Permaculture definition (was Re: design courses)

Rachel Freifelder rrfreifelder at
Mon Nov 13 21:14:16 EST 1995

Mike Morris' definition of permaculture is a good one, and I appreciate 
the caveat that "many people practice this without knowing we are doing 
permaculture." However, I would amend this statement to "Many of us 
practice this but we do not call it permaculture because "permaculture" 
is a copyrighted term, and those of us who are unwilling to shell out 
$750 for a certification course would be violating the law if we claimed 
to be doing permaculture."

Also, "sustainable agriculture" is a very general term.  It is nearly 
meaningless these days, given that (as someone noted) many people who 
claim to be researching sustainable agriculture do not think in terms of 
whole agroecosystems, and therefore are unlikely to create anything very 
sustainable.  I would argue that polyculture, integration of 
human/animal/agricultural/natural systems, and practices advocated by 
permaculturists, are essential to a truly sustainable food/life system.
"Agroecology" originally meant something very 
similar to "permaculture", when Miguel Altieri first coined the term, but 
it too has been coopted by the mainstream.  Again it can mean the 
consideration of whole ecosystems, but I know several other students in 
my "agroecology" PhD program who are studying extremely reductionist 
questions in conventional high-input monocrop systems.  Many of them 
study rates of decomposition in rice straw.
(which I suppose is useful to confirm the durability of rice straw as a 
building material)

Just my 2c,

Rachel Read Freifelder             
Revolutionary Ecologist
"Two TV sets and two Cadillac cars ain't gonna help me at all."
--Lou Reed

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