[permaculture] politics and permies

Stella stella at finca-luna.com
Sun Dec 2 15:42:41 EST 2007

hi Jim,

thanks for your post, i liked your letter .. and hearing what u did 
after your pc course - good on you :)

wanted to comment on this bit you wrote:

> If there is one critique I'd make of permaculture, I would say that it
> is too anti-political; that it doesn't think about how the things it
> wants need political change.

i´d say that fortunately the permaculture movement is so eclectic, that 
it´s really not possible to say "it" thinks one thing or another - what 
we all have in common is that we share ethics, principles, a try for a 
systemic form of thinking .. what you learned in your PDC.   But people 
hear and apply all this in very different ways and - especially - 
within very different political realities.

One highlight of the last international convergence (IPC8) for me was 
hearing Lucy Legan (a founder member of IPEC, where we were staying) 
say that although for us in the west permaculture is still mostly a 
passtime and a fashion, for them in Brasil, PC is Political.

She's an australian who has lived in Brasil for a long time and it is 
perhaps her double identity that gave her 'permission' to be so blunt 
in public, but infact speaking privately with many south american 
permaculturists, I came away with the distinct impression that they are 
pretty disgusted with how feebly we apply permaculture in the west.
ie. mostly to get more confortable ourselves, or build up & show off 
our 'expertise'  (then try to 'sell it back to them')   instead of 
really using it to shift OUR society, and DO political change with it.
This they see as doubly outrageous given how much  privilege we have in 
the west and how much leverage we COULD do with it.

I´ve been collecting interviews of permaculture pioneers since 2003 
now, and my impression is that mostly they are very politically aware 
people, who do work directly on this level when it makes sense.   And 
are pretty clear about the fact that any good permie design is ALWAYS 
working also on a political level.

The latest interviews I did  in IPC8 with permaculture pioneers from 
Argentina, Guatemala, ElSalvador & Colombia, and  what is interesting 
is that most of them also infact came to permaculture through their 
political activism.   Starhawk in the US is now a permaculture teacher, 
and she definately came to PC through her political activism work.   So 
did I, so perhaps I just notice these people more.

Yet other pioneers here in Europe are also busy changing laws: eg. 
Margrit Kennedy in Germany is working at central governament level to 
change the law around community currencies, as she figured out a long 
time ago that monetary change is essential to making any type of 
permaculture project really viable - and has been patiently and 
constantly building that movement for decades now (with very impressive 

In England there are permies working to change the law around land 
rights, also from decades back (I don´t live there anymore so am not up 
to date with the successes so far, but I believe there have been some 
important ones), and in Spain we had the law change around strawbale 
building a few years ago - because of permies working at it I believe.

And I gather there are now permies in australia working to get a 
permaculture political party together.

and that is just considering 'permies' those who have done a PDC.  But 
as I believe that the great majority of those who sit through a PDC 
don´t really understand how far reaching these ethics & design tools 
really are, I mostly work a 'backwards' and consider good 'permies' 
those people who actually DO permaculture, whether they have officially 
studied it or not.

And so I would say that for eg. Brudtland is a great permie - because 
she led perhaps the biggest political shift the planet has ever seen.  
What the Brudtland comission did was a SUBLIME and unparalleled 
achievement in terms of design for sustainability, precisely because it 
took well into account the whole political situation at the time (as 
well as the ecological, the social, the economic...).  PC textbook 

The fact that a lot of people in the PC movement didn´t read or value 
this work (and so have been unable to use this to move permaculture 
forward) is tragic.
But perhaps it has more to do with lack of understanding of design than 
distrust of politics.
I´ve heard for eg. many a pc colleague say that "sustainable 
development" is a contradiction in terms and so it´s meaningless ... or 
some such dismissal of the whole thing.
Yet that pardox that Brudtland launched with that exact combination of 
words was the piece de resistance of the thing!   We just didn´t get 
Political naiveté?  Perhaps.

