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Permaculture: A Designers' Manual - Preface and Chapter 1 - INTRODUCTION

 
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Dave Redvalley wrote:I think what Mollison was getting at was that if everyone approached problems with a common knowledge base the need for consensus and majority rule would be negated, and spreading the common knowledge base is what should be focused on. Some giant dude once said something along these lines and it struck a chord with me. I think that there would be no need for the flawed consensus and majority rule paradigms if this were the case. Somebody would notice a problem bring it up then someone else would offer a solution(or they would just fix the problem) and since the community is operating with a common knowledge base and ethics there would be little chance of serious conflict. No consensus or majority rule votes just problem solved.



It's getting to the point of having that shared knowledge base that's the issue. I think in small communities or communities tied together with a common goal (cultural, philosophical, religious, etc) this approach may succeed. However, it would be harder to implement in the vast ebb and flow morass that is part of many of our lives. Even a moderate sized town may not share a common knowledge base. Herein lies the need for a "many systems" approach - it's similar to the reality that while permaculture work in all climates, some methods work better in certain climates than others, or are implemented in different ways, towards the same goal of sustainability.
 
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Peter Ellis wrote:
So, how to work together and make decisions? Thoughts?



The answer appears to be on page 510 under EVOLVING A NEW POLICY BASE.

The question is:
How to discuss it? It doesn't appear to be appropriate to this thread but waiting to discuss running the book club until the last week of the club seems silly!

At the risk of being tagged "sub-thread happy" I will start a sub thread dedicated to applying the strategies of page 510 of the PDM to this book club.

 
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Lucas Harrison-Zdenek wrote:

Peter Ellis wrote:
Getting back to Ch. 1, Mollison argues for us to abandon both majority rule and consensus, leaving a gaping hole for the question of how do we make group decisions. majority rule has problems, consensus has problems, but for people to get along there have got to be mechanisms for making group decisions and dealing with conflicts among people.

Expecting people to just make good choices together and avoid conflict...is it enough to point out that this hasn't worked out yet within the permaculture community?

So, how to work together and make decisions? Thoughts?



This is definitely a difficult topic to handle. It seems simple enough, but everyone has an opinion and many times those opinions conflict. The way I see it, if you have a small enough group, I'm sure some sort of regular method of compromise can be reached in any conflict. The larger the group, the more difficult it will be to make everyone happy. I like to think that Jacque Fresco from the Venus Project is correct that we only believe there will always be people who don't want to pull their weight because we've all been conditioned to believe that. I tend to be skeptical of this idea though. As I've said before, I'm an idealist…but above that I'm a realist and I know that people often have differences that they cannot put aside, even for the greater good.

Perhaps instead of majority rule or consensus we could establish a sort of charter based in principle and open to rational amendment. Dealing only with facts and attempting to avoid opinion, perhaps it would be possible to come to decisions based on science and reason? It's nice to imagine at least.



Establish a charter, through? Consensus? Majority vote? There is a bit of paradox in trying to make decisions without a process. And you can never work only with "facts" because we all interpret the facts in our own way, we do not even all agree about what the facts are. It is also not realistic to expect that we can all come to the same conclusions, make the same choices, etc.

I do not think people pulling their own weight is the issue here, so much as people pulling in different directions.
Mollison has some conflicts internally, I think, when he speaks of various things that cannot be permitted, but also says we should abandon mechanisms for denying permission to do things. To expect that people will, of their own volition, choose not to do things due to their enlightened perspective...look at political debates anywhere on Earth and tell me how likely that seems.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Peter Ellis wrote: Jennifer, have you read Peter Bane's "The Permaculture Handbook"? His focus in this book is on suburban small holdings and he speaks to self-reliance as opposed to self-sufficiency. Very much aware of the interdependence of people living in the suburban to urban environment. If you have not read it yet, I recommend it. I'm almost finished, and while I find his extensive discussion of "pattern language" not terribly helpful, there is lots that I do find useful, and others might get more from the pattern language discussion than I do.

I think that for anyone who is not living in total isolation, permaculture reaches beyond their own property. I think Mollison makes that clear by addressing socio-legal elements - things that only exist in the larger realm. Even if you only look at those elements as "sectors" (am I the only one who thinks that word was supposed to be "vectors"?), they are something you have to consider in your designs.



Peter - thanks for this recommendation - I've actually had Peter's book out of the library twice and have not read it yet (too many books, too little time). For my final design for Geoff Lawton's online PDC, I actually used my neighborhood as my design project (160 acres of downtown Phoenix) - it was an interesting project and some elements are sloooooowly being implemented. One of our biggest "wins" was several of the central city neighborhoods pressuring a nearby asphalt recycler to update its machinery so that it wasn't emitting as many toxic fumes. Due to our continued pressure - we now have cleaner air.
 
Cj Sloane
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Here is the subthread for discussing how to run the book club.
 
Peter Ellis
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Cj Verde wrote:

Peter Ellis wrote:Even if you only look at those elements as "sectors" (am I the only one who thinks that word was supposed to be "vectors"?), they are something you have to consider in your designs.



Sector seems appropriate because a fire sector makes sense and a fire vector would be something you would not design intentionally - a type 1 error.

I like to think of a vector as where a certain sector meets a certain zone making it the ideal spot (vector) to place an element.

But, again, I'm jumping ahead. What can I say - it's -4°F and snowing like mad!



"Sector" is a synonym for "zone". Only in permaculture are they used in entirely different ways.
"Vector" means movement in a direction, or a mechanism of moving a thing, as, for example, flies are a vector for disease.

I just cannot agree that "a fire sector makes sense" because of the actual meaning of the word sector. Vector is never a spot, it is always something moving- that is the meaning of the word.

So it makes perfect sense, in permaculture terms, to replace the word sector with the word vector.

Now, when referring to a fire vector, you are talking about that direction over there where the prevailing winds move the fire toward us, or that stretch of dried brush that runs right up to the barn and through which fire could easily move. The outside grass clippings coming in on the truck are a vector for herbicides and pesticides.


