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Why don't we have better permaculture leaders?  RSS feed

 
master steward
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This morning, Jocelyn told me about something she saw on facebook.  It said something like "Why don't we have better permaculture leaders?"  It devolved into a lot of speculation and, Jocelyn said, there were people that were trying to shame others into what they thought would be needed for good permaculture leadership.   Eventually, the OP presented the three leaders he had in mind when he proposed that we need better leader.   I am glad to say that I made that top three list.   And, at the same time, I also wish we had some magnificent person that was 30 times better than the likes of me leading the way.  Maybe if Willie Smits had a team that was teaching several PDCs a year and was labeling his stuff a bit more openly as "permaculture" and had another team handling Q&A all over the internet, we might have the leader we wish for.  Of course, it would probably be less than a month until he was openly targeted by corporate trolls and our own trolls-from-within.

The OP also said something about looking for great permaculture examples in the US.  I suspect that there are a hundred great examples in the US.   And at some point, early on, they started to share their stories, only to get shouted down by permaculture people.  In time, they decided to just run silent. 

I think I address a lot of this in my PV1 Keynote "increasing the velocity of permaculture" and in podcast 111: innovation is a drama magnet.

But I think a much bigger point to be made that has not been made is ....

Notice how that is brought up on facebook?   What a great place for corporate trolls and permaculture trolls to thrive.  The problem is that the lovely people that are doing great things get crushed.   So we are trying to create a community here at permies.com so that the lovely people don't get crushed.   And they can grow into the magnificent leaders that we are looking for. 

If you have a great conversation on facebook, it is typically gone in a week.   Permies.com is designed to have perennial discussion on the perennial topics of permaculture.  A conversation from a year ago will be brought back up and continue with even more details. 

Good permaculture discussion on facebook might get viewed by hundreds of people.  Maybe even a couple thousand people.   That same discussion on permies will get viewed by tens of thousands of people, maybe even hundreds of thousands of people. 

If you poison your garden every week, very few plants will be able to tolerate that.  But if you have a poison free garden and hand weed out the plants that try to kill the other plants, then, in time, you will grow some amazing ... new permaculture leaders.





 
pollinator
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Are we lacking leaders?  I see all sorts of them, yourself included.  I've got a dozen heroes in the permaculture movement.  I read anything they publish and watch anything they post to Youtube.  I think that across the greater Permaculture movement, we have stronger leadership than ever before. 

I've always had the most admiration for people who are practicing farming as their main thing, yet are doing so by practicing permaculture principles and strategies.  Thus, Joel Salatin or Gabe Brown come to mind as "leaders": credible, authoritative, likeable, easy to listen to, and not overtly self-promotional.  They they don't teach PDC's or write books specifically promoting permaculture.  I've heard them both and watch everything that goes up on Youtube: these guys know permaculture -- particularly Salatin. 

People that are on Youtube daily posting their latest 20 minute self-glorifying video are tiresome.  So often they are just showing up at someone else's farm and walking around showing someone else's hard work as if all this were their idea.  Lord help us if that dude who does those annoying and frequently inaccurate "Growing Your Greens" videos becomes a major voice in the movement. 

Perhaps we need to experience a crisis in order for the posers to be shaken out and the true leaders to emerge.  Many would argue that we are riding an unsustainable wave that will ultimately crest and crash as the existing food production models and systems crash.  I believe this to be the case.  So sooner or later, the crisis will effect enough people that the general public will wake up and say, "How are we going to feed ourselves."  When that day comes, we will see leaders emerge to step into that spotlight.

