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Jeff Owens kowens at teleport.com
Sun Jan 4 17:29:39 EST 1998


I encountered several discussions of Permaculture recently.  Many
on the net, some in magazines, and also mention in newspapers.
Each one was different and I found it pretty confusing.  My
attempts to define Pc also resulted in some confusion and I
wondered if others run into these same problems.

The first problem is mistaking the path for the goal.  A person
usually wants know specifically how Permaculture could be applied
to their lives, then they want to call this permaculture.  I'm also
guilty of this at times.  For example, someone using organic
methods and growing their own food could be on the Permaculture
path, or they could be on the chemical path.  If we call organic
methods part of Permaculture then eventually people will think they
are the same thing.  It seems we need to distinguish between what
is path and what is goal and make that clear to newcomers.  Maybe
some words to the effect that there are many ways to approach Pc
and the goal is very illusive for most of us.  We are struggling
down the path and what we have in common is a mostly goals and
facts about sustainable systems.  The proof of this is the fact
that we are here on the net and most of us utilize external energy.
Many of us drive cars, and use other imported energy systems.  We
are all on the path.

This problem also pops up in discussions where someone will say
Permaculture is impractical and that they need to pay the bills.
When I mention the path and separate it from the goal, they
usually keep the door open and the discussion continues.  This
then leads to a description of the start up process and how to
invest in it.

The second problem is trying to define Pc by using simple examples
or only one viewpoint.  This seems to create lots of
misconceptions and confusion.  I've heard that Pc is sustainable
agriculture, or that it is natural housing.  One definition started
by pointing out all the connections to a typical urban house and
family.  It then said Pc is about removing these connections.
After reading a few hundred words about connections, I was
confused.

What has worked for me is to say it helps to approach Pc from
different places and mention these three:

  1.  Energy usage and the definition of sustainability
  2.  Natural systems and the holistic view.  A historical
      view of the world help here.
  3.  Cycles and closed loops.  Community and a forest
      make good examples.  I suppose economics could
      fit here also.
  
These three things are saying the same thing in my mind, but the
words are different and most people seem to think they are different
things.

Ideas, corrections?

 ----------
Jeff Owens (kowens at teleport.com)  Zone 6-7  Permaculture
 Underground house, solar energy, reduced consumption, no TV



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