[permaculture] The argument ? The summary ? THE PROBLEM

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Thu Jan 9 13:37:23 EST 2014

Jason, Darren, and Koreen have summed up my thoughts on this so nicely that I have little to add.

I especially like and agree with all of this:

On Jan 9, 2014, at 8:30 AM, Jason Gerhardt wrote:

> I too have reservations about aquaponics, but I also have reservations
> about everything. What helps me break down those boundaries is thinking
> through context to determine appropriateness. It seems that you have used
> your intellect and arrived at aquaponics not being appropriate anywhere,
> which is fine. It just means your designs and/or clients won't get to
> consider that possibility. What troubles me is that you are choosing to say
> that decision is permaculture and anybody who thinks otherwise doesn't
> actually understand permaculture. I would like to offer that the decision
> making process is permaculture, not the decisions themselves. This
> difference is what really represents the weakening of permaculture to me.
> AND, I agree with you, the weakening of permaculture is rampant, from this
> perspective.

To quote Larry Santoyo, we don't impose solutions in permaculture, we arrive at them through the design process. There are instances where I could arrive at aquaponics as the best design solution using the permaculture process. The GrowHaus is one. A CSA won't solve the problemL Denver's brief growing season  leaves 8 months of relying on Walmart; connecting this inner city community to a rural farm would be a culturally and economically inappropriate "solution" imposed from outside, and the Growhaus uses abandoned greenhouses in the neighborhood that grow year round using a climate battery to save energy. Yes, they could have just grown plants (aren't greenhouses unnatural?) but aquaponics stacks a culturally critical food--meat--into the mix at little additional resource cost, adding fish food but eliminating fertilizer. That sounds like permaculture to me.

Yup, I prefer food grown in soil and I need to be connected to nature. But to me, (one last time) to rule out any technique because it does not meet a subjective criteria of being "natural,"  while accepting other techniques used by all permies from Mollison on down that are no more natural, rather than weighing it via real metrics like embodied energy, carbon footprint, or nutrients produced per input, is imposing our prejudices rather than using a design process. 

You might as well say we forbid that technique because it uses plastic, disturbs the etheric vibrations, or was invented by a Catholic. Teaching that design decisions should be made by opinion and personal taste rather than by a universally applied design process, as Jason says, is the real weakening of permaculture.


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