[permaculture] Toby Hemenway: Thoughts on pc design, ecology and balance of nature

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Thu Mar 28 20:22:47 EDT 2019

Input from others on agroecology:


"I have seen agroecology scientific work in Mexico, Brazil and Cuba that is
far in advance of anything in the US. That is partly because in other
countries the scientific tradition is more likely to take a macroscopic,
systems view of phenomena that they study. In all applied sciences like
agriculture, that must mean taking seriously the fact that human society is
part of larger natural systems and must obey the laws of those systems -
the laws of energy and matter (known as the laws of thermodynamics) and
concepts like carrying capacity that govern the health and even survival of
all living systems. That means grounding all applied sciences in a
disciplined understanding of ecosystem science - how the ecosystems we live
in work as wholes.  Just a few examples of a macroscopic approach are the
ways of doing science pioneered by Darwin, Odum, Marx and even political
economists of classical liberalism like and John Stuart Mill and Adam
Smith. Such holistic methods are  now for generations embedded in
scientific tradition in other countries."

"My advice to prospective agroecologists: train with someone like Altieri
who knows better that to try to teach in a landgrant university, or study
agroecology in a country in the global south, at EcoSur in San Cristobal de
las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico, for example. "

"I argue that *ecosystems science* must become the master discipline of all
of science, including agroecology. Ecosystems science is a subset only
because most ecologists have been lured off into piecemeal, reductive
approaches that have characterized most of the way we do science for three

"I welcome and appreciate Steven's call to reroot agroecology as a
discipline in the powerful meanings it has in ecosystems science. It is
unfortunate that we feel driven to relabel such powerful ecological
concepts with adjectives - 'deep agroecology', 'longterm sustainability' -
in the battle against dillution and cooptation. Instead we need to call for
all interested parties - general society, the agricultural science
community, farmers and the alternative agriculture movement - to reroot
their learning communities in the study of systems ecology, now
demonstrated to be the master discipline, without which most others have
limited explanatory value."

On Thu, Mar 28, 2019 at 4:38 PM Lawrence London <lfljvenaura at gmail.com>

> Toby Hemenway: Thoughts on pc design, ecology and balance of nature
> From: hemenway at jeffnet.org (Toby Hemenway)
> Newsgroups: alt.permaculture
> Date: 24 Dec 1999 17:44:33 GMT
> Personal data: I live in rural Oregon, USA, write,
> consult and teach Pc for a living, and just edited the most recent issue
> of the Permaculture Activist. But enough about me.)
>  >> Myk (I think that was Mky Rushton, a UK permaculturist - LL) wrote,
> snip,
>  >> Classical ecology speaks of the 'balance of nature' and 'ecosystems
> being in
>  >> equilibrium' - ecology now show us that there is no such thing as
> balance or equilibrium
> I¹m glad to see this being raised. Much of Pc, of course, is spot-on,
> since it derives primarily from observation. But: since Pc was developed
> in the 1970s, many of its concepts are based on the now-outmoded view of
> ecology that Myk describes, and I¹ve been concerned about this. One of the
> most popular definitions of Pc says we¹re trying to design systems with
> ³the stability and resilience of nature.² And we take for granted that
> ³diversity creates stability.² Yet both of these ideas have been largely
> discredited in the post-70s revolution in ecology. Even the idea of
> succession has been challenged as a myth.
> In his excellent book ³The Balance of Nature?² Stuart Pimm points out that
> ecosystems are far from stable; that patchiness, disturbance, and invasion
> are the rule. He says that the concept of stability is very deceptive,
> that people use it in at least 5 ways, including the time a system takes
> to recover from disturbance (resilience), how long it resists a perturbing
> force before changing (persistence), how much the change in one element
> affects the whole system (resistance), how long all elements take to
> return to their original state after disturbance (stability) and how
> resistant the system is to invading species (invasibility). So what are we
> creating when we try to make ³stable² guilds and gardens?
> I think there¹s a lot of meat in the ³resistance to invasion² idea. A good
> tight guild should repel pests, invasive grasses, etc..
> And diversity does not necessarily create stability. Examples abound of
> very stable, very simple ecosystems, and on the other hand, adding new
> elements to a ³stable² ecosystem can make it collapse or alter it
> drastically. I¹m from the ³throw a zillion species together and let them
> duke it out² school of Pc design, but sometimes this fails miserably.
> Obviously we need to take nature as our guide when we design, but often
> whem we assume nature is doing one thing, she turns out to be doing
> something very different. It concerns me that some of Mollison¹s ideas
> stem from a now-outmoded view of ecology, and we¹re using them as the
> basis for a design system.
> Toby Hemenway
> --
> Lawrence F. London, Jr.
> lfljvenaura at gmail.com
> Avant Geared
> avantgearedshop at gmail.com
> https://sites.google.com/site/avantgeared

Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Avant Geared
avantgearedshop at gmail.com

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