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The problem with permaculture...

 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Devin Lavign wrote:

Not saying this is the answer, but one might consider that along with changing from industrial agriculture we might need to also change urban design.



I think permaculture can only solve our problems if we implement permaculture.  If we don't implement permaculture in cities, I don't see how it can solve the problems of cities.  Permaculture, as I understand it, is not about farming, it's about how we live.  It's a design system for living.

It almost seems like there's an idea that permaculture can just replace our current method of farming, and we'll go along otherwise living the way we do now.  That's not what I've gotten from reading the Designer's Manual.  I get the idea that permaculture is about a completely different way of living from what we have now, a way which integrates people and nature in designed ecosystems.

Since a lot of our problems are in cities, and most people now live in cities, it seems to me that permaculture will need to be implemented in cities most of all.  Which will definitely require enormous changes to how we design cities.  

"Permaculture... is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.  It is the  integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way."  Bill Mollison, Permaculture a Designers Manual, Preface.



Tyler I agree, my understanding of permaculture is not just changing ideas of growing a garden or how to farm. It is a complete change in the way to look at the entire world and how it is organized. I didn't have too far to go, since I never liked the whole humanity is separate from nature thinking. So to me learning permaculture was a lot more about finding missing pieces to the puzzle, and getting confirmation on ideas I had figured out already.

There does seem to be the idea permaculture is something to implement outside of the current society and current society will just reap the benefits of permaculture while continuing unchanged. That somehow people can keep doing all the harmful and wasteful things they have been without changing. Much like the whole eco and green movement. Where it is more about how to keep the standard of living people are used to, how to not disrupt the way of life people are used to. Instead of the more dramatic realization that the current system is never going to be eco or green, and the only way to be eco or green is to remove yourself from that system and start to create one that is based upon the principals of being eco or green. Doing so, you find quickly you have to do without much of what society thinks of as required or necessity. You find quickly even while trying to build eco or green systems that it is hard to get away from non eco or green things. They wiggle their way into your life in the most inconvenient ways. Packaging, for example. While the product might be good a eco or green one it is often stuck in packaging that is not.
 
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Devin Lavign wrote:Where it is more about how to keep the standard of living people are used to, how to not disrupt the way of life people are used to.



I think this is really important.  Even though we know our way of life needs to change dramatically, I don't think it will work to demand people change suddenly and dramatically.  People resist change, and in some cases will choose to die rather than change.  Let's hope our society won't make that choice, though we seem at this point well on our way to that. "Lifestyle is non-negotiable!" However, on a more hopeful note, I think it is important for permaculturists to make a permaculture life as appealing as possible, beautiful, and if possible in some way easier than the current way of life - for instance, having to work less for money might be appealing to a lot of people.  Most people seem to enjoy gardens and pretty scenery, so we can push that aspect of permaculture.

So I think the main problem with permaculture is how to make permaculture as appealing as possible to the largest number of people, without compromising the ethics and principles of permaculture.  In other words, how to sell it without turning it into green-washing.  Is it an unsolvable problem?  We can't know unless we try.
 
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Permaculture threatens big oil, chem ag, big pharma ...  so it attracts corporate trolls who get paid 40 hours a week to say "permaculture is stupid."  Naturally, if you search for this tripe on google, you will get heaps of what you would expect.

I think one thing that trumps everything in this thread:  if you don't like it, then don't do it.  

It strikes me as kinda odd when people seem to be of the school of thought that if big ag doesn't do it, then it must suck and, therefore, they should stop others from doing it.

In the meantime, people put fake cheese on their head, dress all in green and support the green bay packers.  You could argue that there are better teams.  You could argue that there are better sports.  You could argue that watching sports is silly.   You could argue that growing strictly native plants is better than putting fake cheese on your head.  You could argue that people should not put fake cheese on their head as long as people are suffering in _____.    So, there are a lot of reasons to never put fake cheese on your head - and yet people still do it.  They like it.  They think it is fun and cool.  

May I please be allowed to be bonkers about permaculture?  My mind is overflowing with ideas of things that I want to try and experience.  I have done a lot of gardening and I have a lot of ideas about growing food in a better way.  Rather than import horticultural materials, I wanna grow my own soil with fun seeds, hugelkultur, polyculture and time.  I wanna introduce texture to the landscape.  I wanna experiment with natural building.  Do I really have to make my choices be held accountable to people that like to have fake cheese on their head?

