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Wed May 4 18:08:57 EDT 2011


data, testing and experiments on yields in Permacultural systems =
compared to say mainstream agriculture or other homegarden production =
systems.

I think we have been here many, many times before (witness the aggrieved =
diatribe from Bob Flowerdew) but it still does not hold major concerns =
for me even though I have myself been critical in the past. Graeme =
Burnett once castigated me for making a comparison of the relative =
merits between a kitchen garden and a forest garden - a useful construct =
since at that time, there was still a reluctance in neophyte =
Permaculturists to work from their own experience instead of just =
replacing it wholesale with the then southern-hemispheric outlook of =
Permaculture. My point was that we all should have recognised the =
inherent benefits in each system, be open to discussion, and the good =
designer then comes up with a combination of the two!=20
=20
In response to Greg William's criticism, we need to recognise that often =
early enthusiasts for Permaculture unfortunately played the game of =
using orthodox scalar attributes to describe Permaculture systems. This =
was a hostage to fortune. Here is the key - I don't think we can start =
to apply orthodox measurement to something  which is still evolving and =
that often has a highly personal and location-specific element to it, =
and which seeks to take yields in many ways. It is not that I fear =
evaluation, its just that we need to define and decide on what basis the =
evaluation will take place - and then explain it carefully to the =
sceptics..

Secondly, we should have realised by now that there is no such thing as =
Permaculture farming or Permaculture gardening per se, as it would =
diminish Permaculture to the stature of a series of techniques. If taken =
to that conclusion, Permaculture would end up an inflexible, thoughtless =
but regulated and regimented no-brainer system as exemplified by =
certified organic systems in the UK. We have the angels on our side in =
this since at least Permaculture recognises that organised food =
production of any sort doesn't come without ecological consequence.

Patrick Whitefield, in his review of Toby's book for Permaculture =
Magazine, makes a distinction by suggesting that there are two =
approaches to Permaculture. The first aims to copy ecosystems in a =
literal way (and see my last point on ecological consequence). The =
second places more emphasis on creating beneficial relationships between =
people, plants and structures. The two aren't necessarily mutually =
exclusive.  Patrick thinks Toby's book is an excellent description of =
the first approach. And it this that gives me my third point.

Opportunistic foraging and hunting maintained an early hominid =
population in amongst an un-degrading, self-regulatory natural =
eco-system. The development and dispersal of agriculture in Neolithic =
times allowed the hominids to break free from that self-regulating =
system and become a dominant but destabilising influence. Thousands of =
years later, it has taken the exposition of Permaculture and other land =
and people-based interdisciplinary thought and design systems to start =
to re-integrate to varying degrees the hominid population back into a =
self-regulating natural eco-system. Permaculture just happens to chuck =
in an ethical framework as well, which kind of marks it out a bit from =
those other interdisciplinary systems.

If we are serious about the goals for society which are inherent in =
Permaculture, then we should resist having to fight narrow-topic battles =
that seek to define us more in keeping with other's image. There is a =
wealth of philosophical, conceptual and contextual information out there =
in the world (and from many disciplines and interdisciplines) that shows =
Permaculture to embody rational, connected and eminently realisable =
constructs. We should thank Bill Mollison for getting many of us to the =
point where we can appreciate this, but it is now our task to take it on =
from one man's revelations, and show that it could be mainstream in the =
endeavours of peoples of the world.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Hello Mark: Thanks for sending me the thoughts stimulated by Greg =
Williams's critique of permaculture. I wouldn't describe myself as =
feeling "stung" by his article (though maybe I'm taking the meaning of =
your words too stringently), since I can't take any of his comments =
personally--they weren't directed at me or at my book, which he largely =
ignored. Rather, I was annoyed and frustrated that someone of his =
obvious intelligence could so badly misunderstand permaculture =
(especially since he took a PDC from Mollison!). We've all seen that =
happen before, but rarely in a fairly influential magazine. The only =
serious point he made, as you mention, was the failure of people in =
permaculture to measure what their gardens or farms or buildings are =
generating or conserving. Privately, I have to agree with him, but his =
tone in the original, heavily-edited-for-publication piece was so nasty =
and accusative (he referred to permaculture as a "Big Lie") that I =
wasn't going to grant him a single point.

The issue, as you state, is not simple. On one hand, since permaculture =
is a design approach and thus organizes various disciplines and =
techniques (much the way architectural design organizes engineering, =
materials science, traditional knowledge etc. to design buildings), we =
should be able to use the data generated by, say, agroforestry, organic =
farming, solar energy, etc. to support it. That's a hard sell because =
first, critics have to understand that permaculture is not agroforestry, =
etc,--at which point they get stuck saying, "So you can't use =
agroforestry data." and then they have to understand that Pc tells us =
when to use these disciplines, thus it is legitimate to use their data. =
That's going to be a tough one, and I've found that a lot of farmers get =
it, while most academics and aid agencies don't.

