Growth of Pc

YankeePerm YankeePerm at
Sun Jan 11 13:00:34 EST 1998

In a message dated 1/10/98 3:12:20 PM, yount at csf.Colorado.EDU wrote:

<<I concur with Geoff.  A related question is how to share 
permacultural knowledge in a way that's accessible to anyone
who might be sympathetic, but who can't reasonably assimilate
the whole cultural attitude.

This group in Colorado with whom I work specializes in electronic
mailing lists on "progressive" subjects.  I maintain a WWW archive
of a list called frugal-ed, which includes discussions of garage
sales, "once a month cooking," and getting out of debt.  Occasionally,
some messages on sustainability or environmental politics appear,
to which a few people have responded, "we don't participate in these
discussions to have our lifestyles judged."  How could I (or those
of you more knowledgeable) address these folks' questions without
overwhelming them?

As an advocate of "free" software, I have to exercise the same 
caution in promoting a culture which has clear parallels with
what you all have taught me about permaculture.  Software
engineering folks have popularized "design patterns," based on
the work of architect Christopher Alexander.  The hundreds of
people who have contributed to the linux operating system
as volunteers is a marvel.  Some people like the design problems;
others like defying <Well-Known Software Company>.  All right,
now if I said to you, "you needn't ever pay another penny to <W-K S C>
or its competitors again.  Free alternatives exist.  You'll be
wiser and happier in the long run, and you'll have a chance to
contribute your ideas to the common pool of computer knowledge.
My more knowledgeable colleagues will walk you through the transition.
There's one hitch, will take months, maybe years
before you achieve even basic competence,"  would you jump?
Who except devotees would choose this path?


yount at


I think that the sort of thing you have done with your permaculture webpage is
relevant.  It might be helpful to tell people what is on it or has been on it.
I admit to having philosphical problems to the way the web works, or at least
how it works when AOL has let me get on.  However, it has been very useful to
us to have you publish, for example, one or two of our public domain
permaculture design course pamphlets.  It has also has been useful to have the
complete list of our titles by category on your web page.  Probably every
permaculture publisher should have something like that there, though I'm not
sure what that would mean in terms of logistics for you.  I think we might
have had another article there--don't recall for sure, I know we discussed it.

OK, this is information that helps people network, that doesn't undercut
longstanding efforts to make material available, does not undercut teachers,

Responding reminds me to mention that we HAVE put a set of 15 pamphlets, based
on one of Mollisons 3-week certificate courses, in public domain so there is
no reason for anyone not to have a body of permaculture info as cheap as the
price of a photocopoy.  They have been translated into various languages and
we hear about a translation from time to time.  Often the translators
copyright their translation, which misses the point, though it is perfectly
legal.  We have sold many thousands of these to people who presumably then go
on to produce them for their friends.  One woman from the UK told me that she
would photocopy Pamphlet I and have a few on hand wherever she went.  When she
ran into someone who seemed interested in permaculture sorts of things, she'd
had a copy to the person, extracting the promise that, if s/he accepted it
s/he would read it through.  More often than not, she said, people came back
for more.  

There are some lessons in her experience.  First, she was using what today is
comparatively simple technology, photocopying, to have a low cost item on
hand. Second, she had access to material already in the public domain.  (I
think you can download some of these pamphlets from Michael's web page so you
don't have to buy them from us.)  Third, she made sure people were genuinely
interested.  No point in getting in someone's face, eh?  Fourth, once hooked
she had 14 more pamphlets, for starters, and was well connected with the UK
permaculture training folks.  So she would help people pursue their interests
until they were involved enough to be self-directed entirely.

This brings to mind another aspect of this discussion.

We need basically two kinds of effort for two kinds of effort and probably
intermediate hybrids for people in intermediate conditions.

In the industrialized countries, we need to help people edge out of gross
materialism.  In the non-industrialized countries, we need to help people
biologically survive in ways that maintain a possible future for their
children.  The astonishing thing is that one design practice suits these

So in creating free training for people who have personal computers, we aren't
accomplishing much except keeping people on the tit.   Permaculture does not
hold up as a welfare system--responsible self-reliance is at its core, though
to be sure appropriate sharing is part of that.  The effort to get, say,
English-speaking North Americans into permaculture has been slow because there
is no pouplation deeper into materialism.  But, for every North American we
bring into permaculture, we release enough resources for 60 African villagers.
Well, maybe 30, since the North American doesn't give up everything, and
unless one becomes a recluse on tax-free land, one needs to participate in the
economy a bit, at least.
So free training propsed is for people who could pay for a course in what they
pay for fancy tires on one of their cars in a year. 

On the other hand, we need a much better system of funding direct, person to
person training in places where money is very scarce and foreign exchange is
all but impossible. We routinely have requests for teaching in Asia, Africa
and South America wither on the vine because of lack of funds for basic
matters like teacher transportation.  In 1981, at least, Mollions was
suggesting that we fund such trips in part on what we earn teaching
permaculture in industrialized societies, though I think I am compressing a
bit here.  While there are sorts of information that people can use that
should be on web sites, and problably is on several web sites already,
undercutting the income of teachers in industrialized countries also reduces
the teaching that can be done elsewhere unless some heretofore untapped source
of funding comes up.   I have introduced with no personal income permaculture
to a number of countries and regions.  This is ok, but it is not sustainable,
and the sacrifice economically has taken its toll in other permaculture

If we want to improve the permeation of permaculture into the consciousness of
people worldwide, we might consider treating the matter as a permacualture
design problem.  First, we define the aspects of the problem.  Then we look at
the resources.  Then we play around with design ideas, being really careful
not to become invested in the first idea we think of.  Then, if we have a
design that we think will work, we try it on approrpiate scale, which is large
enough for critical mass but small enough that the main consequence of
failure, if it happens, is education and maybe humor.  There should be no
hurry.  With the state of affairs in the world today, we need to build good
foundations, because the next generation has more important work to do than
redoing what we did hastily.

For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since 1982),
Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and now correspondence
courses via email.  One is now underway.  Next Live program:  Paraguay,
8/10-22/98. Internships available. Copyright, 1997, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway,
P.O. Box 52, Sparr FL 32192 USA  YankeePerm at  

We don't have time to rush.

A list by topic of all Yankee Permaculture titles may be found at

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