And then there are other people that are just as bonkers about permaculture as I am.  And we come together and talk about growing raspberries ....  and then somebody comes along to tell us that we cannot talk about raspberries, because we are not wearing fake cheese on our head.   And the only conversation to ever have is how to find the best fake cheese to wear on your head.

---

The fact that so many people feel the need to talk about "the problem with permaculture" is proof that what we are doing is, at the very least, interesting.  For at least a moment, permaculture got to be more interesting than sports or porn or anything else on the internet.  

---

I wrote the thing about ferd and gert in response to some batshit crazy anti-permaculture tripe.   Gert doesn't care what the corporate trolls write.  Gert doesn't care that there is a debate about what is or isn't permaculture.  Gert doesn't care if people are using permaculture techniques to make millions or billions of dollars.   Gert doesn't care if people wear fake cheese on their head.


 
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@Paul W. "In the meantime, people put fake cheese on their head, dress all in green and support the green bay packers. "

I thought we were supposed to keep religion out of this thread.......   (If I'm still a Vikings fan after all these years, you know it has nothing to do with rationality or success!... )

"The fact that so many people feel the need to talk about "the problem with permaculture" is proof that what we are doing is, at the very least, interesting."

The basic underlying tenets of permaculture are also older and more time-tested than sports and porn.  One of the other members here had this quote as their tag-line from Gandhi: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."  If permaculture has already moved past the "ignore" and "laugh" phase, then it may be that it's also moving from "interesting" to "threatening".  Too many interesting ideas within permaculture for me to bother with the threatening part, and interesting holds my attention enough.
 
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I got no idea what fake cheese is, my logical mind can't understand metaphors, and from what I got from the latest post is anyone that wants to practice permaculture should move away from society start a new life.

In ref to the "Permaculture Tree" National Renewable Research Lab" (NREL) here in the US, and ORNL Orlando's Lab, as part of a green eco clean up the environmental movement, legal non-profit entities one could call "corporate" not that it matters, takes full credit for it. Passive House Institute out of Germany (PHPP) now being practiced as PHIUS with a certification program and courses, a green proven building technique with two decades of data from Germany to lower the carbon foot print from energy consumption from building's, yes they are incorporated so what. Two movements making large strides to lower carbon foot priint, global warming, etc....Combined have accomplished that you can see the large impact on the NASA satellite. Yes, there is more work to be done but, who can argue with their success or take credit for it? I'm no guru in agriculture still learning, from the article above the US DOA and other experts are developing " Organic Agriculture" , Permaiculture claims not to be nor endorse?, yes another corporate entity.

I guess I fail to see the harm done here. I'm using alot of tools these sites have developed some on their own dime to make an impact, an extremely large one at that. The US Depart of energy provides an easy to use building optimization software tool(BEOPT), very comprehensive and accurate, anyone can use to design their home to take load off carbon producing utility and get off grids.

I won't go into water and sewer, the green and eco movements have made great strides there too.

I think Permaculture will be better defined when it puts it's name behind the tools of the trade or similar type of movements that have global impact. In the meantime, I doubt anyone is threatened by it.
 
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Tyler Ludens
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Terry Ruth wrote: what I got from the latest post is anyone that wants to practice permaculture should move away from society start a new life.



I don't see that anywhere.  Where did that come from?

 
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Terry

Good thoughts about building and zoning. Your up front capitol figure looks way low to me, unless you just meant cash down for initial phase loans.

On about permaculture, I sense, I think, a language problem rearing it's head here because most Permaculture words refer directly or by implication to farming or raw land situations. However, there _should_ be a permaculture frame for urban planning and development. The urban applications (and vocabulary) deriving from basic permaculture principles have not become fleshed out or common enough to speak about easily. Ie. we may not have enough fully urban (and/or commercial and institutional) examples defined and described in a permaculture terminology to provide a vocabulary and tool box of basic urban tactics. That's still a work in progress.


Rufus
 
Rufus Laggren
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John

The basic underlying tenets of permaculture are also older and more time-tested than sports and porn.



Disagree. People rape and pillage and call that good and natural as long as they can. Ie. as long as the cheap resources (and victims) hold up. That's what history looks like to me - I grab it all as fast as I can and hold onto it. It's only when (cheap, available) resources whither away that people have to (and do) come up w/some sort of behavioral regulation, rationalization and justification - like Permaculture. It's not until people get pinched by necessity that they change to survive. Then they change, accompanied by all the various social phyche helpers like theories, religious push/pull, morality, clan and national identity, etc.etc.

