[permaculture] Re: Does Permaculture have to be so expensive???

eric + michiko emstorm at metro.net
Mon May 17 12:11:31 EDT 1999

There seem to be two points of views in this discussion, if I may be so
bold as to simplify things.

One is that Pc courses and events are too expensive for the average person
to participate in, except perhaps as a rare treat or by special effort or
sacrifice.  The descriptions of the courses are enticing, but are not
priced low enough to allow many people to attend.

The other is that Pc teachers deserve what little money they make from
their efforts to put on courses and events.  By comparison with other
similar events and jobs, the price and the pay are not high.

I think both are correct, and that each side needs to look at the other
point to go any further toward  possible solutions.  From the comments made
so far, here are some of the points to notice:

There are many potential students who would like to attend the events.
They want information about Pc and related subjects.
They can not afford, or are not willing to pay, the price.
They may not feel the prices reflect what they will get out of the event.

Teachers (Designers?) are not able to make a living at teaching (designing?).
They do no feel fairly compensated for their time and effort.
Pc courses are expensive to put on.
Teaching is demanding and can not be done every day like most other jobs.

There might be less expensive methods of learning about Pc.
There might be less expensive ways to teach / put on a course.

Some comments:
*Writing off potential students who do not want to pay the prices asked
misses the question of how can these people be included in Permaculture.
*Something might be wrong with the way courses are run, if they are
exhausting and expensive for the teachers and few people are interested in
*There must be a large variety of ways of making the information and
experiences available to a larger number of people.

I'd also like to address the issue of "money as evil" / "charging for
services is unethical" vs "charging $1000 doesn't fit Pc ethics."  Although
I agree that many "of us alternative types" feel that money is a dirty
thing, I think the point made originally was different.  One of Pc's ethics
is "share the surplus."  An objective of Pc is to spread the word, so that
more people will incorporate it into their lives.  The $1000 price tag is
seen as a barrier to spreading the word.  The question was how best to
spread the word in a way that reflects the ethics of Pc, not is it ethical
to charge for Pc services (or what is the best way to make a living as a Pc
teacher or are they being paid enough).  

Justifying the prices of courses using the ethics of business (market
value, supply and demand, hourly wage, etc.) does not respond to the
question of Pc ethics.  Yes, there are other expensive courses.  Yes, there
will always be some people who can afford a course at any price, but this
thinking may restrict the flow of information, possibly making Pc elitist
as someone mentioned.  And, yes, there is nothing wrong with being fairly
compensated for your effort and skills.  But there is an assumption here
that there must be professional teachers who make (most of) their income
from teaching (something that doesn't seem to be a reality).  Perhaps as
has been suggested, we need people in different occupations that have a Pc

Or perhaps, we need venues that are less intensive, allowing the teacher to
work more often with less intense output of energy.  I taught English a few
hours a day and understand the hours and effort involved in teaching, but
school teachers teach everyday for several hours.  There must be something
to learn in the difference.  This would allow a teacher to make the same
amount of money, or more, from a larger number of lower paying students.
Obviously, I am not talking about residential Pc courses.  As has been
suggested, by Thilo and others, there could be other formats that expose
people to the ideas of Pc or give them useful experiences.  Or the funding
could come from by-products of the event or some other source to allow the
prices of attending to drop even further.  Or, as has also been mentioned,
some of the effort and costs of putting on the event could come directly
from the participants.  I think there is a lot of need for creativity and
exploration here.

The point that people won't value what is cheap had been brought up.  This
again is coming from business ethics.  I think people recognize value when
they see it, and it may take a sample to allow them to judge.   Some of
most valuable experiences that influenced me personally were free: local
library books, hiking, visiting with friends, etc.  The comments on this
list show a desire for the information and experiences, and therefore show
they consider it valuable.  They just don't feel it's worth the asking
price or they don't have the ability to pay it.  Either show them how
valuable it is or bring the price down (see above suggestions).  The
efforts toward the former doesn't seem to be working.

Toby had an interesting point, among many: 
> The glut, I think, is
> because most of us in Pc (in the US, at least) are from middle- and
> upper-middle class backgrounds and thus want intellectual work. For most of
> us, farming, though a noble profession, isn't a real option. That leaves
> design, teaching, land development, and planning. Development takes money,
> and planning means dealing with bureaucracy. Ergo, we teach and design.

There are some meaty issues here.  Can Pc grow beyond a marginal
intellectual activity if everyone wants intellectual work?  This factor may
be why it has been difficult to get away from (professional)
teacher-designer / (paying) student-client, lecture / workshop patterns.
Perhaps to shed its academic skin, Pc needs to find more connections to
other occupations and methods of spreading information.

This is getting long and starting to ramble, so I'll stop.  Instead of more
points to support the two views I started with, or just letting it fade
away until someone brings it up again, should we discuss ways of spreading
the ideas in Pc and ways to make teaching more economical?

My one cent worth ; )

Eric Storm

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