Substitute vector for sector, it does not change the meaning of the sentence, it expresses it more clearly.
 
Peter Ellis
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Chris Dickson wrote:...
Then, if we choose to harvest these wild animals, we're putting energy into that process. More energy to hunt a wild animal than to slaughter a domestic one. Equal energy to process each. Again, getting the meat on the table takes energy inputs from us.
...

Sigh, starting behind already. Story of my life ...I will catch up my reading (re-reading) tonight I guess. I do have a small thought on the wild animal discussion. I would debate that the wild animals take any energy inputs from us. I live in the central US and things that I plant for nitrogen fixing/cover crop (clover, alphalpha, vetch, rye, etc.) are all strong attractants for wildlife. I would argue that I'm able to harvest more/larger deer as a stacked function of nitrogen fixation admittedly there may be an additional step or two in harvesting said animals vs. one raised inside the electric fence! but at the same time I didn't have anything to do with the stocking/breeding of said animals either. They just 'showed up'.



Those deer "showed up" as one of many responses to your energy input of planting those crops. They ate some portion of those crops. In doing so, they are taking your energy input. What they ate did not become hay for your winter feed, or graze for your livestock. It may be insignificant, or they may strip your field bare, but it should be part of your calculus. They are taking energy input, and you may get multiple yields from them in return. Manure on the pasture, venison in the freezer. But they are also a vector for disease (thinking deer ticks in particular and Lyme disease) and can harm yields as well.

I think it worth looking at closely because we have to recognize the ways in which everything that comes into our design area impacts upon it. And absolutely everything does. Some things may be so minor as to be safely ignored, but we should only discount an impact after examining it.
 
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I too wonder how to make open space work for smaller, shorter duration gatherings. We're the gatherings you attended multi day?
 
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The overarching theme of this chapter seems to me to be: "We're doing it wrong - and here's how to think about doing it right". Mollison is setting out both the problems of our present way of life, and some specific rules on how to live better. So, how do we take the tenets of permaculture and do it right? How do we use these rules not just in our interactions with the land, but with other people? Can we use consensus or majority rule or Robert's Rules of Order, or do we indeed have to reinvent the wheel?

That article about Transition Towns being a trojan horse for permaculture - we need more examples of that. Because permaculture isn't the solution in of itself - but using the methods of design and ethical guidelines of permaculture to help create organizations that promote a sustainable and just way of life might be. Permaculture is a set of tools, but it is the sweat and tinkering and conversation and perseverance that make the tools useful.

So, we need lots of trojan horses. Or is that the right metaphor? We just need to infuse the ideas of permaculture into our day-to-day lives, and into the communities we build and foster. As we keep reading and talking about this book, we'll be getting into a lot of specific stuff, design ideas that we can adapt to our homesteads and everyday lives. But how do we push the boundaries of our lives to include our communities, our local governments, and even wider into the world? Because I agree that we have to start with our own place and space, to live the ideals that we believe. But if we simply walk the talk at home, but never leave our doorsteps, then I think we are abdicating our responsibility.

Mollison puts these ideas in a dire context, that the decisions we make now are life and death important. Turning my backyard into an Eden is a good first step, and a fine example for others, but unless I invite my neighbors over to show them and explain my reasons and methods, they're just going to think I have a wild taste in gardening. And those that live 10 miles away in the poor neighborhoods of Augusta? What chance do they have to see good changes, and where is the opportunity for them to make some themselves?

I think another good first step would be to make connections between the varied groups that are doing work that fits into the permaculture mindset, even in ways that aren't at first apparent. Transition towns are wonderful, but how do they connect to state agencies that do similar things (like the D.O.T. or development agencies or the department of health)? Community gardens and small farmers can find connections with food pantries and share good grown food with folks in need (and maybe teach them how to cook and use foods they haven't been exposed to in their food deserts). What other ways can we express the connectedness of all things? And to bring it home - how can we connect permies.com to the larger conversations happening in the world, and support those organizations that share our values, or are striving to discover those values?

I don't have the answers to these questions, but I'm starting to see the patterns in my own life and community, how my actions ripple out into the larger world...
 
Eva Taylor
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Love this Jessica! You're so right about all of this! If you read the open spaces users manual, the ideas of facilitation seem like the answer but fall short with details for shorter length meetings. I think reinventing the horse isn't too far from the need, hierarchical systems seem to quash inspiration and block independent action, leaving it up to the boss to come up with ideas and tell us what to do. If you knew no one was responsible for caring for your road you might get out a shovel faster to fix potholes than if you thought public works or dot were responsible. If no one is in the field to tell the grass where to grow it naturally takes responsibility for finding a right spot, and growing.
I think this book is a manual for looking, observing what is needed and just doing it, not waiting for permission. If its "wrong" the system will self correct. I think that's why transitions towns are so successful- they give everyone permission to act with the expectation that they will act.

How's the weather up there by the way? I'm originally from sw Maine....
 
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Peter Ellis wrote:

Establish a charter, through? Consensus? Majority vote? There is a bit of paradox in trying to make decisions without a process. And you can never work only with "facts" because we all interpret the facts in our own way, we do not even all agree about what the facts are. It is also not realistic to expect that we can all come to the same conclusions, make the same choices, etc.



I guess I should have been a bit more clear when I used the term "fact". What I think I am referring to here (I'm starting to get a bit jumbled from all the posts I've read this week) is similar to what Jacque Fresco says about how we as human beings with all of our differences can transcend above the petty quarrels we have now due to difference of opinion, etc… He says that until we all start speaking a language that isn't open to vast interpretation (i.e. physics, math) we will always have conflict that keeps us from rising up together. These sciences with laws are the basis for life on Earth as well as for most of what we are all learning and working on right now.

