[permaculture] What happened to the third ethic?

lbsaltzman at aol.com lbsaltzman at aol.com
Tue Jul 14 19:35:08 EDT 2009


You seem to be saying there are two halves to creating a surplus. One Half of the equation?is obtaining a sustainable yield - as large a yield as reasonable using Permaculture design principles. The other half of the equation is escaping from consumerism.? American consumerism is based on an economic model that assumes resources are unlimited.? Developing an ethic that finds?joy in limiting the consumption, and simplifing our lives involves a radical re-orientation?of our values.? I would argue that spirituality in our culture has been replaced by a worship of money and materialism.? My wife's new book "Ecotherapy Healing with Nature In Mind" argues that the dis-connection from nature in all its' aspects is part of what is so diseased about American culture.? There is an excellent chapter in the book by Richard Bruce Anderson on the topic of consumerism and its' negative effects on our well being.? But we are dealing with a culture addicted to spending and believing that there is no limit on the experiences or material possessions we can buy.? Curing our collective materialistic, spending?addiction we be an important part of the equation.? Reconnecting with the natural world is one step?most middle and working?class people?have to take.? In part, because we don't connect with where the yield comes from that we depend on, nor do we have a spiritual connection with the planet and universe we live in.

You are quite correct that we (the culture as a whole) currently want simple tricks so we can go on living as always.? We are like alcoholics who want to find a way to keep drinking without it doing us any harm. We will jump at any snake oil salesperson who pretends to offer us such a deal.? This will be a powerful challenge to Permaculture in North America and the rest of the industrially developed world.? Teaching people the principles of Permaculture is easy, learning to design food forest and build strawbales houses is easy. What is hard is helping consumer addicts to recognize their addiction and free themselves from it.? Helping people to understand both the joy and necessity of a sane lifestyle is the most difficult challenge we face.

Unfortunately, that didn't help you state the third principle succinctly, but once you start thinking about it, there is a lot more behind it than meets the eye.? You are definitely raising an important question.


-----Original Message-----
From: Chelsea Sherbut <csherbut at gmail.com>
To: permaculture <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Cc: permaculture at openpermaculture.org
Sent: Tue, Jul 14, 2009 3:44 pm
Subject: Re: [permaculture] What happened to the third ethic?

Scott Pittman put the "third ethic" as (not an exact quote) "Return of
surplus to the care of earth and care of people", which seems succinct
enough to me.  I hope I'm not misquoting him or misinterpreting him :)

I think that defining "surplus" and "excess" are difficult and
important discussions.  There is something in many (most? all?) of us
that causes us to always feel that we do not have enough.  People who
have grown up with poverty are especially trained this way, even if
they somehow manage to escape destitution at some point.  Perhaps it
is not a universal definition, and perhaps we ought not to apply our
own definitions self-righteously to others.  I think it is fair to say
that we are almost never doing "enough" to compensate for others who
do nothing.  Life is short - we do what we can, then we die.

Moreover, "limiting" anything (including population) doesn't involve
ceasing and desisting altogether.  It involves balance.  As a species
we are not nearly as prolific as many other species who do not use
reason and logic to maintain their equilibrium - outside forces
(predators, scarce resources) do it for them.  We do not criticize
fish or spiders for selfishly creating so many offspring without
considering the impact on the ecosystem, and we are (most of us)
scarcely better at resisting our own biology and instincts despite our
"advanced" brains and "superior" reasoning capacity.


On 7/14/09, Rain Tenaqiya <raincascadia at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Although Bill Mollison wasn't a perfect example of someone that adhered to the 
third permaculture ethic, his wording in the Designer's Manual is:
>  "Setting limits to population and consumption: by governing our own needs, we 
can set resources aside to further the above principles."
>  Somehow this has been turned into a simple directive to "share the surplus," 
at least in the US.  What happened?  Without limiting consumption and 
reproduction, there will be no surplus to share.  A sustainable lifestyle 
requires radical restraint relative to main
stream habits in the US.  Anyone who 
thinks they can fly around the planet on vacations (or even permaculture 
courses) or produce their own biological children is not practicing 
permaculture, as far as I'm concerned.  This is just more crappy mainstream 
environmentalism that assumes we can keep living outrageously selfish lifestyles 
as long as we change a few lighbulbs and drive a Prius.
>  I advocate a third ethic which combines the following:
>  1. limit population and consumption
>  2. create a surplus
>  3. share (redistribute) the surplus
>  Can anyone think of a succinct way to say this?
>  Rain
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