws is totally arbitrary unless you put it right with no tools, and that would be stupid. If one of permacultures ideas is to bring people together then it cannot be very mechanised, I work on a farm that is lightly mechanised I guess, so we're using a potato planter that requires three people and does two rows at a time, it is hugely faster than by hand but equally much slower than the big driver only computerised versions. With three people out there we still get to chat and "bond" (well shout at the driver mainly) with one of course you don't. 

I would say that we have to give up a lot of efficiency for community, One can now buy robot tractors that will plough harrow and spray entirely alone, they don't even have a drivers seat, they can run all day and all night obviously they are way more efficient than one with a driver that needs breaks! They do not take more resources to make than a modern tractor as that also contains computers, and the only person they require is one back at base to change the equipment but that one can do multiple tractors and even multiple farms. All this is highly efficient, but it isn't community building, my personal line would be computers, if it requires a person to run it (or several people) it is ok, so the chainsaw would be fine but the logging machine not. But then there's gray areas, if by using gps and a smart combine you can spot exactly where yields are low and only apply fertiliser or lime etc etc to that area maybe that is worth it. Of course if you have one person managing an acre rather than 100 acres they'll know where it needs help, but who is going to pay? Even the farms held up as exceptional examples of hand agriculture, when you dig into the figures, yes their turnover is impressive but work out the profit (most of them tell you the % somewhere) then divide it by the number of people working there, and you get less than a full-time job at mcdonalds would pay, so back to my point, some efficiency has to be sacrificed for community, but too much efficiency cannot be sacrificed or the finances don't work. Running on slave labour which seems to be what a lot of places do is not a solution that works large scale.

 
Travis Johnson
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Jess Dee wrote:What if there are people who enjoy cutting down trees (for instance) by hand?  Is it better to put them to work with a (more efficient) machine they don't enjoy, or in a field that they enjoy less (because they have been replaced by a machine)?  If efficiency is what you are shooting for, the answer is generally yes, but my impression of permaculture is that efficiency is not the primary goal; rather, it is more about healing and supporting people and ecosystems. 

I routinely cut grass on my acreage with a scythe, and far prefer it to a gas mower, as I find it to be a nice, quiet, meditative exercise, and in tall grass, I go faster than the mower anyhow (though I tucker out a lot sooner!), though in short grass, the mower beats me every time. 

I also do a lot of work around here with a bow saw, and just acquired a 2-man crosscut saw for work that is too big for me by myself.  We are excited to try it out.  We don't have huge amounts of trees or wood to cut, but I could imagine that a group of people who enjoy the work would find that to be a useful occupation, and not a chore, and get a lot done.


What is your take on this logging thought? I always thought it might work for an enterprising permie.

My thought was this: there are people that do hand tool only woodworking, but where does the wood come from? Inevitably at some point petroleum is used in its manufacture, and here the Amish are allowed, and do use chainsaws. So I thought, what happens if a person had say a 50 acres and wanted to get some wood off it, but could not sustainably log conventionally? They could thus produce lumber that was petroleum free call it, and get a premium for the wood.

They could fell the tree by axe and cross cut saw, haul it out by oxen, then pit saw it, and hand plane it and sell the boards at premium prices. That would offset the typical volume business that logging is.

It would take about a week to take the tree from growing to planed boards as close as I can tell. I figure that would be about 250 board feet of lumber per week because that is what a decent sized tree would yield. The overall cost to produce it would be low, but animal care and property taxes would have to be paid, and just making it worth a Permies time. No one would want to work that hard for a week for little money.

IF a person could maintain that production, say 250 BF at $5 a BF...they would do pretty good! $1250 a week, or around 60,000 a year for only 12,500 BF, or about 2 truck loads a year? Or alternatively, they could charge $10 a BF, but only cut 6200 BF a year, or 1 truck load a year for $60,000?

But here is the $60,000 question...could a Permie sell that much of that type of wood?