Someone else mentioned in the Geoff Lawton PDC thread that if you look at any of the sites Geoff has developed, you see math everywhere. We use measurements to determine contour lines for swales and we have to understand the relevance of the forces around us in order to mimic natural patterns for our designs. By "fact" I mean the things that are (or at least would seem to be) irrefutable. I understand that there are people who are resistant to acceptance of facts. I understand that we probably haven't even scratched the surface of our sciences as humans, which leads to a lot more theories than truths. I'm simply speaking generally and positing that it may be possible, one day, to collectively decide on something without allowing opinion or emotion to dictate our decisions. If we all start speaking a language that has only one possible interpretation, then we will be able to decide what to do based on the "facts" we have available to us.
 
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In his day, my professors referred to Bill M as 'chicken little running around warning that the sky is falling', way before that in the USA it was Woodsy Owl urging us to "...give a hoot and don't pollute" followed by the Native American shedding a tear while looking at the burning Cuyahoga River. Christopher Alexander's "Pattern Language" was too 'far out' for mainstream conservatives.

But here we are, a mere 'tick' forward in the time, sharing lessons, experience, wisdom and tools that were introduced to us from nature by our teachers so we wouldn't forget that it doesn't have to be so hard all in our lifetime. Now I can talk about an idea - 'Permaculture' with thousands of people on almost every continent, real-time, when once I was just a college nut-job.

Permaculture gives us a rally-point for instigating change, one person at a time, digging in the dirt.

It's happening, now: I share my cage-free eggs with my neighbors and they give me their grass clippings and Christmas trees to feed my goats.

Yes, our activities have embodied and consequential energy components, but the raccoon that harassed my chickens and met his demise on a nearby road, is no longer 'waste' but a key ingredient in next seasons compost. I didn't mind picking up the results on either end.

For thirty years some of us have always said, put the dirt you displace on the roof and grow what was originally on the site, better: grow things that benefit you and your neighbors, don't be cheap or stylish, do what makes sense.
 
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Something that popped out right away in Section 1.1 was Bill's comments about how "We have expanded our right to live on the earth to an ENTITLEMENT to conquer the earth..." Boy did the word entitlement stick out to me. Seems like the starting point of so many spirals in the wrong direction. I don't want to be entitled, I want to be enlightened.

One other thing that has come to my attention is where he is stating a set of ethics on natural systems...Section 1.3, Page 7, Bullet 3..."Establishment of plant systems for our own use on the LEAST amount of land we can use for our existence." Hmmmmm....it makes sense to not have more than you can manage and leave some for the next person to have, nurture and evolve (sounds sort of like wedding vows - haha). I can see the common sense behind it and, yes, at the moment my lot size is my manageable size, but I so long for something larger in which I can dream so much larger than what I can right now. Do I have to feel ethically guilty about wanting a larger system that I can develop to be so much more when my tiny lot would be more than enough for my own existence? I don't like the definitive nature of that statement. To me it almost feels like it could be squelching my desire to dream a bit. Hmmmmm...my heart wants to override my mind on that point.
 
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I like(d) what you had to say, Jessica, and I am enjoying reading the comments and (most of all) having the synergy of a group to help me get through the Manual for real!

This is a very strongly worded chapter, and the more I read it, the more I am struck by Bill really taking a stand here. These are the points that I highlighted (in addition to those already mentioned):

* "Most conflicts, I find, lay in how such questions are asked, and not in the answers to any question." In light of the ongoing discussion here about how group decisions are reached, I think this might be an important point. It seems to me that disagreements most strongly arise when two (or more) people believe in different answers and then have strong attachments to those answers. Perhaps we need to become better question-askers before we worry about reaching consensus on decisions.

* "Philosopher-gardeners, or farmer-poets, are distinguished by their sense of wonder and real feeling for the environment." I really liked this statement. I also thought of Wendell Berry (among others) who so clearly demonstrate these characteristics.

* "We cannot, however, do much for nature if we do not govern our own greed, and if we do not supply our needs from our existing settlements."
 
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Jen Shrock wrote:One other thing that has come to my attention is where he is stating a set of ethics on natural systems...Section 1.3, Page 7, Bullet 3..."Establishment of plant systems for our own use on the LEAST amount of land we can use for our existence." Hmmmmm....it makes sense to not have more than you can manage and leave some for the next person to have, nurture and evolve (sounds sort of like wedding vows - haha). I can see the common sense behind it and, yes, at the moment my lot size is my manageable size, but I so long for something larger in which I can dream so much larger than what I can right now. Do I have to feel ethically guilty about wanting a larger system that I can develop to be so much more when my tiny lot would be more than enough for my own existence? I don't like the definitive nature of that statement. To me it almost feels like it could be squelching my desire to dream a bit. Hmmmmm...my heart wants to override my mind on that point.

I don't think you should feel guilty about wanting more space, provided you use the surplus to benefit your neighbors. And having a larger property means you can have more space in zones 4 and 5 which are much more useful for large wildlife than the other zones. It all depends on how you use it. Every piece of fruit grown in a system that builds soil and given/sold to a neighbor is one less fruit that neighbor buys from a chemical orchard halfway around the world.
 
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Just spent about 5 hours on another exhaustive manifesto, and then it disappeared... what a blessing.

It boils down to:

I agree with Jennifer about there not being a single perfect decision-making process.

Patchy systems with diverse, redundant functions are more robust.

An intelligent group might
- take a quick vote or straw poll to move forward on a budget decision,
- put a master carpenter in charge as 'dictator' for a certain project,
- or use consensus for big stuff that involves altering your mutual commitment or legal relationships, like buying land together, or alterations to the group's charter.

One of the most important decision-making processes is deferral to the best interests of the group.
If you don't know the answer, or you trust someone else's sense of truth in the matter even though you may not entirely agree, you can delegate or abstain.
This takes dedication, humility, and in best cases everyone has some degree of love or compassion for everyone else.

I haven't seen the full extent of Mollison's recommendations and reasons, but I suspect his insights are biased toward certain types of egalitarian communities.
The political challenges of uniting unrelated adults under a common ideology are remarkably similar whether the idealists are religious, environmental, artists, or any other value-set.
Consensus and democracy are two of the more palatable ways to structure peer groups, because 'consent of the governed' is always explicit.
But groups often form around a natural leader who has the means, experience, charisma, or decisiveness to make the project happen. If a leader has intrinsic power (they own the property, or they are the only person with some critical resource that keeps things going), it can be counterproductive to pretend everyone in the group has an equal vote. Functional inequalities can be respected and formalized using a 'consensus-plus-one,' an 'elder's council' or a distinction between 'permanent' and 'visiting' members, or board members and staff.

