The Case for the $20,000 PDC

Discussion in 'The big picture' started by TheDirtSurgeon, Sep 18, 2011.

  1. TheDirtSurgeon

    TheDirtSurgeon Junior Member

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    This is a reference to the below thread, from February 2007:

    https://forums.permaculture.org.au/showthread.php?2834-MONEY-MONEY-MONEY-MONEY-and-Permaculture


    I've searched the forum and found no further reference to the elusive $20,000 PDC. At the time, it seems to have sent a few people into apoplexy. I think those folks missed the point. Clearly, a high end PDC is not going to be geared to people who think 20 grand is an extraordinary sum of money. For many, including some people I know personally, it's chump change. Considering that a PhD in something completely useless like English Lit can rack up a $200,000 bill, it should not be a difficult task to provide enormously more educational value for what now seems a more reasonable sum.

    But first, we have to address a need, so let's examine what's lacking right now in the typical 72-hour PDC.

    The Need

    Almost everything! It seems strange to say that, but let's examine Mr Mollison's Permaculture: A Designer's Manual. For me, it all made perfect sense. It was just a matter of putting the pieces together into a logical framework. This, I think, is Bill's intent.

    But -- and this is a huge but -- it's clear that this 600 pages presumes you already have all the puzzle pieces. Before I ever heard the word "permaculture," I already knew how to operate machinery, survey, build houses, plumb aquaculture tanks, garden organically, integrate solar power, fix trucks and tractors, milk cows, butcher chickens, and etc. There's no task in the manual I hadn't already learned individually, and been learning my entire life. It's clear Bill has those skills too. There'd be no way to make one book cover it all, though.

    It seems we face a problem here: much of the (mostly youthful) enthusiasm for changing the world via permaculture runs up hard against a lack of competence. (Yes, some recent discussions have prompted this post....)

    The standard PDC, in my opinion, is of little use to someone who can't change a tire, use power tools, shingle a roof, repair electrical circuits, or mix concrete. While these abilities may not be so necessary to the 1/4 acre city lot, they become very important in running a 400 acre farm. And while the permaculture designer is supposed to be the *designer* nevertheless it helps to know what you're talking about when you're designing!

    So there's the gap, at least, as I perceive it.


    The Course -- hypothetically

    Let's say we had a 1,000 acre working beef/dairy cattle farm to work with. We set up some student housing. Students would live on the farm for, say, 8 months -- from spring thaw to fall freeze.

    There would be classroom/lecture time. The fee would allow the hiring of multiple instructors in addition to the primary PDC teacher. Perhaps a grad student in botany, a local hydrology expert, etc.

    Students are assigned, on a rotating basis, general farm chores -- milking, feeding livestock, repairing fences, maintaining vehicles, constructing and repairing infrastructure such as sheds and greenhouses. All hands-on experience, guided by someone who teaches during the process.

    Everything else would be projects for moving the farm's marginal lands to more productive use: building swales, planting trees, cover cropping, setting up aquaculture systems; and creating finished products -- butchering, beer and wine making, etc.

    A student graduating this theoretical course would be able to build a house, fix a truck, grow veggies, nurse trees, weld steel, operate a skidloader, make booze, make biofuels, finish concrete, bale hay, cut trees, castrate livestock, package and market to the public -- you name it. The graduate could start with a bare patch of desert of his own and make a productive farm, or be competent to manage an existing farm. It would be a great confidence builder.


    Now then.

    Let's imagine you, the reader, have a fat trust fund. 20 grand isn't your life savings or your annual income. We also presume that the prospective student is not burdened by family or debt obligations, and can spend the 8 months in a bunkhouse with nary a care back home.

    With that assumption, would you find such a comprehensive working education valuable?


    And with that in mind, is $20,000 then too cheap? Compared to what you get in a university for far more money?
     
  2. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Good topic Dirtsurgeon and I look forward to getting involved in the discussion when I have a little more time.
     
  3. purecajn

    purecajn Junior Member

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    OK, 20k may not be much to some, but if your wanting to reach the masses then 20k is going to be way to much. Look how long it took the bible to become known too all, and it was being forced on people. Now you have a course that will heal the planet, but only the wealthy can access it inn many cases. I thought the permies were wanting this to take off. To reach as many people a possible, as fast as possible leaves only one choice, little to no charge for instruction.
     
  4. annette

    annette Junior Member

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    I'm sure people like Geoff and Bill could charge $20,000 for a PDC and gets heaps of people to sign up. But I think I remember Geoff saying he wanted to teach as many teachers as he could so that the word gets out. That is why the costs are kept as low as possible.

