[permaculture] Is permaculture easy? (was Peak Oil)

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Fri Jul 20 22:15:29 EDT 2007

An additional thought: I'm here at the Bullock's amazing homestead, and 
was just talking with Sam and Douglas about whether some teachers make 
permaculture look too easy. I realized that there is a problem of 
perception. In this culture, people are familiar with, say, math. So 
they can watch a math professor work through a complex proof while 
making it look easy and enjoyable, but they would never believe that the 
professor is implying that math is easy, even if she is doing it with 
smiles and jokes. We know it's hard work. However, few people are 
familiar with ecological design; it's not an innate part of our 
education the way math is. So if a Pc teacher  explains guilds or 
ecovillage design, and does it in an enjoyable and easy-to-understand 
way, we're liable to make the error of assuming that an easy 
presentation and an obvious love of the subject means that the subject 
itself is easy. I think that's what's happening here. I suppose I ought 
to stud my presentations with "don't try this at home, kids" and "this 
stuff is really hard even though I make it look simple," but that seems 

It surprises me that anyone thinks becoming proficient or making a 
living at anything is easy. Getting good at anything, whether 
permaculture, the guitar, math, or ping-pong, takes a lot of work, takes 
making every mistake in the book, and takes dedication and 
self-sacrifice. Whether the learning experience is an enjoyable ride or 
a merciless pounding by a harsh teacher I think depends mostly on the 
personality of the student, so it's possible that the teacher or the 
subject is not to blame.


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