In ancestral villages and clans, whatever formal structure they teach their children (and anthropologists), the real work seems to happen throughout the fabric of the social structure. Like the channels in a river or the smile lines in my grandmother's face, the ways things get done shapes the way things get done, iteratively and constantly.
The whole village sort of 'raises' itself - not just its children - powerful chieftains subtly chided by a child or dog; thoughtful gossip that leads to a timely dinner party; or two wise old women reminding each other to laugh at their own faults.
One common factor in longstanding hunter-gatherer cultures (according to Jon Young's stories from Ingwe) is the ability to laugh and play foolish tricks on each other, as a metric of the ability to encourage constant learning. Taking our equality or governance too seriously risks prematurely halting the natural learning process, and trying to replace development with the illusion of maturity.

A skillful master can steer the horse, no matter who holds the reins. A steady, beloved presence blessing the community's current course can be more influential than loud opinions.


In terms of discussing the organization of the book group -
There's an underlying structure to both the book, and the original proposal, of proceeding chapter by chapter.
That's our 'charter'.
I have just about enough time to participate on those terms, especially if I get over my habit of tangential essays trying to define the entirety of human nature and a new economic theory.

I don't think it would be a valuable use of our time to re-structure the book group based on some different way of reading the book.
I'm not even sure a formal 'book club' format would be useful - though we may settle into using section headings or page numbers to place topics in context.
I'm not sure what level of response to someone's thoughts constitutes a side discussion.

I do find brief links to related essays by permaculture teachers very useful.

I would also be interested in links to resources that practitioners find useful for actual, down-and-dirty science on the proposed techniques. For example, if you are an anthropology buff and my above assertions about village politics don't ring true, I'd love a useful reference that would broaden my data.

-Erica
 
Cj Sloane
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Erica Wisner wrote:

I agree with Jennifer about there not being a single perfect decision-making process.

Patchy systems with diverse, redundant functions are more robust.

An intelligent group might
- take a quick vote or straw poll to move forward on a budget decision,
- put a master carpenter in charge as 'dictator' for a certain project,
- or use consensus for big stuff that involves altering your mutual commitment or legal relationships, like buying land together, or alterations to the group's charter.



I would again urge people to look at the book we are studying - it lays out a decision making process on page 510 of the PDM.

Define what is seen to be the problem or concern;
give weight to priorities on a scale from 1-10

State intent of policy for your region;
What it is intended to do (the principles of this policy);

Collect strategies that have been proven to work;
this really means a set of case histories

Frame a set of policies based on all successful strategies

If you are interested in this topic specifically, check out this thread
 
Peter Ellis
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Jen Shrock wrote:Something that popped out right away in Section 1.1 was Bill's comments about how "We have expanded our right to live on the earth to an ENTITLEMENT to conquer the earth..." Boy did the word entitlement stick out to me. Seems like the starting point of so many spirals in the wrong direction. I don't want to be entitled, I want to be enlightened.

One other thing that has come to my attention is where he is stating a set of ethics on natural systems...Section 1.3, Page 7, Bullet 3..."Establishment of plant systems for our own use on the LEAST amount of land we can use for our existence." Hmmmmm....it makes sense to not have more than you can manage and leave some for the next person to have, nurture and evolve (sounds sort of like wedding vows - haha). I can see the common sense behind it and, yes, at the moment my lot size is my manageable size, but I so long for something larger in which I can dream so much larger than what I can right now. Do I have to feel ethically guilty about wanting a larger system that I can develop to be so much more when my tiny lot would be more than enough for my own existence? I don't like the definitive nature of that statement. To me it almost feels like it could be squelching my desire to dream a bit. Hmmmmm...my heart wants to override my mind on that point.



Jen, I recognize your concern. I do not think Bill is saying we must only manage the smallest piece we can. I think he is saying manage your land so that your needs (food, fuel, shelter, etc.) are produced on the smallest portion possible with minimal environmental impact and manage whatever is beyond that as a system natural to your area. So if you can meet your needs on one acre, do so, and have the other four acres of your property all be zone 5, the wild/natural part.
 
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Jen Shrock wrote:Section 1.3, Page 7, Bullet 3..."Establishment of plant systems for our own use on the LEAST amount of land we can use for our existence." Hmmmmm....it makes sense to not have more than you can manage and leave some for the next person to have, nurture and evolve (sounds sort of like wedding vows - haha). I can see the common sense behind it and, yes, at the moment my lot size is my manageable size, but I so long for something larger in which I can dream so much larger than what I can right now. Do I have to feel ethically guilty about wanting a larger system...



My bet, Jen, is that Bill meant WE, when he said "we" - in other words, if you want to work more land, work more land, and plan on providing for others with it. I think Bill's hope is that we as a species will use the land we use as efficiently as possible to meet our needs. The result of that would be minimal per capita impact on the planet. So you might want to work more land, very efficiently, and several other people might want to do things that don't involve working on land at all. You might then benefit from the products of their labors, whatever they are, and they might benefit from yours. In both cases, the "surplus" of each individual's work is indeed returned to the system.

I love the sound of that, but the problems in this scenario are significant: What happens when some people whose needs are met in this system decide they want luxury? Do they get it? Who decides what is a need, and what is a luxury? Is it okay to use land to produce things that some people think of as luxuries? Is the simple act of using land inefficiently a luxury? The question of how big that LEAST amount of land, per capita, might be, is complicated by disagreement about needs & desires, surely. More disturbing to me is the fact that even if that issue is somehow surmounted, the system will eventually fail anyway, unless PC ethic number 3 is rigourously applied: No matter how efficiently - and ascetically - humans use land on a per capita basis, the world being finite, we will run out of land if we don't control our population. I can only imagine 2 ways in which that will ever happen. One is under strong autocratic political control. the other is via predation. China provides an example of the first possibility. You have to read science fiction or horror to find examples of the latter.

