[permaculture] Why is permaculture more about selling books, DVDs and training courses?

Scott Pittman scott at permaculture.org
Wed Jul 1 00:14:05 EDT 2009


It seems this Brer Rabbit train has to come around about every 8 to 10
months those who are complaining that life is not one big free lunch are 
never satisfied with the response from those who are not disposed to provide
that free lunch.  I have a similar problem with community members who think
that because they live in proximity to my garden that they are somehow
granted the privilege of helping themselves to my tomatoes.  It never occurs
to them to offer to weed a little, or help with watering but they sure get
upset when I refuse to share!

Using the example of Hyderabad and Dr. Venkat bringing permaculture to India
is stretching a point into fantasy.  Bill Mollison and Robin Francis both
traveled to India because they were invited, (this is an old pc tradition),
They did not get free airline tickets, or other travel expenses and while
they were gone their utilities, and gardens were not taken care of by some
munificent angel.  My guess is that their trip and work was paid for by both
Dr. Vencat's connection as well as other grants.

When Bill and I travelled together most of our expenses were paid for
through foundations, but we also charged the students an appropriate
tuition.  Bill always said if you give it away people give it no value, as
is proven by this string.  Both Bill and I have given our share away to the
truly needy but I can't count the number of people who ask for scholarships
and then show up in high dollar transport.  For some reason because
permaculture is about sustainability and getting our shit together there is
a whole stadium full of observers chanting that what we offer should be free
and that includes the books, the videos, and my tomatoes - let me say now,
it ain't gonna happen!

If peoples shorts get in a twist by someone making a living doing
permaculture then they should convince the library to purchase the
permaculture books and dvd's and engage in home schooling, that way they can
make their own mistakes and not leach off of the hard earned experience of
greedy teachers; I guarantee that their experience will cost them more than
they would have paid for the pc class.  After they have spent countless
years learning permaculture through trial and error they can then go out
into the world and teach it free!!!

I recommend the story of "Henny Penny" to help understand my  position.


Scott Pittman
Director
Permaculture Institute
www.permaculture.org
-----Original Message-----
From: permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Suraj Kumar
Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 10:02 PM
To: permaculture
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Why is permaculture more about selling
books,DVDs and training courses?

Guys, I just wanted to add one thing:

It is only silly to blame the umbrella permaculture movement for the
apparently seeming 'ponzi scheme' impressions that not just me,
several people do tend to get. At the same time, I beg to disagree
with the justifications of "knowledge being expensive". Sure, its got
demand. Not everything that has a demand needs to have a price (Should
water be charged for by some elite who knows how to control water?).
Debatable, at the least.

Let me provide a counter argument: In India, Bill Mollison visited in
the mid 80s to teach permaculture. Deccan Development Society made
beautiful use of permaculture principles to solve a completely
different problem - economic liberation of the down-trodden, oppressed
"low caste" people who were in the clutches of money lenders. The
money lenders were in the picture simply because their method of food
production needed fertilizers. It worked amazingly, step by step
("Obtain a yield") and eventually freed the people. The "Global
Gardener" series ("in the Tropics") shows this beautifully. Having
talked to someone from DDS, I was impressed how things have
transformed in the drought ridden area of Andhra Pradesh.

Note that, throughout this 'spreading permaculture' effort, no money
was charged for offering training. People worked for themselves and
their land and ultimately in improving their knowledge. That's the
fee. In my strongest convictions, thats how it ought to be. The day a
student offers gratitude and respect, that's when the teacher has
really succeeded.

Taking money for subsistence is totally fine. But why make it mandatory?

I hope I made my point.

