[permaculture] NAPC: Scarcity?

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Wed Aug 6 17:07:10 EDT 2014


Koreen, etc--

Lots of good stuff here; thanks for all this. Mostly my comments have been to encourage us to up our game; to sometimes bemore professional, to appeal to a wider audience, and to tap into resources that permaculturists have largely ignored, and I appreciate the other efforts to do this, too. Wonderful that NAPC can be a stimulus for this and more.

Re the word "convergence." Most permaculture convergences I've attended have been just as oriented toward lectures and talking heads as conferences, while I've been to conferences that have been dynamic and interactive. I think the distinction is primarily one of advertising and an attempt by permaculturists to say that they are doing something different. A conference is what you make it. 

For most people, the connotations of "conference" are simply a group of professionals coming together to share their work with each other, though usually at some classy joint.

But "convergence" has strong connotations that are very class-specific. The first convergence that I know of was the 1987 "Harmonic Convergence," a New Age gathering based on an well-hyped astrological "convergence" of the planets and a misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar (like 2012) in which, if only enough people came together, the world would enter a new age of peace. Only hippies and new-agers hold convergences. I have nothing against hippies; I am one myself. But I would like permaculture to appeal to more than hippies, and if we market ourselves using hippie, dated New Age language, we won't do that. I run into pushback from professionals in many fields on our language and presentation, over and over again.

At "La Convergence," a large permaculture gathering in Quebec that I just attended, a group of the most influential people there (the site owners, who are serious movers in the community and fiber-hemp farmers; an internationally known artist who also pioneered virtual reality software; one of Canada's best known environmentalists, and several others) all disliked the word "convergence, and asked why not call it a conference, because that's what it was. And these people love permaculture. Imagine how others feel.

At a NW Pc Convergence a few years back, several high-ranking policymakers from Portland attended, arriving in time for the opening ceremony. People circled up, held hands, sang, did circle dances, and made an invocation to the earth goddess. That was more than the officials could stand, and they left before the main events began. Will they ever consider permaculture seriously again?

So, if we want to reach anyone outside of those already in the counterculture, we need to stop using exclusive language and practices that are alienating to most of the population. Many of us are so used to speaking our language that we don't know how off-putting and class-specific it is. To attract people out of their usual mode, we need to actually be attractive. I'm not interested in mainstreaming permaculture, but I do want to permaculture the mainstream.

And that gets to Koreen's question about events that only offer camping as lodging. Right there, we've just ruled out most of the population, and put a burden on those who are flying to attend (tent, sleeping bag, pad, etc on a plane? $50 bag fee right there) and on those who are older. At a conference, I want to be at my best, and after 2 nights on hard ground, in a crowd of tents with people talking till late, coughing and snoring, and waving flashlights in the dark, I'm a wreck. I was fine with that 20 years ago, but not now. 

This is all fine for NAPC this time, because we're creating an event primarily for insiders. But if we want to take advantage of permaculture's potential to change all of society, we need to reach out to the vast majority who don't think like us or use words like convergence and Gaia. 

I think permaculture has done a fine job in serving the alternative community and reaching out to low-income activists and farmers, but it's been to the exclusion of serving the rest of society. I'd like to see us develop a more professional component, more outreach, and more willingness to meet outsiders where they are.

Toby
http://patternliteracy.com


On Aug 6, 2014, at 1:26 AM, Koreen Brennan via permaculture <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org> wrote:

