[permaculture] official certification

Killian O'Brien admin at pri-de.org
Mon Oct 25 20:49:04 EDT 2010


Toby,

Sorry you feel that way. I got your points. Had no trouble understanding anything you said. We simply disagree on some points. As with most things, we almost certainly agree on far more. Perhaps I was unclear or just had too much coffee today. Or perhaps I need to write half as much or 50% more. I *am* constantly amazed by the people who are intolerant of other voices. But, then, I'm listening to me from the inside.

:)

C'est la vie.

Cheers,

Killian O'Brien
PRI-De
admin at pri-de.org
(313) 647-4015

killiankob at yahoo.com
(760) 617-4693

-----Original Message-----
From: permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Toby Hemenway
Sent: Monday, October 25, 2010 6:32 PM
To: permaculture
Subject: Re: [permaculture] official certification

Killian

I don't think we communicate well. You consistently miss my points or just dismiss them, and I assume I'm missing yours, so it seems a waste of time to continue. Conversation over, from my end.

Toby
http://patternliteracy.com



On Oct 25, 2010, at 12:01 PM, Killian O'Brien wrote:

> To All:
>
> I want to refocus this on the topic it started with. The issue is not *whom* to teach, nor how, though those points have come up. (Please, everyone, let's **stop** worrying about who other people are teaching! It's none ya! Git yer nose out other people's biz!)
>
> The subject also is not whether to certificate or not. Not only do such processes give us a way to at least attempt to create a common sense of what a given level of knowledge or expertise is, but many people simply want or need formalized settings to educate themselves in. Institutionalized solutions meet that need. They do not meet the needs of non-traditional learners or those without the means to participate in the institutional structures.
>
> So, the issue is how to go about it. On to my reply...
>
> Hey Toby,
>
> Let me start with this, " This is written fairly quickly; I hope that instead of nit-picking over the parts that aren't well developed you'll try to follow my intent. "
>
> No problem there. Intent is big for me, and perhaps makes me a little too sloppy with my language as I expect too much of context and people *not* reading the worst into what I say/write.
>
> Relatively, Toby, in parentheses, which was intended to convey, given context, a modified sense of "elite." The issue was affordability. Context was clear *to me*, but I will concede I perhaps should not have used the word. Negative? Sorry, that's on you to own. Emotionally charged? Ditto. They weren't for me. They still aren't. Reality: you are a (relatively) affluent American. We are speaking globally. In that regard, you are quite definitely elite on the financial scale. I don't see why that is either emotionally charged or negative.
>
> "I don't think that an effective way to spread permaculture is to target the poor or the radicals (although I won't discourage someone from doing that). You only change one person at a time that way. I think it is far more effective to offer it to policy makers, universities, planners, CEOs, developers--the elite, if you will."
>
> You are correct that we will disagree, but that is exactly what I was saying about old and new paradigms. Your approach simply doesn't seem to have much chance of working because we are so close to large bifurcations in all domains. Virtually all those you are speaking of, and to, have no sense at all that collapse is a possibility, so they *cannot* come up with the solutions except by accident. They don't understand sustainability because they don't understand 2nd Law implications.
>
> Being aware of or knowledgeable about permaculture doesn't automatically make one open to the idea that complexity *is* the problem or that growth cannot go on forever. This does not mean don't reach out to those people. Obviously it's not really an elite/poor issue, but will be a matter of a combination. However, community-generated solutions are far more likely to deal with the scales we need to work at by default: they're not necessarily trying to save the world and work within the constraints they have on-site. The "elites" have vested interests that conflict with community solutions. No way around that. Thus, my faith goes to those who must live with their solutions.
>
> Besides, Diamond, Tainter, Catton... all say simplify, simplify, simplify. That combined with common sense and past history all say you're likely going in the wrong direction. But again let me stress I think some of us need to be working it the way you suggest, just not most of us.
>
> "Okay, this next is triggered by, but not a direct reply to, the above... I doubt that the future will be so radical that certificates, degrees, committees, voting, listening to leaders, and other familiar ways of getting things done are going to disappear."
>