Maybe our strongest candidates for Permie Leader of the Universe are too much in love with the quiet, pastoral life of trees, growing fungi in their soil, utilizing appropriate technology, enjoying their off-grid life, growing your own medicine, raising little ducklings, capturing quiet spring rains in newly dug swales and building soil microbial life to do the kind of self-promotional stuff that we expect of our leaders.  They are too balanced, too satisfied, and too normal to do the neurotic things that many of our leaders do to get out in front of the masses and say, "Look at me".
 
pollinator
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Could you insert the facebook link? Not that I like facebook...
 
pollinator
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In being in the change promoting business and having mentors, I was told a general rule. It's like the transplanted tree planting rule of "first it sleeps, then it creeps, then it leaps." When a new idea exists, you will have a few innovators who come up with it and do it. They are complete odd balls compared to anyone else. So in this case, it makes them appear as giants. In fact, those who want to diminish their success will say "oh, that only works because it's so-and-so doing it, no one else is crazy enough to do it that way." Then come the experimenters. That's a lot of the people on Permies. We test and tweek the idea, but we're not giants. Still, we are weird, but we make it a bit more normal because there's more of us. Next will come the copy-cats. This is when it becomes main stream. The girth becomes wide in use, but depth doesn't increase. Last and maybe never are the sticks in the mud. They will stick to their ways even if they see it not working with their own eyes. That, I was taught, is just how populations adopt innovation.
 
pollinator
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I go on Facebook I have a tough skin from my political posting ( anti Zionist and socialist ), every time it's reasonable I post a link to Permies I don't go on to push Permies just when something comes up like today someone asked about Hugleculture so I linked to the forum :-) every day spread the news a little
Did you see that song I mentioned your name in the comments Paul? Wish I knew how to post stuff on Permies from FB
Also I dislike such open questions can we all agree what makes a good Permaculture leader? I doubt we could all agree on how to make a cup of tea :-)
 
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I'm not a fan of hierarchy. My question would be "why do you think we need a leader?" What do these people find lacking in themselves?

When I want to learn something, I look all over the place, and take what I like. If there was a leader, does that mean I should follow them instead of following the best solution for my situation? Permaculture is a big topic, some people are likely to concentrate on some aspects over others. And I prefer to look to those with more experience in each aspect, rather than one overarching expert. Nevermind that everything is local, what works in Maine might not work for me in California. So an expert here doesn't necessarily make an expert elsewhere. That assuming that a leader is an expert. I suppose it could just be someone charismatic, but that appeals to me even less.
 
Marco Banks
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The nature of "leaderless" egalitarian movements is that they have difficulty sustaining any lasting momentum, particularly when you are pushing back against forces that are well-organized and well-funded.  Thus, a "movement" like Occupy Wall Street or the Standing Rock protests made a lot of noise and got a lot of media attention, but at the end of the day, were largely impotent.  They changed little (if nothing at all). 

Difficult and critically important work remains to be done, and for this, we need organizational structures that are built for long-sustained action.  Fleeting, momentary "movement" type events cannot sustain the necessary pressure and advocacy needed to change society.  We may remember a man like Dr. M.L. King and his marches, speeches and protests, but the much larger movement was sustained by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  He was the clearly recognized leader, but beneath him were thousands and thousands of well-organized workers.

But here's the rub: environmental organizations and the people who support them are generally allergic to hierarchy and structure.  Its rare when such organizations get larger than 200 members before they split up.  Even a protest of 30 people will usually splinter after 6 months.  So if you are taking on, for example, the coal industry, they just wait you out until your protest fractures. 

Perhaps Permaculture is different, in that its built upon the efforts of thousands and thousands of largely anonymous practitioners.  But if we were ever to desire legal representation and a broad strategy for media saturation, its not enough to have little kick-starter type approaches that call upon the generosity of a few individuals.  Should there be a large umbrella organization that would certify PDC's, have official publications, have Washington lobbyests, etc.?  Permaculture USA?  Hey -- it's worked for organizations like Greenpeace or AYSO Soccer.  People know who MADD is.  They've heard of the Girl Scouts.  They can click on a website to support World Vision or Doctors Without Borders.  But there isn't a national Permaculture structure to promote and support permaculture, and in that, there is no nationally recognized leadership.
 
Amit Enventres
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My understanding is that the founders of permaculture wanted to keep it free from a religion or too much of a club because you then have those who do it and those who don't.  I have seen people who would be insulted if they were accused of doing anything hippie set up a permaculture inspired landscape. As they say, fame isn't everything- I like the covert penetration of the ideas and philosophy.  I was taught the best way to convince people of an idea is to make them think it was their idea to begin with.
 
