Education



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My research travel has taken a slight detour. I’ve had to fly home to deal with an urgent, but non-life-threatening, medical situation. I’m now recovering well after minor surgery, and will be getting back out on the road shortly. It was frustrating to abandon part of an itinerary that I had put so much time into assembling, farm by farm, but… sometimes you just have to roll with it. Ultimately, I’m just happy to be healing well and getting back out there. Hopefully I will find a way to get back out to that stretch of southern Oregon to central California before all is said and done. But I’ll be going east before I go back west. Next weekend, I’ll be presenting twice at the Yale Food Systems Symposium. I’m happy to be sitting on a panel on Permaculture in Academia, as well as giving a presentation entitled “Recovering the Future: Food System Transition […]

From the field – and the sickbed. And then the ...


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I just got the official word that my paper Permaculture for Agroecology: Design, Practice, Movement, and Worldview  has been accepted for publication in the  agroecology journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development. This is the first hard look at permaculture in any peer-reviewed natural science literature that I’m aware of, so I’m pretty excited to be getting this into print – especially in a journal like ASD. [EDIT] So now that it’s official, I’m making a preprint of the article available for download I’m uploading a copy to the eprint archive server dedicated to sustainable agriculture research, orgprints.org. It will be available for download for there shortly. As this is a late-draft preprint, the final published form may differ slightly, or not at all, from this version. I’ll link to the final version, as well as make it available here, when it’s finally published. I had high hopes for orgprints.org, but they have been totally unresponsive. In any […]

New review of the permaculture literature in Agronomy for Sustainable ...



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I’ve written before about the challenges faced by permaculture enterprises. Farms, like other land-based permaculture projects, are faced with the formidable task of regenerating ecosystems and communities, while surviving in a system that rewards the destruction of the same systems. Permaculture projects have to compete with degenerative enterprises and institutions that are happy to take the efficiency ‘bonus’ from unsustainable and exploitative practices. The consequence is that it’s hard for permaculture enterprises to keep costs as low, and therefore people with less of an economic buffer, who have to minimize costs as much as possible, find it hard to support regenerative enterprises as consumers. That’s most of the world, in case you were wondering. So the regenerative enterprises that we would like to create have a difficult time offering products and services that most people can afford, and most people can’t afford to support the regenerative economy. If we want […]

Confronting the Context: Permaculture and Capitalism


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Now that Toby’s interesting essay (in response to my post on definitions in permaculture is making the rounds, I think it warrants a reply. (Some of this post assumes some prior knowledge of those posts, and a general awareness of agroecology). If you haven’t read Toby’s piece, he’s making an argument that permaculture is really, fundamentally, a design discipline – and that’s how we should regard it. It’s not a movement, a set of practices, or a worldview, and we shouldn’t confuse it with those things. It’s clear how  this reduction could be attractive for people who are interested in supporting the professional sector in permaculture, and Toby makes his argument well. His definition tidies up a messy ecosystem, drawing clear boundaries that focus attention on a single aspect of interest. While such linear and reductive thinking can be useful in the right context, in this case it does not serve. Permaculture’s spread […]

the convenience and poverty of simple definitions


  Great, thought provoking article by Rhamis Kent now up at Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. “Permaculture and Slavery: A Systems Analysis” kicks off a welcome and badly needed discussion of the legacy of African slavery in the development of the US economy – all through the energetic lens of systems ecology, long beloved by permaculturists. Go check it out. You’ll find me in the comments.

