[permaculture] Overly optimistic permaculture attitude towards land

lbsaltzman at aol.com lbsaltzman at aol.com
Thu Dec 3 17:24:41 EST 2009

Certainly no experience of the legal part.  I have a B.A. in anthropology and an M.A. in the social sciences specializing in human systems theory.  My wife is a licensed psychotherapist. So we have been interested in both the psychology and anthropology of creating human systems that work.  Indigenous tribes had thousands of years to evolve social systems that worked in the ecosystems they lived in. We are starting from scratch in many ways.

I think going slow is good.  In Santa Barbara there is a strong neighborhood exchange system that is working. People meet in neighborhoods to exchange home grown produce, seeds and plants. Now it is expanding to anything that can be freely exchanged.  The community building has been amazing to watch.  Moving to rural farm areas and building a community from scratch may be harder than reconnecting community within a town or small city.


-----Original Message-----
From: Scott Vlaun <scott at moosepondarts.com>
To: permaculture <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thu, Dec 3, 2009 11:47 am
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Overly optimistic permaculture attitude towards land

Well said Larry!
We've struggled with the intentional community building far more than  
ith the physical systems. (It's easier to throw a sump pump in a  
oorly designed root cellar a couple times a year, than negotiate  
ou're way through a bad relationship with someone). We now have one  
et of "intentional neighbors." Doing simple labor trades, a loose  
SA arrangement, managing our forest together, and treating each  
ther to dinner weekly has dramatically improved all of our lives.  
aving the occasional partner on a moonlight ski is a bonus.
We all dream of taking it to the next level. We've consulted with the  
olks at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and they've been  
xtremely helpful. We've also met with our town and the are  
upportive. After 10 or 20 meetings with sincerely interested folks  
he challenge is a little clearer although still a bit daunting. For  
any reasons, including  a few people being "upside down" on current  
wellings, folks just can't commit to making it happen and the ones  
hat have wanted to, have turned out to be in a hurry to join an  
xisting community or just turned out to be a bad fit in the end.
Our original idea was to get around 10 core people to initiate the  
rocess and create the legal structures. We are now thinking along  
he "build it and they will come" model for the short term. That is,  
reating dwelling space so that people can test the waters and still  
e participating in a worthwhile way.
Any experiences along these lines?
Scott Vlaun
oose Pond Arts+Ecology
esign Solutions for a Sustainable Future
450 Main Street, Studio 2
orway, Maine 04268
07-739-2409 Studio

n Dec 3, 2009, at 12:49 PM, lbsaltzman at aol.com wrote:

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

----Original Message-----
rom: Toby Hemenway <toby at patternliteracy.com>
o: permaculture <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
ent: Thu, Dec 3, 2009 8:12 am
ubject: Re: [permaculture] Overly optimistic permaculture attitude  
owards land

ain, it sounds like the problem you and Nicholas have is mostly with
ll's salemanship. He knowswill definitely catch more flies with honey
an with vinegar. But for every time I've heard him say "the designer
comes the recliner" I've also heard him say, I still don't know how to
fine permaculture and nobody seems to be doing it well. And if you've
er  worked with a film crew, they don't encourage you to say how
fficult it's all going to be. So I'm okay with cutting Bill some
ack. I don't see much support for a sweeping claim that "permaculture"
 doing people a disservice. And I've definitely seen large areas of
il made fertile and local climates (over acres) changed using
rmaculture. Yes, it's easier to start with good soil, and much land
n't meant to be farmed, but I can't blame Bill if I don't know that.
 think we take home what we are predisposed to learn. And westerners,
pecially college educated ones who've never used a shovel, like it all
 be easy. Probably after 20 years of doing Pc, Bill may have felt that
st 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
tween the time he saw the house from down the lane and when we parked
e car. If you watch a calligraphy master make a lifetime's work look
sy, and then get pissed off when your first brushwork is a mess, I
n't think it's fair to blame the master.
hat I see in the permaculture literature--like the Designer's
nual--looks pretty damn challenging to me, so I'm not sure how anyone
o digs into it would think it is easy. It's true that people make lots
 mistakes similar to the one Christopher mentioned, but I suspect
at's partly because we carry our own preconceptions with us ("now I
n be master of the landscape!") and because some people  consider
emselves an expert after taking one PDC ("now I'm a certified
rmaculture designer!" Uh, hardly.) We're also so terribly disconnected
om the land that our idea of how much work planting and caring for,
y, 20 nut trees, is based on nothing but romantic Hollywood fantasy.
en you put up the deer screen for the 30th time or haul the 50th
cket of water, and you want to cry. But it's hard for me to see how
at is permaculture's fault, rather than that of our own ignorance and
nviction that there's got to be a magic bullet that will make it all  
Rain Tenaqiya wrote:
 Well, Toby, I don't have the time to do a literature search to back  
p my
aims, but I run into a lot of people like the one Christopher  
entioned who
dn't seem to get an appropriate permaculture education.  As for  
yself, I was
eply influenced by Bill Mollison, and he definitely seems like a  
ooster to
.  I remember him saying not to worry too much about soil since you  
an always
ansform it with organic matter and amendments (which is common in  
ven the poor soil).  His Global Gardener videos make it all look so  
asy.  He
lks about how cheap earthworks are (not!) and gives inflated  
tatistics about
w radically you can transform local climate.  For results within one  
fetime, I'm learning to expect much less.
  If you are only wanting to grow food for a small household (which  
s probably
l that is truly sustainable in the long run), it is possible to do  
ings in tough circumstances, if you are willing to do all the work.   
ut it
kes a long time without unsustainle inputs from outside.   
griculture (which
 not sustainable, even though included in Mollison's books) is not  
nsidering on most marginal land, in my opinion.
  Gotta go,

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