Lee Flier lflier at mindspring.com
Sun Jan 4 23:25:24 EST 1998

Jeff Owens wrote:

>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.

This is an excellent point Jeff... as somebody who's taken part in a couple
of those discussions myself. :-)  In fact, I gave a short talk on
Permaculture this morning and it really reminded me how really huge a leap
it is to make.  It's extremely difficult to explain or define Permaculture
to people who aren't familiar with the context in which it "lives."  So
people do tend to grasp onto the first thing about it that sounds familiar
to them or was presented to them, and call it Permaculture.

And of course, we all do that ourselves too as you mention.  It's easy to
become localized to one specific region or method you use or design process
you use and call it Permaculture... until somebody else kicks your butt and
reminds you that your way ain't the only way!

In my talk this morning I started by saying that Permaculture was about
closing the loop, and local accountability for our basic needs.  There were
a lot of older people there who were still high on the global economy,
having been sold on it long ago, and they immediately called this into
question, assuming that in a local economy they'd be reduced to toiling in
the fields all day and eating nothing but turnip greens and sweet potatoes.
 :-)  I THINK I got some of these fallacies cleared up, but it was
frustrating.  I wished I could have sat down with them for a whole day and
just listened to their concerns and tried to answer their questions.

>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.

Yeah.  I try to do this... well, I try to say something like "OK, here's
what we're aiming for as an ideal, but we are each only going to be able to
accomplish this to a certain degree.  But if you don't know there's
anything at all beyond what you're doing, you stay on the treadmill."

>This problem also pops up in discussions where someone will say
>Permaculture is impractical and that they need to pay the bills.

Yeah that's always a good one.  Anybody else dealing with this?

>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.

Yeah.  I could feel exactly that kind of thing setting in this morning, or
most any time I try to explain in a succinct way what Permaculture is.
Every once in a while I seem to hit home with it, but I suspect that's as
much because of the mindset of my audience as myself.

>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

That sounds like a good place to start.  Also, I like to say that PC
examines everything in relationship to each other or in the context around
it, as opposed to isolating each element.  I suppose that would fall under
your #2.

I also like to say that nobody ever really knows what Permaculture is
because it's different for everybody, in every context!  I emphasise that
it is about concepts and not about specific "recipes for how to live."
That tends to serve as a catch-all disclaimer for a lot of silly things I
might say (or people might think) later! :-)

Thanks for bringing this up Jeff!  Note to those in other countries:  Jeff
and I have this problem because Americans like to have everything spoon fed
to them in very small bites. :-)

= Lee =

Lee A. Flier				
lflier at mindspring.com			
Atlanta and Ellijay, Georgia, U.S.A.	

"My excuse for venturing across disciplines, continents, and centuries is
that the world extends across disciplines, continents, and centuries.
Nothing in nature is quite so separate as two mounds of expertise."  -
Marvin Harris

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