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I think we need to define "Leader" in this context.

I don't think we're talking about the head of a cult, nor the CEO of a non-profit. We are not talking about Archons of any stripe, so bringing up anarchism is missing the point, in my opinion.

When I think about permaculture leaders, I think about those going first, as in, leading.

When Paul talks about his experience in Oregon (I think it was) where, despite his early plans and ideas, pigs turned out to be the profitable focus of his operation, rather than any number of other ideas; that's leadership. That's going in first, clearing out the brambles (hopefully with goats), and putting in place the intellectual infrastructure that makes it easy for those of us who aren't trail blazers.

The leaders we have are the Bill Mollisons and Geoff Lawtons, the Joel Salatins and Gabe Browns, the Sepp Holzers and Paul Wheatons of the world. I would guess that the reason that we don't see many of them on TEDTalks, with some exceptions, is that they're busy out doing permaculture.

Honestly, Paul and Geoff (and Bill until relatively recently) are the only ones of the bunch that I know of who make it their primary job to spread permaculture to as many minds as possible as efficiently as possible, and that takes up virtually all of their time.

I think that people are expecting too much. Our permaculture leaders, I think, are too busy out doing permaculture to occupy themselves with another whole career of publicising what they do and teaching others how and why. They are busy leading, blazing trails and breaking new ground, and have no time to take advice about how armchair permaculturalists think they should lead.

Furthermore, I think it's the bureaucratic personalities that fancy themselves permaculturalists, interested more in display and format, and bureaucratic hierarchy, than about the technical details of how to go about doing permaculture, that are busy complaining about a lack of leadership, or about specific styles of leadership.

I believe, and we've all seen examples of this, that some care more for complaining about how those who are leading and how they choose to do so, and everything the critics think the permaculturalist leaders are doing wrong, than about actually finding good leaders.

Point them to any number of leaders in the permacultural community, and they will lay out a litany of complaints about how this isn't permaculture, and that is wrong, and this other thing should be done this way. Oh, and they are always either too thin-skinned, or assholes. And why aren't there more women, or a larger multicultural presence, or more LGBTQ2 representation...

This is all bureaucratic nonsense, in my considered opinion. I want everyone to embrace permaculture, but if they don't have dirt under their fingernails, and ground semi-permanently into their hands (and maybe knees), their opinions mean less than nothing to me.

If they want better permacultural leaders, they should get out in front of the wagon, hitch themselves up, and start pulling.

-CK
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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I think the big thing I wish to empahsize is:  facebook is a weed patch overrun with undesirable invasives.  Permies.com is a diverse garden of desirable, beneficial growies. 

I'm not sure if our future permaculture leaders can be grown at facebook.  

I like to think that we are working on a bumper crop of wonderful future leaders here at permies.com. 

So if you wish for better permaculture leaders, I suggest dropping facebook and tending to the gardens at permies.com.  

 
master steward
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Angelika Maier wrote:Could you insert the facebook link? Not that I like facebook...


I'm going to dodge posting that link, in part, because I don't want to look at it again. The thing was, IMHO, it was a reactionary post and loads of rather troll-ish comments after there had been a LOT of vitriol in one (several?) of the permaculture groups on Facebook.

I mostly scanned through it to see if any mention was made of permies.com or of Paul. My vague recollection is that one person mentioned Paul as one of the leaders along with geoff lawton and Jack Spirko (I think).

Here's my opinionated summary of the conversations that had gone on there (not actual quotes, but my impressions of the implied content):
--vegan lifestyle is "right," eating meat is "wrong" - this part went on and on and on....prior to the leaders topic/reaction
--"where are the admin(s), why aren't they moderating these awful comments?"
--making money is "wrong" because permaculture ethics!
--permaculture is racist (and misogynistic, etc.)
--"people take what they want from the permaculture leaders and then move on" (not sure if that implied something or not)
--we don't have any/many/enough examples of "real" permaculture
--who is "really" doing permaculture?