I always thought it was an interesting idea.
 
Jess Dee
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Travis Johnson wrote:
My thought was this: there are people that do hand tool only woodworking, but where does the wood come from? Inevitably at some point petroleum is used in its manufacture, and here the Amish are allowed, and do use chainsaws. So I thought, what happens if a person had say a 50 acres and wanted to get some wood off it, but could not sustainably log conventionally? They could thus produce lumber that was petroleum free call it, and get a premium for the wood.

They could fell the tree by axe and cross cut saw, haul it out by oxen, then pit saw it, and hand plane it and sell the boards at premium prices. That would offset the typical volume business that logging is.

It would take about a week to take the tree from growing to planed boards as close as I can tell. I figure that would be about 250 board feet of lumber per week because that is what a decent sized tree would yield. The overall cost to produce it would be low, but animal care and property taxes would have to be paid, and just making it worth a Permies time. No one would want to work that hard for a week for little money.

IF a person could maintain that production, say 250 BF at $5 a BF...they would do pretty good! $1250 a week, or around 60,000 a year for only 12,500 BF, or about 2 truck loads a year? Or alternatively, they could charge $10 a BF, but only cut 6200 BF a year, or 1 truck load a year for $60,000?

But here is the $60,000 question...could a Permie sell that much of that type of wood?

I always thought it was an interesting idea.


I think it is an interesting question, too.  It would likely work best with woods that carry a premium anyhow - maybe oak or walnut.  Some woodworkers might prefer large blocks over boards, too, for turning bowls and such, and that might be a better fit, work-wise.  I don't honestly know enough about logging or woodworking to judge feasibility, but I'm sure someone could crunch the numbers on that. 

For us, we just need to remove some trees here and there, and might, at some point, need some firewood.  I quite like trying out older technologies, and some of them seem to really 'stick' around here.  The scythe, for instance, is fun for me, and I much prefer working with my little bow saw over anything motorized.  I don't cope well with noise. 
 
Travis Johnson
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Todd Parr wrote:Travis, I understand your point, but the bigger, more "high tech" operations necessarily pay more upfront, in return for a much higher profit after their equipment is paid for.  If not, no industry would stay in business.  The trick is finding the sweet spot of lowest outlay for equipment while still having everything you need for maximum productivity.


That is kind of my point, they are NOT making money. I talked to one guy, and maybe he was overstating it, but he said at the end of the week he has $500 in his pocket. Honestly, he would be better off to sell his equipment, put the money in the bank and then work for a dealership fixing equipment for other people, and draw a $1200 paycheck per week.

Maybe some guys like that kind of stress, but to have payments for a half million dollar feller-buncher for $100 a day does not really work for me, but I have always been debt-free, or close to it. I do know what you are saying though. The greater the risk, the greater the reward, and I seldom take risks with my money. (for better or worse I guess).

I am not rich, but it is nice having the luxury of time, and managing it as I see fit. Today was a great example of that. I did not think I had a load of wood out, so I was going to pound out some more logs before rain came in at 2 AM. One of my truck drivers showed up though at 8 AM, said I had more then a load, he hauled it to the mill, so I spent the day shopping with my wife instead of cutting more wood. That was nice, and not something i could have done had I had a ton of wood to pound out.

There is an old logger here that does kind of make me laugh, he is a walking contradiction. Growing up he would say, "You gotta have payments, it makes you work harder", and now he says, "I got it made, everything is paid for." Sadly he just lost his wife after 60 years or marriage and regrets working so hard all his life, leaving her at home. Me, time with my wife (my best friend) is precious.

Just keep in mind Todd, that I am a dying breed here in Maine. Logger/Farmer's used to be as common as trees...not any more. Kind of sad...
 
Travis Johnson
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Jess Dee wrote: I don't cope well with noise. 


I can understand that.

