Practice


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This was originally a FB post. It resonated with some people and generated some good discussion, so I’m bringing it over here to the blog. It’s not as developed as what I usually post – but this way it won’t get lost in the misty depths of my FB wall. (Also, maybe if I let myself post shorter/rawer stuff, I’ll post more?!)   I worry about statements like these. It’s tempting to console ourselves with all kinds of individualism (and small-groupism) when we live in a culture where the fabric of reciprocity and solidarity has been most comprehensively unwoven. But we’re getting duped if we believe we face the question of individuals (or small groups) versus movements for making change – let’s ask instead how we as individuals come alive in groups and communities that are embedded, with scores of others, in movements as vast as the problems we face. […]

Economic Zones & Systems 22
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


Permaculture Research Concept Map 31
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



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  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


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/ ...




Holmgren and Temford’s Ethics icon (1) Care for the Earth (2) Care for People (3) Redistribute Surplus These three ethics have always been at the heart of Permaculture thinking and teaching. At least, that is what folks in the Permaculture movement claim – including me. They are hard to disagree with too strenuously, no? This is partially because they so vague. This abstraction is part of their strength – they are widely appealing, and serve as a commonsense and positive entry point to draw people into a conversation.

Putting Some Teeth in the Permaculture Ethics