[permaculture] NAPC: Scarcity?

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Tue Aug 12 21:03:33 EDT 2014

(to reiterate: I'm not just throwing stones at NAPC. I want to see it be a successful event that appeals to as broad a slice of the permaculture community as possible. Even if it's too late to do much now, if I wait until after the event to write my thoughts down about this, I won't remember them.)

On Aug 11, 2014, at 4:26 PM, Koreen Brennan via permaculture <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org> wrote:

>  It is unfortunate that the people who aren't coming because of "camping" and "hand holding" didn't do a little more investigation [snip] 
> It appears that these individuals will be missing some great activities because they made incorrect assumptions without any effort to actually find out.

I can see I'm still not getting my point across. First, I'll tackle the smaller issue of camping, and then use it as a lead-in to summarize, as succinctly as I can, what I've been trying to communicate from the start.

I don't think anyone assumed that camping is the only option. But here's all the text of the first screen (you know, the one most people stop at) from the NAPC "Lodging" page:


Camping – If you are purchasing a full weekend pass we welcome you to build community with us by camping on-site at no extra cost. Campsites are rustic with no hook-ups, a short walk from bathrooms and water. Bring your own camping supplies. 
Please arrive and set up your campsite before dark.
A limited number of RV spaces are available for an additional cost.
If you do not want to camp, there are a number of motels nearby.  Please see the comprehensive list below.

Shower Building – The shower building has ten pay stalls that feature on-demand hot showers.
Firewood – Firewood is available for purchase on site. In order to protect the natural surroundings from tree-borne disease, we request that no off-site wood is brought in.

Clearly, camping is the primary, expected lodging mode (tons of references vs. one "motel,") and the only one supported by the event (having spent 2 years based in an RV, believe me, it's camping too). If you want a room, this says, you're on your own. There is no block of rooms reserved for attendees, nor at a discount, as motels are glad to do. (I know, I know, what if the rooms didn't get taken . . . . Sigh. ) 

The turn-off for some people I've spoken to is that the above, and other ways this event is being framed, suggest (as it does to me) that this will be another "permies camping in a field" convergence, but farther away. 

To sum up, here are my bullet points:

--Permaculture in North America is 30 years old. We are no longer in the pioneer phase of succession.

--The Australians and Europeans are far ahead of N. Am. in organizing, accrediting, setting standards, fund-raising, getting sponsors, and other aspects of maturing permaculture, while still remaining true to the ethics and intentions. We have access to good models and experience.

--In the last few years, we've seen a maturing of N. Am. Pc. It's being adopted by policymakers, elected officials, businesses, NGOs, universities, K-12 schools. PhD theses and major articles are being written about it. These people are not your old-style permies. They also have skill sets that we badly need, in terms of organizing, maturing, funding, and accrediting permaculture. We have lacked these skills (and I include myself in that).

--The hope for NAPC is that we will make good progress there on our own organizing, maturing process. 


--NAPC is being framed in the same pattern as every other "convergence" of the last 30 years. We're applying a pioneer succession strategy to a system that is much more mature than that (I'd say, early mid-succession).

--Billing the first continent-wide gathering of permies as a convergence, emphasizing camping as the primary lodging, and talking about how we don't have any money is appealing mostly to the same small demographic we have appealed to for 30 years. Our community is much bigger than that now, and this framing is excluding them. The permaculture-savvy policymakers and other leaders I've spoken to (in my region, many officials have taken PDCs) have told me, "NAPC doesn't look like my cup of tea." We could have used their skills and influence (and their ticket money). Some of the Pc elders who are working on influential, visible projects have told me, "This looks like every other gathering I've been to, so why go?" We have created an early-succession container for a mid-succession event. We've chosen a limiting pattern--from where I sit, the same pattern we've been using for 30 years. We're bigger than that now. 

So here's hoping that we can make the most of what we have, have a great event that moves N. Am. permaculture forward, learn from it, and do even more next year. 


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