Zone 6 and zones in general

Myk Rushton permaculture at
Tue Mar 14 02:23:09 EST 2000


Graham Burnett <gburnett at> wrote

> >I was reminded of the PC intro course I did with Carl Smith back in 1995,
> >when he explained
> >zoning he referred to 'Zone 6', the 'place you never visit' and 'here be
> >dragons'. . . . I've never heard it >mentioned since in Permaculture
> >circles- can anybody point me to some specific literature that engages in
> >exploring this concept?

Hello Graham

I too did a Pc Intro Course with the late Carl Smith where he discussed zone
6. As far as I recall he defined it as our imagination, inhabited by the
mythical creatures such as dragons, elves, dwarfs, unicorns etc. He
described it as a place to visit for wild ideas and inspiration.

Hello again Toby

Toby Hemenway <hemenway at> wrote
> I've heard "zone 6" referred to in several ways; as sacred space, as
> "pristine wilderness" (as opposed to wilderness that people have altered
> some point)...

I would say that the above definitions are encompasses by zone 5

> Here we're back
> at that old dichotomy between lumpers and splitters. I'm generally a
> lumper, one who avoids dividing things up into many subtly distinct,
> hard-to-remember categories. For me Zones 0-5 cover all the bases. If I've
> heard right, even Zone 0 was added on to the original 1-5, and has since
> been refined (justifiably, in my mind) to include the mental and emotional
> state of the designer (see Permaculture Dryland Journal v27 p4, by Peter
> Cooke and Ingrid Kelley).

Carl described zone 0 as the house or dwellings, the immediate area
surrounding the person or people, and zone 00 to describe your mental and
emotional head state.

> I feel that Zone 5 encompasses everything that
> the others don't: wilderness, sacred space, places we never visit, the
> unexplored frontier, etc. Mollison (Design Manual, p50) calls it "the
> natural, unmanaged environment used for occasional foraging, recreation,
> just let be." That final phrase includes all that Carl and Graham mention;

Not really. I feel that Carl felt that zone 6 was ethereal or fantasy.

> I'd rather see this sense of Zone 5 made more explicit than add yet
> zone for us to memorize. With tongue in cheek, I'd ask why stop at Zone 6?
> Zone 7 could be ancient landscapes destroyed by plate tectonics, Zone 8
> surface of other planets, Zone 9 other dimensions, Zone 10 the afterlife,
> and on and on. In Zones 0-5 I think we have categories that work well; we
> just need to reflect upon and unpack their definitions more fully.

To unpack something to my mind infers that it be divided up and its
components analysed in bits. Doesn't that sound a little like splitting
something up :-)

Seriously though I believe that the addition of further zones to the
original 5 is an example of how permaculture and its practices are evolving.
As you said zone 0 was added on to the original 5 (It is not mentioned in Pc
1, 2 or in Introduction to Pc but is mentioned in the Design Manual).

Also, looking back at the original definition of zones it was about energy
efficiency, the closest zones being the ones that required the most energy
input. I personally prefer Robin Clayfield description of zones in her book
You Can Have Your Permaculture And Eat It Too. "The concept of zones is
about the placement of elements in relation to the importance, priority and
number of visits needed for each element". To me the zone of greatest
importance that has the highest priority and requires the greatest number of
visits is zone 00 - me! Without continual frequent visits to myself the rest
of my system falls apart. Next is zone 0 my house, again it takes careful
planning to ensure my energy is used efficiently. After that follow the
standard 5 zones as originally described in Pc 1 and 2. After that comes
zone 6, that place where I retire to in day dreams or times of stress when I
just shut off!

Finally, I was fortunate to be an ally at Judith H's diploma event where she
demonstrated the use of sectors and zones as a way of prioritising her busy
life and the interests she had - I don't believe that this use was covered
by the original definition either :-)


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