To be fair, there were some reasoned, lovely replies by some lovely people. The lovely people gave good examples that were helpful, supportive, and presented a viewpoint without being derisive of the opposing view. Like folks here on permies.com!! And there were people who kept calling others stupid, the worst of whom were banned, though a lot (or most?) of those being troll-ish or vitriolic still remained.

I particularly liked a reply or two that pointed out the permaculture community in and of itself is not an inherently racist or misogynistic system, but since it is a part or subset of society, it has inherited those tendencies from the people and cultures it lies within (or came from).  (This is mentioned here only as part of the slew of criticisms of permaculture. Please start a cider press thread to discuss more.)

To be clear, IMHO, a vegan lifestyle is virtuous, healthy and wonderful; though I also think an omni diet can be, too. And I would never insist on what is the healthiest, best or more virtuous diet for another person. It's their choice. I applaud the things I like about food. (And generally, I really like food in many forms! )

Likewise, I think making money is a wonderful, sustainable, returning the surplus or directing energy flows to the people/care of the people kind of thing. Though I also admire those who are able to live as much outside our broken economic systems as possible. I would never demand another person live with or without money in a certain way. I like to recognize thrift, re-use, buy-it-for-life, agile work, and applaud folks (you know, with likes and apples and pie!) doing amazing things in all of these realms.

And isn't the projects forum here on permies chock FULL of people "really doing it?"

As an example, here is r's pic from her keyhole garden in summer drought thread



So there, look at all those links to other places on permies.com where WE can build each other up in a positive way instead of tearing each other down.

Suggestion:  to draw more folks away from superficial, troll-ish places like Facebook that keep tearing things down, post more pictures and videos here. Seriously. It makes a difference.

 
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Maybe it's my own experience, but I tend to mistrust most "Leaders".  A lot of leaders are type A personalities with both strong need for recognition and desire to be in charge. 

This is pretty much a direct opposite of a lot of  permaculture folks.  As I understand it (maybe I'm injecting too much of my own feelings into everyone else), most permies want to do their own thing and not have some one else telling them what to do.  (This isn't the same thing as teaching principals, giving asked for advice or having a say in things that are shared in common).  Because of this, I think anyone trying to be the leader in permaculture is going to find himself "herding cats". 

I think real permaculture leaders are the ones who, because what they say makes sense, are generally listened to, and who produce enough new material that people keep an eye on them. 
 
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Maybe it's simply that people who hang out on facebook have got more time on their hands than do people who are actually out doing something? Urban/rural divide is becoming more problematic, and vegetarianism/veganism etc have been given a boost by generations of kids raised on watching tv shows with anthropomorphic animals always portrayed as wise, peaceful environmentally friendly enlightened beings. With a society in which people who actually produce food (or do something tangible for the environment like afforestation etc) are in the minority, it's no wonder there is a massive gulf. Any Permaculture leader will need to spend a lot of time dealing with total rubbish from well-meaning but ignorant urbanites pushing an idealistic agenda with little practical understanding. Who wants to be a leader in this situation?

The other issue is that the people who perhaps should be leaders are the very ones least interested in doing so. Innovators like to tinker and experiment, and don't necessarily have the dogmatic worldview required of leaders. Most of us who get out into the natural world see how little we know, not how much.

Then also the people who are really pushing the boundaries of accepted thought tend to be the ones that just go their own way regardless, often leaving confusion behind them. In the case of the organics industry in my country, so many people pursuing their own thing that no one seems quite able to get a consensus. The kind of person best fitted to be a leader, or a marketing executive etc, is often not the kind of person suited to the required observation at farm level.

I've had the unfortunate experience of occaisonally been mistaken for someone who knows what he's doing, it's a horrible experience and one I am keen to avoid in future. I have every intention of keeping my head down from now on. I think permaculture could easily fall into the trap of the guru culture, one person being seen as more than they really are. To a large extent this is already happening, too many people quoting Bill Mollison, Joel Salatin etc, etc, as if to give their comments more weight. Where some well known  people have had successes, this can become the accepted "right" way to do things, and therefore innovation might be seen as "wrong" to permie purists. Alternatively there is the possibility of permaculture communities coming to be dominated by a charismatic leader who is dictating 'truth' versus 'not truth'... I don't want the cult of permaculture thanks.