In other words, when deciding how much land is "LEAST", we must consider that some minimal number of offspring are NEEDED, but more than that number are a luxury, and would require the use of more than that LEAST plot of land we've been discussing. Now - who decides?
 
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My 2 cents as a newbee on this forum. I have taken Geoff's PDC online and loved it. I also took Mark Shepard's PDC and loved it. I did these simultaneously. Yes, I understand that is not always financially feasible, but I can tell you that I would not have felt adequately schooled from one or the other alone, and both were great. The take away: a hands on course is invaluable, but taking a course from the master is irreplaceable. If you only do one, do Geoff's and attend some hands on workshops or volunteer at workshops to save expense and get experience. I am very excited to be attending to the Book in such detail.
 
Lucas Harrison-Zdenek
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Cj Verde wrote:
I would again urge people to look at the book we are studying - it lays out a decision making process on page 510 of the PDM.



To skip that far ahead in search of an answer would defeat the purpose of this forum. We are supposed to be digesting this information one chapter at a time and engaging in discussion with each other. As we are reading, many of us are not in total agreement with Bill Mollison on some of these ideas. This is where using his answer does us a relatively large injustice. He got us started, but the point here is to look at multiple interpretations. Don't worry, we will get to page 510. For now it is interesting to hear how people look at these problems and attempt to brainstorm a solution. If we start out with this robust of a conversation from a few pages of introduction, imagine what will be uncovered when we get into pattern and design.
 
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Izzy Bickford wrote:

Jen Shrock wrote:One other thing that has come to my attention is where he is stating a set of ethics on natural systems...Section 1.3, Page 7, Bullet 3..."Establishment of plant systems for our own use on the LEAST amount of land we can use for our existence." Hmmmmm....it makes sense to not have more than you can manage and leave some for the next person to have, nurture and evolve (sounds sort of like wedding vows - haha). I can see the common sense behind it and, yes, at the moment my lot size is my manageable size, but I so long for something larger in which I can dream so much larger than what I can right now. Do I have to feel ethically guilty about wanting a larger system that I can develop to be so much more when my tiny lot would be more than enough for my own existence? I don't like the definitive nature of that statement. To me it almost feels like it could be squelching my desire to dream a bit. Hmmmmm...my heart wants to override my mind on that point.

I don't think you should feel guilty about wanting more space, provided you use the surplus to benefit your neighbors. And having a larger property means you can have more space in zones 4 and 5 which are much more useful for large wildlife than the other zones. It all depends on how you use it. Every piece of fruit grown in a system that builds soil and given/sold to a neighbor is one less fruit that neighbor buys from a chemical orchard halfway around the world.



I think it's also good to note that the larger the land = the more we're preserving/repairing & in the end contributing to a much more positive impact vs a small, 3/4 acre lot. I know everyone shouldn't ditch the city, but I think there should be a balance. By having more permaculture systems on larger land, I think that's also like a trojan horse all in it self. And even on a large land, there can be things we're able to provide for ourselves in small amounts we can't do on small plots. This is a very good point, thanks for mentioning it. As well as everyone else, as so many of you guys are putting out some good juicy discussions(:
 
Jen Shrock
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Thanks for all the encouragement. I think that what I am finding with myself, anyways, is that I have to get beyond thinking that Permaculture has to be 'just like this or just like that'. What really got me excited about it to begin with is that it can be as much or as little as someone wants or needs it to be in their life, land included. I took Geoff's online PDC as well and my project was on my own lot. What I learned while working on the design is that there was one small area that I kept trying to force it to be something that I felt fell within the Permaculture "rules". Each time I would look at that area on my design, I wasn't truely happy with the design. In thinking through things, I realized that if i tried to force something that wasn't in line with what I wanted or needed (falling within the care guidelines of Permaculture, of course), then would I really appreciate and care for that area as much. I basically was trying to design just about every square inch of my property to be food production, but I really longed for a small area to use like a "lab", to experiment with things that might or might not find permanent places in my system. Once I finally moved a couple of the plants on my design out of the area that I wanted as my experimental area and into other parts of the yard, i then immediately felt peace with my design. I keep reminding myself that for Permaculture to work, it has to work for those involved in the system. If a rigid set of "rules" that I have created in my mind makes me unhappy with a part, am I doing that part any justice because it will most likely be ignored rather than nurtured. One of the priciples of Permaculture is to observe, observe, observe and, by doing that with my own reactions to my design ideas, I was able to come up with a design that i was in complete harmony with. The square box finally was able to be trimmed down to fit in that round hole.
 
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Lucas Harrison-Zdenek wrote:

Peter Ellis wrote:
Getting back to Ch. 1, Mollison argues for us to abandon both majority rule and consensus, leaving a gaping hole for the question of how do we make group decisions. majority rule has problems, consensus has problems, but for people to get along there have got to be mechanisms for making group decisions and dealing with conflicts among people.

Expecting people to just make good choices together and avoid conflict...is it enough to point out that this hasn't worked out yet within the permaculture community?

So, how to work together and make decisions? Thoughts?



This is definitely a difficult topic to handle. It seems simple enough, but everyone has an opinion and many times those opinions conflict. The way I see it, if you have a small enough group, I'm sure some sort of regular method of compromise can be reached in any conflict. The larger the group, the more difficult it will be to make everyone happy. I like to think that Jacque Fresco from the Venus Project is correct that we only believe there will always be people who don't want to pull their weight because we've all been conditioned to believe that. I tend to be skeptical of this idea though. As I've said before, I'm an idealist…but above that I'm a realist and I know that people often have differences that they cannot put aside, even for the greater good.

Perhaps instead of majority rule or consensus we could establish a sort of charter based in principle and open to rational amendment. Dealing only with facts and attempting to avoid opinion, perhaps it would be possible to come to decisions based on science and reason? It's nice to imagine at least.



