[permaculture] Overly optimistic permaculture attitude towardsland

Scott Pittman scott at permaculture.org
Thu Dec 3 13:29:47 EST 2009

Hear! Hear!!

Scott Pittman
Permaculture Institute
-----Original Message-----
From: permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of
lbsaltzman at aol.com
Sent: Thursday, December 03, 2009 10:50 AM
To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Overly optimistic permaculture attitude

I think another missing element is invisible systems.  Our culture is
designed around the rugged individualist myth.  With the exception of some
successful intentional planned community my sense is that too many people
are tackling land solo or as couples.  I don't criticize that because that
is the way it is at this time, particularly in America. But in truth some of
these systems should be built by communities of people that are committed to
staying on the land for a long time as a true community. How we go a bout
building this kind of community is I suspect far harder than designing a
food forest or building a straw bale house.


-----Original Message-----
From: Toby Hemenway <toby at patternliteracy.com>
To: permaculture <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thu, Dec 3, 2009 8:12 am
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Overly optimistic permaculture attitude towards

Rain, it sounds like the problem you and Nicholas have is mostly with 
ill's salemanship. He knowswill definitely catch more flies with honey 
han with vinegar. But for every time I've heard him say "the designer 
ecomes the recliner" I've also heard him say, I still don't know how to 
efine permaculture and nobody seems to be doing it well. And if you've 
ver  worked with a film crew, they don't encourage you to say how 
ifficult it's all going to be. So I'm okay with cutting Bill some 
lack. I don't see much support for a sweeping claim that "permaculture" 
s doing people a disservice. And I've definitely seen large areas of 
oil made fertile and local climates (over acres) changed using 
ermaculture. Yes, it's easier to start with good soil, and much land 
sn't meant to be farmed, but I can't blame Bill if I don't know that.
I think we take home what we are predisposed to learn. And westerners, 
specially college educated ones who've never used a shovel, like it all 
o be easy. Probably after 20 years of doing Pc, Bill may have felt that 
ost of it was pretty easy. I was with him when he went to a place to do 
 design consult, and he told me he had the whole design worked out 
etween the time he saw the house from down the lane and when we parked 
he car. If you watch a calligraphy master make a lifetime's work look 
asy, and then get pissed off when your first brushwork is a mess, I 
on't think it's fair to blame the master.
What I see in the permaculture literature--like the Designer's 
anual--looks pretty damn challenging to me, so I'm not sure how anyone 
ho digs into it would think it is easy. It's true that people make lots 
f mistakes similar to the one Christopher mentioned, but I suspect 
hat's partly because we carry our own preconceptions with us ("now I 
an be master of the landscape!") and because some people  consider 
hemselves an expert after taking one PDC ("now I'm a certified 
ermaculture designer!" Uh, hardly.) We're also so terribly disconnected 
rom the land that our idea of how much work planting and caring for, 
ay, 20 nut trees, is based on nothing but romantic Hollywood fantasy. 
hen you put up the deer screen for the 30th time or haul the 50th 
ucket of water, and you want to cry. But it's hard for me to see how 
hat is permaculture's fault, rather than that of our own ignorance and 
onviction that there's got to be a magic bullet that will make it all easy.

Rain Tenaqiya wrote:
 Well, Toby, I don't have the time to do a literature search to back up my 
laims, but I run into a lot of people like the one Christopher mentioned who

idn't seem to get an appropriate permaculture education.  As for myself, I
eeply influenced by Bill Mollison, and he definitely seems like a booster to

e.  I remember him saying not to worry too much about soil since you can
ransform it with organic matter and amendments (which is common in Australia

iven the poor soil).  His Global Gardener videos make it all look so easy.
alks about how cheap earthworks are (not!) and gives inflated statistics
ow radically you can transform local climate.  For results within one
ifetime, I'm learning to expect much less.
 If you are only wanting to grow food for a small household (which is
ll that is truly sustainable in the long run), it is possible to do
hings in tough circumstances, if you are willing to do all the work.  But it

akes a long time without unsustainle inputs from outside.  Agriculture
s not sustainable, even though included in Mollison's books) is not worth 
onsidering on most marginal land, in my opinion.
 Gotta go,

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