[permaculture] Maintaining the standards of permaculture - important issues

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Thu May 3 12:37:24 EDT 2012

On May 3, 2012, at 2:18 AM, Oystein Tandberg wrote:

> I don't want to make this a long e-mail; so I'll just jump to the conclusions: 
Sure, I'll fall for it. Anyone who reads my stuff knows I love ideas that overturn the conventional wisdom. And I've looked at all the evidence for these statements before, in detail, because I am naturally sympathetic to revisionism. They are each nonsense.

> 1. Humans are not in charge of the climate (so the permaculture response 

While it is literally true that no one is in charge of the climate, those words are a soundbite straight from corporate-funded think tanks. Not being a climate scientist, I must rely on experts here, and I tend to side with 99% of the world's climate scientists rather than a handful of oil-company mouthpieces making zombie statements that will not die when disproved. Follow the money: the anti-climate-change propagandists work for the carbon industry.

> 2. Exponential human growth (overpopulation) is a myth. 

The human population is doubling at decreasing intervals. That is, by definition, exponential growth, so this statement is mathematically ignorant. As for it being a problem, population growth is now being sustained by fossil fuel-based food. Maybe we'll find something else as oil runs out, but we are already seeing huge declines in food yields from overuse of soils (I did population genetics work for a while; I recognize the signs of overpopulation.) Maybe having one species use 40% of the Earth's annual production is sustainable, but if population doubles again, so does that number. Anyone who doesn't think human impact is a problem should start drinking from the nearest river, and see how long you live. I suggest a great video called "Arithmetic, Population, and Energy" as a good look at what population growth means.

These last two are way off topic, but they are fun for me.

> 3. Viruses, as infectious microorganisms, is a myth. 

Now we're in my field. I did immunology and genetics research for 15 years. I have used viruses to cause infections in otherwise healthy organisms. Their entire genetic machinery is designed to infect; their genes have been independently used to cause infections, and to do everything needed to infect healthy organisms. They are little miracles, cleverly designed to cause infection because it they cannot reproduce without infecting a host; it's their raison d'etre. Also, it's difficult to explain how a killed virus can confer immunity against a live virus, even in very unhealthy people, without viruses being a cause of infection. 

> 4. Pasteur was wrong - an infection is always a secondary illness; infections arise after tissue has been damaged, by malnutrition or intoxication. (PR: enrich the blood for good health, like you would enrich the soil for good growth)

People who say this have not read Pasteur. He was not "wrong." He knew that otherwise healthy organisms throw off infections much faster than sick ones. And I'd be careful with statements that include the word "always."

I suggest getting into the best shape possible and then letting an Ebola-sick monkey spray blood on you, or stay in a room dusted with with hanta-virus mouse turds. It may change your mind about viruses.

These arguments take advantage of the fact that most people have not been taught to do critical thought, and get sucked in by fallacious bits of sophistry that match their politics and temperament, since they don't have the mental tools to properly evaluate them. As Dick Cheney reportedly said, "you can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones we're looking for." Like I say, I love to upset the conventional wisdom, but promoting these dead-wrong, zombie arguments can do real harm to real people.

Now back to the important stuff.


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