On Fri, Jun 26, 2009 at 5:37 AM, Kevin Topek<ktopek at att.net> wrote:
> Hilarity ensues. Toby, what a pointed, well honed critique. I have
> taught for at least 10 years and have made nary a penny from teaching.
> It is design clients and installations that pay the bills. I have
> taken a lot of advanced training and some is great and some is
> definitely below par. It really depends on the teachers and their
> level of expertise in the field. Larry Santoyo and Scott Pittman were
> co-teachers in my course with Bill Mollison and they really fleshed
> out his class. Multiple viewpoints bring the subject matter to life!
> Those of you who have helped me along the way, thank you very much.
>
> Kevin Topek
> Permaculture Design LLC
> www.permaculturedesign.net
>
>
> On Jun 25, 2009, at 3:41 PM, Toby Hemenway wrote:
>
>> This whole thread reveals more about people's head-worms around money
>> than it does about the actual state of permaculture training. And
>> thanks
>> to Michael B, Larry S, and Paul W for having more patience than me in
>> dealing nicely with this perennial issue. It reminds me of the
>> Creationists; you show why their arguments make no sense and reveal
>> ideological bias, and then they just keep on spouting the same
>> wrong-headed statements.
>>
>> David Travis wrote:
>>> The most generic goal of a consultant is to make money using his or
>>> her certificate, and it turns out that the easiest and fastest way
>>> to do that is to promote oneself as a teacher.
>> This is just silly. I'm not sure that there is a single person on
>> Earth
>> who actually earns a living teaching Pc; we all need other jobs to
>> make
>> ends meet. And it takes 5 years or more of hard work at little or no
>> pay
>> to earn the reputation to attract enough students to courses to make
>> them run. Easy and fast? It was and is the hardest work I've ever done
>> by far and only after 12 years of it are my courses consistently
>> successful, and that's the case for every teacher I know. Please do
>> some
>> thinking and research before making knee-jerk assertions like this.
>>
>> As for more layers of accreditation being gratuitously added, I am
>> bombarded, as are other teachers, by countless requests for ways to
>> continue in permaculture learning in a formal way. I'd rather not
>> set up
>> further programs, as it's a lot of work for almost no personal return,
>> but the demand for them came long before the advanced programs did. If
>> all this is a Ponzi scheme, it's a terrible failure of one. Few design
>> courses make money; I've been around enough to know.
>>
>> No one seems to remember that Stewart Brand's great quote,
>> "information
>> wants to be free" was only the first half of what he wrote. The 2nd
>> half
>> was, "information wants to be expensive," and he then gave potent
>> reasons why that is also true. TANSTAAFL.
>>
>> If I never see this kind of thread again, it will be too soon, but
>> it's
>> good to know that fewer and fewer people are hanging onto these
>> uninformed views.
>>
>> Toby
>> http://patternliteracy.com
>>
>>
>>
>>>
>>> "I get the feeling that the permaculture movement has morphed into a
>>> market place to sell books, DVDs and training courses related to
>>> permaculture than a platform for sharing techniques and allowing
>>> humans to live closer to nature in a simpler way. Many a material I
>>> find on the internet are incomplete and keep referring to "Stuff to
>>> Buy" or "Courses to Take". Just search for permaculture on youtube
>>> and
>>> that's what you find. Any site claiming to be a "permaculture" site
>>> talks about doing a course.
>>>
>>> Or am I mistaken? I'd love to be corrected if I'm mistaken.
>>>
>>> I remember some noble soul here who had setup permaculture.info -
>>> that
>>> is great! WTG! But, why do the 'experts' end up locking themselves
>>> into seclusion and not share their knowledge?
>>>
>>> Cheers,
>>>
>>>  -Suraj"
>>>
>>>
>>> Dear Suraj,
>>>
>>> I agree that this is a serious problem. In my experience it is a
>>> byproduct of the original process of certification. Permaculture
>>> education was originally designed to be a means of certifying
>>> design consultants. Even today, the regional groups (in the US at
>>> least) seem to be strongly focused on how to add new levels of
>>> accreditation, mentorship, and certification onto the PDC process;
>>> implementation and verification of permaculture methods seem to be
>>> secondary priorities. The most generic goal of a consultant is to
>>> make money using his or her certificate, and it turns out that the
>>> easiest and fastest way to do that is to promote oneself as a
>>> teacher. In addition to this there are landscapers who have used
>>> the certification process to "green" their resumes and explore new
>>> territory. Often all of this is combined in the permaculture demo/
>>> teaching site. The result is what some people (affectionally!) call
>>> a permaculture ponzi scheme of certificates, diplomas,
>>> apprenticeships, etc. It costs money, but people like to spend
>>> money and they have fun.
>>>
>>> Part of the difficulty is that permaculture ideas are largely
>>> speculative and there is a great deal of risk involved in actually
>>> implementing them on any kind of large scale. Perhaps if
>>> permaculture had started out as being more centralized and
>>> democratic (as opposed to decentralized and autocratic a la
>>> Mollison), it would have developed the sort of infrastructure
>>> needed to move beyond demo sites and a handful of NGO projects, but
>>> who can say?
>>>
>>> Anyway, it's easy to see how the initial structure lead the
>>> movement there. Most people I've met within the permaculture
>>> movement seem to be perfectly happy with it staying on that track;
>>> it is satisfying peoples' needs on some level.
>>>
>>> - David
>>>
>>>
>>>
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our Inability to Understand the Exponential Function"
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