I don't cut a lot of wood per year, I am retired so I cut steady, but not like real loggers...as I see fit I guess I would say...probably 400-600 cord per year. Its enough to know logging, but not getting all crazy.

I don't think I would like to fell a tree by hand honestly; an hour of hacking versus 30 seconds with a chainsaw, but honestly with a sharp axe, limbing softwoods would be about as fast as a chainsaw. Bucking would be longer, but not laborous I don't think. But tractors....well I love tractors. I cannot imagine using a horse or oxen to get logs out.

But noise...oh my! My skidder has a 453 Detroit in it and it is SHRILL. My dog goes nuts and my neighbors complain and I am 1 mile back in the woods. It is loud. But I am twitching uphill, so I appreciate the machine, it just could not be done with horses, not the with the lay of the land and the property lines.

But as much as I talk about my skidder...and I am forever on it, my wife says I only smile when I use my bulldozer. For some reason I just love bulldozers and prefer bulldozer logging over that of skidders (but it is loud too).

 
Jess Dee
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Travis Johnson wrote:

I don't think I would like to fell a tree by hand honestly; an hour of hacking versus 30 seconds with a chainsaw, but honestly with a sharp axe, limbing softwoods would be about as fast as a chainsaw. Bucking would be longer, but not laborous I don't think. But tractors....well I love tractors. I cannot imagine using a horse or oxen to get logs out.



For what we're doing, we're looking at maybe ten minutes per tree with the 2-man, versus thirty seconds with the chainsaw (I'll report back when we get around to that project) - I know my husband took forever trying to cut down the same size of tree with an axe, but based on my experience with the bow saw, a crosscut should make short work of the small to medium sized trees we'll need to remove.  We'll be working together (my husband and I), and wouldn't be able to get a tractor in to where the trees are anyhow (part of why we're cutting them is to clear a path to some abandoned buildings we are interested in rehabbing - and you can hardly even walk in there).  We'll have to cut them into pieces and probably drag or carry them out ourselves, as we don't even have animal power at the moment.  If we do it in the winter, we might roll chunks onto a calf sled or something to pack them out.  Now, we're hobby farmers cleaning up a bit of land that was basically left to go back to poplars and caraganas for a decade or two before we got it, so efficiency isn't a consideration at all - we're more worried about enjoying ourselves and puttering and slowly accomplishing tasks in a way that suits us.  
 
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Gilbert Fritz
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Sometimes, it helps to back up and look at the whole picture . . .

Caveat, I'm not a an expert at logging or wood working. And I have nothing against those who log. I know this might come off as sounding supercilious and flaky.

But, what if instead of milled lumber, we used riven lumber? Riven lumber is actually superior, and with the right woods and the right tools, it would be a lot faster then hand sawing.

Backing further up, what about logging as a whole? Cutting down a large tree and using even more energy to cut it to size is something of a waste. Most European cultures coppiced a lot of their wood; not all of it, but a lot. Fuel wood, building, crafts, fencing; all was coppiced. They didn't make paper out of trees (a wasteful process) and didn't live in giant houses. Because of all these things, they could put in a little bit of energy up front with pruning, and get wooden products grown to just the right size. That seems to be the permie way; think hard, don't work hard. Intervene where the most difference can be made, at the leverage points. Take the long view. Think outside the box. Solve multiple problems with one action. Use multi-functional solutions.

Now, traditional cultures also did log, particularly for ship building, heavy timber, etc. But even that wood tended to be riven, not sawed.

Expanding this from logging, many energy/ technology use problems could be solved by design to make use of human resources instead.

Of course, all this takes a community, not an individual.


 
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Backing up Gilbert, I have studied medieval English domestic architecture fairly extensively, and a decent sized house could be made from a modest number of trees of certain sizes, most of them small, such as can grow in 20 to 50 years, and a lot of parts coppiced and regrown in 5 to 10 years. Sawn lumber/timber was used at certain times and places, but so was riven. These figures were derived from studying houses that have survived for 500 to 800 years.
 
