[permaculture] Trends in America

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Wed Nov 5 09:55:07 EST 2008

Marjory wrote:

> Toby, I don't want to sound harsh (as text can often be), but 
> yes, if you do not have the skills to grow food and manage your water, 
> then yes, I think you and most of the other p.d.c. teachers should stop 
> teaching until you do.
(thanks for the note on harsh words--this is a narrow bandwidth medium 
and it's difficult to get a lot of nuance in it.)

I've not yet met any Pc teacher who hasn't at some time grown food, 
managed water, and done a zillion other practical things--it would be 
hypocritical to teach what you can't do. I had a ten-acre homestead for 
ten years--built much of the passive solar house, had a 6000 square foot 
garden, catchment, graywater, food forest, harvested wood for heat, 
greenhouse, solar hot water, etc, etc. But doing that is no longer the 
best use of my time, given the needs of others around me (and the work 
others do for me in exchange). I've also found that as people spend time 
as Pc-ists, many go through an evolution from gardening and building to 
design, and then to community development and focusing on invisible 
structures. That's where I am, at any rate.

> Throughout  pre-fossil fuel history, at least 95% of people 
> primarily worked to produce food.

The primary reason that most people were farmers until recently is due 
to a grossly inequitable distribution of political power (feudalism, 
serfdom), not because everyone needed to farm to produce enough food. 
I've seen studies showing that one farmer in 1700 could grow enough food 
to feed 50 people. They were forced to grow grain and give most of it to 
their rulers to feed the rulers' livestock, army, servants, courtiers, 
and so on. In an equitable political system without fossil fuels, no 
more than 10-30% of people would need to be involved in food production. 
Don't get me wrong, I love gardening and think everyone should do it to 
be connected to the land, but even without oil, we don't all need to be 


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