The cost of learning Permaculture...

Marsha Hanzi hanzibra at
Wed May 12 16:01:42 EDT 1999

I really appreciate all the  honest and personal feedback of my
colleagues on this list, and can sympathize with all of them.. I have
organized a course, which was marvellous, but lost US$3,000  due to not
covering expenses.  I have also gone the road of "trying to live from
Permaculture" and coming to the same conclusion as April that it is a
"style of life", something much more profound, but perhaps not a
profession.  I have had the same frustrations of  trying all sorts of
combinations of getting the message out, from dismembring the courses to
doing twice one-week stints, including the traditional go-at-one-blow,
and    even today am not totally satisfied( but getting there!)...
    But after 7 years full-time struggle with this question, have also
come to some tentative conclusions ( still "under construction"):
1) Followup is fundamental for course attendants, either as dismembered
courses, where they come back and raise their doubts, or regular visits,
or other opportunities to get together.  Otherwise the multiplying
effect can be close to zero, as has been largely discussed on this
list.I no longer accept invitations to places where I cannot give
subsequent followup ( sometimes I am "seduced" away from this
resolution, and what often happens is that those people end up visiting
us here...)
2) It is virtually impossible to make a living teaching Permaculture, as
what you receive from courses does not make ends meet ( even when
courses are relatively well-paid) due to the tremendous energy outlay as
discussed in the list... I ,like April, have gone back to a part-time
occupation( of teaching English) to give me a financial basis for my PC
work, much of which is unpaid...If I were to really try to make a living
from agricultural production, I would not have the liberty to travel as
I do today... And , like many teachers, my strong point is working with
people and with Nature, and not producing in quantities for the market..

3) I have come to the conclusion that the important part of PC is what
happens inside of people.  Seeing things in a  positive, integrated way
gives a new impulse to lives, which tend to change after the courses,
even if people don't actually go out and make a self-sufficient yard
around their houses( another kind of unmeasurable "multiplying
effect")...We have gone deeply into people-development activities, at
one point even too far(the courses began to feel more like a sort of
group therapy!), but have come back now to  middle ground.The tools,
strategies, and techniques are also fundamental...
But  just the fact of re-connecting people to Nature in a positive (
active and interactive) way is transforming... So maybe what is REALLY
important in this work is something more profound and subtle than
teaching how to design sustainble systems ( although that is of course
very important too).  It seems to me to be the fact of saying "Hey you
can do something! Roll up your sleeves! We are not helpless, impotent
victims..." It is a real pleasure to see the first generation of
Brazilian students out in the field now, working in the  most diverse
projects, but with an integrated and positive approach to the problems..

4) It takes time for the change to really develop into a lifework
proposal, some 4 years, from my observation...
5) Maybe we could create some situations where we could get together in
beautiful places ( how about a romantic island, or then I am happy to
offer a coconut-palm beach!) and just exchange experiences,
observations, etc... Campout, each bring a few sacks of rice and beans,
work in  the morning,  share in the afternoons, sing in the
evenings...When I made the first wistful lament,that started this whole
string off, it was to not be able to participate in these beautiful
events with these beautiful people, in these beautiful places... But
maybe we could invent more ways to get together, even with new people,
which do not entail the stress and cost of an actual formal
course...Seems to me there is a "niche"as yet unfilled between
internships and major convergences, which although exciting, are a bit
too large-scale and quick to get really  deep into subjects...Get
together for, say, a week, with thirty others...
    The course was fundamental when the books did not yet exist. But
today much of the traditional course is just a repetition of the book
anyway, adding in the professional's personal experience...Maybe we can
find a way to do this...


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