Until there is no choice, people don't change. Nobody willingly takes the hard difficult path until survival dictates. Another way of saying it which we see all the time in the political news - nothing changes until people die, and maybe not then. The hunter/gatherer version, say like American Indians, would be kill of the game until times become skinny or until you can't stand the stink of your own refuse pile and then move on. A person's mind (identity) won't enlarge to encompass and include other people or things until the alternative is non-existance.

Maybe you can find "goodness" somewhere in people (and maybe there actually _is_ some) but you must incorporate the obvious facts, both historical and contemporary, about human behavior or your ideas will not get beyond wishful fiction. I doubt _very_ much that real "goodness" looks anything remotely like the Disney and Sunday School versions. Certainly the actual Bible doesn't look anything like the Sunday School versions.

What I'm saying is: Ain't simple and it depends. Permaculture, its concepts, appear to me to be a survival response created by people w/the luck and education and mind power to be able to think about what they see happening around them. They believe in their intellect enough and are concerned by their conclusions enough that they are impelled to work and create and try to find a way out of the problem.they see looming. And also their personal problems, of course. That's fine. Maybe they're like the little coral animals and permaculture is like coral? Maybe that's not a good analogy.They're more aware than coral. More llike an oyster who has a grans of sand problem - so it creates a pearl. But the pearl won't ever exist w/out the grain of sand and just so, permaculture doesn't exist w/out serious and frightening environmental problems. I don't see it coming before porn or sports. <g>


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Terry

Maybe Paul has more in mind "big, centralized, insitutionalized vested interests". The "corporate" moniker is something of a convenience word for that type of thing.


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@Rufus L. "But the pearl won't ever exist w/out the grain of sand and just so, permaculture doesn't exist w/out serious and frightening environmental problems. I don't see it coming before porn or sports."

Yes, having been raised and educated in the Western-civ trappings of the US, I understand this viewpoint.  The  construct in which you "doubt _very_ much that real "goodness" looks anything remotely like the Disney and Sunday School versions. Certainly the actual Bible doesn't look anything like the Sunday School versions" are noteworthy as they reflect the values and 'history' of the "civilized" world, be it Eastern, Western, or what have you.  

As alluded to much in this and other recent threads, permaculture appears to have some pretty clear definition to it as outlined by the founders and truthfully I have no idea whether they see their efforts to be "a survival response created by people w/the luck and education and mind power to be able to think about what they see happening around them. "  But as a sentiment, I would offer that permaculture might be summed up with the phrase "Actions have Consequences" wedded to "Practice random acts of Kindness".  That our culture, along with many, has a history wherein at various times "People rape and pillage and call that good and natural as long as they can" does not mean every culture/society/tribe engaged in such behavior.  And there is evidence (adhering weakly to the fact that this is a 'science and research' sub-forum?) from diaries, journals, and direct testimony, that some of these lower-impact cultures were in no way cleaved to the dictum "Until there is no choice, people don't change" in living out their lives.  (That such cultures are dwindling in number is often simply testament to the virulence of what Daniel Quinn would call the "taker meme" of the juggernaut of civilization.)  It is for that reason that I feel the (IMHO, of course) tenets of permaculture, that of abiding sustainably *within* a giving and receiving world, are more fundamental than the notably exploitative and strictly competitive bases, respectively, for porn and sports, admittedly referring in the context of this thread to specialized athletics with all the payments and pageantry of the modern games.  While it may indeed come to pass that the modern human will only be "frightened" into doing what is "right", it has been noted that this approach has been tried for about the last 3000 - 4000+ years, with outcomes ranging from failed to disastrous.  I like the fact that permaculture appears to offer a different way.
 
Rufus Laggren
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@John

A bit OT here.

> [permaculture founders] see their efforts as survivalist...

Wouldn't think so, mostly; some perhaps. Being the "one who sees" is a pretty hard place to exist. When one perceives the SOP is leading the sheep over the cliff and actually moves to do something about it, one puts themself outside the norm. Certain peer, cultural and personal memes (presumptive guides to thinking and decisions making) which previously formed our world view and still do for the sheep (out brethren) don't apply to that person any more. Which means that person is not "one of us" anymore (because the herd, and we're all somewhat part of a herd) doesn't trust that which seems to imply it doesn't require the herd to exist, doesn't tow the old lines or is found to be effectively different in other ways.