I am a newbie so excuse if my posting is strange - I'm not sure how all this thread stuff works yet!

Anyway, I have been reading about a group in Rutledge, MO called Dancing Rabbit for some time now and they are an evolving sustainable community that practices consensus: http://www.dancingrabbit.org/about-dancing-rabbit-ecovillage/social-change/function/consensus/ They seem to be having a lot of success and growth and it's a good resource for me. Hope you find it helpful.

It seems to me that we should consider all viewpoints and come to agreement. My husband and I agree that each may of us may compromise in decision-making but neither should sacrifice their own beliefs to agree with the other. This is tough and a process. Sometimes success comes in patiently awaiting the other to "come-around" or be at a place of being able to accept what is truly the best decision. We are both humans with fears and failings and egos. Sometimes we hold onto wrong beliefs, usually based on limited information, and once we see the whole picture, or get new information, or simply put ego aside, we can realize there is a better way. I think the goal is always striving toward a more informed, sustainable, loving, compassionate place - but sometimes it takes time and failure in order to find it.

One of my favorite quotes is: “The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” Joseph Jouber
I think this applies to what we're doing here and I see lots of good communication portraying this goal.

I'm enjoying this process of reading with you all and look forward to learning much along the way.

Blessed be.



 
Peter Ellis
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As with all people, my perspectives are built upon my experiences. Many years ago in college I majored in political science and
Or over twenty years I have worked for lawyers in the US legal system. My views on how groups of people sole problems are undeniably colored by these two things. I have decades of experience watching how people work out their disagreements, and decades of experience watching how bad many of them are at doing it.

Consensus is an interesting ideal, but realistic only in the smallest groups, and even there it is always possible for personal differences to arise that will make consensus exceptionally unlikely. If people were rational, this would not be such a large issue, but as a whole, we are not. Decisions are often made on insufficient information. Information is often discounted for disagreeing with personal bias or preconceptions. Information may be discounted due to the source. Not infrequently, people simply do not understand the meaning of he information.

Majority rule reduces the chances that a person can stop an action desired by many. But it suffers from manipulation and all the same problems of people managing information. It has better chances of producing good results in large populations, but decision making on inadequate information generally becomes the norm, with many people abandoning their responsibility and simply following their chosen leaders.

Human history is filled with experiments on this theme, how to govern ourselves, and enormous volumes of philosophical discussion have been written about it.
It is a thorny problem, as complex as the human psyche that it seeks to manage. It will always be built upon compromise, because we are never going to all agree about everything.

At some level, it is probably best to set the overarching issue to the side, and simply focus on getting done those things it is practical to make happen.
 
Isaac Bickford
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Jen Shrock wrote:Thanks for all the encouragement. I think that what I am finding with myself, anyways, is that I have to get beyond thinking that Permaculture has to be 'just like this or just like that'. What really got me excited about it to begin with is that it can be as much or as little as someone wants or needs it to be in their life, land included. I took Geoff's online PDC as well and my project was on my own lot. What I learned while working on the design is that there was one small area that I kept trying to force it to be something that I felt fell within the Permaculture "rules". Each time I would look at that area on my design, I wasn't truely happy with the design. In thinking through things, I realized that if i tried to force something that wasn't in line with what I wanted or needed (falling within the care guidelines of Permaculture, of course), then would I really appreciate and care for that area as much. I basically was trying to design just about every square inch of my property to be food production, but I really longed for a small area to use like a "lab", to experiment with things that might or might not find permanent places in my system. Once I finally moved a couple of the plants on my design out of the area that I wanted as my experimental area and into other parts of the yard, i then immediately felt peace with my design. I keep reminding myself that for Permaculture to work, it has to work for those involved in the system. If a rigid set of "rules" that I have created in my mind makes me unhappy with a part, am I doing that part any justice because it will most likely be ignored rather than nurtured. One of the priciples of Permaculture is to observe, observe, observe and, by doing that with my own reactions to my design ideas, I was able to come up with a design that i was in complete harmony with. The square box finally was able to be trimmed down to fit in that round hole.

Yes, this is very important. The first thing to do in designing a permaculture system is a functional analysis of yourself. What do you want in your home? In your property? In your neighborhood? Once you have answered that question (my wife and I talk about "dreaming up our castle") then you can figure out how to make it happen on the land. It is for this reason I am doubtful I could ever be completely happy living in a house designed by someone else. Because they weren't designing MY house, they were designing their house (or worse - a generic house without even a particular site in mind that will be carted to location in two halves).
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Peter Ellis wrote:At some level, it is probably best to set the overarching issue to the side, and simply focus on getting done those things it is practical to make happen.



I have to agree with this. I call myself "the Imperfect Permaculturist" simply because if I waited for all the stars to align juuuuust right - well, I would never accomplish a damn thing. At least by mapping out some "experiments" and giving them a go, I gain experience. Same for dealing with group decisions. We make the best out of what we've got. If we pay attention, a better way of doing things may evolve.

And I also admit to being an "envelope pusher" - meaning basically I will go ahead and do some stuff that may or may not meet the current consensus - for example, my kitchen resource drain project (redirecting "dark grey water") into the landscape with NO filter on it before it reaches an underground infiltration chamber - this is not YET the accepted way of doing this. However, the policy that says you HAVE to have a filter is currently being challenged. (It's the little things...)
 
Eva Taylor
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After reading the last few posts the thoughts of macro solutions and micro solutions being different comes up for me. Many of the solutions permaculture has brought are most efficient in multiple micro communities that will eventually add up to affecting the macro environment. That being said if we concentrate on our selves and our community maybe the question can be rendered mute as far as the organization of the macro environment?
 
steward
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I don't believe Mr Mollison is telling us that we should have no methods to cooperate as groups . The flow chart on page 8 includes trusts , companies , cooperatives , community , credit union in the category "Assembly" . These are to be patterned for "best flow function , and yield whilst conserving resources" along side plant and animal guilds and our technological constructs .
He had a very wry and dry sense of humor and I picked up on that with his comment about consenus . Sort of like his comment about blue-haired women :

"I confess to a rare problem—gynekinetophobia, or the fear of women falling on me—but this is a rather mild illness compared with many affluent suburbanites, who have developed an almost total zoophobia, or fear of anything that moves. It is, as any traveller can confirm, a complaint best developed in the affluent North American, and it seems to be part of blue toilet dyes, air fresheners, lots of paper tissues, and two showers a day."