    But you raise some good points Dirt. Learning to do all the practical things like mixing cement, repairing things etc is a large part of permaculture and this is where practical experience is such a necessary thing. However, there is always opportunities to learn these things in other areas apart from permaculture courses. TAFE, woofing, volunteering, learning from grandad, next door neighbour, studying etc.

    There is also the physical capability aspect. Building a fence with a dodgy shoulder is hard. Then you have to pay for it if there are no willing volunteers.

    Personally I do what I can, when I can, learn what I need from whatever source I can get my hands on or afford. It's fun to explore all possibilities to get things done. Just yesterday I visited an old grandpa and got him to draw me a diagram of how to hook up another rainwater tank. There's so much much knowledge out there with some of the oldies just going to waste. Most of them are just so willing to teach you what you need to know, just a matter of asking around.
     
  5. macey

    macey Junior Member

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    Firstly my 2 cents worth on the whole $20000 PDC alluded to in the 2007 thread.......
    I don't think Geoff was ever saying that a PDC 'should' cost 20000, I believe what he was saying is that a 20000 dollar PDC is required to be marketed to the mega rich, read also mega influential (rightly or wrongly). As their measure of somethings worth is often judged by it's monetary value, anything less than an exorbitant price would mean to them that it is not of much value!
    It is these sort of people, I believe, that Geoff sees as instrumental to making widespread change prior to it becoming an unavoidable situation forced upon us by failing energy resources, as they have access to the resources and wield so much influence in their respective countries.
    Especially in the middle east, these people may well have major influence over how dwindling oil reserves are utilised (although I really am guessing as to whether this is true, or part of Geoffs thinking).
    As a measure of whether this approach is working, just look at the photos and stories on the main page from IPC 10, I think you can safely say he has been successful in engaging these people. As he says though you have to actually get in front of them in order to 'sell' permaculture to them and a $20000 PDC is one tool he sees as helping (although I also think he may have been using the concept to make his point as opposed to actually doing it)!
    If rich people were to pay $20000 for a PDC then imagine how much 'surpless' that leaves Geoff to share with regards to his many aid projects, free or subsidised PDC's and research to further permaculture!

    As far as the 8 month intensive plan outlined in the first post in this thread:

    I think you are absolutely right that these skills are completely necessary for those wishing to design, implement or run farms using permaculture principles.
    However not everyone is and there are probably far more who live and work in more populated areas who's skill sets do not need to cover all of this, a PDC to them can be used to undertake design and implementation, relevant to them, their location and their existing or 'to be learnt' skills. This is, I believe, as important as broad acre farming using permaculture in meeting the needs of local communities going forward.
    Those wishing to design and implement on the larger scale already have opportunities to undertake training in all of the skills you have mentioned, either by paying to do courses if they can afford it, or working on farms, permaculture or otherwise where even those who haven't got the resources to pay can actually gain skills and be paid as farm labourers/workers.
    Yes a permaculture specific course in these areas may be very useful, parts are already offered in the form of water management, earthworks etc. by Geoff, Darren etc.
    Maybe a more comprehensive courses, such as you have mentioned DS, would be a good thing but only a few places would ever be available due to the lack of permaculture properties currently running at this scale and the fact that what you are talking about is basically an apprenticeship therefore a limited number of folks would be able to work at each place
    Even if these skills are learnt in a 'normal' farming environment though, complementing them with a 'normal' PDC could then reframe them for those who wish to focus in this area of permaculture?
     
  6. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    When you are storming a castle, you don't just go in with archers.

    You take foot soldiers, archers, horseman, catapults and all manner of siege weapons. You might even have spies working for you on the inside. You attack from all different fronts and you need a different plan each time.

    You need a 'raft of options' :p
     
  7. TheDirtSurgeon

    TheDirtSurgeon Junior Member

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    Looks to me like you only read the first paragraph, because I thought I made it pretty clear that I was talking about something more advanced, and specifically directed it, at the end, to people with money.

    You want free permaculture education? You can do it. There's nothing stopping you. Go to the library, read books. Google stuff. Watch videos. Use the forums. It's ALL out there, FREE for the asking. Teach yourself.

    So why would you care if someone with means wants to pay for it, to have it handed to them? It sounds like what you want is for the "gurus" like Geoff to teach for free. Let me ask you one simple question: would you go to your job and work tomorrow if your employer quit paying you?


    The forums are chock-a-block with poor people. No money to buy land, no money to build infrastructure, no money to plant trees, yadda yadda. Permies.com is thick with 'em. What good is that? Nothing ever gets done!

    Doesn't it make more sense to teach these skills to people with the means to apply them, and on a large scale?