> No, they won't. But as things get sufficiently off-kilter, their effectiveness will diminish. I know of no organization here in Detroit that is self-supporting (though they may exist). When the funding goes, they go. Unless we do things differently from the start. We didn't pursue our own 501(c)(3) status because we had an umbrella. We didn't pursue outside funding because we had a partner with global reach that was going to advertise for us. But, for reasons having absolutely nothing to do with programming or permaculture, and everything to do with money and CYA, they backed out just weeks before our first PDC. It's the difference between solvency and being destitute for us, but not them. My point is, structures fall for reasons that have often - usually? - nothing to do with the idea being promoted/supported, and they are typically very human reasons. Our current situation isn't because we had a bad business concept or that permaculture is a bad idea, it is because people
  a
> re people and, at the end of the day, particularly in this day and age, are going to do for themselves before others, and that applies to ANY structure you care to create. As things get tougher, this will only increase in frequency and magnitude. Look at the Tea Party. Look at health care, the immigration debate, climate denial. Setting up a system that is not resilient to such shocks strikes me as risk assessment that is not robust.
>
> The point above does get into the issue of what the future holds, and our assessments are clearly quite different, which may not be resolvable except with time's own special way of exerting reality. However, we can choose to set up a system that is resilient in either case. I don't think the systems being suggested do that. They are squarely based in the old paradigm and thus are sensitive to the same shocks.
>
> "Having survived the sixties, I watched over and over as communities and groups would form, unhappy with the old ways... a fraction of 1% survive today. ...there are formal processes such as consensus that show promise. But hardly anyone really understands those new tools. They are counter-intuitive, and I would argue that in many cases, egalitarian methods like consensus go against our essential tribal nature as social pack animals who inherently look to strong, competent leaders...
>
> And I see us in a similar position to where we were in 1970.  I hang around a lot of communities, and the complaint I hear over and over is that they love the community but consensus and related tools suck--"Nothing ever gets done, so why can't we just appoint committees and managers and move forward? I trust my peers to make good decisions without me.""
>
> Hunter-gatherers almost exclusively are non-hierarchical, thus our "nature" is to cooperate. But this is all off-topic. I've not suggested anything like what these issues raise. Have others?
>
> "If we wait until everyone is empowered and is a leader, we won't get there in time, and we will suffer from the "too many cooks" problem"
>
> Also not an issue raised.
>
> "The process of reinvigorating the national permaculture institute right now is hamstrung by exactly this defect in consensus: no one is allowed to move until we all feel equally empowered. So we are stalled."
>
> I don't see this as an issue or even a topic of conversation. Are people talking about this? This question, for me, is solely about access and affordability, not empowerment. As a nominal permaculturist, I'm quite comfortable telling the rest of you to go straight to hell if you don't like what I'm doing within the constraints I must deal with, and expect the same in return should I choose to comment on your work. More so, due to how events have played out, I've had zero choice in moving forward regardless of circumstances, so were anyone to complain about that they'd be very much in the wrong. Let's not get sidetracked here. This isn't what needs to be discussed; it's a moot point.
>
> "What's lacking is accountability, not decent tools."
>
> No, both. To wit:
>
> "many of the current methods, applied at the right scale, work very well, are comprehended by the mainstream and thus are more likely to be followed, and will get us there faster."
>
> The current methods, or suggested methods, may build accountability, poorly, but very much limit access. Any certificate for design that is a diploma/cert alone is basically worthless. Knowledge does not equal ability. This is reflected in the current PDC process where there is virtually no practicum in most programs and, as you have said, very little in terms of rigorous design requirements or standards. Worse, passing the trainee assessment consists of nothing more than a two year time period. It has no definition of what to do in that period or assessment of that work or how much work needs be done. Adding a diploma on top of this achieves nothing, particularly since a diploma course will be no more able to get past these issues than the current system. Knowledge does not equal skill.