 
Peter Ellis
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wayne stephen wrote:I don't believe Mr Mollison is telling us that we should have no methods to cooperate as groups . The flow chart on page 8 includes trusts , companies , cooperatives , community , credit union in the category "Assembly" . These are to be patterned for "best flow function , and yield whilst conserving resources" along side plant and animal guilds and our technological constructs .
He had a very wry and dry sense of humor and I picked up on that with his comment about consenus . Sort of like his comment about blue-haired women :

"I confess to a rare problem—gynekinetophobia, or the fear of women falling on me—but this is a rather mild illness compared with many affluent suburbanites, who have developed an almost total zoophobia, or fear of anything that moves. It is, as any traveller can confirm, a complaint best developed in the affluent North American, and it seems to be part of blue toilet dyes, air fresheners, lots of paper tissues, and two showers a day."



I suppose it is possible that I am taking seriously what was meant as a humorous comment, but I am not so sure. Bill was very clear that our last majority rule vote should be to not use such a voting process again, and that our final consensus agreement should be to not use consensus decision making.

For me the problem arises from his failure to introduce an alternative process.

I think that he has hopes that we will simply come around to the right way of thinking and all make what he feels are good decisions without needing to have some collective process. Each individual taking responsibility and "doing the right thing" inevitably making the collective decision making unnecessary.

I simply cannot imagine a human society of more than a handful of people where this could reasonably be expected to work. On any large scale I see it as perpetually doomed to failure.
 
Cj Sloane
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Peter Ellis wrote:
For me the problem arises from his failure to introduce an alternative process.



He did not fail to introduce an alternative process. It comes later in the book.
 
Peter Ellis
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Cj Verde wrote:

Peter Ellis wrote:
For me the problem arises from his failure to introduce an alternative process.



He did not fail to introduce an alternative process. It comes later in the book.



CJ, we're reading the book one chapter at a time. The process is not in Chapter 1. He does not say in Chapter 1 that he will address it at some later point, he just leaves us hanging.

I am interested in reading the book straight through, building upon understanding with each chapter. I may be completely off base, but many textbooks, such as this, are actually organized to be read in that fashion, with concepts in each chapter being necessary to proper understanding of information presented in subsequent chapters.
 
Cj Sloane
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Peter Ellis wrote:...The process is not in Chapter 1. He does not say in Chapter 1 that he will address it at some later point, he just leaves us hanging.



Wayne has mentioned the flow chart on page 8 which has a column for Socio-Legal Elements. I view that as a teaser of upcoming topics that will be addressed. Totally fine for you to disagree.
 
Peter Ellis
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The flow chart shows various institutions/entities but nothing about how they make their decisions. And of course all of chapter one is a teaser, that is what it is for.
 
wayne stephen
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If I may be so bold , I say that Bill Mollisons' philosophy is a form of "rugged individualism" . A label that is mostly unfashionable due to connections with silly Hollywood cowboy stereotypes like John Wayne , the baggage of our colonial past , and the nauseating overuse of the term by blowhards like Rush Limbaugh . I believe he is saying not to wait on government to do it for us but for all of us to get up off our asses and get to the task . Mollison was a brilliant orator and writer but the photo on the back page of my Manual [2012 edition} reveals a set of hands leathered and callused by a lifetime of immersion in labor and soil . No matter what form of community , political , economic systems we choose they are secondary to a network of determined , creative individuals and small groups polishing the proverbial grindstone . A Jeal Luc Picard to our Lt. Richer . " Make it happen Number One ".
I imagine a situation where a group is stalemated arguing about where to place a swale and the season is moving along into planting time . I think it is better for an individual with a wild hair {hare?} up their ass to start digging before the break of dawn than to wait upon consensus from a group . Leading the way through positive action rather than be stifled by collective entropy . Let the others follow . I have a reputation for being a nice guy and a team player, but you can see why it's logical to finally realize I am a complete meathead .
 
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Well, I just finished chapter 1, so here goes. It took me longer to read this thread, than the actual chapter, but I'm gonna reply to the chapters I finish in time. I have my own history, experience, life-values, education, and prejudices, but this is what I gleaned. You may agree or disagree.

I believe Chapter 1 can be summarized, very succinctly, in one notion: Short-term vs long-term goals, both micro and macro. Most short-term goals revolve around one thing, money. Whether it be agriculture, health-care, government, industry, or even in one's personal/familial life. Most decisions are based primarily on monetary reasoning.

Since agriculture is the main focus, let me delete what I have written self-edit and stay OT. Modern agriculture's main goal is profit, or simply put, money. The goal isn't health, land-conservation, feeding people, or anything else. It's simply profit, producing the most (product to sell for money) for the least (amount of monetary input). If Farmer Joe can increase his profit by any means, most likely he will do it. Irrespective of health consequences, environmental consequences, or human consequences, both present and future. His goal, for the most part, is simply putting more money in his pocket now. If people get sick, it just means more money for the health-care industry to make down the road. If the environment gets raped, more money for government programs to regulate and enforce. If one industry saves money and indiscriminately pollutes, another industry gets paid to 'clean' it up.
If Farmer Joe can produce more corn, albeit less nutritional corn, it means cheaper corn-flakes for the individual consumer. Irrespective or inattentive to long-term consequences from eating these sub-par foods, the short-term goal of the consumer "saving money" has been fulfilled, and the customer feels satisfied. But the long-term goals of true health, good environmental practices, future generations, and everything else that need to be considered have been forgone for one overall driving factor: $.