Then there are all those folks who don't really care about yield as long =
as they get something from their yard and don't have to work forever to =
get it: most gardeners fit this. Show them sheet-mulching and the idea =
of a zone-one salad garden, and they begin to see the light. The =
difficulty here is that many of these people are slow to see =
permaculture as more than just a set of techniques. But they'll see the =
benefit of this new way of thinking about gardening--and maybe =
homebuilding and other subjects linked by permaculture. I'm somewhat in =
this category: I think I get Pc pretty well, but I'm not personally =
interested in whether I'm getting lots more food with it. I see I'm =
doing less work, the wildlife is more abundant, the runoff from my land =
is clear instead of muddy, and I've got more food than I can eat year =
round. But I'm not going to put my vegetables on a scale every day =
(though I feel guilty about this; I spent 15 years designing =
experiments, trained under some really brilliant people, so if anybody =
could and should be doing it, it's me!)

And then there's the whole idea of that mythical "permaculture farm" =
that could be compared to a "conventional" farm. I've never seen one, =
and you seem to be of the same mind: that one can't just force a bunch =
of techniques from the Design Manual upon a farmer. Most farmers, to be =
competitive, have to use a certain amount of monoculture, fossil fuel, =
tillage and other approaches that would prevent the purist from calling =
it a true permaculture design: it would be a compromise. And there's =
that definition problem again: I know some ranchers whose places use =
keyline principles, and have increased their beef production while =
decreasing topsoil loss, but who's going to say that's permaculture? I'm =
not sure that any two people--especially if one or both are skeptical =
about permaculture--are going to agree that a particular place is "doing =
permaculture." So designing an experiment that many people will accept =
is tricky.

I still would really, really like to see some data that compares, say, =
the yields and inputs from a vegetable garden and a forest garden, but =
how one would design such an experiment, and have it be a valid =
comparison, strikes me as a nightmare, and gets me back to an earlier =
point: I'd rather be working on and enjoying my "permaculture" place =
than going to the incredible trouble of turning it into a carefully =
controlled experiment. But if aid agencies and universities are ever =
going to fund permaculture designers, I'm afraid someone will have to =
take on that ugly task. And we should all be grateful when they do.=20

I haven't seen Patrick's review of my book, and don't really understand =
the distinction you say he's made between ecosystem-based and =
beneficial-relationship based ways of describing permaculture, but =
perhaps when I see the review, I will. Maddy tells me it's not as =
positive as she'd like. It's funny: reviews in newspapers, gardening, =
farming, and most alternative magazines have been, to speak frankly, =
raves. But reviews by permaculturists have often not been as =
enthusiastic. Some of that is possibly professional jealousy, but some, =
I think, is that we all have our preferences about how to explain =
permaculture and don't take it well when someone does it differently. =
But I wrote my book much more for gardeners in general than for =
permaculturists, and the gardeners seem to love it.

Thanks again for your comments. Feel free to forward this to the others =
that your original email went to; I don't know most of them so I didn't =
feel like inundating them with my thoughts unannounced.

