I'll try to keep this short and sweet. Fair Share matters because it forces people to break away from their "ME!" centered worldview, where one takes purely for their own monetary profit. It is a stretch, but big ag companies can say that they are caring for the land (by growing more crops per acre, saving the amount of farmland needed) and caring for people (by providing butt loads of cheap food), but what they can't claim is fair share. These companies use resources and pollute in a way that is not fair to the earth or people (especially future generations). The 3 ethics represent a system and I don't think they can stand alone - there is considerable overlap (for example - by taking my fair share of resources I am caring for the earth and people)
I think that some of the people who don't like the ethics are afraid that they lead to moral superiority on the part of those championing them. While some people may have experienced this I don't think that this experience discounts the system of ethics. One does have to satisfy their own needs before they are able to consider the needs of others. The permaculture ethics encourage sharing the surplus and realizing that more for you is in fact more for me - if you are healthy and happy then I also benefit.
Do we really need to name specific types/flavors of permaculture? It seems as if it manifests itself differently depending a million different variables - location, culture, resources, climate, capacity of the individual, personality to name a few. It is our western tendency to break things down into ever smaller variables in order to define and describe them - is this really necessary? I think by compartmentalizing it we further constrict its potential uses (some of which we many not even be aware) and open it up to being co-opted or used for damaging purposes. It always looks different and takes on many different forms depending on the situation, always leaving room for innovation (which is what makes it so dang exciting). I think we all agree that it is way more than just growing organic veggies. It is a way of seeing the word and once you start to "gets it" the world looks different through your new "permie goggles". After all, its just a name - did Fukuoka or Holtzer think they were doing permaculture? Who knows what realms it will spill over into. Hopefully, in the future we'll all look around our communities and say "look what permaculture did, I had no idea!"
I think Geoff made a good point that through taking a PDC students should be "terminally infected" with permaculture - that being the main objective of a PDC - forever thereafter seeing the world through a permaculture lens. Maybe specific information is not as important as learning how to be a permaculturalist. Even though students may be seeking (and getting) location specific solutions through a PDC they are also (hopefully) going through a deeply meaningful paradigm shift and learning how to solve problems with a new system of thinking. Perhaps the old saying "give a person a fish (location specific solution) and they'll be ok today, but teach a person to fish (permaculture infection) and they'll be able to feed themselves (anywhere on earth) forever" is apt here. Maybe that isn't the best analogy, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that, to me, the real essence of permaculture is not the solutions themselves but the process of getting to those solutions.
This guy makes a great argument based on his assumptions, but I agree that this article is completely unenlightened because he makes so many assumptions that, in my opinion, are simply not accurate. He assumes that local farmers operate in the same way as large scale agriculturalists. While this may be true in some cases it is really not true most of the time. Also, assuming that local food will be more expensive is simply not true - take away subsidies and things get much more even. His article mentions none of the incredible benefits that come from "wasting" money in local food systems - most notably ensuring the resilience of local food systems and supporting a local economy. It's easy to discount this article based on the fundamental flaws in the authors ASSumptions, its too bad this isn't obvious to the author or others at Freakonomics.
I recently listened to an interview with Dave Jacke (One of the co-authors of the amazing two volume series Edible Forest Gardens) and Cliff Davis (Director of Spiral Ridge Permaculture Gardens) via the C-realm podcast (Episode number 278: Functional Interconnections available at http://c-realmpodcast.podomatic.com/ if you care to check it out - I'd highly recommend it). Dave and Cliff offer permaculture courses at the Farm in Tennessee and during the interview they discussed, among many other very interesting topics, the purpose/utility of a PDC. Specifically, they called into question the information dense nature of most PDC courses and suggested that it might be more beneficial to future designers to learn how design concepts relate to their specific locale. In addition, they emphasized the importance of the PDC as being more of a paradigm shifting exercise which breaks down pre-conceived notions and opens one up to new methods of seeing the world (these are not their exact words, but I feel that it is the gist of their argument). As a result the course would be less information dense and they argue that this would be acceptable because of the nature of the information age we now find ourselves in.
I know that most PDCs are not location specific and tend to be very information dense so what these guys are suggesting seems to be somewhat different than what is normally offered. Any thoughts/opinions on this approach? I do think that it would take a really good teacher to facilitate this approach so many PDC teachers might not have the ability to do this. Also, I don't think this is an either/or question but it would be nice to know others peoples opinions (especially Geoff) on what a PDC should be - which would you prefer? I have yet to take a course and I am hoping that Dave and Cliff will still be offering courses down the road as I will be living in the area and am really keen on their approach. For people like myself, who have read a lot of the literature, the kind of course they are suggesting might be more beneficial.
I should note that although I have yet to take a PDC I have watched the PDC DVD series available from tagari.com. While it is information dense it is not 100% information. The most valuable thing I got from the course were the stories and real world examples that were not part of the Big Black Book. Some reviewers have criticized the series because Bill tends to go on long winded tangents, but I think that many of the stories he tells help the students to do exactly what Dave and Cliff are aiming to do.