>
> "once they are on board, we can move them yet farther. We need to meet people where they are, start with what they are familiar with. Few can make a giant paradigm shift as the first step, and it's a pipe dream to expect it as prerequisite for a solution."
>
> Off-topic, really.
>
> "We know that the big parts of the system are broken: national government, big corporations and banks, etc. But the same tools that work so badly at huge scale, when they are applied at small scale--local government, small non-profits and business, independent schools, committees, charismatic leaders--still work very well. I think we need to work with what we have at the same time we work on the replacements. If we insist on everyone learning new tools before we start, we will not get there in time. You cannot get anywhere if you don't start from where you are."
>
> I have not meant to state categorically, that we just not have these other systems. I *don't* think you have time to create these courses, get thousands of people trained in them and reach legitimacy in the eyes of the wider world. This can be seen as supporting your contention that the focus should be on educating power structures, but the nature and history of power structures in periods of decline suggest otherwise (Diamond). Thus, I think this route will, in a sense, waste resources. Should we not try to change from within? No. Give it a shot, but...
>
> I have tried to offer an alternative. Just as I find it a pointless conversation to discuss who is teaching whom, I find it pointless to debate whether there should be a traditionally institutional approach to certification(s) because 1. they already exist and 2. some people just need/want that sort of environment, etc.
>
> Let me be clearer: A possible approach that can co-exist with the diploma course approach is a portfolio and oral/written exams process. This can, and should, be much less expensive because it involves no physical plant, no infrastructure. It will meet the needs of non-traditional learners, those of limited means, those of limited physical access (cost of transportation), those that are self-taught, etc. It does require organization and identification of people qualified to sit such boards. That process can be as complicated or as simple as people want to make it (but things always look infinitely simpler to me than to most). It will also be more legitimate in that it is based in people's work and ability to communicate that work. We are talking about design, right? I believe the core of licensing for architects is a portfolio and exam approach, is it not?
>
> Identification of those qualified to sit such boards might well be a matter of acclaim in the initial phase, but should, in my opinion, be done by wide acclaim, not by a committee, for we are essentially in the process of codifying what a diploma might actually mean in terms of content. Content might well be determined by committee, but also should be held up for general vote, imo. Let's determine as a community, eh? (Look at the mess we already have with diploma level certs being offered by different entities, each apparently with its own criteria for the course and the teachers. Such a state will have zero legitimacy in the eyes of the public at large. This is already seen in the EFL/ESL field where a basic cert is a joke to everyone, but everyone needs one. It's just a money mill for the providers.)
>
> Once this process is done, we can trust the power structures to work as designed. Should we not, since we have the opportunity, go ahead and be inclusive at this stage, and define these things as a community?
>
> Perhaps the various convergences should consider a design charrette methodology and start sketching out how we use permaculture principles to remake society...? IPC10 is coming up next summer, no? Or given work already done and programs already existing, these open dialogues can be used to narrow things done and IPC10 used as a final design charrette and determination of a list of people qualified to sit boards.
>
> My last concern: if this process were to become a reality, also for existing programs, an issue of fairness will arise. Those required to go through these programs are being asked to reach a bar those now setting the bar did not have to reach. This is unavoidable. We must, however, keep in mind those that end up setting the bar will tend to forget how they got where they are, how they built their knowledge base, etc, and will be inclined to set the bar higher than is fair or necessary. This is simply how our brains work. Our brains forget experiences, they reframe difficulty, they allow us to work on assumptions that were, at earlier times in our learning process, as clear as mud, and allow us to ask too much because we have forgotten to account for the fact we've accumulated what we know over long time frames and via myriad experiences we are attempting to codify and compress into weeks, months, or years.
