[permaculture] Re: permaculture Digest, Vol 15, Issue 22

Scott Pittman pci at permaculture-inst.org
Tue Apr 20 10:59:32 EDT 2004

At 10:26 PM 4/19/2004, you wrote:
>3. Re: zonation (Michael Kramer)

Your comments about "permaculture is bigger than Bill, his texts, his 
teachings" becomes amusing in the context of the contents of your 
correspondence where approximately fifty percent of your text is quotes 
from Bill Mollison.

I think that you misunderstand me when you imply that I don't think that 
many of the design principals and tools are relevant to the "invisible 
structures".  Quite to the contrary I think that most of them work very 
well in both realms.  I am concerned when we utilize every concept in 
permaculture as a metaphor to be applied to every situation.  I know one 
could use swaling as a metaphor for financial savings, or wind breaks for 
creating co-ops etc. but to what purpose if it engenders more confusion 
than enlightenment?

So all I'm talking about is that some concepts work very well with visible 
structures and land use while others work better with invisible structures.
A hammer is a very good tool for building, bashing things, and as a paper 
weight but to apply this tool to social contracts is a bit of a stretch, so 
why not use something more meaningful and appropriate to the subject one is 

Perhaps I am a bit dense but I don't "get" your example of the Village as 
zone 0.  Since zonation is a form of mapping out areas in regard to 
frequency of use and availability of resources where on the map would you 
put "money, governance processes and values (including culture and 
Of course "a site design that did not consider these issues would be 
incomplete", but it does not follow that zonation is the best methodology 
for that consideration.  Our design "tool box" is not so limited that we 
have to use each tool for every situation, but I repeat myself.

"Even in a land-based site assessment and zonation plan we consider zoning 
ordinances, building codes, local planning processes, and right livelihood, 
all issues that impact but are not necessarily located on the site.  But 
they are part of what impacts how each and every one of us spends our time 
and energy each day."  Your preceding statement is, of course, true but so 
what?  Just because species characteristics is not included in zone mapping 
but in, another design methodology, analysis of elements does not mean that 
species characteristics aren't important just that it has more meaning in 
the context of analysis of elements.  I think forcing an element of the 
system into a design method that does not quite fit shows a lack of 
imagination in creating new categories and methodologies to account for the 
unique characteristics of some elements, like money, religion, law, and 
social structures.  They are a very important part of design and therefore 
deserve there own conceptual tools and means of understanding them within 
the overall context of the design.

The examples you cite for Zone 1-5 are all part of the overall description 
of the human situation but I don't see how categorizing them into various 
zones helps in understanding or design.  Perhaps a bubble map would be more 
edifying, or a Dahlgrin method of description within the context of overall 

I would love to see your map of the flows of time, money, habits, ideas, 
feelings, and interpersonal relationships drawn out perhaps then I could 
understand why it is such a profound way of informing the students of the 
place each of these elements play in their overall design and  the 
understanding of  permaculture's relevance to this process.

As for the whinging of others on this list about rigid versus open, your 
missing the point entirely!  It is the very discomfort expressed in the 
face of disagreement, and striving for understanding that is the first 
indication of rigidity.

Scott Pittman 

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