So my conclusion is that permaculture is very fortunate not to have super strong recognised leaders, as when this does occur we'll immediately need to start looking for an alternative movement to keep the passion and innovation going.
 
paul wheaton
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I guess another big difference between permies and fb is that i am trying to come up with kickstarters and products to sell to pay for the forums.

 
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I don't need leaders (sounds like führer to me), I prefer role models (Sepp H, Bill M, Geoff L, Joel S, our Master Steward in overalls, etc. are quite adequate).
And I gave up looking for them in social media:
 
Amit Enventres
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Paul, we appreciate your efforts in making permies what it is.  Thank you. Some day I want to drag my family out to wheaton labs,  but in the mean time,  I have about 20 yards of dirt in the drive way and if I don't get it out of the way fast, I'll be teased eternally.
 
Marco Banks
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In light of what is now understood as the widespread abuse of people's personal information, I'd say that this thread was somewhat prophetic.  Facebook doesn't give a crap about making the world a better place.  They just want to gather data on you and then sell it to the highest bidder, who will, in turn, use that data to try to make money off of you or manipulate you.

Unplug the beast.
 
pollinator
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When a news outlet posted an online brief about my sons death in a car accident, the comments quickly turned into a debate about texting while driving. It was very hurtfull. Its not limited to FB, its everywhere. Literally everywhere.

I thank this forum for the effort they put forth to monitor things.
 
pollinator
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Paul, I think there is some truth to the statement made on Facebook.  I believe that there are many people that would be great permaculture leaders, but they are often showcased on other people's content.  They themselves are not the outgoing people person that a leader should be.  They usually have someone else as a go-between with the community.  I think there are a few reasons for this.  The true permaculture leaders are completely passionate in that aspect.  This means they are likely not technies or social media gurus.  How can one truly lead in this society, without being directly connected into the society? 

It's not that those people aren't great leaders, they just do not have the exposure for people to see them as great leaders.  We know that Permies is a bastion of great permaculture people, but how often does that permies lifestyle make large infiltrations of groups on Facebook?  Sure, I bet names are known, but are those names known as leaders?  Also, the devout permaculturists will be busy with their hands in the dirt.  We are lucky to have some here that like to educate as much as they enjoy doing.  That is a rare breed.

I don't think that the conversation is without merit. Rather than taking offense to the original poster on facebook, I think we should ask our community a different question.  How can we portray our community better to society, and how can we portray our leaders in a light that is easily understandable and relevant to society? 
 
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Good leadership is very difficult because it takes a certain combination of personalities in my opinion to really be a good one.

1. Have a willingness to share
2. Have humility

1. A person has to be an extravert enough so that they can go out on various forms of media and say what they are doing. Today that is the internet and for every person that approves of what they are doing, 25 people will chime in and say "it can never be done." There is some merit to working through concerns, but overall, those sitting forever at a computer keyboard typing back are NOT actively involved in permiculture and should be regarded with some skepticism. (For some reason permie people do not really do this as much as other online sites). So definately, be willing to open up and have tough skin once they do, are two powerful leadership nessesities.

2. Humility blends into the first part to some degree, but the one thing I see lacking today in farming, is people willing to admit they failed on some things, or that certain breeds, crops, revenue streams, etc are not perfect and have faults. A lot of times, telling people what has NOT worked is as important as what worked so that others do not go down the same pitiful rabbit hole to sheole. Hey it rymes with hole

So finding an person that is forthright, thick skinned and humble can often be difficult to find, but that person also makes a great leader.

They are out there, and they are doing it, but the reality is, they probably are rather obscure. Due to Number Two, I do not want to propose I am a great leader, but I do teach sheep farming classes where permiculture principals are tought. We just concluded one, and it was a resounding success, BUT unless you lived in this area, people never heard about it. Unless you were in the class, you never were tought some of the principals either.


 
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