Growth of permaculture

Fiona Campbell + Russ Grayson pacedge at
Tue Jan 20 04:56:12 EST 1998

Thanks for your discussion David. I've made a few short replies to these

David de Vries wrote:

> I can see lots of evidence for a 'sense of insecurity, uncertainty
> and even fear" but not for it increasing.  If I did, I would welcome it as a hopeful shift in consciousness that would have the net opposite effect to what you are witnessing i.e. decreased participation in social issues.  I am willing to be convinced that you are correct, but these increases and decreases are not my observation.<

>From my time there, I find these feelings of insecurity and uncertainty
to be far less obvious on the NSW north coast than here in Sydney. My
guess is that the north coast has that critical mass of people who share
a vaguely similar critique of conventional society and a vaguely general
idea of what needs to be done to change it. Many residents of the north
coast are 'refugees' from the cities who have gone to the north coast in
search of a better life and therefore have the motivation to work to
circumvent feelings of powerlessness. They may even do this by
increasing, rather than decreasing, their involvement in social issues.
This might create a sense of difference and a different outlook. Do you
find any evidence for this David?

The stuff I mentioned about a social sense of insecurity and uncertainty
due to prolonged and sustained social, economic and technological change
is not my idea. Sure, I see evidence to support it, but these are really
current ideas in social analysis. 

The person who put them together into a coherent explanation for me was
the well known Australian social analyst, Hugh Mackay of Mackay
Research, author of the books 'Generations' and 'Reinventing Australia'
as well as the respected Mackay Reports. 

I saw Mackay at a 1997 seminar in Sydney organised by AusAID for people
in the overseas development assistance industry which brought together
over 100 people from development assistance NGOs and other
organisations. His analysis of society appeared to ring true for most of
the people there. I wrote a report on the seminar for the development
assistance agency I work for and, if you send me your mailing address, I
would be happy to send you a photocopy of the document.

It's good that you see a 'hopeful shift in consciousness ' in these
concerns that people have about present trends. Perhaps that could lead
to the development of an effective permaculture response to them. I
think that this is real need in the permaculture movement. For the
people experiencing them, however, indications are that they are not
such a welcoming experience, but a cause of family tension and stress
that gives rise to dysfunctional families and creates tensions. The
trends also, according to Hugh Mackay's research, lead to reduced
financial contributions to NGOs, whether they are overseas development
NGOs or NGOs focusing on local issues - and that could include
permaculture associations.
> Anyone else in affluent countries like to comment?<

Comments are most welcome - please contribute. What's the situation in
your country?

> The demography of the anxious and the motivated is always changing as different groups feel the pinch or get motivated w.r.t. pc marketing/image, the change in these demographics provides potential influxes of disaffected/motivated Pc recruits e.g. 18 y.o., retirees, mortgagees, farmers, ship builders etc.<

Any ideas on how permaculture can attract these people?

> Practically, how could Pc teachers cause more Pc students?
 In priority.
 1) Local Marketing<

Yes... catering to local markets is a sound strategy in a bioregional
sense and one that proponents of local economic development have long
proposed. Could it be, though, that even local markets have an upper

To speculate, perhaps it is the case that the reliance on capital city
and major urban centre markets to fill north coast permaculture courses
indicates that local markets are near saturation. This is not a
statement of fact, but a question as to whether this could be the case.

 >2) Promote more teachers starting up nearby.<
> 3) Working cooperatively in delivering courses.<

Good idea. It assumes that teachers have confidence in each other and,
for the most part, I believe that this is the case.

Despite this, over the years I have seen evidence that teachers can be
quite competitive in filling their courses. In Sydney, our use of a team
teaching approach provides opportunities to teach without teachers
having to run their own courses.  

> 4) Promoting national/international profile of Pc.

Perhaps the new organisation at the Permaculture Institute can bring
improvements here. I think the Permaculture International Journal does a
good job, however more is needed.

> Saturation at 500 new permaculturists per year!<

David - is this an actual annual figure for PDC graduates in Australia?

> The Pc growth model at the moment looks like the old fashioned orchard with 4m spacing, a bit of mulch around the base and rank grass in between. Individual trees (teachers) are isolated and forever worried about encroachment.< 

Your comment about encroachment reminds me of the discussion at a
permaculture convergence several years ago about permaculture teachers
'territories'. It was decided then that there were no territories in
permaculture. Bill Mollison more recently addressed the issue by saying
that permaculture was spread by 'itinerant teachers'.

Perhaps this could be extrapolated to the recent kerfuffle in the USA
where Mollison's course created controversy and some North Americans
responded by saying that the North American permaculture teaching market
should be left to Americans. As we know, permaculture teaching has
always been an international affair and I have this sneaking suspicion
that many Australian permaculturists would see Bill's courses there as a
reversal of the usual North America to Australia imparting of
information about many other things. Don't want to get into that
arguement though.

>I'm suggesting  potential for growth is there and dense interplanting will provide symbiosis/resilience.<

Maybe it could be the case, as you suggest, that many teachers create
their own market for permaculture courses. In Sydney though, we've had
calls from course organisers asking if we knew of any potential students
they could contact so they could fill their course to make it pay for
itself. Courses need a minimum number to cover costs and if this minimum
is not there than the course is economically unviable. 

Hope to hear from you and others.

Russ Grayson and Fiona Campbell
PO Box 446, Kogarah NSW 2217 AUSTRALIA

Phone   02-9588 6931    (IDD-61+2+9588 6931)
Fax     9514 2611 (Mark fax: ATTN: RUSS GRAYSON - APACE) 
          (IDD-61+2+9514 2611)
Email: pacedge at

Permaculture education, publishing, design. 
NSW co-ordinator, Australian City Farms and Gardens Network.

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