Permaculture and Slavery



From the fine people at Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute – with whom I teach every summer. The Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute (FLPCI) and The Permaculture Institute of the North East (PINE) are delighted to offer four fellowships for the upcoming Permaculture Design Certification course (PDC) offered this summer, in upstate New York from July 26th through August 11th. This fellowship is both need-based and merit-based. It aims to support community organizers, educators, and activists to share their permaculture knowledge with their communities. We encourage fellows to use their earnings as seed money for community-based permaculture education and activism. Women, people of color, and individuals from other historically marginalized groups are strongly encouraged to apply. We will begin selecting applicants on a rolling basis after April 17, 2013. More information can be found at http://FingerLakesPermaculture.org _______________________________________________

This just in: Permaculture Fellowships for Organizers, Activists and Educators


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Summary: Neil Bertrando just authored a great article, in which he adapts my adaptation of the Scale of Permanence to generate some extremely useful strategic discussion of permaculture education and research in the USA. The content of his article is worthy of it’s own discussion, but here I’m just discussing method. Over the past few years I’ve been ‘experimenting’ with the underlying structure of Yeoman’s Scale of Permanence – trying to see what it is about it that makes it so compelling and useful for site analysis and design. My interest has been to see what concepts it might be related to in other disciplines, and how it might be applied in other domains than landscape planning. I’ve come to think of the Scale of Permanence as a form of ordered constraint analysis. At it’s most general, it involves identifying all the most pertinent factors that shape the possibilities and potentials of the […]

Adapting the “Scale of Permanence” for diverse design challenges


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Permaculturists face a wicked contradiction. We want to create, and support the creation of, businesses and organizations that point the way toward a new way of doing things. If we want to claim that permaculture is ‘design that meets human needs while increasing ecosystem health,’ then we need to be able to demonstrate how the enterprises we design are meeting this description. Otherwise, our ethics aren’t meaningful, and the claims we make about the value of permaculture aren’t credible. The trick is that these enterprises also have to thrive right now, under industrial capitalism. If no one but the independently wealthy can use permaculture systems to both survive the current society and transition to whatever comes next, then permaculture isn’t much help at all. I don’t want to make lifeboats and pleasure gardens for the rich, and I don’t want to have to wait until after the apocolypse for permaculture […]

Toward Financial Permaculture: New Farms in the Old System



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Here is a lightly-revised version of “Putting Some Teeth in the Permaculture Ethics,” originally published on my old website in 2010 (then republished on this revamped site last August). I’m revisiting it here because it’s been on my mind, as I prepare for teaching at Financial Permaculture 2013, Jan.21-25, in Miami. This course is addressing one of the big gaps, and areas of great innovation, in the evolution of the permaculture framework. We are in the grips of a paradox. In order to designing projects and businesses that can help regenerate landscapes and communities, we have to design projects that are socially and ecologically sustainable. But these projects must also be able to thrive right now, in our current society that often seems to reward exploitation and destruction before anything else. Reconciling this contradiction in our design work requires new ways of thinking, above and beyond the tools that permaculture […]

Teeth in the Ethics (revisited) – toward Financial Permaculture


Teaming up with Eric Toensmeier and a fearsome team of permaculture & local economy mavens to teach this innovative course next month! Hosted by the amazing folks at Earth Learning. We’ll be designing four enterprises for real-world implementation: farm, cafe, commercial kitchen, and food hub. You can probably guess which design team Eric and I are on? Click on the image to view at full size, and click here to learn more and register.

Teaching @ Financial Permaculture: Jan 21-25, Miami Dade College


Do you think any Fairfieldians would appreciate having a friendly agroecologist on their couch for the weekend? I’d love to go out to Drought Proofing Your Farm, with the inimitable Darren Doherty and I can get a ride with the great folks at Midwest Permaculture – but I’m still working on some el cheapo accommodations. That this trip is even a remote possibility is due the event being sponsored by several regional sustainable agriculture organizations (which you can see on the event site, linked to above) – so props to them. The weekend ticket (not including food/housing) is $100, and $25 for students. This is how I like to see permaculture education being done! If you aren’t familiar with Darren’s work – he’s as real as it gets. And his Australian perspective is sadly more and more relevant for the North American Midwest, as our summers grow to resemble’s Australia’s own inimical climate. […]

This weekend in Fairfield, Iowa: Drought Proofing Your Farm w/ ...