[permaculture] NAPC: Scarcity?

Jason Gerhardt jasongerhardt at gmail.com
Thu Aug 7 04:15:10 EDT 2014

This conversation has been very interesting to follow. I’m on vacation, but
can’t resist a comment or two. For the record, I’m attending NAPC and
excited. I’m trying not to have hopes, but just be open so I can observe,
participate, and contribute.

I totally hear Toby’s points and resonate with the need to make a more
professional presentation. I also hear Koreen in saying there are many
types of people interested in permaculture and therefore many needs/desires
for a conference/convergence. In thinking through all of this I see a big
point that is lacking, which is probably the exact reason why we need to

First, we can’t just look at *needs and yields*. Mollison drew up the
Analysis of Elements design methodology in a specific way and I think it
has been too commonly dumbed-down to needs and yields analysis. What are
missing are *characteristics*. I see it being useful to define the
characteristics, in the application of a permaculture conference, as *what
permaculture is*. The needs and yields of a permaculture conference should
primarily be developed from the characteristics of what permaculture is,
otherwise we are going to try being everything to everyone, especially if a
survey is used to identify the needs and desired yields of hundreds of
people. The defining feature of all of this is that people think
permaculture is too many different things. We have done a poor job at
defining permaculture and actually practicing it as it is defined (the
bigger problem). That is also the stumbling block to attaining greater
professionalism and thus securing larger projects with larger impact and
thus securing more secure livelihoods for practitioners. We are most
definitely still at the point of figuring out what the hell permaculture
is. And that is probably a good reason to converge.

Instead of this we are holding onto the idea of how to spread the
permaculture gospel. As if spreading the permaculture word is the intention
rather than doing great work with permaculture. These two things get
greatly confused in the broad permaculture field (intentionally avoiding
the word movement as that has only confused things further as I see it).
And they are both hampered by the lack of having a solid definition that
doesn’t have all kinds of trappings and additionals attached to it.

Together, all of these things are what I see as preventatives to
permaculture actually taking off beyond the rural homestead strategies of
Mollisonian food forest and hugelkultur, which if we’re honest is so
fucking played. I wish we had more to share in a professional context of
permaculture application at these conferences (not to say we don’t have
anything, but there is less than we all know is possible), but why we don’t
is because we haven’t broadly discovered the identity of the permaculturist
yet. We’re still off journeying through the hinterlands hoping to stumble
upon the kernel of truth, when the truth has been right under our nose the
entire time. That truth is that permaculture has been simply and
well-defined already. And too few have accepted it and gotten down to
applying it.

I think we forget that “the solutions are embarrassingly simple.” It would
indeed be embarrassing to hold a conference on what permaculture is, nearly
40 years post coining, but I think that’s where we are, broadly speaking,

Jason Gerhardt

p.s. this is in no way whatsoever critiquing any one individual nor aimed
at the organizers of NAPC, which consists of good friends and colleagues.
In modern parlance…I’m just sayin’.

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