Summarising discussion

permed at permed at
Thu Aug 3 21:01:56 EDT 2000

I'm finding a number of things beginning to click into place through the 
course of these on-line discussions and through this am beginning to get 
a picture for the potential new role of Permaculture International Ltd. 

PIL was incorporated to be the International Association of 
permaculturalists & Pc assns - you'll note that ordinary (volting) 
membership is available only to PDC graduates. 
PIL is the only broad-based democratic organisation we have with a track 
record of impartiality and it's potential to serve the needs of the 
international Pc community has not really been explored beyond publishing 
PIJ and Global Directory.

It seem time for us to put our collective support into making PIL work 
for us in filling some of the vacuums that are being identified through 
the dialogue. I'm not convincved that PIL should become purely 
'Australia' focussed - there appears to be a real need to have an 
international voice and cohesive force to unite us as a global community 
and to further Pc and the work of Pc practitioners and organisations 

Russ wrote:

>The discussion makes clear the desirability of a widely recognisable logo,
>representative of permaculture, accessible by permaculture people and
>Why, then, with the snake-egg logo unavailable, should we not design our own
>global permaculture logo?

PIL still doesn't have a logo - this could be designed to fill this 
By the way - when I was in New Zealand last year a few Pc'ers stated they 
didn't feel too connected to the Pc logo as it contained a snake and 
there's no snakes in NZ!!? 
Certainly Australian Aboriginal mythology and symbolism is inherent in 
the 'rainbow serpent' in the logo. It highlights the importance of 
creating a global logo that uses readily recognisable symbols that people 
can relate to irrespective of country, climate and culture.

>Such a logo could:
>- use the familiar 'egg' shape
maybe it could have something representing the human element within the 

>- be accessible to all holders of a PDC for professional, promotional and
>other approved uses, users could register their use with a responsible
>national permaculture body
>- be accessible to community-based permaculture associations who would
>similarly register its use
>- the use could be administered by permaculture institutes in the USA and
>other countries and by Permaculture International Limited in Australia; the
>aim of administering the use of the logo by approved individuals and
>organisations would prevent its use by shonky or unethical organisations or
>people seeking to represent their use as 'permaculture' when it clearly was
As PIL's logo these above could be accommodated through membership and 
affiliated organisations
>There was some suggestion in the online discussion that Bill/ Permaculture
>Institute could attempt to trademark the word 'permaculture'. Others said
>that because the word had come into common use over the past 20 years, this
>would be difficult to do. Were it done, the trademark holder (Mollison?
>Permaculture Institute?) could then licence permaculture teachers, stipulate
>what was taught and how, and charge a licence fee.
In my discussions with Australian Copyright Council they said that they 
would need to do further investigation to establish the exact legal 
status of the copyright on the word 'permaculture'. They said that 
individual words are usually trademarked rather than copyrighted. Further 
investigation and a definitive answer would need a written request from a 
>With the knowledge that ideas and words are not copyrightable but that
>expressions of them are, one interpretation sees the notion, that only
>graduates of permaculture design courses (PDCs) can teach permaculture, go
>out the window.
I'm not sure that this would be fully the case - the teaching of a course 
curricula can be licenced, The Pc Institute (Bill?) owns the PDC 
curriculum (1985) and the right to teach has been given (effectively a 
licence) to all PDC graduates. I think the Pc Inst might have a case if a 
non-graduate were to teach a "Permaculture Design Course' using his 
curriculum.  The greatest problem I see is that there is no formal, 
recorded method of registering/licencing people to teach and use the word 
or even of PDC graduates for that matter. 

The comprehensive (complete) centralised register of PDC graduates 
doesn't appear to exist - I'm not sure what's happening there - I 
recollect the Pc Inst handed over that chore to PIL some years ago as 
they couldn't manage it and I don't think PIL have had the resources to 
either. Can anyone clarify this?

>All our own fault?
>In one way, this situation is the outcome of the inability of permaculture
>people to make effective collective decisions. I am aware that various
>groups have in the past volunteered to address various things about
>permaculture education - with zero outcome.
Some of these things e.g. accreditation, have been due to factors like 
finance, workload and timelines rather than decision making - the 
communication and decision-making process in this instance worked 
remarkably well (although Bill doesn't agree with the collective decision 
that was made). But yes, we do need to work more on cooperative 
decision-making process and just as critical is the follow up and 
on-going support for those who put in the effort to deliver the outcomes 
of collective decisions.
>Whenever some 'umbrella organisation' or higher level of organisation is
>mooted, it is decried by some as 'centralising' permaculture or 'creating
>heirarchies'. Better the 'decentralised' model, they say.
It's ironic that the key central organisation, The Permaculture 
Institute, is as autocratic as you can get with no democratic base. Bill 
has not encouraged democratic organisations or true cooperative efforts 
in an organisational sense. I wonder if a lot of the fragmentation of the 
movement is a natural outcome of this. 
>Sure, the decentralised model is fine, but permaculture ends up with a
>thousand voices - most of them preferring to remain mute - and no
>representative voice to comment. Thus, permaculture remains largely
>'invisible' in the public affairs arena and is seen by some influential
>people and bodies to lack credibility.
I think we can find an appropriate balance between the two - cohesion and 
cooperative effort in promoting Pc & services, networking with other 
organisations is what is truely lacking and gives rise to the problems 
identified above.
>This situation has likely worsened since the withdrawal of Bill Mollison - a
>loud and clearly identifiable voice for permaculture - from public life.
>Where there was once Bill, we now have a vacuum. I know of none of us who
>could fill Bill's shoes. So, then, do we now need some 'umbrella
>organisations', perhaps at the national level, to fill this Bill-free
I think The Pc Institute sees itself fullfilling Bill's role in terms of 
retaining ownership & control of the name, logo and curriculum - the 
Institute hasn't really provided these other roles we are discussing and 
Bill's charisma has compensated to some degree. Perhaps his attitudes on 
some issues have slowed some processes down? irrespective we are at a 
pivotal point, Bill or not, with the movement and must look at ways to 
organise our efforts more effectively to provide a cohesive and credible 
presence nationally and internationally.
>As well, maybe we need a non-fractious way to come to international
>agreements on permaculture issues, to make effective decisions. It doesn't
>surprise me that I have found that one thing stands out as missing from the
>permaculture design system - that's people skills, the skills to solve
>problems, to reach agreements, to negotiate effectively and without anger
>and fractiousness, the ability to properly plan and resolve conflicts. I
>contend that is a serious omission for a system that claims to deal in 'care
>of people'! (Yes, I know there are exceptions among some permaculture
I too would like to see more serious thought and importance given to the 
human element and strategies for working on the 'people-care' ethic - 
this is the area that causes so much grief, not only in permaculture. If 
we are truly concerned with creating human supporting ecosystems we need 
to direct much more effort into 'knowing our animal'....
(a valuable exercise is to go through the principles of Pc & ecology and 
explore their applications to the personal, interpersonal and community 

>Congratulations to all those who participated in the online discussion. The
>ability to redefine what is permaculture and to set standards and processes
>belongs to those who speak out.
Thanks Russ for being 'devil's' advocate with the questions and issues 
raised and for summarising the dialogue to date

Robyn F

Permaculture Education
Djanbung Gardens
PO Box 379
Nimbin NSW 2480 

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