>
> That is, be realistic, be gentle.
>
> Please be aware in all this I am speaking as someone with 14 years of classroom and training experience. That is not to claim I am a world-class educator, nor that I am assuming what I suggest here is How Things Are and Should Be, only that I speak from a fairly well-founded perspective on how to educate, i.e. not talking out of my ass.
>
> Cheers,
>
> Killian O'Brien
> PRI-De
> admin at pri-de.org
> (313) 647-4015
>
> killiankob at yahoo.com
> (760) 617-4693
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Toby Hemenway
> Sent: Sunday, October 24, 2010 5:39 PM
> To: permaculture
> Subject: Re: [permaculture] official certification
>
> Okay, this is one of my lengthy screeds. The more meaty stuff is toward the end.
>
> On Oct 23, 2010, at 4:23 PM, Killian O'Brien wrote:
>
>>
>> Oh, Toby, do be careful when putting words in other's mouths.  . . . Read again, more carefully, or ask for clarification, please.
>
> Well, here's what you wrote-
>
>> By making permaculture about money and formal certificates, you are preventing/slowing its spread . . .
>> . . . makes it the playground of the (relatively) elite. And I guess the assessors are chosen by acclaim or are self-appointed...? . . .  engage in cannibalistic behaviors . . . Unless this more rigorous certification process is going to be offered essentially for free, and that seems unlikely, it will do more harm than good.
>
> It's impossible for me to take this in any other way than as condemnation of the Gaia U program and certification; if you meant it as support for multiple options, those words don't convey that. I don't think I've failed to read carefully. Whatever you were meaning, when we lead off with negative, emotionally loaded language, it gets people's hackles up from the start, and makes it likely that any calmer, constructive points made later--as you did make--will be lost. It's the same thing that happened with Kevin's original post about the Army PDC; he started with condemnations and complaints, and then wondered why the thoughtful questions he asked later were ignored.
>
>>
>> Money is just a proxy for all the various reasons people can't make it to courses. Got course fees covered? What about air fare? Lost work hours? Child care? And on and on. Your point is moot, imo.
>
> No, it's not moot; it's at the heart of what you wrote: How do we spread this stuff? What I see from you is a list of perceived impediments that have been easily overcome.  People offer courses on the weekends, on a string of Saturdays, we offer child-care done by spouses (teachers or participants) who trade off, we offer local courses so there's no airfare, we offer parallel courses for their kids. There are people out there getting 30, 40, 70 students, because they are creating those solutions. And those who hold cheap PDCs in crowded living rooms and advertise on the co-op bulletin board--maybe not you, but lots of teachers--complain that they can't fill their courses. They ignore useful tools that work, see only impediments, and then complain.
>
> Certification, far from being an impediment, is what attracts people to these courses. You have to give people a tangible take home. The certificate is exactly that for most people, much more so than making a compost pile or a general grasp of systems thinking. Non-certificate courses tend not to attract as many people, and I hear that from all the teachers I talk to--which is quite a few. The answer is not to give it away and lower standards, not in this culture.
>
> See, here's where I think we differ, and I'm going to say something very politically incorrect: I don't think that an effective way to spread permaculture is to target the poor or the radicals (although I won't discourage someone from doing that). You only change one person at a time that way. I think it is far more effective to offer it to policy makers, universities, planners, CEOs, developers--the elite, if you will. One CEO who pushes permaculture through to all employees, one Hollywood star who gets on Oprah, will make far more difference than a blockfull of anarchists or impoverished. It is still a top-down world; I don't like it but I will use it to my advantage. I know I will be pilloried for that, but I'm looking for leverage points, and that's where I see them. I've done the other--I've done PDCs for $40, and almost nothing came of them, maybe a keyhole bed in a backyard. My PDCs to professionals result in amazing projects that go on to be implemented in schools,
 go
> vernments, neighborhoods, and businesses.
>
>>
>> I said the solution proposed maintains structures of the past that are unlikely to apply in the future, as well as limiting access, so why not do it differently?
>