Michael Cox
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Good discussion, and some interesting points.

Ultimately I think a deciding factor will be human nature. Some of the comments and proposals here seem to be based on some other species than the one I know! If our plan for a better future, based on permaculture principals starts with "first change human nature" then that project is doomed to failure: A chainsaw empowers the human to work more efficiently, and be more productive. A more productive work force has more time, wealth and capacity for other things. If processing my year's supply of firewood takes a month with hand tools and a week with a chainsaw then that time is released for other more enjoyable or productive tasks. We cannot simply deny that humans seek to improve their lot in life by working efficiently as part of some false-ideal of how the world should be. We can't expect people to impoverish themselves, deliberately making their activities less productive, when tools exist that can make them more efficient.



So it seem to me the discussion is about the edges. Where does a tool become inappropriate.? If a chainsaw is ok, why might a tractor not be? It seems to me on reflection that the distinction is more about how the tools influence the person's approach to the work.

A bigger and more powerful (and expensive!) tractor essentially binds the farmer to managing their land in a way that is environmentally destructive. Crops are planted on a massive scale, and managed as a whole mono-culture landscape by ploughing, spraying etc... The human has been removed from the equation, in and capacity beyond a pilot. Here the tool drives the agricultural system toward super-efficient exploitation of the land. It uses energy intensive (massive engines, high power engines, chemical fertilisers etc...) processes because they are intellectually easy - the engineering problem "plough 100 acres in a day" is easy to solve with a big enough machine. But a much smaller more energy efficient machine could apply a much more sophisticated degree of intelligence to manage land in different ways.

We are reaching the point technologically where highly sophisticated software can reside in small devices, and where compact battery technology exists that is adequate to power it.

We don't like the tractor because it forces a certain approach onto the land owner.

How would we feel about a programmable multipurpose machine that could roam over a landscape weeding crops? Programmable, so that the farmer on site can decide what their personal priorities are. They can say "The thistles will flower next week, so this week they should be hoed", or "See that patch of nettles in my pasture? Go and clear it, put the roots and plants in the compost area, then re-seed it". The human intellect is in the driving seat, and human priorities drive the overall progress. We really aren't all that far from technology that can work on those terms, and when it arrives we potentially open up a huge wealth of possibility. Instead of monocultures we could see industrial agriculture take steps towards more diverse crops, and even intercropping.

 
Jess Dee
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Michael Cox wrote:
Ultimately I think a deciding factor will be human nature. Some of the comments and proposals here seem to be based on some other species than the one I know! If our plan for a better future, based on permaculture principals starts with "first change human nature" then that project is doomed to failure: A chainsaw empowers the human to work more efficiently, and be more productive. A more productive work force has more time, wealth and capacity for other things. If processing my year's supply of firewood takes a month with hand tools and a week with a chainsaw then that time is released for other more enjoyable or productive tasks. We cannot simply deny that humans seek to improve their lot in life by working efficiently as part of some false-ideal of how the world should be. We can't expect people to impoverish themselves, deliberately making their activities less productive, when tools exist that can make them more efficient.


Why do you think it is human nature to strive to be more productive / efficient?  I would agree that productivity / efficiency is definitely the prevailing ethic in North American industrial culture, but I am not remotely convinced that it is human nature.  If efficiency were truly human nature, nobody in first-world countries would knit or garden or cook their own meals - it is much more efficient to let a machine do those things.  But people are motivated by so many other things - beauty, the joy of creation, being outside in nature, personal taste, concern for the environment...the list could go on forever. 

Personally, I have a hobby of learning to use older technologies, like hand tools.  For me, it is enjoyable, and fits with my own goals for learning to manage a little bit of land without being dependent on petroleum.  For someone else, there may be different goals, for sure, and different motivations, and a different situation; for them, maybe a tractor or a chainsaw is a better way to achieve their goals.  It sounds like you enjoy working with technology, or maybe haven't tried the alternative to know which you prefer.  Maybe efficiency is your primary goal.  That's fine.  However, I disagree with the blanket assessment that it is human nature to only strive for efficiency, considering all the other things humans can and do strive for that are entirely inefficient, like art, music, kindness, and such.