It's a hard place to be, not just because of a lack of support and various hostilities, but because in order to pursue their vision in conflict with the norms around us in which they grew up they have to override their own traditional behavioral directives and negate the drag of nay-sayers. This requires what amounts, in practice and in the view of many people, to towering moral and intellectual arrogance. And, I think, in fact it really is just that. It means that it's hard for the leader to know who to trust and where to accept input and correction because they spend so much time and energy "pressing on regardless" ((P)ress(O)n(R)egardless was once a famous wild and dirty cross country auto race - I loved the name <g>). Comes w/the territory, an occupational hazard. A leaders advisors and fan club then become very influential, being a major channel for "outside input". When we decide to override large parts of our society and upbringing it makes for a weird personal environment, something of a balancing act, I think.

> rape and pillage...

Slightly more ON-Topic, I think that large parts, maybe almost all, of very bad mass behavior follows as collateral damage of crowd control. Individuals may behave somewhat sensibly, morally and generally "better" when able to bring some of their own decision making into play. However, group and crowd behavior is WAY different, follows totally different patterns. And people who want social power to actually _build_ something (vs. simple demolition) for whatever reason, good, bad, whatever, need crowds and masses which they can move their chosen way.  So we see a lot of crowd control such as incitement, seduction, fear mongering, mis-direction, censorship, scape-goating (creating an "other", an enemy)... And much more. Crowd control push/pull is like radio waves: In our developed world they blanket and penetrate our life-space through and through. We breath "influence", swim in it.

What this means is that any "movement" or morality or anything the tries to influence our group behavior deals PRIMARILY w/competing crowd control influences and not w/an individual's personal thoughts and beliefs. That is why so many of the cynical (or seemingly so) views of human behavior hold much more than just a kernel of truth. It's also why people say that behavior can't be changed - because most people fail and/or refuse to acknowledge the hugely powerful influences the actually control our group behavior - and by extension, their own person..

I don't know if Paul is right about the corporate trolls, exactly. But I'm totally sure he's effectively right about there being humungous societal forces that don't welcome changes brought about by a big meme change for how how  we relate to our environment. And I _have_ heard about "make money w/your PC from your own home" schemes where people are paid pennies to do this little thing or that little thing. Thoughtless things that any wasted late nighter can do when they fall out of bed in the morning before they bother to get the coffee; a "cool" way to get bucks for the night's pub crawl. Not a pretty thought, no matter who's paying. Petition buying is another example of that kind of thing. So yeah, something like that exists now, I'm just not sure what the targets are and what the ROI is.


Rufus
 
Rufus Laggren
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Re: Doing Permaculture

I want to bring up and bump and say that Terry's attempt to show how permaculture principles might apply to urban investment, planning and design could be pretty important for the survival, growth and wide acceptance of basic permaculture concepts. Defined abstractly they carry far less impact than as existing examples of their use. And URBAN examples show up way closer to home for most people in the developed world. Permaculture needs to be APPLIED in the big world. It will, of course, morph weirdly but that's what happens to any life - we build muscle and callus, get scars and wrinkles, start to limp and generally don't look like we did when fresh from the egg. But we leave a trail of what we did behind.

@Terry

I find your posts somewhat cryptic, the one about investment no less than others, and I'm not sure I particularly agree w/some of them. But there's a huge potential (urban) area that _could_ use permaculture references. But as I said above, we need to develop the language and applicable concepts that we might be able to fit into existing development mechanisms and set sosme precedents. Kinda like about 25 years ago people began bringing up "ecological impact study" issues with really big developments and now they are part of most public planning - anything over a few hundred thou where a permit has to be pulled or a planning review is required. Acceptance of at least some permaculture concepts as a part of the SOP planning process, and labeled as such, would be huge. Again, I'm absolutely sure that most of the existing permies culture would/will be grossly offended by the perceived (and likely actual) mis-used of their concepts and name. But to go main stream we must accept the input of the rest of the world and get our hands dirty w/more than just soil.

Look at what Paul has done in the past two years.  Has it worked out just like first imagined? Bets anybody? <g> But now he has permaculture as a center of life for himself and many others which probably wouldn't have happened w/out his "get going and work w/what comes". So yeah, putting permaculture into the "real" world is going to produce some weird and sometimes unwanted hybrids. But that looks like the right and proper thing - push it out there and work w/what evolves. Purity is like the straight line - not found in nature.