Toby
 =20


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<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Hi Mark- hope you dont mind but I =
forwarded your=20
very interesting post to the international Permaculture list where the =
debate is=20
unfolding,</FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Cheers, </FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>Castigating Graham :)</DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>----- Original Message ----- </DIV>
<DIV style=3D"FONT: 10pt arial">
<DIV style=3D"BACKGROUND: #e4e4e4; font-color: black"><B>From:</B> <A=20
href=3D"mailto:Mark.Fisher at care4free.net" =
title=3DMark.Fisher at care4free.net>Mark=20
Fisher</A> </DIV>
<DIV><B>To:</B> <A href=3D"mailto:gb0063551 at cableinet.co.uk"=20
title=3Dgb0063551 at cableinet.co.uk>gb0063551 at cableinet.co.uk</A> </DIV>
<DIV><B>Sent:</B> Thursday, January 10, 2002 12:17 PM</DIV>
<DIV><B>Subject:</B> [PermacultureUK] - YIELDS</DIV></DIV>
<DIV><BR></DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>
<DIV>This is what I sent Toby in response to what Graeme Burnett had =
circulated.=20
Toby's reply is then below that.</DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>--------------------------------------------------------------------=
--------------------------------</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Whole Earth Review (winter issue 2001) =
apparently=20
published&nbsp;a scathing commentary on Permaculture by Greg Williams =
(an=20
agroforester?). This was contained&nbsp;in his&nbsp;review of a book =
called=20
"Gaia's Garden: A guide to homescale Permaculture" by Toby Hemenway. =
Toby has=20
been given the opportunity to reply and clearly feels stung by the=20
criticism.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>From what I understand, the most =
telling criticism=20
is on the absence of data, testing and experiments on yields in =
Permacultural=20
systems compared to say mainstream agriculture or other homegarden =
production=20
systems.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>I think we have been here many, many =
times before=20
(witness the aggrieved diatribe from Bob Flowerdew) but it still does =
not hold=20
major concerns for me even though I have myself been critical in the =
past.=20
Graeme Burnett once castigated me for making a comparison of the =
relative merits=20
between a kitchen garden and a forest garden - a useful construct since =
at that=20
time, there was still a reluctance in neophyte Permaculturists to =
work&nbsp;from=20
their own experience instead of&nbsp;just replacing it wholesale with=20
the&nbsp;then&nbsp;southern-hemispheric outlook of Permaculture. My =
point was=20
that we all should have recognised the inherent benefits in each system, =
be open=20
to discussion, and the good designer then comes up with a combination of =
the=20
two! </FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>In response to Greg William's =
criticism, we need to=20
recognise that often early enthusiasts for Permaculture unfortunately =
played the=20
game of using orthodox scalar attributes to describe Permaculture =
systems. This=20
was a hostage to fortune. Here is the key - I don't think we can start =
to apply=20
orthodox measurement to something&nbsp; which is still evolving and that =
often=20
has a highly personal and location-specific element to it, and which =
seeks to=20
take yields in many ways. It is not that I fear evaluation, its just =
that we=20
need to define and decide on what basis the&nbsp;evaluation will take =
place -=20
and then explain it carefully to the sceptics..</FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Secondly, we should have realised by =
now that there=20
is no such thing as Permaculture farming or Permaculture gardening per =
se, as it=20
would diminish Permaculture to the stature of a series of techniques. If =
taken=20
to that conclusion, Permaculture would end up an inflexible, thoughtless =
but=20
regulated and regimented no-brainer system as exemplified by certified =
organic=20
systems in the UK. We have the angels on our side in this since at least =

Permaculture recognises that organised food production of any sort =
doesn't come=20
without&nbsp;ecological consequence.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Patrick Whitefield, in his review of =
Toby's book=20
for Permaculture Magazine, makes a distinction by suggesting that there =
are two=20
approaches to Permaculture. The first aims to copy ecosystems in a =
literal way=20
(and see my last point on ecological consequence). The second places =
more=20
emphasis&nbsp;on creating beneficial relationships between people, =
plants and=20
structures. The two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.&nbsp;=20
Patrick&nbsp;thinks Toby's book is an excellent description of the first =

approach. And it this that gives me my third point.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Opportunistic foraging and hunting =
maintained an=20
early hominid population in amongst an un-degrading, self-regulatory =
natural=20
eco-system. The development and dispersal of agriculture in Neolithic =
times=20
allowed the hominids to break free from that self-regulating system and =
become a=20
dominant but destabilising influence. Thousands of years later, it has =
taken the=20
exposition of Permaculture and other land and people-based =
interdisciplinary=20
thought and design systems to start to re-integrate to varying degrees =
the=20
hominid population back into a&nbsp;self-regulating natural eco-system.=20
Permaculture just happens to chuck in an ethical framework as well, =
which kind=20
of marks it out a bit from those other interdisciplinary =
systems.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>If we are serious about the goals for =
society which=20
are inherent in Permaculture, then we should resist having to fight =
narrow-topic=20
battles that seek to define us more in keeping with other's image. There =
is a=20
wealth of philosophical, conceptual and contextual information out there =
in the=20
world (and from many disciplines and interdisciplines) that shows =
Permaculture=20
to embody rational, connected and eminently realisable constructs. We =
should=20
thank Bill Mollison for getting many of us to the point where we can =
appreciate=20
this, but it is now our task to take it on from&nbsp;one man's =
revelations, and=20
show that it could be mainstream in the endeavours of peoples of the=20
world.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>-----------------------------------------------------------------</D=
IV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>Hello Mark: Thanks for sending me the thoughts stimulated by Greg=20
Williams's critique of permaculture. I wouldn't describe myself as =
feeling=20
"stung" by his article (though maybe I'm taking the meaning of your =
words too=20
stringently), since I can't take any of his comments personally--they =
weren't=20
directed at me or at my book, which he largely ignored. Rather, I was =
annoyed=20
and frustrated that someone of his obvious intelligence could so badly=20
misunderstand permaculture (especially since he took a PDC from =
Mollison!).=20
We've all seen that happen before, but rarely in a fairly influential =
magazine.=20
The only serious point he made, as you mention, was the failure of =
people in=20
permaculture to measure what their gardens or farms or buildings are =
generating=20
or conserving. Privately, I have to agree with him, but his tone in the=20
original, heavily-edited-for-publication piece was so nasty and =
accusative (he=20
referred to permaculture as a "Big Lie") that I wasn't going to grant =
him a=20
single point.<BR><BR>The issue, as you state, is not simple. On one =
hand, since=20
permaculture is a design approach and thus organizes various disciplines =
and=20
techniques (much the way architectural design organizes engineering, =
materials=20
science, traditional knowledge etc. to design buildings), we should be =
able to=20
use the data generated by, say, agroforestry, organic farming, solar =
energy,=20
etc. to support it. That's a hard sell because first, critics have to =
understand=20
that permaculture is <I>not</I> agroforestry, etc,--at which point they =
get=20
stuck saying, "So you can't use agroforestry data." and then they have =
to=20
understand that Pc tells us when to use these disciplines, thus it is =
legitimate=20
to use their data. That's going to be a tough one, and I've found that a =
lot of=20
farmers get it, while most academics and aid agencies don't.<BR><BR>Then =
there=20
are all those folks who don't really care about yield as long as they =
get=20
something from their yard and don't have to work forever to get it: most =