(edited for niceness - sorry, mods) 
 
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I have cut a lot of wood in my time with far less than 1% being human powered. Most of my tree work is done in the city, where speed of cut is not a paramount concern. I'm being paid to remove problematic trees and branches. The firewood is a byproduct that I give away.

All of my cutting is now done with battery powered equipment. This is true for my tree cutting and for my demolition work and building work. I don't bring gasoline to work anymore and I almost never bring an extension cord. Both have become obsolete for me. This hasn't slowed me down at all and it hasn't lowered my income. Because I am in British Columbia, it could be considered that my tools are ultimately powered by a waterfall. They may soon be powered by my own solar panels. Deep fryer oil is my only lubricant.

They don't make big falling saws with a battery. With today's technology, that might mean a 15 lb battery. But who knows what the future holds. For the scale that I am working at, the battery powered tools are completely suitable and they increase my bottom line. But again, mine isn't about speed of production. I am often in places where fumes from a gas powered machine would collect. So, although the battery powered saw is somewhat slower, it is ultimately faster since I'm not stopping to move to another spot, and I'm not doing all the fiddling required with gas-powered equipment.

I used to keep my gas powered equipment in my storage, so that my vehicle wouldn't constantly smell like gas. Now, my little Toyota Tercel, carries enough equipment in the trunk for me to cut most trees that I encounter or be used when I need to cut a building in half. Powered by a waterfall.
 
Dale Hodgins
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The transition from solid fuel, whether it be sticks or animal dung, to home biogas systems, has hugely reduced the labor needed from poor rural women in China, India and other places. It has improved lung health, and prevented leachate from stored manure and other organic waste. It has also gone a long way in preventing erosion, by allowing reforestation to happen. To me, this is about the most appropriate of all of the so-called appropriate technologies.

Less labour, better health, more convenient cooking and a great way to get rid of anything that is stinky or rotting. This isn't specifically replacing gasoline, but it is replacing human labor with technology, that makes life easier and better.
 
Jess Dee
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Edited to remove a quote that was objectionable.  Of course, now my response doesn't make as much sense.  Gist of quote:  Striving for efficiency, and the resulting technology, has gotten us to the point of affluence where many have free time to pursue hobbies, like using hand tools; however, in real-life (as opposed to hobby) situations, hand tools are undesirable because human lives are on the line (ie - getting enough to eat and clean water to drink, particularly in developing countries), and using advanced technology is better. 


I have not claimed I am living in a shack or not using technology, or even that I dislike technology or disagree with its' use. 

I am suggesting that 1) efficiency is not the only, and possibly not the best, metric for determining whether or not any given technology is a good fit with permaculture, 2) that efficiency is not the only thing humans strive for, and human nature can and does include a lot more than just an imperative to be as efficient as possible, and 3) there are substantial costs to technology, especially advanced technology (as it is currently produced and used) that don't appear to fit with permaculture ethics like care for environment and care for people.  

I agree that permaculture contexts are not without consequences - absolutely.  I also believe that technology (all of it, but especially the advanced stuff) is also not without consequences.  Is it better to be able to clear cut a forest in the most efficient way possible, or to reduce your need for wood?  I'm not saying this is an either-or (you can do both, in the sense of cutting only what you need in the most efficient way possible, I get that), but there are substantial costs to technology that are not readily apparent when you use it - the mining of materials, the manufacture (often in terrible circumstances in third world countries), transport, infrastructure, and fuel for ongoing use, management of waste, and even the need to work or produce a surplus in order to pay for the cost of these things.  There are better and worse options, but none of these things is entirely neutral.  