Rufus
 
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As someone who has made many of the specific criticisms outlined at the top, I thought I ought to throw in a few comments. I think that addressing all of them one by one is probably going to take more time than I have to do the job properly, but a few things occur to me.

I'm not sure I want to dismiss all the criticisms mentioned of permaculture as a perception problem. Some of it may be, and some of it may be a deliberate attempt to undermine permaculture, but I also think it's an opportunity to improve practices: I think there is more than a grain of truth in many of the criticisms made at the top. I propose that unless we address these questions in a way that is satisfactory in a cultural sense the broader adoption of permaculture or compatible outlooks will be inhibited.

Agroecology (some authors consider permaculture to be a branch of agroecology, but this is a matter I'm undecided on, because I think the situation is nuanced: Stephen Gliessman argues that the strength of permaculture derives from its philosophy, while that of agroecology derives from its emphasis on the study of ecology, but does not regard one as a subset of another: other authors disagree, for valid reasons) does not suffer from many of the same criticisms. Agroecology has many of the same objectives, and practitioners use many of the same practices. The science of agroecology is defined as “the application of ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable food systems.” Permaculture, meanwhile, is about the design of sustainable food systems. It's up to practitioners to maintain them. I've tried to identify the main practical differences between permaculture and agroecology, and these seem to be as follows:

1) Agroecology is centred in the Global South (predominantly, but decreasingly so, South America) while permaculture is centred in the Global North. In many cases simplicity in the former communities is the cultural default, not a lifestyle choice or something to be aspired towards, for whatever reasons.
2) Agroecology has a different relationship between practitioners and research and education. In agroecology practitioners are trying to make a living, while this is not always the case with permaculture, where practitioners often have a secondary income. Education is centred round institutions such as Via Campesina, while in permaculture it's centred around expensive books, free resources such as this, and a few often highly paid consultants. Rare exceptions tend to be highly localised. The roles of, for example, Via Campesina or the Permaculture Association have no direct equivalent in the other camp.
3) Agroecology by definition seeks out and embraces empirical, especially but not exclusively from the science of ecology, as well as experiential forms of knowledge. In permaculture empiricism is restricted to a minority, while discussion of its philosophies is often emphasised.

Via Campesina (which has socio-economic issues driving it rather than considerations about agronomy) alone is probably more of a threat to the establishment than is permaculture as a whole, but it's permaculture that seems more open to criticism. My own objective in making some of these criticisms is to encourage people to address them, and indeed to show where I'm trying to address some of them, and indeed to take positive aspects of both in order to address their weaknesses. I've been shocked and demoralised by the backlash.

The latter two factors are key to the main reasons why my own thinking (and learning and, once I can overcome the barriers that keep being thrown up in my way, practice) is increasingly influenced more by agroecology than permaculture. Stephen Gliessman, one of the leading teachers in agroecology, regards the two as “highly complementary”. I concur.

Readers of my previous posts will be aware that I think that a partial solution to many of permaculture's perceived or real issues lies with a greater emphasis on empiricism. We make claims about, for example, overyielding, but few of us are conducting the relevant measurements (even, as far as I know, people like Martin Crawford – a person for whom I have immense respect) and, I suspect, even fewer of us know there is an equation (a relatively simple one) to allow a practitioner to calculate it. The same may well apply to claims of sustainability: in many cases I'm far from convinced these claims would stand up to scrutiny.

I'm not sure about the extent to which we might gain from the foundation of relevant institutions, or the extension of the remit of existing ones such as the Permaculture Association: I suspect for practical reasons that to do so would require the greater embrace of empiricism first.

I admit to not knowing why there seems to be a resistance to empirical measurement, even of yield. My suspicion is that it may be grounded in a fear that it will demonstrate that the claims will not be supported by evidence – and I suspect this may turn out to be the case. Equally, I suspect the only way we're going to be able to address such a question will be to actually start making those measurements and working out where we might improve. I do not think those improvements will come until we openly discuss, face and address the issues. I do not think that responding with “sigh” to some of these matters is particularly helpful.

