[permaculture] - Thoughts on PDCs

Michael Pilarski friendsofthetrees at yahoo.com
Sat Dec 12 14:46:03 EST 2009

Hear hear,

Holger Hieronimi’s 12/12 email (From Mexico) on pdcs was very good (to my way of thinking) and I echo many of his thoughts.  

Perhaps Holger’s most important point for me was “We do not need necessarily more Design certificate holders, *we need more Permaculture Activists. *Its your action that certificates you.”

A couple of common sayings that are appropriate here are: “Actions speak louder than words”; and “By their fruits, ye shall know them”. It is your successes that illustrate your grasp of permaculture principles, not a piece of paper. Permaculture is about action. It is about changing the world (albeit a little bit at a time). You can read and study all you want but it ain’t permaculture till it is put into practice.  A quote from Bill Mollison: “It isn’t permaculture until it’s on the ground”.

There is also something to be said for demonstrating permaculture principles in inter-personal relationships.  The concept of “harmonious interactions” fits here. If a person cannot interact harmoniously with other people than they are not going to be a good teacher or organizer (although they might still be good at creating good, physical systems).

The ideal permaculturist is good at putting physical systems on the ground AND good at harmonious social interaction. And whether or not they hold a permaculture design course certificate (or whether it is an accredited pdc or not) is somewhat of a moot point at this level. 

This said, I still believe that taking a pdc is the quickest way for people to get a clear grasp of permaculture as a systems approach to designing. I heartily support permaculture design courses as a pre-requisite before people publicly teach or consult under the banner of permaculture (in addition to lots of reading, study and hands-on experience). 

But lets face it, permaculture does not have a corner on the market of good design, good land stewardship, good ideas, etc.  It is only one of many great exciting things happening in the world to make the planet a better place for all living beings.  A real permaculturist will not feel superior to (or look down their noses at) the far greater numbers of people who are doing good work on the planet.  Some of the best practicing permaculturists on the planet have never even heard the word.  And lets face it, there are more than enough mediocre to crummy folks waving their permaculture design course certificates around and wanting to collect other people’s money for teaching and consulting.  

Which brings us to another can of worms, which is: how can the permaculture movement exercize some quality control around permaculture teaching, consulting, etc. This has been debated within the movement for 30 years.  I don’t see how it is possible at this point and so we are currently left with building personal reputations and word of mouth.  

Value diversity in how permaculture is taught, of which design courses is just one way (albeit a highly valued way).  And if permaculture design is site specific, client specific and culture specific, it seems to be the height of folly to make all pdcs a standardized curriculum no matter where taught in the world or to which cultural group.  None of my pdc courses has ever been exactly alike.  The bottom line for me is to inculcate the permaculture principles and design methodology. 

PS. Just because their are some poor-quality pdcs doesn't invalidate pdcs in general. 
My opinion is that a large majority of pdcs offered in the world are good quality. 

To sum up, this letter has no conclusions, just some opinions.  


Michael Pilarski

--- On Sat, 12/12/09, Holger Hieronimi <holger at tierramor.org> wrote:

From: Holger Hieronimi <holger at tierramor.org>
Subject: [permaculture] From Mexico - Thoughts on PDCs
To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
Date: Saturday, December 12, 2009, 5:19 AM

This discussion on the PCDs is as old as the PCD, I think

at least it´s around since I made my PCD, some thirteen years ago-

al allways, there are those who think that the PCD is the ONLY way of teaching and learning Permaculture

sometimes wishing even to "centralize" the issuing, having only acredited teachers from some central institution, at best copyrighting the word and having everything "under control".... forgetting about some basic system principles, that also apply to the so-called "permaculture movement"-

as an old rebel from academia, I do not really know, what a piece of paper "certificates" ....  somewhat, I hold a design certificate and even a diploma (but here I allready will get in trouble with some of the centralizers and "purists", since my diploma was part of a somewhat self-issued version, that was created once and never again in 1999, for the first generation of mexican PC activists, to celebrate ouselves and our projects, credited by the now extinct PC drylands institute, Earthcare education, and the now extinct mexican PC institute...)

the only time when I used those papers, was to get a working permit as a PC designer and teacher from the mexican migration offices .... I prefer not to weave around with them too much....

maybe we should apply PC principles on the permaculture teaching isuue (well, then we maybe have a problem, that now there are quite a few different sets of principles around,....personally I stick on Holmgrens set, which, in my case, proved to be an incredible help as a thinking tool...)

whats happening with the principle Nr 10 "Use and value diversity...."?

personally I tend  to accept this, in this context I remember a comment made by darren Doherty a few weeks ago:

   Otherwise the clear option is to make your own institutes, your own certificates and deliver the course (s) that the    people in your markets need. Sure the imprimatur of giving a TPI PDC certificate is great but it is not the be all and    end all....

Here in mexico, I found the traditional PCD-sceme rather limiting. First of all, you need people having time and money to pay for it. Then, the TPI curriculum  discourages explicitly bioregional expressions. Then, quite easy, it seems that you just copy the content of the designers manual and call it curriculum, send it to australia, pay 2.50 dollars for each "original" certificate, prove your own certification, and THATS IT.... ????

How somebody from Australia can certificate what I´m doing here ??? How  can they charge for that ???

We do not need necesarily more Design certificate holders, *we need more Permaculture Activists. *Its your action that certificates you. Master designers like Darren or Geoff Lawton dont need to walk around showing their certificates and diplomas. For them, as for me and many other PC-teachers/ practitioners, the PCD was the STARTING PIONT for serious learnig and  action. And this I hope to communicate in our courses and workshops

Since i facilitated my first two week course, seven years ago, we found out that its easier to stay marginal to this PCD sceme, allthough those first courses were problably closest to the original DesignCertificate sceme we did, since the Designers Manual was by then nearly the only textbook we used- luckily, my bibliografy as well as the content and scope of the courses, widened a lot since then-

For many years, we were lucky that there was no discussion on this topic here in mexico, but now there are quite a few people who travelled all the way to australia, took courses there, and come back claiming to be the only REAL permaculturists, credited legally and internationally to be the only authorized PC teachers here, by the way ignoring all the work done by the pioneers during more than twenty years. Possibly, this is a sign, that the mexican permaculture scene gets finally "mature", but in my case its making me consider, if I should drop the word permaculture once again from my activities.


Holger Hieronimi

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