[Permaculture] "Forward" and "Back"/ Discussing Solutions

John Schinnerer John-Schinnerer at data-dimensions.com
Fri Jul 2 16:19:49 EDT 1999


> -----Original Message-----
> From:	eric + michiko [SMTP:emstorm at metro.net]
>I think this gets at what John was saying (correct me if I'm wrong!).
>There need to be ethical guidelines to help guide a society's actions.

Close enough, and...I make a distinction between "ethics" and "morals" as
follows:  when I tell someone else what is "right" for them (how "it" should
be, how they should act, live, think, etc.) or they do likewise to me, I
call that moralizing - dealing in morals, desiring to specify (and control)
the behavior of others.  When I decide what is "right" for myself and live
it, act it, etc. those are my ethics.

I make this distinction because these are two very different manners of
living and I find it important to distinguish them using different words.
If I like, adopt and live the permaculture ethics "by example," as best I
can, great - they become part of my ethics, for better or worse, and
hopefully I am attending to the consequences of my actions and setting what
I feel is a positive example for others.  If I use them as a club to batter
other people's behavior and tell them how they should live, I become a
moralizer, just like countless political and religious organizations,
individuals, etc.. 

>Without them many seemingly harmless technologies or activities can become
>meaningless or even harmful.

And the *scale* of the technology, or the scale it is applied at if it is
variable, can be a deciding factor in the harm/no harm equation... 

>I always had some trouble with the idea of
>using large machinery to get a Permaculture system up and going quickly
>with the rational that over the lifetime of the system it would be worth
>it.  I see such a system starting out with an "environmental mortgage" to
>pay off before the real benefits can be counted.  

In wanting to use heavy equipment to swale millions of acres somewhere (as
one example, from Scott's post), we *may* make a mistake of understanding
and/or scale because 1) we assume that that is the thing to do, and 2) if a
little of it is good in some contexts, more of it will be even better (and
even in other contexts).  

This is a *pattern* of thinking and acting that I see as having gotten us
(and plenty of previous cultures!) into our current ecological messes, to

"If X is good (and we know it is, because we are the pinnacle of knowledge,
understanding and civilization), more of X is better, and we know enough
about everything (because we are the pinnacle of knowledge, understanding
and civilization) to be sure that more and more of X will not be harmful.
Oh, and the faster we can do X, the better."

If I do X "to da max" within the limits of human/biological power, harm will
be limited by the scale of what I can do using that power source and/or the
time it takes, if it turns out I have made a mistake.  If I utilize
non-renewable power to do it on a huge scale and/or very quickly relative to
the systems affected, and I have made a mistake, the consequences will
likely be huge as well.

Also, looking at biological systems, I observe that there is an *optimum*
for everything in such systems.  More is not necessarily better, and will
sooner or later be fatal.

David Orr refers to "slow knowledge" and "fast knowledge," and I extrapolate
corresponding modes of action with corresponding attributes...

>It seems to have the same
>problems and root causes as the house mortgage and credit card overuse.  Or
>another example I heard last night, "There might be 5000 square foot
>environmentally friendly homes, but not 5000 square foot socially
>responsible homes."  These kinds of "mistakes" come from shallow thinking.
>We need to learn to be more deeply consistent and consistently deep.

Ah-HO!  I'd say to stop questioning all that we do *and* how we do it is to
go looking for trouble.  To rush is also to go looking for trouble.

John Schinnerer

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