[permaculture] Svar: Re: Intellectual property

gavinraders at gmail.com gavinraders at gmail.com
Fri Nov 13 17:58:25 EST 2009

Thank you Cristophe for a perspective from outside the bubble.  Whatever happened to redistributing the surplus? The farmer shouldn't share his produce? What?!  From everything I've heard from Mollison, I can't imagine he'd be opposed to ppl in the so-called third world receiving his book for free.
  I hope we all realize that many people of color, and specifically people of color who are agro-ecologists and others doing the real work of permaculture on the ground without ever calling it that, view "permaculture" to be a white-dominated elitist club that keeps the information that can bring whole communities out of poverty and back to sovereignty away from those who can't pay thousands of dollars for it.  What, and who is this for anyway, the private landowning class, the five percent (generous estimate) of the worlds population that can afford a 1500 U.S. dollar course at a Hawaiian resort?   Here's to liberating permaculture from the white castle of privilege!

I am a white person of privilege who was fortunate to study and practice the p word with some of the best teachers on a daily basis. I now dedicate my life to making it affordable and accessible to low income urban residents, mostly young students and people of color whom I grow food with where I live in Oakland, CA. Permaculture means nothing unless it is put into practice!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

-----Original Message-----
From: "Thomas Paul Jahn" <tpj at life.ku.dk>
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 2009 22:37:42 
To: <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Subject: [permaculture] Svar: Re:  Intellectual property

christophe! Send me your address and I order a book for you, provided you promiss to share it with as many as people as possible. If you do this in form of copies or any other way is up to you. Just make sure it get's to the people that really put it into practice.... seen as my contribution to the permaculture mailing list 2009-2010 and benefit of uruguayan permaculturists, Bill Mollison and co. and a better future.

>>> christophe mckeon gonzalez de leon <chromatophore at gmail.com> 13-11-09 21:05 >>>
ok, i was going to attempt to keep my mouth shut on this issue but
don't seem able to control myself :)

firstly i can say from experience living in the so called third world
that the internet, even if it is not in every home is the only way,
aside from the rare visit of a permaculture 'ambassador' from the so
called first world, of getting permacultural information. in most of
these countries internet cafe's abound and students have their
textbooks printed on demand from electronic materials in the cafe's
themselves or at cheap print houses which surround the schools and
universities. for example, it is impossible for your average uruguayan
to buy even 1 of the cheap permaculture books, because shipping costs
are prohibitive. is there anybody on this list who really believes
that these people should not be using file sharing networks to
download permaculture materials, despite the fact that it is 'illegal'
to do so?

Leo Brodie (who i almost entirely agree with) said:

"It's the same principle that a farmer who builds a farm and grows
food should not have someone else come in and > reap the harvest or
share the harvest with others."

no it is not, it's different at a fundamental level. information,
especially nowadays with the computer revolution can be copied. if
somebody comes and takes the farmer's harvest, the farmer no longer
has a harvest, if somebody copies the farmer's pdf files, the farmer
*still has* the pdf files. granted, if the farmer is making a living
through the sale of the work it gets more complicated, but it is still
a fundamentally different problem, because the very nature of
information is ephemeral. as you said intellectual property is a very
recent idea. let's explore it with a little thought experiment:

there are some creatures living on a small planet X somewhere in the
universe, which is about to become inhospitable due to the action of
the creatures themselves. the creatures have only very recently
adopted a culture in which the transmission of information from one
creature to the next (along with everything else) has become subjected
to the logic of their slightly older, but also recently invented
economic system.

some of the creatures have knowledge and experience which can
literally save their planet from destruction. but because of the
internal logic of their newly acquired culture, which even these wise
old and knowledgeable creatures have unwittingly found themselves
embedded in, there are blockages in the flow of information, hence it
is difficult and expensive for most of the other creatures to acquire.

#1) should the creatures from planet X abandon the logic of their
culture for the good of the whole, or should they continue the way
they are going?

#2) some of the creatures have taken it upon themselves to break the
newly acquired cultural norms and distribute information freely
because they believe that the good of the whole and of their planet
trumps the perceived good of the holders/authors of the information.
should these creatures be chastised or lauded?

#3) the very smartest of the creatures have found a way of using the
legal logic of the new culture to subvert the new culture itself,
freely sharing information, and to do so without themselves starving
or breaking the law. maybe we could learn something from these
creatures, they seem to have found a way around a thorny ethical

there has been a revolution in informatics and also information
sharing in the past couple of decades, led by people like richard
stallman and lawrence lessig. people who have recognized that sharing
information reaps greater rewards than hoarding it and unnecessarily
constraining it's flow. the rewards are for everybody, including those
who are in a position to share. these people are not pie in the sky
theoreticians, but practitioners. they have built systems which most
of us use every day, often without even knowing it. amazingly, they
have found viable, indeed sometimes even economically profitable ways
of doing so even under capitalism. i recommend every permaculturist
acquaint themselves with their work and with the concept of


the calls to build an open permaculture book on the internet by
several people on this thread are very important, but i do not believe
that what is constructed should be in the form of a book. do we really
want to write the *new* testament -- it too is old now. what we need
is a database, and a very flexible one at that, with a very friendly
interface, but a very rich underlying set of ontologies and
connections to the outside world. i have been working hard on such a
project, but right now i am still in the research/learning stage
because i have concluded that because of the distributed and
multi-paradigmatic nature of permacultural knowledge, the right tools
for the job are semantic web technologies.


i am having to learn an entirely new tool chain and way of thinking
about data and data modeling so the going is slow. it is also a hard
problem because the tools and techniques are all relatively bleeding
edge. i will be posting to the db list about this in the next few
months. btw, i plan on making all of my work freely available under
copyleft licenses.

as a final note, Leo Brodie also said:

"The accepted principle is that an author has no incentive to spend
the time and energy creating the work if someone else can give away
copies for free."

this is incorrect, on several levels.

on the first and more immediately pragmatic level it is possible to
make a living on something that is given away for free. there are many
companies, both for profit and non-for-profit which do just that in
the open software and open content worlds. they do so by selling
associated services. a discipline such as permaculture which is still
relatively obscure from the point of view of the 'mainstream', stands
to benefit greatly from this form of funding model, because
uptake/exposure could be significantly sped up through free
information distribution leading to an explosion in demand for
training and consultancy.

on a second more broad viewed level, which strongly pertains to the
authoring of permacultural material, taking my my own current project
as an example. if enough people can benefit from having not just a
database but an intelligent layer on top of that database to help them
make appropriate decisions about how to live in the world without
killing it, and do so quickly enough. then guess what, *i* will
benefit from this immensely. remaining alive on a healthy planet is a
pretty good incentive by any measure.

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