> Toby and all, 
> 
> I totally agree that it is all solvable and it's all about design. Early in the process we discussed the idea of taking longer to put this event on so that we would have more time to implement a full design. We decided to go forward because we felt that the value of having a convergence this year outweighed the downside. We have engaged the design process, but we have realized that because of the time frame, we would not be able to create an optimum design. So the question then becomes what is most important - what will get the most future yield? We are still getting what we feel are key parts of a permaculture design for this event done. 
> 
> For the record, I feel that there are important distinctions between convergences and conferences, and we need both of them. Conferences focus on experts giving others information. They are often focused on a one-way flow of communication. Sometimes there are decisions made or break out sessions but usually not. 
> 
> Converging on a point (meaning a physical location), in order to facilitate rich energy exchanges is an ancient practice that is quite sustainable. Many indigenous people have done it at times of necessity. I am currently working and living at Pine Ridge Lakota reservation - the tribal traditions of tiospayes (small, extended family localized units) converging for larger gatherings go back at some length. I just attended a national level powwow and observed the patterns there. 
> 
> Convergences stack functions, creating opportunity for cross-pollination amongst tribes in a number of ways - historically,this has included an increased field for selection of mates, strategical alliances and agreements, and the exchange of tools, horses, seeds, culture, etc. Tribes might hunt together or do other things where economy of scale matters. I don't think the concepts of convergence and conference should be collapsed as they hold two very different functions. There are many elements of permaculture design present in the convergence model. I'm so happy to hear that Jono and others will be presenting info about the successes of the NE convergences and guilds as there are many regions that can potentially benefit from that information. A convergence can be many things to many people and the regional convergences have been exploring that edge. It will be interesting to get them together to compare notes! 
> 
> Some have voiced concerns that we aren't ready for a continental convergence. My view is that things are marching forward in a number of sectors on this planet, whether we are "ready" for them or not. Therefore, we perhaps need to push ourselves harder and get ourselves ready, and a continental convergence may be able to assist with that process. My hope is that some of us at least will look outward, at the larger patterns in society, and engage in thoughtful discussions about opportunities and challenges, strengths and weaknesses. 
> 
> I would of course like to get paid for the work of organizing - it is part of the third ethic of fair share.  The concept of receiving energy for valuable energy contributed is part of a sustainable system. There are some of us out there who will do the work whether we are paid or not when we think the job is important enough. Whether that is the best possible way to do things or not, we are filling niches that no one else has stepped up to fill. I'm feeling that it will be worth it on many levels, but I do agree that we need to tweak the finance model, not just in this one case but overall. 
> 
> And there are a number of us interested in addressing this at the convergence. Financial Permaculture is slated to be a working group there and it may end up breaking off into more than one. It is a huge subject, and there are many ways in which permaculture design can be applied more thoroughly. I hear Scott's comments about invisible structure - it is my reality that invisible structure is almost always the make-break point of any design. 
> 
> I'm personally interested in many permutations of cooperative models and looking forward to linking with others of like mind.  I think that financial structures in our community that truly use the tools, principles and elements of permaculture are much too few and far between (a scarcity that can be remedied with abundances) and am  interested in hearing about and supporting any that do. I agree that there is an abundance of money and we should be better at tapping into it because we will use it more wisely than many out there are doing.
> 
> I've been talking to various bright lights in the movement about prospective cooperative models and we are coming up with some creative ideas that we feel meet everybody's needs. I'm very interested in connecting with anyone who is serious about creating better models than those being currently used in our movement. I think it would be good for all of us to consider how we can help each other and collaborate more than we do, and I feel that in order to make that happen, we need to create structures that facilitate that. 
> 
> I am re-studying Donella Meadows' Thinking in Systems and am reminded that structure and model can make huge differences in system outcomes. I personally feel that the subject of economics of convergences and everything else in permaculture goes much deeper than marketing ploys. I personally got involved with this project in large part because I want to use intelligent design to move to the next stage of succession, and I see how meeting together in working groups, breakouts, etc, can assist that process. We are continuing to design these sessions for maximum effectiveness and are very interested in people's suggestions, thoughts and co-creation on that design process. 
> 
> How can we bring the maximum amount of consciousness to the process of converging? What does that mean, specifically at this time in our history and in the succession process? What would that look like, at the convergence? What can each of us bring to this gathering that will contribute to that consciousness and to an enlightened succession process that results in increased yields, abundance, ethics, and sanity? These are questions I'm asking myself regularly as the time draws near.
> 
> Best, Koreen
> www.growpermaculture.com
> www.facebook.com/growpermaculturenow
> 
> 
> 
> On Tuesday, August 5, 2014 3:12 PM, Bob Waldrop <bob at bobwaldrop.net> wrote:
> 
> 
> 
> I agree this has been a valuable thread.
> 
> In my preevious experience in the convention business, generally you 
> develop your budget based on previous experience.  The absolute hardest 
> and most knuckle biting conference to present is a new conference, one 
> without an established record or constituency.  The knucklebiting is 
> because people always wait until the last minute to book their 
> attendance and every conference I was ever involved with sold a lot of 
> tickets in the last two weeks.  Of course "the last two weeks" is 
> useless or nearly so when it comes to program, because your program is 
> generally arranged months in advance of the final two weeks before the 
> event.
> 
> I think crowd sourcing some seed money for the next event, or to fund 
> the planning committee on an on-going basis, would be a great idea.
> 
> I also think that establishing a permanent organizing group is a better 
> idea than handing the convention off to new people in different regions 
> each year.  In other words, I'm assuming there will be a conversation at 
> the event about the NEXT event.  One of the options is for local 
> committees throughout the country to bid for the convention, the other 
> is to have a permanent planning committee, which possibly could work 
> with local groups.  I'd vote for the permanent planning committee.
> 
> Bob Waldrop, Okie City
> 
> 
> On 8/5/2014 1:50 PM, Toby Hemenway wrote:
>> I'm gaining a lot from this thread and appreciate everyone's conscientious, thoughtful comments. Thomas brings up many good points, and I also want to get to a few of Koreen's. I think we are getting to some solutions here. A few responses:
>> 
>> On Aug 4, 2014, at 11:27 PM, Thomas Allen <thallen at nwlink.com> wrote:
>> 
>>>    Do we put on an event with volunteer labor at a very low price so young entrants into permaculture can attend or do we put on the best event possible.
>> Where I'm trying to go with this is: it is not either/or. It's possible to put on excellent events with options that low-income people can afford,
> 
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