Lina Joana wrote:I listened to this set awhile ago, and have been mulling it over ever since, partially because I was frustrated while listening without quite knowing why. I think I've put my finger on it.
This is supposed to be a permaculture way of building community. Where is the permaculture?
A permaculture system is one where you have set up the system so that the elements in the system thrive and are happy, while producing what they need and making a surplus with minimum input from the permaculturalist. All parts of the system get more than they give. It is the ultimate win/win situation.
The impression I got from this and the previous three podcasts was that a significant number of the "elements" - the ants - had left because they were not happy, not thriving, and felt like they had put in more than they got out - years of work, run through their savings, and had nothing to show. For his part, Paul has often mentioned that Ant Village runs in the red, and certainly doesn't seem to feel like he has gotten back more than he has given. So it was the ultimate lose/lose situation - the opposite of what permaculture is going for!
What I was hoping for at the end of the series, and was frustrated not to see happening, was a permaculture analysis of the things that went wrong, and how the system could be designed to head off problems in the future. It is easy to say that 47 is just a jerk and an icky person - but when someone has been around and gotten along for several years, does not sound like someone who is inherently a trouble maker. Most humans, under certain situations, can turn icky. Just like, in an improperly designed permaculture system, the cows will eat the apple trees, poison ivy will overrun everything, and the hugel bed will get washed down the hill and cause lots of damage. The challenge of the designer is how to minimize the problems and bring out the best in people.
Just from listening to the podcast (have not tracked down 47's material), a couple of things occurred to me:
Complaint: The lock was always stuck, making some ant villagers feel like they were trapped. Paul didn't even know it was happening and Fred can't be everywhere.
Root Problem: The villagers had fallen into the mindset of renters: if there is a problem with the common facilities, let the manager know. Feel cheated because the manager is slow and the facilities are terrible.
Possible solution: Build an outdoor bulletin board (like they have in parks) in some common space at the village. Have paper and pens. Encourage people to write, sign and post problems they have come across, along with the fix they have devised. So there would be a piece of paper saying Problem: the lock sticks. Fix: oil it with the oil can in the cubby by the gate. if the can is empty, go to the hardware store and buy a new on for $x The idea here is to both give people the idea (without lectures) that they are the ones who can and should solve problems, while giving them a tool to do so and troubleshoot.
Complaint: The ants wanted to be allowed to commute to work in Missoula to earn money. Paul does not want a commuter community and said no. He thought there were ways they could have earned money at the lab if they were just willing to work for it, so it was their fault, and there was no reason he should compromise.
Root problem: Homesteading on raw land costs money, even when you have access to tools and equipment. Ants need to buy food and supplies, and even if they came with savings, they faced the pressure of those savings running out, not earning more, and the uncertainty about future rents/expenses with no income.
Possible solutions: Require every ant to have a passive income before they live full time on the lab. Maybe it doesn't have to be much - $50 a month? $100? Set some number that will cover their basic expenses. If someone doesn't have that and really wants to get started, maybe do a starter package where they can live in town, live according to ERE principles, and save their pennies while they come and start building on the weekends. The goal is to avoid the situation where someone comes with a savings account and then burns through it without getting their acre to where it needs to be. Then they are stuck, forced to leave what they have built, and will feel cheated, etc.
There are probably many possible solutions, especially to someone who knows more of the situation. The beauty of the dictatorship is that Paul can choose the ones he likes best. But it is frustrating to me to hear the complains without any discussion of the real problems underlying them, and how to solve those.
Ok, break is over - gotta plant beets!