What I am getting at is that there is a need to weigh efficiency against the cost of the technology, in environmental and human terms.   I am aware that the calculation is different in an affluent society than a poverty-stricken one.

I am further suggesting that we need to be careful that, as people in a wealthy society, we are not exporting the consequences of our wish for efficiency, by purchasing and using a technology that was, for instance, created using materials that were strip mined, manufactured by children in a third-world country, powered by something that adds to the environmental burden, and where the waste will be a problem for generations.  And, especially, why would we (in an affluent society) do that in order to be able to produce more surplus, in order to have more money, in order to pay for those technologies? 

Now yes, I am guilty here, and guilty on many fronts.  My car, for one, meets most of those negatives, and I am working to limit my use of it.  But why, at that point, would I add (for instance) one or more garden machines (rototiller, weed whacker, battery-powered weeder, or whatever), when I could use a shovel, or mulch, or trees instead of annual crops, or whatever,  in order to grow some food and decrease the amount I have to purchase from elsewhere? 

Honestly, I think our society, in North America, at least, suffers from too much focus on efficiency, to the detriment of human health, ecology, and pretty much any other measure of 'good life'. 

(also edited for niceness - sorry, mods)
 
Travis Johnson
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I have been using this chainsaw, but it is dangerous because it lacks a chain brake! (lol)

homemade-chain-saw.jpg
[Thumbnail for homemade-chain-saw.jpg]
 
Michael Cox
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Travis - All I can say is "Oh dear". I work with a woman who compulsively tells puns. This made me think of her.
 
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I wonder if talking about things in terms of money is a red herring . After all Tax and the price of "stuff " are human constructs , subject to human change and politics For example the price of Petrol is about 1.30€ a litre thats about 10$ a gallon I think .
The only price I pay for wood for my stove is about 10€ a year for enough wood to heat my house thats the cost of electric for the saw . If I had to buy the wood its about 350€ thats what I earn in two weeks  in my part time job . So to me its worth two weeks.  I wonder if looking at our time cost is a better way of looking at this :-)

David
 
Michael Cox
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David Livingston wrote:I wonder if talking about things in terms of money is a red herring . After all Tax and the price of "stuff " are human constructs , subject to human change and politics For example the price of Petrol is about 1.30€ a litre thats about 10$ a gallon I think .
The only price I pay for wood for my stove is about 10€ a year for enough wood to heat my house thats the cost of electric for the saw . If I had to buy the wood its about 350€ thats what I earn in two weeks  in my part time job . So to me its worth two weeks.  I wonder if looking at our time cost is a better way of looking at this :-)



That is the type of logic I follow as well. We actually have someone who comes and help with "heavy" jobs one day per week and I know his day rate. It helps me to put a financial tag on various tasks to work out if I should do them myself or get someone else to do it.

An additional factor, beyond just the cost-per-hour issue, is that the job I do has very little flexibility over working hours, and very long working weeks. At some times of year I high get at best just two hours of daylight at home when I can do outdoor jobs. Under those circumstances I have to weigh up my priorities carefully and work efficiently. If I don't nothing gets done.
 
Todd Parr
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Jess Dee wrote:
Why do you think it is human nature to strive to be more productive / efficient? 


I've been thinking about this thread, and it seems to me that being more productive (efficient) is the very essence of permaculture.  The idea, in my mind, is to do a lot of work up front in order to have a sustainable system that is much less work, thereby more efficient, in the long term. 
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Efficiency and resiliency are sometime opposites.

Also, it all depends on what we are being efficient with. Calories produced per hour of time? In that case, a farmer on a large tractor growing one crop over 10,000 acres is probably the most efficient.

Calories produced per calories of energy put in?

Calories produced per gallon of water?

Calories produced per dollar of input? Calories per square foot? (Now a biointensive hand dug garden full of potatoes is the most efficient.)

Dollars produced per amount of land? (Now a hand tended garden of herbs is the most efficient, or a hydroponic greenhouse full of specialty salad.)

