[permaculture] agroecology, permaculture, and data
toby at patternliteracy.com
Sun Mar 29 16:09:07 EDT 2009
rafter t. sass wrote:
> If permaculture had focused more closely on crop ecology and community
> development, and embraced academic research rather than (mostly)
> spurned it, it would look something like the agroecology movement.
> Fortunately, it didn't - more functional diversity in the system!
Good observation, Rafter. I've cogitated a bit on the fact that
permaculturists have ignored, for the most part, the idea of collecting
data and documenting research. Being a former scientist, it used to bug
me a great deal, and it seemed like it reduced permaculture's
credibility. But I've realized that there is a pretty good explanation
for it. First, there's been a ton of research done in the various fields
that permaculture helps link together, such as organic farming, tree
crops, renewable energy, water harvesting, and all the rest. And
whole-systems theory has a mass of both mathematical and empirical
research behind it, as does ecology, and those form the underpinnings of
permaculture. So the data are there, just not under the heading of
But more to the point, if you were trying to measure the effectiveness
of permaculture, what would you measure? Does my yard yield more food
than my chemical or straight organic gardener neighbor's? Probably not,
and although I suspect their inputs are higher, they might not be since
I pour on about 10 yards of free tree trimmings or mulch every year or
two. But how do you measure that as an input, since it's waste, not
manufactured, and not much of the mulch goes to growing food? I'm sure
my yard is better habitat, but my neighbors are not trying to create
habitat, while there are some yards where the owner is trying purely for
habitat that may host more biodiversity than mine, but that don't
produce food. Too many variables for any but the most sophisticated
statistician, and even then, those numbers would be open to argument.
What I'm saying is, I'm not sure what you would measure to assess
whether permaculture outperforms anything else, and I don't know what
you would compare it to. Is the comparison to a site using chemical
methods? Not really, since permaculture is not a method, it's a design
approach. So do you compare it to a site designed using, say, holistic
management? But a site using permaculture for its design might have very
different goals than one using HM, so how would you compare the two? By
designing two side-by side sites with the same goals but using
permaculture versus some other design approach? Good luck with getting
that one off the ground!
So I think we're back at saying Pc uses a variety of tools, and each of
those tools has data to support it.
For me, the proof is less tangible. I walk into a place that's designed
using permaculture, and it feels more alive than one done any other way.
Can't measure that, but you sure can feel it.
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