gardeners fit this. Show them sheet-mulching and the idea of a zone-one =
salad=20
garden, and they begin to see the light. The difficulty here is that =
many of=20
these people are slow to see permaculture as more than just a set of =
techniques.=20
But they'll see the benefit of this new way of thinking about =
gardening--and=20
maybe homebuilding and other subjects linked by permaculture. I'm =
somewhat in=20
this category: I think I get Pc pretty well, but I'm not personally =
interested=20
in whether I'm getting lots more food with it. I see I'm doing less =
work, the=20
wildlife is more abundant, the runoff from my land is clear instead of =
muddy,=20
and I've got more food than I can eat year round. But I'm not going to =
put my=20
vegetables on a scale every day (though I feel guilty about this; I =
spent 15=20
years designing experiments, trained under some really brilliant people, =
so if=20
anybody could and should be doing it, it's me!)<BR><BR>And then there's =
the=20
whole idea of that mythical "permaculture farm" that could be compared =
to a=20
"conventional" farm. I've never seen one, and you seem to be of the same =
mind:=20
that one can't just force a bunch of techniques from the<I> Design =
Manual</I>=20
upon a farmer. Most farmers, to be competitive, have to use a certain =
amount of=20
monoculture, fossil fuel, tillage and other approaches that would =
prevent the=20
purist from calling it a true permaculture design: it would be a =
compromise. And=20
there's that definition problem again: I know some ranchers whose places =
use=20
keyline principles, and have increased their beef production while =
decreasing=20
topsoil loss, but who's going to say that's permaculture? I'm not sure =
that any=20
two people--especially if one or both are skeptical about =
permaculture--are=20
going to agree that a particular place is "doing permaculture." So =
designing an=20
experiment that many people will accept is tricky.<BR><BR>I still would =
really,=20
really like to see some data that compares, say, the yields and inputs =
from a=20
vegetable garden and a forest garden, but how one would design such an=20
experiment, and have it be a valid comparison, strikes me as a =
nightmare, and=20
gets me back to an earlier point: I'd rather be working on and enjoying =
my=20
"permaculture" place than going to the incredible trouble of turning it =
into a=20
carefully controlled experiment. But if aid agencies and universities =
are ever=20
going to fund permaculture designers, I'm afraid someone will have to =
take on=20
that ugly task. And we should all be grateful when they do. <BR><BR>I =
haven't=20
seen Patrick's review of my book, and don't really understand the =
distinction=20
you say he's made between ecosystem-based and beneficial-relationship =
based ways=20
of describing permaculture, but perhaps when I see the review, I will. =
Maddy=20
tells me it's not as positive as she'd like. It's funny: reviews in =
newspapers,=20
gardening, farming, and most alternative magazines have been, to speak =
frankly,=20
raves. But reviews by permaculturists have often not been as =
enthusiastic. Some=20
of that is possibly professional jealousy, but some, I think, is that we =
all=20
have our preferences about how to explain permaculture and don't take it =
well=20
when someone does it differently. But I wrote my book much more for =
gardeners in=20
general than for permaculturists, and the gardeners seem to love=20
it.<BR><BR>Thanks again for your comments. Feel free to forward this to =
the=20
others that your original email went to; I don't know most of them so I =
didn't=20
feel like inundating them with my thoughts=20
unannounced.<BR><BR>Toby<BR>&nbsp;&nbsp;<BR></DIV></FONT></BODY></HTML>

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