Invisible Structures - What resources do people use? WAS: RE: research on pc projects needed

Harold Waldock haroldw at
Tue May 1 16:45:07 EDT 2001

Thanks to Marsha Hanzi, Russ Grayson, Naomi and Rick Coleman. Scott Pittman
and others for a high quality thread.  One part  of the discussion touched
on something common to the whole movement North or South, urban or rural.

>The whole area of "invisible structures" is critical to converting
vegetables into money to pay the electric bill.  Unfortunately
>the invisible structure part of the course has always been poorly presented
and understood and therefore a critical piece of the sustainability
> picture is missing.

This is really important.  It is the biggest reason permaculture does not
get designed or implemented. When I introduce Permaculture Design in short
workshops (1-2day) I always bring this up and have a hand out on it.
However, I always feel I have more questions than answers.

What resources to people use? What has been their key to success in this?
What are people's drawings to fill in this sustainability picture.

I think that invisible structures also contributes to what happens to recent
graduates of Permaculture Design Courses. First they go through the
"Permaculture Eureka effect" which commonly turns to, as described in one
article of the Permaculture Magazine (a year or two ago), the "Permaculture
Pit" This is where the person returns home after a PC Certification 2 week
course with new ideas and then wonders what to do next. Often, the desire to
get from where they are to where they want to go seems impossible and
overwhelming especially since they have seen good examples on the ground.
Or especially for urban people, the projects that they actually do, seem
small and inconsequential to them.

 If something does not get going then people get despondent about
Permaculture and they stop taking action or continue their study.  This
happens even though there is a mini local network, local listserve and
events & projects to be part of . This pattern is so common that I begin to
wonder if Permaculture Design Course  is some kind of "drug" that a person
gets a high from then drops to a low with a withdrawal then kicks the
Permaculture habit and gets back to "normal".   The location (usually 100's
or 1000's km away) and way the course is presented may have some thing to do
with it.  Often it is the younger people - who take a PC course somewhere
but do not have resources or stability to implement.  It is almost as if for
these typically middleclass urban young people that there is a pattern of
powerlessness.  They are typically hard to organize - 50% change their phone
numbers in one year.

Weekly night courses? Bundled with many other courses esp. skill development
(Bullock Bros. do this - 6 week course )?

Remedies I think up include an internship program leading into a green small
business training program (it has to be green to make sure they are not told
things that oppose what Permaculture tells them).  This way people who need
a creative/Permaculture place to live or those who come looking for green
work have a pathway.  Implementation is a long way off although I now have
some interesting contacts.   Any tips or experiences?

Certainly, one remedy is for instructors to have "open house" places where
former students can visit most any time and for significant stays.  It helps
with transient ness and gives hope to many - the Bullock Brothers on Orcas
Island seem to do that.  They also hosted regional gatherings regularly.

What have you seen done?  What do people do?


Harold Waldock
Vancouver Permaculture Network
Vancouver, B.C. Canada
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