There are specific issues surrounding yields of bulk grain and legume crops. It is possible to grow some such crops in temperate areas, but not at the same yields per hectare as mainstream grains and pulses. Much existing evidence is based on a few case studies

Perhaps it might be useful to take the work of people like Mollison as a constructive starting point, but one that is only a starting point, and one that is looking increasingly dated, rather than as something set in stone. Agroecology, as a science, did not exist when Mollison was writing, and many of his ideas, while mainstream at the time, have been found to be more nuanced since. Mollison borrowed heavily from Odum, for example and, while much of Odum's work (on energy flows, for example) has stood up fairly well to scrutiny, many other parts of it have now been superseded. Gaianism has come and gone, while many of us are still stuck in it. The Principle of Competitive Exclusion (key to the notion that species can be made to directly replace another in a niche) has proved to be incredibly complicated in the field (leading to some, ahem, heated discussions in the rewilding community).

Mollison was way ahead of his time, but that time was nearly thirty years ago.
 
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Hi Neil,

I admit to not knowing why there seems to be a resistance to empirical measurement, even of yield. My suspicion is that it may be grounded in a fear that it will demonstrate that the claims will not be supported by evidence – and I suspect this may turn out to be the case. Equally, I suspect the only way we're going to be able to address such a question will be to actually start making those measurements and working out where we might improve. I do not think those improvements will come until we openly discuss, face and address the issues. I do not think that responding with “sigh” to some of these matters is particularly helpful.



I don't totally disagree with you on the points you make. For me, and I think maybe more people, it's a matter of what you can practically document and measure. I don't mind for example measuring yield differences after making changes to the land. My problem with trying it however is that I honestly don't exactly know what I would be measuring. Every year the weather is a little different. Every year we see some different insects, or we see fluctuations in their numbers. I cannot even see what happens in the ground, what are the fungi doing, the bacteria, the nematodes?

Now say I want to measure the effect of a different way of composting. So I set up an experiment, nicely divided in 4 plots, document the different appliances of compost to three of them and one control plot to which I won't apply it. The first year I get an unexpected result. So I repeat it and the next year the result is opposite. I give this hypothetical example because that is what we see all the time. What we do on one place works, and we try it again on another spot and it totally fails, except that we constantly discover that something else is successful on such a spot.

I think the 'work with nature instead of against it' is an enormous help to practice permaculture, but it will take a lot of experiments with many variables to prove any of it. How can I convince even myself if I'm unable to control all these other variables? So although research and measuring can be of great help, you'd need a controlled laboratory to be able to make any real claim on a valid outcome of an experiment. Most people are simply not able to do that.

To then claim that this is a problem with permaculture may be valid from an empirical scientific point of view, but in my practical setting, the things I have no choice but to try to work with, it isn't helpful. What IS helpful to me is that I get better results with applying permaculture than I get without it. Without it I'd be forced to look for chemical help, to drill wells and deplete groundwater, etc.

What I hope to explain is that 'in the field' you deal with another reality than 'in the lab'. I don't think Mollison was thinking about the lab when he wrote the permaculture manual. I think that if we don't make at least this distinction we'll forever talk past each other instead of with each other.

A final point. I really think it's great Neil that you try to bring more science into permaculture. But please see it as an addition, that can be done by scientists, to help validate the claim that 'nature' works. Because isn't that what it boils down to in the end? I always like to say to people who express doubt on how we work here: did you ever see a wild forest? Can you tell me how it is able to function without human interference or maintenance? Most people then realize what our work is based on, natural processes. They validate themselves.
 
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My experiences are similar to Rene's.  I am trying to feed my family well with my food forest.  I am not trying to prove for all of civilization that my method works the best. I am much more willing to share observations and small experiments with other gardeners/orchardists/permaculturalists than tabulate something for the government or some publication.  If I have extra time, I'd rather go skateboarding with my kids than tabulate data. I'm happy to share ideas, write articles, and I'm a moderator on another site other than this one, but I don't want more work for free. I've already got a lot of that.
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Terry Ruth
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By Neil:

Permaculture, meanwhile, is about the design of sustainable food systems.



This has been one heck of turning twisting thread to define permaculture. If this above is fact, lets call it modern fact, I'd like to see factual evidence of it since it conflicts with this tree below and the layout of this site that does not just focus on the design of sustainable food systems.

