My previous article, What is Holding Permaculture Back?, evoked a greater number of responses, both positive and negative, than I expected. My goal was to get people thinking and start a conversation. It appears I succeeded! After reading through all the comments on this site, comments on Facebook, and email responses to this article, I want to expand and clarify a few things.
1. Permaculture is growing at a tremendous rate. I am excited about this, but I want more expansion! I literally want Permaculture taught around the world. I want it taught in elementary and high schools. I want it utilized in businesses and governments. I want it in the agricultural fields of developing countries, and I want it in board rooms on Wall Street. Yes, Permaculture is making huge strides, but it is no where near where it needs to be yet.
2. Permaculture is expanding at the rate it needs to. The acceptance of Permaculture will take time. If it is rushed along too fast, it will either be adopted for the wrong reasons or implemented in a way that is not really Permaculture. I understand this, so I must balance my desire for expansion with reality.
3. Permaculture is more than food. Any person who studies Permaculture for very long soon realizes that Permaculture is about a whole lot more than just growing food. It is a design science. The starting point for most people is growing food, and this is vital. If that was all it was, Permaculture would be a worthwhile pursuit. However, the principles of Permaculture can go into all fields of study, but it doesn’t need to. If you or anyone wants to limit their Permaculture experience to food production, that is great. Don’t let someone discourage this.
4. The vast majority of people involved in Permaculture are great individuals. If anyone thought the negative “types” of people in my article was directed toward the greater Permaculture movement, then they are gravely mistaken. I was also not referring to any one particular person. My previous article described a few types of individuals:
- the person with an “all or nothing” attitude
- the person with a “profit is bad” ideology
- the person who wants Permaculture to be a religion
- the cranky, curmudgeon Permaculture teacher and/or leader
- the “enlightened” Permaculturist who just wants to promote themselves
These types of people have the ability to hold Permaculture back, but please, let me be clear. They are not going to stop the global tidal wave of Permaculture. However, they can, as many people have shared, interfere with an individual’s experience. They have the ability to turn a person away from Permaculture one at a time. This is sad. This is what needs to be prevented. And we can help.
5. As a community of Permaculturists, we need to be careful who we recommend. When we recommend a specific Permaculture Design Course, we should make sure to read through the syllabus and check to see the instructors are indeed teaching the 72-hour course as outlined by Bill Mollison. When we recommend a Permaculture farm or a Permaculture video, please consider what this will look like to a person new to Permaculture. Recently, I came across an interesting video about Permaculture. It had some great information and content in it. I was excited, and was planning on recommending this video on my site or Facebook. But then, almost at the end, the video shows a group of people mixing mud for a cob building. There were a number of the people in the video missing key pieces of clothing! Look, I am a physician. I am not phased much by nudity. But what kind of message are we sending with this video… “Learn Permaculture with us, and you’ll be invited to dance naked while we smear mud on your body.” Really? That message will not convince much of the world to learn more about Permaculture.
6. Research. Yes, we need more research. Good research will provide validity to the rest of the world, especially those on the fence and those in government. But good research costs money. This money comes from governments, universities, and the private sector, to name the most common sources. Occasionally, it comes from a person who really loves research and will do it whether they are paid or not. But this is not common. Trying to secure funding for Permaculture research is not a simple process. It has been done, but not much. I think it is possible to do more, but it will likely have to start with someone within the system (e.g. a university professor, a government researcher, etc.). So, yes, we need more research, but it is not going to happen very soon, and not to the level many people want.
We need to keep in mind that research is not the only route to validity for the world. It cannot be our holy grail for acceptance. We can prove Permaculture is valid through results. If the Permaculture farms and businesses and communities explain that their successes are based on design, not luck, then other farms and businesses and communities will want to know more. Governments will want to know more… and they do now! There are no peer-reviewed Permaculture journals, yet a number of governments around the world are seeking Permaculture designers and are implementing Permaculture designs. So again, research studies would be great, but they are not vital. I think the reason for large scale implementation of Permaculture will be the results on the ground.
7. We cannot expect everything for free! Between blogs, social media, online videos, and all the amazing advances of the information age we have access to a wealth of knowledge that we could have only hoped for 20 years ago. In addition, a tenant of modern marketing is to give away a lot of information for free in order to build credibility and loyalty. I love this concept, and fortunately we see a lot of that in the Permaculture world. But it takes time and money to make a video or write a book, especially if it is done well. The people who are actually doing Permaculture, instead of sitting around writing about it (like me way too much of the time… but not much longer! I’m getting tired of being a theorist!), are very busy doing Permaculture. It is a big deal to get them to sit down and write or talk about what they are doing. We should be extremely grateful for the experienced practitioners who are writing about it and sharing videos. But we should not have some sort of righteous indignation about their knowledge, as if we had any rights to it. They owe us nothing. If they decide to give it away, that is great. If they decide to write it in a book and sell it, that is great. If they decide to speak at a conference that costs money to attend, that is great. If they decide to make videos and sell access to them online, that is great.
8. Ultimately, individual experiences will vary. I received comments from people who were thankful I wrote this article. They were put off, sometimes for years, from their first Permaculture experience due to the reasons I wrote about in my previous article. I am so glad they were able to see past the trees for the forest! I also received comments from people who had wonderful experiences from the start. I also had a few comments from angry individuals who thought I was being judgemental. Well, I was. I have no tolerance for people who are going to ruin a great thing. I am not mad at them, but I also have no room for them. In the end, we have to remember that each person will have their own unique experiences. But we also have to keep in mind that while one has a great experience, another may not. We need to openly, and without anger, discuss the variety of ways Permaculture is being implemented. The more we do this, the better each person’s experience will be. But we must not be afraid of confrontation. There are many great Permaculture teachers, leaders, and students in the world right now, but there are also some bad ones. We need to do what we can to increase the positive and decrease the negative. The more positive experiences there are, the more Permaculture is going to be used to design our future and the future of our children… and that is my motivation.
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