Dodgy Science and "Permaculturists"

Discussion in 'The big picture' started by lostredwood, Nov 2, 2015.

  1. lostredwood

    lostredwood New Member

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    Recently I listened to this 2013 podcast from thepermaculturepodcast.com about edible forest gardens where the speaking guest, Dave Jacke, in a short bit mentioned his disillusionment with the term "permaculture" when discussing with others who are not "aware." Instead, he chooses to reference his methodology and design like it, "ecological design," to avoid the negative connotations associated with smitten "permaculturists."

    Some quotes, not exact quotations:

    "We've gotten to a point where...the word is: disconnection, alienation or separation is root cause [of the worlds problems]." 13:25

    Permanent Agriculture to Permanent Culture 16:30
    "I've always had a problem with the word 'permaculture,' to be honest. If you know anything about Buddhism or life, the only thing permanent about life is change. I actually prefer to call it "Ecological Culture Design," because I like to call things what they are and avoid jargon. I don't really care what we call it...but lets do the work."

    Permaculture "Carrying Baggage" Outside of the Communities of Permaculture 18:40
    "There is something to be said about having an identity and feeling a part of something larger and being able to talk to people in your own group and have your own culture. There is a lot of people running around talking about permaculture who don't really know what they are doing and the people who are in the field of horticulture and ag, can tell that these people don't know what they are talking about. And hell, there's a lot I don't know about.

    We're just barely beginning to understand what species grow well together and why. It would be nice to know why, it's hard to figure out even in a scientific study. It's very hard to prove cooperation, competition, allelopathy.

    How are we, lay people in our backyards, going to figure this out? Through good observation, trial and error, and putting ourselves in the place of humility, that's how we'll learn, otherwise we're fooling ourselves.

    Permaculture has a history, Bill Mollison was a prime example of overselling permaculture. I'm a fan, but we have to be careful what we claim. I think we claim too much in my book about self maintenance."

    Being Accountable, Self Referential Reading Materials 22:50
    Do you think it's important for the next wave of practitioners and authors to have that kind of accountability?

    "Absolutely. The lack of that accountability in Mollison's and other peoples writing has in a hindered the movement in big way. it is one of the big issues iv'e seen in permaculture. Really poor or nonexistent social system design, i'd like us all to be accountable for what we do. Someone needs to actually do the study...lets see what works and what didn't. If we're going on a wing and a prayer and not looking back and saying 'that didn't work, that didn't work, lets improve'...we're not going to make it folks, we're fooling ourselves. We don't have systems for accountability in permaculture. We don't have accountability for permaculture teaching, so many systems I've observed in the last 32 years...I've seen so many systems fail because of lack of or poor social system design."



    I really liked it, passionate guy.
     
  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Interesting first post.

    David Jacke is passionate ... and I totally get the "smitten permaculturists" jab. Jacke has done some exemplary work, but let's not forget that his efforts are basically standing on the shoulders of Mollison, Holmgren, Holzer, Fukuoka, and others.

    For instance, Mollison worked in the field for decades observing the conflict between human endeavours and nature while slowly realizing that the ethics of $$ based activity is at odds with natural systems and succession. From his awareness came some revolutionary overall concepts which with the help of David Holmgren, he wrote down. From his passion has come an accelerating mind shift around the planet that is based on the overarching concept of "working/designing in concert instead of in conflict with nature". Over time this concept has been applied to not only growing plants, housing, and energy, but onwards to such abstractions as social systems design.

    Whether one calls it "Permaculture", regenerative agriculture, or ecological culture design, it is the overall change in perspective (in concert, not in conflict) that's important ... perhaps the most important change in human perspective regarding life on our planet ever, for it is not an unconscious reaction to the political/economic/social constructs within which we find ourselves living, but a conscious/aware choice of actions based on this highest concept expounded by Mollison.
     
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  3. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    Well, here comes the written punch from left field.

    IMO, people like Jackie, Wheaton and others that are working on the backs of others do more to prevent what Permaculture actually is in order to make $$$. If Jackie calls it something else, then its HIS term he can make money with, and screw the ethics. You can see how bad the anti-ethic thing is on Wheatons site were Ethics are not important but making money like a capitalist is. I have even read someone say recently, "....the benefits of monoculture out weigh Permaculture."

    Lastly, & this one floors me at times is comments like "OH another Mollison bullshit idea that doesn't work" or like you said,

    How do you over sell fixing the planet because that is what every single Permaculturalist does.
     
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  4. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    One more thing, Jacke is no pioneer, he started ripping the works of others to come across with a "they should of done it this way." He wrote some amazing books, but now he has to stay on that path in order to promote those books, get pad for lectures, and site walks with his team that he has to pay for. See where I am coming from? In short, its $$$, and he works in 1 part of what is Permaculture.

    Or rather, he is invested into 1 suit in the wardrobe closet that is Permaculture.
     
