Permaculture and higher education

Judith Hanna jehanna at
Sat Jun 3 06:12:44 EDT 2000

At 11:22 01/06/00 -0500, Jeff Hall wrote:
>My take is that academia has been coevolving with the reductionistic
worldview for centuries, and holistic alternatives, be it health,
education, or whatever you're talking about, are defined out of the
picture. Sometimes a few radicals can bring something under the tent and
set in on an edge, but it always seems to be a very tentative existence.
>Ecology as a field is a bit of an exception, but it has largely been
defined as a very passive area, studying wilderness but not much about
human cultures everyday impacts.
>There is a lot of talk about "learning communities" here at Iowa State
University. It'll be interesting to see if that movement has any more
ability to work its way in than previous ideas.
>It all reminds me of "My dinner with Andre", where Andre talks about the
old forest protector who equates New York City with a concentration camp
where the inmates are the guards also (its a great quote, find the video or
screenplay). The university is a special "concentration camp", being both
the place that absorbs and neutralizes the most intelligent and creative
young people, and doing much of the technological development of the means
of sluising and uptaking nature into the industrial machine.

Of course, when you're caught up in a system, you see its flaws close up
and take its virtues for granted. After all, flaws are what we all work
away at repairing. But...

I get worried by the tendency towards dismissal of much real life -- cities
exist because people flock to live in them, so clearly they have a lot
going for them. A lot of natural farm life comes down to shovelling shit,
blisters and being out in cruel weather -- easier to idealise from the
comfort of city or suburbia than to live out, particularly if you don't
have the money to buy labour-saving substitutes. 

Likewise, higher education, science and academies are as much systems for
producing intelligent questioning as they are degree factories. Science is
about testing hypotheses -- technology and engineering about better ways of
applying science. They aren't to blame for the poor use that unthinking
people make of the truths they come up with. And blanket dismissals of them
are as unthinking as reductionist application of their easier axioms.

I guess I'm arguing for an aikido approach here -- understanding and using
the opponents own strength and energy, channeling the direction of their
gestures towards what you see as the action needed. As much as possible,
start from their own stated objecctives and show how what we are
doing/recommending helps meet those objectives, so they really want to work
on our lines...

Judith Hanna
jehanna at
15 Jansons Rd, Tottenham, London N15 4JU

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