Permaculture is a revolutionary idea. It can literally change the world and make it a better place. I firmly believe this to be true, and I know many others do as well. The world is embracing Permaculture faster now than it ever has in the past, but it is still not “mainstream” yet. Why is this?
The primary reason is time. Things are happening. Things are moving. But it takes time for a shift to occur, especially one that is so fundamental and so far reaching.
But there is more to it than that. There is another factor holding Permaculture back. That factor is us. Well, not really me, and probably not you… but maybe it is you. I have identified a few reasons that Permaculture is not as popular or widespread as it should be. I know there are other reasons, but this is a good place to start the conversation.
Reason 1: The “All or Nothing” Attitude
This attitude is common in what I call the militant eco-environmentalist. They are the ones who expect everyone to be doing everything possible to “save the planet!” They want everyone to do exactly what the they say. They expect everyone to have the same passion as they do. If not, they get angry. They may call people names or be confrontational. More often then not, they leave passive-aggressive statements about other people on Facebook.
There are many “all or nothing” people in the Permaculture world. Many of these are not quite the militant eco-environmentalists. But they still get confrontational with other people. They still have a righteous indignation for others who are not wholy commited to all things Permaculture. They still rub people the wrong way. And this turns people away from Permaculture.
Most “all or nothing” people are missing a key fact: people have to change at their own pace. We are just beginning to see the first generation of adults who had Permaculturists as parents. The vast majority of the world did not grow up with a Permaculture mindset. They need to wake up to it. They need to learn about it. They need to take it a step at a time. The “all or nothing” people forgot that they, themselves, had to walk their own path toward understanding. They didn’t arrive where they are now in one day. They certainly did not arrive where they are now because a bully berated them for driving the “wrong” car or eating the “wrong” food or growing the “wrong” plant.
We need to encourage the small actions of people just beginning to understand Permaculture. We need to be excited about their first steps. We need to stay positive and upbeat. We need to stop the beat downs. If people are making a step in the right direction, then ecourage them and then get out of the way.
Reason 2: “Profit is Bad” Ideology
This goes back to a theme I wrote about previously in my article, “The Third Ethic… it’s time to identify the mutation.” There are too many people who have bought into the idea that Permaculture is a form of Communism or Socialism. It is not. It is a design science. This design science impacts how we live, of course, but it does not tell a person that they must live a life of poverty or participate in communal living to be a Permaculturist. If you have any concerns or questions about this concept, please read the article referenced above.
Reason 3: Permaculture is Mistaken for a Religion
This is another point I have written about in another article, “Identify the Mutation (Part 2).” Well over a decade ago, I stumbled across Permaculture. I can barely remember the context, but I do know that the person presenting it was pushing it as more of a goddess Earth-worshipping experience. It was another 2-3 years before I ever realized it was a design science, and not a cult! We need to get back to the real roots of Permaculture. Get back to the original 72-hour Permaculture Design Course that was created by Bill Mollison. Again, if you are interested or have further questions, please read my article.
Reason 4: Cranky Curmudgeon “Teachers”
I have been in some sort of schooling or professional, full-time training, off and on, for over 25 years of my life. I have come across some amazing teachers. I have also come across some really bad teachers. These (typically) old teachers may have been famous for writing a paper or very skilled at performing a surgery, but many of them were just plain mean. All their students or co-workers would make excuses. They would praise the famous person’s accomplishments, but then whisper, “just be careful what you say,” or “don’t talk to him unless he ask you a question,” or “he’s usually in a pretty bad mood.” These people may be geniuses, but they have no place as teachers.
The world of Permaculture is not immune to the cranky curmudgeons, as I like to call them. I am not going to name names or point fingers. That is not what this article is about. But they do exist, and their followers have their excuses as well. “He’s just tired of people asking the same basic questions,” or “he’s really smart, but you just have to look past his personality.” To me, their fate should be the same… they should get out of teaching.
Now, I understand if a Permaculturist is a very good designer but doesn’t have great people skills. If this is the case, then that Permaculturist needs a few interns. The interns can learn from the “master”. They can be informed, beforehand, what they are getting into and decide to take the abuse or not. Then those interns should go out and teach if they are good teachers themselves. I have heard and read about people discussing their experiences with one “world-famous Permaculturist” or another who also happened to be a cranky curmdgeon. The students had no idea of the arrogance, the temper, the short-fuse, or the mean personality of the teacher. These students go in blind and get whacked by someone they were hoping to learn from. Often, these students paid a lot of money and travelled quite a distance for this education, and they are let down, humiliated, frustrated, feel ripped-off, taken advatage of, and decide to leave Permaculture all together. How is this good for Permaculture?
The truth is that you need to have good people skills to be an effective teacher. If you do not, then please get out of teaching. If you know you don’t have good people skills, consider getting interns who will take your message to the masses. But warn them ahead of time. Also, if you are organizing an event and are bringing in a teacher who has a reputation of being a cranky curmudgeon, then let the students know. Maybe have certain prerequsites for students if the teacher doesn’t want to be bothered with “basic” questions. The bottom line is that if we are not protecting our students, we will end up with no students. That is not going to help change the world.
Reason 5: The “Enlightened” Permaculturist
Reason 5 is very similar to Reason 4 and Reason 1 above, but I wanted to address it separately.
I like to describe, with utter sarcasm, the “enlightened” Permaculturist as a person who is vastly more intelligent than the average human, and who understands Permaculture so much more than all the simple-minded common folk around them. They have a very large vocabulary, so they have the ability to talk in confusing circles around anyone who disagrees with them. In reality, the “enlightened” Permaculturist really is pretty smart. They often do understand Permaculture really well. They may even be a very good designer. But their mission in life, so it seems, is to make everyone around them aware of their superior intellect. They often become very esoteric and scoff at the simple-mided common folk who think Permaculture is about growing food. They look down their noses at the practical person trying to build their own home. To these elitists, this activity is below them. To these “enlightened” Permaculturists, this activity is not worthy of them. They would rather sit around and talk about the problem then actually do something about it. They would rather form organizations whose goal, it seems, is to sit around and talk about the problem. These “enlightened” Permaculturists teach, a lot, but their list of actual, hands on accomplishments is pretty low, or it is really outdated… they may have done a lot of stuff in the past, but they haven’t done much of anything in many years other than tell other people how they should live their lives.
Please avoid these people. Don’t give them a soapbox or a podium. Permaculture is about growing your own food. Permaculture is about building your own house. Permaculture is about a lot more than just this, but it most certainly does include these things. Don’t let some person, who only enjoys the sound of their own voice, lead you away from the basics that really do matter.
Okay, there you have it. I’ll get off my soapbox now. Have a great Permaculture day!
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