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  5. Daniel

    Daniel New Member

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    My two cents:
    • agree with using proper science - more Elaine Inghams please
    • disagree with bashing people in permaculture making money. Read old Mollison stuff to see his approach. Having said that I could be quite happy in a moneyless world...
     
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  6. lostredwood

    lostredwood New Member

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    Nice to see civil replies. I like when we can look at the criticisms and respond with thought.

    While I agree his successes are based on the road paved by others, I do still very much hope for the accountability aspect to become more prevalent. With the development of the internet it's possible this may happen no matter what. Getting hard data and results and sharing them will only get easier, as well as asking for proof or demonstration of a claim.
     
  7. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    There is a difference between bashing someone that makes money, and pointing out that a person is protecting a "brand" with a support network underneath it.

    Please remember, he did NOT make a food forest 1st, he read & visited places that pioneers like Robert Hart (at the end of Robert's life when the food forest was mostly fallow) started & then dissected it into a book.

    Keep in mind also, these are go to books for some Permaculturalists like me, I just look at it differently.
     
  8. Billy VanCuren

    Billy VanCuren New Member

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    Until the average person on the street automatically thinks "in concert" instead of against their environment, there will be a need for advisors, teachers, laypeople etc. That all means there will be opportunity to make money, which I am for. I would love to be sponsored and go around the country just learning, teaching and implementing systems...but somebody had to make the money to allow me to do that. I might as well make that money. My goal would be to teach my self out of a job and just hang out on my property perfecting my skills and making my little world better.

    In reference to Jacke's - "We don't have accountability for permaculture teaching, so many systems I've observed in the last 32 years...I've seen so many systems fail because of lack of or poor social system design." There are plenty of people that I have met that have a sour taste from their experiences with "things" called Permaculture. As more people arrive on the scene with the proper experience to discuss matters, the right idea gets out there and people will know the types of things to look for in a discussion to determine the quality of the person they are working with. What I don't agree with - the need for either an attitude of superiority or automatic dismissal based on lineage (of instructor) that discounts the individual's own experience. Additionally, I don't agree with someone/organization developing a system of certification claiming they are the only "true" people allowed to issue a permaculture certification. I ran into both as I was learning about all of these people - Mollison, Holmgren, Lawton, Holzer, Wheaton, etc. It was frustrating and misleading. Fortunately, I had already done enough research that I was able to see through it and find the right teachers so I could start getting work done.
     
  9. johnkbliss

    johnkbliss New Member

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    hello everyone !! I am new to this forum:) Its a nice experience to be here ... very informative thread ;)
     
  10. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    One has to remember that Dave Jacke was a student on Mollison's first design course in America when Mollison himself was still finding his experiential capital in a lot of the systems he described. The fact that they still teach from the Designers Manual sections like aquaculture, that have been dissected and dismissed by professionals, seems to show how permaculture is stagnated and may benefit from "self-regulation and accept feedback"
    Dave was a student of ecology at the time, which is reflected in Volume 1 of the Edible Forest Garden's book. He also went on to study design at university, which is reflected in Volume 2 of EFG. To paraphrase Isacc Newton... "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants".
     
  11. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    Personally, I don't call myself a permaculuralist for two reasons.
    1. My personal space is not quite at the point where it is a glowing example and
    2. Fancy labels tend to turn people off faster than anything.

    For me, the ethics and principles are what separate permaculture from any other organic movement, so if I want to promote these that's what I promote and in context to that particular person, Not the label.
    When the time is right, if it ever is, then I tell them about permaculture. The label is the least important part of it.

    At the moment I am working on encouraging a forestry nursery to go organic. Now that has absolutely nothing to do with 'growing food where the people are' but has everything to do with 'care for the Earth, care for the people'.
    So far, we now use liquid seaweed fert to combat frost damage, spread and mulch waste on fallow land, trial different ferts to see for ourselves what is best, including none.
    Bee friendly plants and trees have started to be planted in the entrance way, and come summer they are trialling herbal leys as a cover crop on fallow land.
    Making a movement stronger is by doing it.
    One of the supervisors use the choc mint I gave her as an air freshener in her house now rather than the chemical ones.
    Little steps, local steps.
     
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  12. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    yes, mischief, sometimes it comes from little things adding up.

    :)

    in our location here in the middle of farmlands our small plot of
    diversity may not be all that huge in the greater scheme of things,
    but it makes a difference to the critters that call our place home.
    i hope i can keep adding to it somehow even if it is little things.
     
  13. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Most of the people I know that call themselves "permaculturist" do so because they have taken a course. While this is all fine and dandy, In my eyes that alone does not make you a permaculture expert (as many of these people seem to think they are). Just because you paid for a course and have a certificate does not mean you can apply the knowledge automatically. If you have to constantly refer to the "book" or you think that the "book" must be used and followed absolutely, you have not learned much from taking "the course". It's just like becoming a landscape designer, until you have designed and built at least 100 good, functional landscapes, you can not possibly be called an expert. Even then, you will be judged hard by those who have been at it longer than you.

