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

Robert Waldrop bwaldrop at cox.net
Wed Jun 24 22:04:17 EDT 2009

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Suraj Kumar" <suraj at sunson.in>
> The only thing I'm "nit-picking" here is the 
> proprietary information
> bit. Why should information be proprietary? Is 
> it because there is an> underlying element of 
> insecurity?

Is it possible that there is a 
language/communication issue here?  When I think 
of "proprietary" information, I think of 
trademarked/copyrighted/patented info.  It seems 
unlikely to me that there is much of that in the 
permaculture movement.  Just because someone is 
selling a publication doesn't mean that the info 
inside is proprietary -- which suggests some kind 
of legal protection to the info.

I think that all of the information necessary for 
permaculture education is certainly available in 
the public domain somewhere, starting with 
Mollison's pamphlets, available for free at 
http://www.barkingfrogspermaculture.org/PDC_ALL.pdf , 
which are transcriptions of a PDC given by Bill 
Mollison of a Permaculture Design Course in New 
Hampshire in the early 1980s.

A design certificate "certifies" that you have 
attended a course and gone through a certain 
curriculum.  It doesn't mean that you are an 
expert permaculture designer, "apprentice" would 
be a better description, or perhaps it is a 
"ticket" to a lifelong experience of learning and 
practice/praxis.  I studied and tried to praxis 
permaculture for years before I got enough money 
to take a permaculture design course.  In my 
self-study, I got some things right, some things 
wrong. Now my approach is more organized and 
wholistic, before the course I was always looking 
at things as discrete units and not always getting 
the inter-connections, but I suspect that even if 
I hadn't taken the course, I would still have 
learned that lesson.  My mistakes were very 
important to my learning however, and thus I 
treasure them as much as my successes.  I have 
actually lost count, but I sometimes say I grow 
more than 100 different varieties of useful or 
edible plants on my 1/7th acre house site in 
central Oklahoma City, but there is another list 
of almost 100 different varieties of plants that I 
tried and failed with.

I like giving stuff away too, I started a food 
coop (www.oklahomafood.coop ) that only sells 
local foods and we give away our software to other 
groups who want to do something similar 
http://www.localfoodcoop.org/ .  Now that that 
group has matured to the point where I have been 
liberated from the position of General Manager, I 
am part of a design process to prepare and then 
give away (under the general public license 
system) a platform for online newspaper 
cooperatives, hopefully that will launch within 
the year ("you heard it first here"). I have a 
free online "Almanac of Useful Information", which 
is mostly about "kitchen permaculture" or perhaps 
more correctly, "permaculture design principles 
applied to kitchens and food systems". 
www.bettertimesinfo.org/2004index.htm . And then 
there's www.energyconservationinfo.org where I 
pile up and give away various accoutrements 
relating to energy conservation and disaster 
preparation/recovery/mitigation.  I really enjoy 
this kind of social entrepreneurship.

At the same time, if you want to read the 
permaculture design of my house, I charge US $10 
for the PDF.  I give some of those away too 
usually in response to requests from people in 
third world countries.  I am a teacher's assistant 
with an online PDC, and I get paid a bit for that, 
and tuition is charged and paid by the students.

Dan Hemenway (not to be confused with Toby who 
participates here, they are probably related at 
the "200 year ago ancestor level"), whom I study 
permaculture with, in his essay on Living Lovingly 
says that "Love is the harmony between giving and 
receiving."  And that's what I'm trying to find in 
my own life.

Those are my thoughts, hope they are not too 
confusing and contribute something to the 

Robert Waldrop
Oklahoma City

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