[permaculture] defining permaculture

Scott Vlaun scott at moosepondarts.com
Mon Jun 18 12:50:14 EDT 2007

Charles, This might be the excerpt you mentioned. It is from my  
interview with Mollison in 2001. We cut a lot of trees and probably  
have more biomass standing in the forest now than when we started.   
We harvest the trees like any other crop and use most of it for  
firewood and building material and leave the slash for habitat. We  
are also opening up some land to grow grass for a draft horse and  
some chickens. You can link to the rest of the interview off our  
website below. It was rather epic and life altering for me.

Mollison: Yes. Make the least changes that you need to achieve what  
you want. Don't cut a tree down unless you have to. . . and I've  
never had to since I've adopted that as a principle.

Vlaun: You've never had to cut a tree down?

Mollison: Never. I've never had to.

Vlaun: But you said the first place you went to, you went to the  
forest and cleared an acre and a half.

Mollison: Oh, now, this was before permaculture. I was hatching  
permaculture in that hole in the forest. In fact, I am a logger. I've  
logged forests as a profession and broken down the logs with Canadian  
twins and sawed them up into six houses every day, six days a week.  
So I've cut up a lot of timber for housing.

Vlaun: What would someone in a situation like I'm in do? I live in a  
forest, more or less.

Mollison: There are things I call type- one errors. The first one is  
I say is, for Christ's sake, don't move into a forest if you want to  
feed yourself because you're going to have to destroy the forest to  
feed yourself. That's a type one error. Once you make that error,  
error after error will follow. And the other thing is, don't put your  
house up on a high bluff or on a ridge. We find it impossible to save  
you from fire. We find it very difficult to get roads to you and it  
will cost you much more for your roads than your house. We can't get  
water up to you. We can't keep getting it up to you in emergencies.  
Don't go there. Don't make the error of selecting that site.

Vlaun: In my case, this place used to be a farm 200 years ago. It was  
abandoned. Trees grew up in the fields. Somebody came and cut all the  
big trees and cleared a couple of acres for a landing. They left this  
huge mess, holes where the stumps were, piles of slash, piles of  
stumps. We're committed to restoring the forest ecology as well as  
producing our own food.

Mollison: I know what you're talking about. You want to farm there so  
you'll have to clear some of it and so you're caught in a bit of a  
bind. And you want to farm there so you'll have to control the  
animals. You're gonna have raccoons and possum and God knows what  
after your corn ears, aren't you? So you're gonna eat raccoon or  
shoot raccoon or set out wire fences against raccoon or something. So  
you've forced yourself into a situation where you're not sure that's  
where you want to be, you know, shooting deer and cutting down trees.

The whole of the peninsula of northeast Australia runs right up into  
the tropics, it's called Cape York. When we first got photographs of  
it, it was solid rain forest. In Sydney, though, we're noticing  
little holes appearing in the rain forest all along the coast and in  
the end, they turned into quite large holes with buildings in them.  
So, they went to have a look, and the hippies were escaping the city  
by going to Cape York, finding a nice waterfall ten yards from a  
beach, cutting themselves a clearing, putting in a garden and  
building a house and then getting a bigger house and asking their  
friends to come. So the hippies were actually eating the rain forest.  
And they're the very people who turn up in thousands to stop all  
forests being cut anywhere. But they themselves, at home, were the  
main cause of the disappearance of a very uncommon tropical rain  
forest because they like to live in a beautiful place. What they  
don't like to do is build a beautiful place to go and live in. They  
like to go to a place that is already very beautiful. That's very  
typical of rich people and hippies. You'll hear hundreds of hippies  
say, "Oh, I've found this marvelous place. It's got a waterfall; it's  
got beautiful trees. It's got thousands of birds, you know. I'm gonna  
build there." It's right in a national park! You'll hear that a  
million times, right? And I think, "You stupid bastard. You're a type  
one error yourself!"(laughs) The hippy should go somewhere where  
there's no forest, like I did, where there's just cattle-trodden  
grasslands and build that beautiful place, which I did. I put lots of  
lakes in it with 50 good dams, so everywhere there's water, and I  
created paradise. It created itself even more than I did; I gave it a  
three-year start. It built itself amazingly fast.

Vlaun: It's a frustrating thing for us. I never could have cleared  
that field where my garden is. It just never would have happened. It  
was a deep, dark pine forest. I never even thought about going in  
there. T,hen one day, it was gone, and all of a sudden, there was sky  
and a whole new vision occurred to us and we ended up buying the  
land. I'm trying to reforest a little part of the cleared area but  
the rest of it I want to keep open for gardens.

Mollison: Yeah, that's a bind. If you look at America, there's more  
land cleared than will ever be used to grow food and maybe we need 2%  
of the cleared land that now exists to grow all the food we need.  
That's a fair estimate. Some people say 4% in England or somewhere.  
You could close 96% of the farms down or 98% depending on which way  
you're growing your food. Just reforest the whole thing again.

Scott Vlaun
Moose Pond Arts+Ecology
Design Solutions for a Sustainable Future

450 Main St. Studio 2
Norway, Maine 04270
207-739-2409 Studio
207-890-4099 Cell

On Jun 18, 2007, at 12:31 PM, Charles de Matas wrote:

> <<<<is permaculture/food forest adverse to cutting trees at all, or  
> is it
> permissable to clear some for letting sunlight reach crops, or just  
> what
> exactly
> does the principles of "food forestry" consider to be permaculture?  
> I live
> in a
> very forested area and I have been clearing small plots and building
> gardens. >>>>
> I once read the transcipt of an interview with Bill Mollison where  
> he said
> that after he came up with the idea of permaculture he never had to  
> cut down
> a tree.  Amazing - not having to cut down any trees.   I spent a  
> few hours
> with some local permaculturists a few months ago helping one of  
> them make a
> fire-break/terrace on a contour, and we certainly cut down a lot of  
> small
> trees.  I felt a little guilty about this when I got home.
> Charles.
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