    I am not a "Permaculturist" heck I don't even want to be one. I am a Horticulturist, Botanist, Chemist, those are the fields my degrees are in. I practice building gardens in the manner of mother nature (naturalist?). I have worked as a hybridist, orchardist, landscape designer, I was with the USDA for 17 years in the farming industry. I have also worked as a carpenter. I have nearly 55 years of experience with farming overall, I like using all natural fertilizers, and I know that if you build your soil, nothing will stop good plants from growing healthy and producing lots of very healthy fruits and vegetables. I also know that most "gardeners" in the world, limit the amount of foods they produce purely by using "standard" methodology. I know that farmers can reap more harvest with less outputs if they change from the arcane "big ag" methods to no till, holistic regeneration methods, when they do this their bottom line goes from red to black in two years or less. The longer they do this, the deeper their pockets become.

    I do not see only one way to improve the agricultural world (we are a part of it) because each piece of land is different, requiring different approaches for best productivity and sustainability. To me that is what our "movement" is all about, observer first, plan and design, then implement and begin at observe again. Over a period things will be adjusted until all is in balance and that is the end goal, a balanced, healthy world. The only "glitch" you find in nature seems to be human intervention, but we can also change and stop plundering, then we are nurturing. After all, we only have one planet to live on and it needs our help now, desperately.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2016
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  14. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    true Bryant, i mourn the loss of wild spaces.

    still there are some improvements and we need to cheer those on and
    aim for more.

    i've never taken a PDC and would likely not be able to sit through one
    now, but having read many of the references and then some i think the
    basic ideas are sound even if particular approaches are not fitting for
    all sites.

    like ours, there is much talk everywhere of using chickens and other
    animals, but we don't want that kind of impact here or level of activity
    and find that worms in combination with some green manure crops,
    just making sure that food scraps and other organic materials are not
    lost from a site and guarding the topsoil so it is not eroded away work
    well enough.
     
  15. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Indeed Songbird, what works well for one place may not work well in another. This is why Observation is so key to any method you choose to try. Where chickens are not the best (as in your case) worms turn out to be, where neither work best, hogs might, or goats, cattle, horses. It is folly to think along rigid lines when gardening, doing so can tie you up so well that you fall over and can't get up. We must be flexible, both in body and mind, only by looking at all possible alternatives can one truly become an expert at rejuvenating the soil, growing plentiful food that contains far more nutritional value than "store bought" and sequestering more carbon from the atmosphere and so reducing the global warming effects of massive amounts of CO2 released every day.
     
  16. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    I have to add that sometimes it breaks my heart to think that Mollison gets the accolades for all things permie, when as far as I can tell, it was actually the brainchild of Holgren.
    I sometimes wonder how different it would be if he had been more at the helm than Mollison.

    My understanding is that Mollison was a tutor at the University that Holgren was attending and could see its potential.
    As an experienced lecturer, he did promote the subject excellently. (or we probably would not be here).

    In some Rugby circles, there is the saying..." he thinks he is bigger than the game", meaning, somene has lost sight of the fact that the game came first and is far more important than the latest next best player.

    Alot of mistakes have been made over the years, for example, promoting plant species that turned out to be invasive.

    I think it is time that all of us who have a passion for all things growing, to re work things, based on the experiences and wisdoms gained since the inception of Permaculture.
    I would love to hear from David Holgren on this, seeing as it WAS originally his baby.

    We need an Update program.
     
  17. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Bill Mollison was the one that wrote the book that expanded on what J. Russell Smith wrote about in 1924 and published in 1926 "Tree Crops, A Permanent Agriculture", a system based on restorative agriculture.
    What Bill did was coin the term Permaculture by combining both words, and he expanded ideas from Smith into a complete methodology.
    Holmgren was a collaborator of Bill's first before he wrote his book which distilled The content of Bill's book as well as creating the list of principles in an easy to understand list.They are listed as Co-Creators of permaculture. Both are very important to the movement but Bill Mollison did publish before David Holmgren. However it was J. Russell Smith who first came up with the concepts the two expanded into what is now known as permaculture. So in my opinon, neither of them are the creator, just the contemporary main proponents.
     
  18. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    Thank you. I didn't know that.
    I have been reading Albert Howard and J Rodales work recently but didnt realise there was anything earlier than them.
     
  19. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    there are a ton of earlier works which are worth looking
    at if you have the time.

    i was collecting references at one point (most are
    listed here:) many i've read through.

    https://www.anthive.com/notes/notes.html
     
  20. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    songbird.....seriously???? peanut butter in acorns?.... did it work?
    I've had to book mark this so I can go back to it. having said that, I do have quite a few of the books in my little library.
     

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