I could be accused of having a "mid-life crisis," I hope a 1/3rd life crisis, but nonetheless. Once again, I have my own experiences, thoughts, yadda, yadda. But I think he was dancing around the subject of greed and it's influence over every aspect in the world. Granted some practices in 'permaculture' may take more effort, more time, and more monetary input to start, overall it will lessen what must be spent and done in the future to remedy bad-practices of current. Once again, short-term vs long-term goals, on a micro and macro scale.
 
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One of the many challenges with our American political and governance systems (I assume most of us are talking about American systems) is that they get large groups of intelligent and well educated people spending there energy interacting with each other rather than changing lifestyle.

The ethics and principles lets us reorganizes our thinking, from the activity of the brain and mouth, to the activity of the hands and belly.

The political arena, as currently offered to us by our history and ancestors, is just part of the design environment (or maybe ultimately THE design environment). But political systems maybe have less intrinsic value than we give them. We cannot create permaculture systems without engaging in human systems as part of our design, simply because we are human, and part of the system. We are just a whopper of a design problem. (CHAPTER 14).

However, I suspect political design works on the same ethics and principles that help us make sense of ecological systems... its just that the sectors/flows are different. Authority, ownership, belonging, information etc... If you have vision for actually changing the ecological system, than everything else follows. The beauty is that you don't have to know how to get there, or to agree about political philosophy, to agree that a survivable ecological system is in our shared interest. That's why you find communists and libertarians talking permaculture, city people and country people talking permaculture, Christians and atheists talking permaculture. By talking about the attributes of that desired end system, and what you and I can do with our hands now to make it real, many political issues fall aside as distractions.

It is and will be challenging enough to just design simple elegant human systems that can successful create and sustain permaculture systems in any setting! But all I really care about the human systems I am working on is how they behave. Most of what they say is in my opinion, a distraction.

The problem is that our human systems distract us from tending the ecological systems. That is I suspect the ultimate design problem (I am waiting for someone to expand chapter 14 into a book). Joel Magnuson's new book is an interesting attempt (full disclosure, I know the guy so happy to see his books sell...) He provides a useful critique of the transitions communities general antipathy toward institution building. Another interesting read is the work of Heifetz, for its clear thinking about what leadership through cultural change might actually look like in the messy world we live in.

 
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My book just arrived, so I'm a bit late to the party. Chapter 1 was really quite interesting - I found some quiet strong resonances with ideas I have already internalised (albeit perhaps in different contexts).

Is permaculture anti-technological?
This has been niggling along in the back of my mind for a while now and I'm not sure I have an answer. Many of the principals of permaculture seem to inherently bring people back to working the land. While this is no bad thing in itself, one of the benefits of our "advanced society" is that it can support many people in trades that are not directly linked to sustenance in all it's forms (shelter, food, heating etc...). Our society as a whole can afford to support trades such as modern medicine, teachers, artists, researchers, craftsmen who all conrtibute to the richness of human society and life.

Personally I'm a maths teacher - I love spending time in the classroom but I'm struggling to balance that aspect of my life with wanting to establish my land and manage it. The time spent on one essentially precludes the other.

Can permaculture support this massive diversity of trades or will we eventually see a withering technological prowess? If all individuals are expected to be responsible for what they consume how can an invidual in a necessary 9-5 job be supported by a universal permaculture system? Clearly permaculture will need to integrate with the broader economy (ie beyond village scale).

These issues are not yet fully formed in my head but seem to be a barrier to more universal acceptance of permaculture methods.

Scarcity and surplus
When discussing personal finance:

A portion of everything you earn is yours to keep - The Richest Man in Babylon



The essence of this quote is about finding surplus through limiting expenditure. If you earn a certain amount each month but spend it all - food, housing, heating etc... then there is no surplus for you to keep. The surplus month to month, year to year, is what builds resiliance and stability and, ultimately, wealth. Ensuring surplus in your finances, however small month to month, is pretty much the only path out of debt and on a path to a secure future. By building a surplus in your youth you are taking responsibility for your future, rather than hoping that others will look after you.

The prime directive of permaculture
The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children



In the context of this discussion of chapter 1 it struck me that the concept of surplus as applied to money and finances applies almost in parallel when you think of the surplus of a permaculture system. Your surpluses are more abstract, but the net result of them accruing year on year provides your foundation for resiliance and "permaculture wealth".

Surpluses: increasing soil fertility, fuel in the form of standing timber in a forest, water stored in the ground or dams, stronger and healthier plants and animals, greater diversity of life etc... but your "dividend" comes not in terms of a cash income, but in terms of growing crop yields in all forms.

Anyway - this stuck a resonance with me because it harmonises nicely with how I manage the financial aspects of my life; personal responsibility, limiting consumption and ensuring surplus. Mollison's statement of the third ethic therefore makes much more sense to me than the much blunter statement "sharing the surplus". Taking responsibility for ourselves and our futures means returning surplus to the land to build up "permaculture wealth". Surplus that is "shared" in the sense of distributed produce for example isn't truly surplus - it is gone from the system and "permaculture wealth" is lost.

Surplus is what is left after all withdrawals from a system - not just withdrawals of food and energy by the few individuals who own and manage the land.
 
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Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:

wayne stephen wrote:Page 3 : "Although initially we can see how helping our family and freinds assists us in our own survival , we may evolve the mature ethic that sees all humankind as family , and all life as allied associations. Thus we expand people care to species care , for all life has common origins . All are "our family".



So my focus right now falls out like this:
--10% about me and my own sustainability (this was more at one point but I have several good systems in place, so now it's less - it's been an evolving process)
--30% about my immediate neighborhood and surrounding 'hoods (organizing classes, talks, hands-on opportunities, cleanup events, social gatherings)
--20% about my city - working to change policy, etc
--40% about the broad landscape in which I live - working to change policy (in talks with the former mayor about proposed desalinization plants for Arizona/Mexico, care of wild lands w/Sierra Club, restoring riparian areas, etc)

For me, permaculture HAS to go beyond my property by necessity.

What do others think?



This also struck me as an urban or macro application of zones, no?
 
I child proofed my house but they still get in. Distract them with this tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/wiki/bootcamp
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