DIYFS Podcast #12: Where we should practice Permaculture.

The answer to the title of this particular podcast seems pretty simple. Everywhere.

But the reality is the subject is a bit deeper, and a bit more feisty at that.

In this episode, I decided to take a swing at an unnecessary problem in Permaculture. That issue is the constant sniping between different factions of perceived leaders in  Permaculture.

I should note that this is the third version and I probably should have re-recorded it again, but I feel like I have already spent too much of my time on this matter.

Part of what I said turned out to be erroneous, so I will correct that here. When discussing some things that Allen Savory said during the Permaculture Voices Conference about a Mark Shepard presentation, I put forth the notion that Allen had stated that Mark had essentially said that doing anything other than broad scale Permaculture was a waste of our time.

As I finally got around to watching Mark’s speech on Monday night, I have to state plainly that he in fact said the opposite, and he insisted that we need to work in all areas. On the other hand, he did spend an inordinate amount of time belittling the work of more than a couple of Permies. I used that word specifically because the main target was clearly Paul Wheaton, who he even went as far as calling Paul Wooten. Paul of course made similar statements about Mark (without being quite as obtuse which was surprising), and these type things are exactly why I made this podcast.

My one regret in recording this episode before today is in not calling Paul out as well, for doing the same thing that he was speaking against in his keynote speech.

The other thing I wish to address is part of what Mr. Shepard seemed to be railing against. That is internet activism, writing of research books and the trinkets (my word I don’t recall off hand what he called them but the sentiment is the same) of Permaculture.

I will start with internet activism. For the record I want to start off by stating that there are a lot of things about Paul Wheaton and his “brand” of Permaculture I do not like. I do not feel the need to list them, as I have plenty of things I need to improve in my own delivery. I should also state that Paul’s website is part of the triumvirate that introduced me to Permaculture (Permies, Gaias Garden, and One Straw Revolution. I know I do not stand alone when I say I may have never really “got” Permaculture if Paul was not doing the work he is doing. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I would be willing to bet that there are 100,000 people who are ACTIVELY working to improve the world with Permaculture who found and or learned extensively about Permaculture on Paul’s website. The long and the short of this statement is that while it is not the end all of Permaculture, net activism is helping and Paul is doing valuable work.

Mr. Shepard also seems to have a problem with people writing how to books about Permaculture, especially when they are about plant guilds. It seems silly to have to say this, but I am going to anyway. Mark, mankind has used the written word to share ideas and concepts with his fellow man for at least 6000 years. It is one of the principle ways that we have advanced our knowledge, and it is one of the most efficient ways of spreading new ideas to the populace (especially when mixed with the interwebz, see above) If we all run out and research the same thing over and over we lose even more time, and we all know we cannot afford that.

As for the trinkets of Permaculture (the specific ones picked on were cob ovens and herb spirals), I would like to point out that while all of these things are not appropriate to all areas (I wish I could have a banana circle in Indiana) and some of them are not nearly as cool in function as they are in appearance, they also serve a purpose. Sex appeal. An herb spiral when actually cared for (and some Permaculture practitioners actually prefer to care for their gardens), they are a great way to introduce someone who is totally disinterested in Permaculture to its ideals. Just picture a clueless neighbor commenting on how nice it looks and giving you an opening to pounce on him with ideas about space utilization and micro climate. Without those introductions I really don’t know how we are supposed to get people involved BEFORE its too late…I mean it will be easy when systems start to fail, but how is developing perennials going to work out then?

That’s enough of picking on Mark though, if nothing else, just because his work is hugely important too. I said it in the podcast and I will restate it here. The work Mark Shepard is doing with alley cropping, animal rotation, species development…hell all of his work (which focuses on broad scale Permaculture) is of great value, and it did not deserve to be diminished during a major conference any more than Paul’s did.

The thing that is really difficult to swallow is that I am finding these kinds of problems exist on the local level as well. I think it comes down to the American way of being competitive multiplied by the nature of capitalism. Here if you aren’t the best you are nothing, and that tends to make people think that the only way they can be successful is to diminish the work of others. Its too bad that the people who practice a design system that focuses so much energy on the power of integrating systems and creating useful relationships spend so much time and energy doing the opposite. I hope we get better at it, we have work to do.

Enjoy the Podcast.

Oh yeah if you haven’t already, you should order and watch the Permaculture Voices Conference. There is way more to it than infighting. I cannot believe how much good information got crammed into this thing. I am going next year if I have to sell my organs.

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