What is permaculture?

S.K. Harrison skh23ca at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 26 17:34:22 EST 2001

> From: Toby Hemenway <hemenway at jeffnet.org>

> S.K. Harrison wrote
> > I challenge you to reformulate the subject
> > line without using any form of 'to be'. 
> and Jeff wrote
> > "This question "what is permaculture"
> > sometimes carries with it the assumption that
> > there is one common definition or a "right"
> > definition."
> I wasn't looking for yet another definition of
> permaculture. My question
> was, Where does permaculture fit into our
> system of knowledge? meaning, What
> makes it so hard to define, explain, and
> comprehend?

I didn't give the necessary parameters to make
the 'is' exercize bear fruit. I lop the 'is' in
my own problem solving, because then I have to
reformulate a more precise question--which
entails close observation. A simple
substitution--i.e. John's 'constitutes'-- misses
the point by miles. But Jeff paralleled my
intentions when he said,

> These thoughts lead me to the conclusion that
> how we ask a questions is often more important
> than their answers.  Control the questions and
> you control thinking.  Anyway, that is the
> reasoning behind my original comment.  A
> simplier way to say it might be:  One reason we
> have trouble describing Pc is due to the
> assumptions in thinking and questions.  

Here's a few examples of the questions that
emerged from about five minutes of contemplation:

How do we classify permaculture?
Has anyone attempted to classify permaculture?
How can I get the most accurate impression of
permaculture the fastest?
Where does ‘permaculture’ come from?
Why do we need permaculture?
Who does permaculture?
What in popular culture can be used to exemplify

Each of those questions helps delineate the exact
information being requested, instead of the
amorphous "What is permaculture?"

So, no, I'm not looking for a new definition of
pc. I may have confused my aims for you, Toby, by
including Jeff's quote in my previous post, but
it should be taken as an aside, not an example of
my intentions.

> The fact that there are dozens of definitions
> of Pc, and nearly everyone in the field feels
> it necessary to attempt one at some point,
> suggests the problem. Pc doesn't fit neatly
> into a knowledge category. A practical result
> of this, I think, is a very slow acceptance of
> Pc by the larger culture. that's a problem that
> concerns me too. I've heard permaculture
> referred to as a belief system or a lifestyle.

A light is dawning. I believe I see now why John
emphasized turning the question back on the
inquirer. Asking "what do you want" gives hir a
chance to stare into the mirror of
permaculture--that vast pool of definitions--and
see hir own desires.

Still, as the saying goes, if an ass looks in, a
saint won't look out. And I believe at that point
we begin to address your concern, Toby, for
promoting pc even to people with barely one whit
of ecological sensibility. Do you feel I've
pegged your concern here?

> > In short, pc doesn't fit into knowledge
> > structures--it doesn't need to. Rather, it
> > takes those structures, makes a roughshod
> > summary and gives it to us for *living as a
> > human on this planet in the 21st century*.
> I like that. It's just coming to terms with it
> that is hard. Won't such hubris bring down the
> wrath of the gods?

LOL. Could do.

Would you explain "coming to terms with it"?


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