Biodiversity hosted per acre?

Biomass built up per year?

What are we being efficient with? Efficiency is not a goal in and of itself.
 
Todd Parr
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:Efficiency and resiliency are sometime opposites.

Also, it all depends on what we are being efficient with. Calories produced per hour of time? In that case, a farmer on a large tractor growing one crop over 10,000 acres is probably the most efficient.

Calories produced per calories of energy put in?

Calories produced per gallon of water?

Calories produced per dollar of input? Calories per square foot? (Now a biointensive hand dug garden full of potatoes is the most efficient.)

Dollars produced per amount of land? (Now a hand tended garden of herbs is the most efficient, or a hydroponic greenhouse full of specialty salad.)

Biodiversity hosted per acre?

Biomass built up per year?

What are we being efficient with? Efficiency is not a goal in and of itself.


There are so many ways to look at things that I don't know that there is an answer to some of those type questions.  Take your "farmer on a large tractor" for instance.  I can spend an hour planting a tree and get food from it for 30 or 40 years or more.  Which of us was more efficient?  The farmer can feed more people than I can, certainly.  But calories per hour of input, I win hands down. 

I lean towards Michael's idea that it is human nature to strive for more efficiency.  Take any task you do, no matter how technologically advanced, or how primitive, and I think you will see that you strove to do it in an efficient manner, even if you are doing something purely for fun.  I like to build my own bee hives.  It's relaxing, and I like having bees around.  When I make hives, I often cut out a bunch of side boards, then a bunch of top rails, etc. I make jigs to ensure that every board is the same length.  I could measure each board for each cut, but I don't.  Jigs make me more efficient.  Why do I do it?  I'm not in a hurry, I don't need to get them done in a certain time, I don't even need to keep bees.  I do it that way because efficiency "makes sense" to me on some level.  I could carry one screw at a time to the area where I am screwing the boards together, but I don't.  I bring a whole box of screws with me to my work area.  It seems to me that humans do everything that way.  If a person is working on something, and people are watching, it is commonplace for someone to say "hey, why don't you do it this way instead?".  Usually discussion follows, and if the idea that was presented "makes sense" (is more efficient), it is adopted, and the task carries on that way.  As we talked about earlier, where you draw the line with regards to tools, electric or gas powered, hand tools or power tools, are very much personal decisions and bring so many other factors into play, it gets very complicated as to the "right" answer.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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So, you're saying that it is human nature to be efficient with use of  time? I'd agree up to a point; that point being, what if greater efficiency conflicted with some other goal? At that point, I think many humans value other things more then efficiency.

And of course, we are talking about use of time within a process; box of screws as opposed to single screw. But what about among processes? I'm not using time efficiently discussing on permies if my goal is potatoes per hour. You could probably get honey more efficiently by working a standard job and buying it from somebody else. In fact, art, literature, music, sports; none of them are efficient if the goal is value per hour.

Do you think it also human nature to be efficient with money, energy, water, and square footage?

If there is a conflict between efficiency in two of these areas, which do humans choose?
 
Todd Parr
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:So, you're saying that it is human nature to be efficient with use of  time? I'd agree up to a point; that point being, what if greater efficiency conflicted with some other goal? At that point, I think many humans value other things more then efficiency.

And of course, we are talking about use of time within a process; box of screws as opposed to single screw. But what about among processes? I'm not using time efficiently discussing on permies if my goal is potatoes per hour. You could probably get honey more efficiently by working a standard job and buying it from somebody else. In fact, art, literature, music, sports; none of them are efficient if the goal is value per hour.

Do you think it also human nature to be efficient with money, energy, water, and square footage?

If there is a conflict between efficiency in two of these areas, which do humans choose?


In my mind, that is when people's own value systems come into play, and then all bets are off.  Value systems are based on so many different variables that I'm not certain they can ever be pinned down. 
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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