> Okay, this next is triggered by, but not a direct reply to, the above. On one hand, the way many current management and decision-making processes are used is indeed dysfunctional, overly hierarchical, based on continual growth, and all those other points. On the other hand, most of the replacements for them, like consensus, NVC, etc., are either little-tried, not well understood or understood in conflicting ways, easily mis-applied or stonewalled, and have other serious problems. There is, indeed, huge urgency in moving forward. But if we wait for these new tools to come on line, for everyone to agree how to use them, it will be too late. So it's a mistake to throw out the old tools right now, and that's why I think certification, clear rules, and common decision-making processes still have plenty of value. I doubt that the future will be so radical that certificates, degrees, committees, voting, listening to leaders, and other familiar ways of getting things done are going
  t
> o disappear. There's the short version of the problem. Here's the long version, if that's not clear or you want more:
>
> Having survived the sixties, I watched over and over as communities and groups would form, unhappy with the old ways, and they'd throw the rules out completely, and try to design a new way to be together.  Almost none of them lasted more than months; a fraction of 1% survive today. The impetus was honorable: end the patriarchy, etc, etc, but they had no functional tools to replace what they threw out, and in most cases, their efforts devolved into the ancient pattern of a few people under a charismatic leader, and everyone who disagreed with the boss left. We've learned a lot since then, and there are formal processes such as consensus that show promise. But hardly anyone really understands those new tools. They are counter-intuitive, and I would argue that in many cases, egalitarian methods like consensus go against our essential tribal nature as social pack animals who inherently look to strong, competent leaders. And I see us in a similar position to where we were in 197
 0.
>  I hang around a lot of communities, and the complaint I hear over and over is that they love the community but consensus and related tools suck--"Nothing ever gets done, so why can't we just appoint committees and managers and move forward? I trust my peers to make good decisions without me."
>
> Years ago, I ran a business, and had a crew of really gifted employees. I went to them with a profit-sharing, co-management plan where they would have equal power in the business, and they said, "We just want to come to work, then go home and forget about the job. We see all the work you do, and we don't want to share it." If we wait until everyone is empowered and is a leader, we won't get there in time, and we will suffer from the "too many cooks" problem, which I see constantly in new endeavors. The process of reinvigorating the national permaculture institute right now is hamstrung by exactly this defect in consensus: no one is allowed to move until we all feel equally empowered. So we are stalled. I think the idea that we will evolve to "decentralized leadership structures" flies in the face of our human and animal nature; we respond to and need clear, focused leadership. What's lacking is accountability, not decent tools. God, the last thing I want is to have to parti
 ci
> pate in every decision that affects me. I trust other people to be competent. So while we continue to hone newer and more equitable ways of sharing power and responsibility, many of the current methods, applied at the right scale, work very well, are comprehended by the mainstream and thus are more likely to be followed, and will get us there faster.
>
> Another example: there are tours in many cities of "sustainable living examples" or the like. The ones that look like hippie houses are scoffed at by most of those on the tours. The ones that look like familiar houses get people excited. They aren't as "sustainable" as the hippie houses, but they get far more people on board. And then, once they are on board, we can move them yet farther. We need to meet people where they are, start with what they are familiar with. Few can make a giant paradigm shift as the first step, and it's a pipe dream to expect it as prerequisite for a solution.
>
> We know that the big parts of the system are broken: national government, big corporations and banks, etc. But the same tools that work so badly at huge scale, when they are applied at small scale--local government, small non-profits and business, independent schools, committees, charismatic leaders--still work very well. I think we need to work with what we have at the same time we work on the replacements. If we insist on everyone learning new tools before we start, we will not get there in time. You cannot get anywhere if you don't start from where you are.
>
> This is written fairly quickly; I hope that instead of nit-picking over the parts that aren't well developed you'll try to follow my intent.
>
> Toby
> http://patternliteracy.com
>
>
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