[permaculture] New article on Zone 00

Ben Martin Horst ben.martinhorst at gmail.com
Wed Jul 9 01:04:11 EDT 2014

Hi Toby,
I think your objections to categorizing the designer or the "inner self" as
a zone are spot on, and you do a great job of demonstrating why. And while
I think that you're right to treat the designer as sector in most cases, I
would quibble a bit with your statement that states of mind are "influences
that we have little control over. (Perhaps a few ascended beings can
control their mental state, but most of us can't!)" Here's why:

For starters, "control" often isn't our goal as designers. We design, we
influence, but we try to stay away from controlling, whenever possible.
Sometimes it's useful to control our interior state, but more often we just
want to give it a little nudge here and there.

Second, I think our terminology and conceptualization of "inner state" is
actually fairly confused. What do we really mean by it? I suspect it's
rather the same thing that religions call "soul" or "spirit," or that in
more modern terms we refer to as "mind" or "consciousness." But this
terminology, and the long-standing Cartesian split between mind and body in
our culture, privileges the mental over the physical, obscures the fact
that mind (or "soul" if you're feeling metaphysical) is an emergent
property of the body, and makes it difficult to conceive of our mental
states as anything other than transcendent and unalterable. Our "inner"
worlds are inseparable from the "outer" world, and are subject to similar
design methods and constraints.

Influencing our interior states is actually surprisingly commonplace, if
generally unconscious. There are the obvious chemical methods, including
caffeine, nicotine, psilocybin, etc. There are the rather more subtle
influences of the foods we eat (I notice a surprisingly degree of cognitive
slowing when I eat certain grains, for instance). Intriguing recent
research indicates possible connections
between diet, our gut microbiota, and cognitive development and mood. Then
there are ambient environmental effects, demonstrated, for example, by the
effect of tetraethyl lead on crime rates
And of course there are the less quantifiable examples … I would hazard a
guess that we do permaculture design because it makes us *feel* good, as
much as anything else. I could go on with examples of ways in which we
profoundly influence our "inner" states.

I would argue that our "inner" states are just as subject to being
*elements* in a design as they are to being exclusively *influences* upon
it. Moreover, I'd say it's critical that we design with an eye to our
emotional and mental well-being. It's the sort of thing that we do already,
when, for example, someone leaves a high-paying office job for low- to
no-pay work in the outdoors -- she's redesigning the structure of her life
with her happiness in mind. We just need to do it more consciously and more

Thanks again for your contributions to clarifying and critically examining
permaculture jargon, along with all the other work you've done. I much
appreciate it.


On Sun, Jul 6, 2014 at 1:57 PM, Toby Hemenway <toby at patternliteracy.com>

> I've posted some thoughts on why I think zone 00 as the state of the
> designer's mind is a bad term.
> It's at:
> http://www.patternliteracy.com/816-zone-00-right-intentions-wrong-term
> Zone 00: Right Intentions, Wrong Term
> "One of my pet projects is to clean up the ambiguities and logical
> inconsistencies that weaken permaculture terminology. Today I take aim at
> the term Zone 00, used to mean either the designer or user of a
> permaculture design, or their inner state. It’s a concept spawned by good
> intentions, but calling it a zone is logically inconsistent, redundant, and
> worst of all, has no design use. The designer’s mind is a crucial
> influence, but it’s not a zone. If it’s an influence on a design, that
> makes it a sector, right? (If you just slapped your forehead and said
> “Doh!” then you need read no further.) So let’s stop using the term zone
> 00."
> Enjoy!
> Toby
> http://patternliteracy.com
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