Perhaps you Neil will post a design you have recently been involved in as an example? In my design world there is plenty of fact based data, no long winded confusing words nor opinions. Or anyone else please post an example of a current or recent comprehensive permacuture design of yours as denoted on this tree below and categorized on this site as sub forums in part or whole? I posted one in part in San Diego, CA and there are others already breaking ground in urban areas. The last thing we need is opinions that do not understand the laws of the land. There is nobody that can help anyone develop permacuture in urban areas unless you engage in direct communications with the jurisdictions having authority. If you have the experience doing this please post your project? Mine is under development in KS of the US. I am talking to the planning department about their 2035 visions most state require cities to have by law, issues, funding, infrastructure maintenance and development, etc, promoting my plat layout and zoning suggestions to boost the ecomomy, use of renewable energy, use and code adoption of earth construction, on site food production, eco water and sewer systems, that put less load on utility, CO2 omission, global warming, environmental impact. Is that not "permaculture" at least in part? I'll have a required licensed civil engineered plat layout soon once I figure out where the city or suburb will allow what I have in mind. After that I have all kinds of design tools such as WUFI, BEOPT, SAM, KS DOA, with those lab and field results in it from large test and design developments from big industry. It won't take me alot of design time, and it will be accurate and sustain. Alot of these tools require experience and trained eye(s) to interpret data, there is no room for opinion or to "disagree with".  

Yes, one can try this without the design tools the pros use, not that they are always right but, they are far better than most can guess. Just like renewable energy, you can set those solar panels on a 7/12 roof pitch and hope for the best or, you leave it to the pros that use SAM from NREAL or BEOPT free from the Department of Energy, to determine the optimum angle and orientation for high output based on local climate tower inputs, or, you build that earth building without WUFI and hope that is does not over heat or produce mold the Germans have captured decades worth of empirical data back calibrated by field data in the software now available in the US for the way we build, or Finite Element Software with decades of proven Structures Design accuracy over guess work that may not sustain, injure, kill . What makes this software in error is the wrong user, trash in trash out, bad inputs and misinterpreting data. My Chief Architect software has plant and food data based on web based soil data developed by the DOA and climate files, if I need a sanity check I see the local DOA or organic pro. I don't think for what I'm doing there is much food growth opportunity or I'll ever get a city to zone multi-use urban Ag - residential. If you read any urban zoning code you'll understand why they like to keep big food growth, livestock, and high density residential separate.
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Neil Layton
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I've realised that there probably are a lot of people who stopped studying science at the age of 14 or 16, and then have been on the receiving end of corporate distortions of science.

That's going to be enough to give anyone an inadequate to bad impression.

The science of ecology, just for a start, is fundamentally antireductionist. Reductionism just doesn't work in ecology: there are too many closely interacting variables. Tweaking one is liable to cause a cascade through a system. One of the jobs of the agroecologist is understanding those cascades as they apply to food systems.

This presents me with a problem: how to give enough detail to overcome the misconceptions embodied in several posts above and elsewhere without being totally patronising.

I will reiterate: those practicing closely related agroecological approaches (who are also focused on feeding themselves and their families) have learned much and improved yields through partnering with the scientific community. Meanwhile the breeding of new plant strains and landraces can be accelerated through even a basic understanding of genetics. These are examples. There are more, but I have other things to do.

Yes, there are things that practitioners as individuals can do, but I think we'll achieve a lot more through active partnership with professional scientists, plenty of whom will be more than enthusiastic to work to push the envelope to develop more sustainable food systems.

I'm sorry, but I do not have the time or energy for people hating on the idea, and throwing up red herrings and straw man arguments, when I'm trying to be constructive.

If anyone has some pointers that might enable me to explain what I'm trying to get across to those who stopped studying any form of science at 14 or 16 without coming across as patronising, that would be much appreciated, but that might be better in a PM.

This brings me to Terry Ruth's comment. I was not seeking to provide a definition: that matter has been tackled elsewhere. Permaculture is, obviously, about other things too. I am concerned with the sustainable food system aspect of it. With that said, as Stephen Gliessman explains in a book I'm just about finished (review in the next few hours, I hope):

Sustainability becomes a complex set of conditions that are less dependent on the individual ecological or social components themselves than they are on the emergent qualities that come from their interaction.



There are many components to sustainability, so I don't see any contradiction.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Terry, here's a thread with links to information about permaculture design:  http://www.permies.com/t/55751/permaculture-design/Permaculture-design-basics

For the most information about permaculture design, there's Bill Mollison's book about it, Permaculture a Designers Manual.
 
Terry Ruth
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Terry, here's a thread with links to information about permaculture design:  http://www.permies.com/t/55751/permaculture-design/Permaculture-design-basics

For the most information about permaculture design, there's Bill Mollison's book about it, Permaculture a Designers Manual.



Ok, thanks, I'll look it over when I have some time.
 
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