[permaculture] societal permaculture

Michael Kramer MKramer at hawaii.rr.com
Sat Apr 17 15:15:44 EDT 2004

Scott Pittman <pci at permaculture-inst.org> wrote
> I must have missed the course that changed zonation categories from land 
> use to "societal Permaculture" could you elaborate on this system??
> Scott Pittman

Thanks for the question, Scott. Indeed permaculture as a system is evolving. There are new ideas and new courses being offered today which build upon the excellent foundation of the books and Basic Permaculture Design Course created by Bill and the pioneers of the permaculture movement. As with any maturing successional model, evolution occurs when the conditions improve so that new elements may enter into the system and thrive; a guild forms over time and simultaneously supports the original species while expanding the diversity and therefore health of the system.  I'd offer that this is what is happening these days within the field of permaculture, and it's a very exciting time.

As you know zonation is a design concept. While it was written and taught about it as it applies to land-use, it has numerous applications to non-land systems.There's a lot of interest, particularly among the younger generation, in various aspects of our lives: intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics, economics, community development, and politics. To broaden permaculture's appeal and capacity for application in those areas, it is important that we as educators and leaders in our field articulate how the various strategies we teach about are part of a larger design. We can use zonation to do so.  We may live on a piece of land and can create intelligent activity patterns based on frequency and intensity of participation with the site, but we simultaneously live in a neighborhood, community, bioregion, state, country, and planet. How much time we spend at these levels determines what zone they are in our own personal life design. We simultaneously are part of a global economy and must consider how we earn, save, and spend every dollar; this financial pattern can be redesigned using zonation. We simultaneously determine on a daily basis the amount of time and energy we devote to our physical, psychological, spiritual, emotional and intellectual health - what some are calling Zone 0 - so we can apply zonation to the way we set personal goals and the way we relate to others, even the way we teach permaculture (which is the essence of the Permaculture Teacher's Courses we lead). When one applies permaculture principles and design to these arenas of our lives, permaculture becomes much more than the sum of techniques. The Permaculture Credit Union, political party platforms, social movements, land trusts, bioregional and urban planning, small business development, corporate reform, government regulation and policy, regenerative investing, community-based agriculture, local utility ownership, industrial recycling, and wildlands preservation are all important topics and strategies, so how they relate to one another in an organizational pattern is a form of design; zonation at this level is a form of social architecture. 

Consider the permaculture movement itself. We have people working full-time (gee, how many?), part-time, and volunteering out of personal interest. We have farmers, independent consultants, authors, teachers and some businesses and local guilds. We have people living permaculture at their home level to varying degrees of intensity. Some are active locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. We have people who live it, others who teach, some who write, others who network, etc. If we applied permaculture to our own movement, we'd use zonation to create a design that will build a strong system; we haven't done it yet, but we could. 

Currently, the permaculture movement has not yet developed the kind of sophistication required to articulate a design for our society either; we are dealing not with these zone 3-5 areas; the Permaculture Credit Union is a notable exception. Rather, we focus primarily on zones 1-2 at the home and neighborhood level - local-scale food, water, shelter,and energy systems, which is primarily the curriculum of the Basic Permaculture Design Course - and some attention to applications at schools, gardens, parks and community facilities. So addressing one's lifestyle and choices in terms of zonation merely weaves all forms of participation in society together in a design, and it appeals to students because it helps them see the importance of everything from inner spiritual growth to political activism on a global scale.  If people examine the frequency and intensity of use of their time, money, self-reflection, personal well-being, and public participation - if we look at everything we do within the continuum of degenerative to regenerative activities and resources - then we can truly design their lives and our society to reflect the ethics and principles of permaculture.  

Our movement will become much more popular if we expand permaculture's application to all spheres of human influence and build our infrastructure through self-organization and stronger links with other professions, movements, and forms of human organization. Bill used to speak about permaculturists "going where we're wanted", but the United States doesn't seem to really "want" permaculture yet, even though this society desperately needs it. So we need to go where we're needed, articulate the permacultural Magna Carta for the 21st century, and create social change at all zones of human activity.
Michael Kramer
Natural Investment Services
P.O. Box 390595
Keauhou, HI 96739


"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

More information about the permaculture mailing list