PC's birth had a lot to do with taking a pro-active stance, which is 
sometimes changed to just "anti-protest" & so might be interpreted as 
anti-political by some.  By those who want to hear it that way tho.

It is also definately true I think that in most 'first world' countries 
PC is deeply tinged by the privilege & middle-class patterns of the 
people who have adopted it and been very good at 'spreading the word' 
(and make believe that their stance is the 'right' or indeed only one). 
   Dont´be fooled.

If you look beyond appearances and adjust for privilege & 'divulging 
power' (eg. consciously focus more on the edge species and what the 
lower class people, the women, the young people, the ethnic minorities 
are saying and doing), the picture is a LOT more interesting.

In the wide world as well as (sadly perhaps) within the PC movement.

El 02/12/2007, a las 19:20, Jim escribió:

> Sorry.
> Couldn't resist the apocalyptic title.
> I've enjoyed reading some posts on this topic at
> http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com   (John Michael Greer)
> and
> transitionculture.org    (Rob Hopkins)
> Basically, both of them shy away from the approach of exaggerating the
> Everyone For Themselves
> mentality that got us into this situation, and instead suggest
> increasing cooperation, craft and creativity instead.
> This has been my approach in the 25 months since I got my Permaculture
> Design Certificate,
> and I've had some fairly good success with it (that includes reading
> this list, and trying to share something that folks might like, and
> refraining from babbling; but also forming a guild, and joining
> successfully with others to stop a proposed Wal-Mart and a proposed
> oil-burning power plan, staging an affordable Intro to Permaculture
> workshop, and supervising an college intern to research currency
> projects around the country, among other things).
> Instead of searching for the magic, secret spot, and deluding yourself
> that you are the only one smart enough to suss it out; why not build
> community and resilience where you are?
> If there is one critique I'd make of permaculture, I would say that it
> is too anti-political; that it doesn't think about how the things it
> wants need political change.
> Case in point: composting toilets.
> Most of us think we need more of them. Perhaps a majority of people
> reading this post live in places where they are against the law. Do we
> build one, poop in secret and hope no neighbors report us?
> Or do we work to change the law, perhaps via a network of advocates
> living in the same country who can trade tips and tricks on how to work
> a city council/inspector, etc.
> I actually took some action on this a few months ago. The city manager
> announced that he was searching for a new planning director after the
> old one "stepped down" [I hope an open letter of mine had some 
> influence
> in encouraging the old planning director to seek work elsewhere].
> I asked for a meeting with him on behalf of the permaculture guild, and
> encouraged the city manager to be open to innovative eco-technologies
> that might currently be illegal, and to find a director who would work
> with eco-innovators here to assess new technologies on their merits, 
> and
> not just whether they were in yesterday's code. And that night, as it
> turns out, the New York Times had an article on Oakland's Greywater
> Guerrillas [which was essentially about the dilemma of changing the 
> law,
> or just violating it], which I promptly emailed him. I also got to ask
> him what he'd heard about Peak Oil
> What will come of this? I don't know.
> I do know, however, that I'm not a big fan of the move-to-the-country
> and self-sufficiency-it with guns, however. At fifty, I'm getting a
> little old to learn some new tricks. And I'm not sure I'd want to teach
> my nephews and nieces target practice, so that they can shoot strangers
> onsite onsight, as described in
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artimus_Pyle
> That said, I'm not sure that Phoenix is the best place to be 30 years
> from now.
> And if you are interested in encouraging your local (US and Canada)
> government to begin preparing for peak oil,
> which is a conversation opener into other topics, check out
> http://postcarboncities.net <http://postcarboncities.net>
> If you'd like to encourage your local government to prepare/react to
> climate change along with the
> 700 cities in the world (300 in the US) that are part of ICLEI, visit
> http://www.iclei.org/index.php?id=394           (global site, with 
> pages
> for each continent and country)
> -- Jim
> _______________________________________________
> permaculture mailing list
> permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
> Subscribe or unsubscribe here:
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/permaculture

More information about the permaculture mailing list