    As Geoff points out, the more likely scenario is that the wealthy landowners would retain a consultant, rather than learn it themselves. Nevertheless, there's a possible niche here.

    Meanwhile, when can I come attend your free PDC? :think: :rofl:
     
  8. purecajn

    purecajn Junior Member

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    I'd like to see every district with a Permaculture Design Center, backed by Government funding as a non-profit organization. Seems when anything becomes "for profit" greed creeps in and bad things follow. And even in a non-profit everyone still gets paid. As for the rich paying, do you really think Geoff wouldn't comp. a course to wealthy or influential people? Seems he would encourage them as much as possible. their so used to being comp'd everything anyway. it could insult some as well.
     
  9. TheDirtSurgeon

    TheDirtSurgeon Junior Member

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    Yes, that's exactly what I understood Geoff to say. I've just expanded on that, and threw out some ideas of what a more expensive course might look like. You would want to get more than a 72-hour lecture for that kind of money, right?

    Side note, having $20k to spend does not qualify as "mega rich." That's middle class. I meet people all the time who spend more than that on their children's college education. There are, quite literally, millions of people in this country who scarcely blink at that number. I know them; I can talk to them. As I see it, getting the students is the easy part of this exercise.


    And he's right. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how anyone cannot see this simple fact. Doing big things costs big money. Money also buys political influence, and political influence is necessary to accomplishing many things above the backyard garden scale. Heck, sometimes even then, as some people have found out after being told by their local governments they can't grow veggies in their front yards!


    I mentioned that. Those skill sets, however, cannot fail to make a more well-rounded, capable, confident individual, regardless of whether those skills are necessary in application.


    Yes, that's true. Someone could just learn what comes their way. That's my experience. It's taken most of my life.

    But who knows how long one might work on a farm before learning something like arc welding, though? My hypothetical course here is about the structured learning environment, ensuring that the student has all the skills as part of the training, not as accidental encounters. A greatly compressed time frame, in other words.

    And again, no one is stopping anyone from taking a job and getting paid while they learn. I'm sure there are a few such opportunities out there. What I'm proposing here is for those with the money to invest in education, wish to do so, and see the value -- as a future return on that investment.
     
  10. purecajn

    purecajn Junior Member

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    Ok, after re reading above posts I see your point Dirt, but I can't see it working unless it is accepted and taught in the same colleges that Bill raves against
     
  11. TheDirtSurgeon

    TheDirtSurgeon Junior Member

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    So... tax the rich to pay for permaculture. But let's not take their money in a private transaction and give them something of value in return, letting them pay for spreading permaculture by their own decision.

    Is that what you're saying?

    Am I just not communist enough?
     
  12. purecajn

    purecajn Junior Member

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    I'm thinking government has a responsibility to use part of our tax dollars to promote the sustainability of this planet as a priority. Wasting my sweat on private wars seems more of a waste. "Letting them pay for spreading permaculture by their own decision" would be the ideal way to go, but how long will you allow the planet and its inhabitants to suffer. Shouldn't it be the governments responsibility to always look after the lively hood and best interest of its peoples. As it stands lack of government intervention has allowed personal interest groups as well as ourselves to let the planet degrade into its current state. So I say make the government step up to the plate.
     
  13. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Depends on what sort of government you have. I suspect yours does more to look after the interests of its corporations. Seems to me this is the way it has been set up. I'm not sure capitalism is really about looking after the livelihood and best interest of the people. It's seems to be more geared towards the strong dominating the weak.

    I would have thought it is not so much a lack of intervention as it is a LOT of intervention. Particularly on behalf of those interest groups who purposefully degrade the planet.

    I say do as much as YOU can, encourage as many others as YOU can. Lobby governments if you like. Definitely boycott companies that are unsustainable. Definitely educate others about the problems such companies cause. Definitely be the change you wish to see in the world and live as though your life depends on it.

    I say don't get caught up in the politics of trying to change the world. Just go and change it. When you are living a truly sustainable existence yourself, then show the world how amazingly wonderful it is and then see what you can do about governments.

    Don't worry too much about what other people are and aren't doing. That's what I reckon.
     
  14. annette

    annette Junior Member

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    well said Grahame
     
  15. purecajn

    purecajn Junior Member

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    Grahame you misinterpret what I am trying to say. I'm not promoting a capitalist government. I don't think any of the current governing bodies can say they have an ideal social structure. I'm simply saying that our overlords need to take more responsibility in the education of people of their impact on this planet and due to the dire state this planet is currently in I feel the the government should take more of a stand in looking out for the people it governs rather than itself. I mean what do you think? Wouldn't it be in the best interest of humanity for our governments to take this planets health as a priority? So are you saying that the governments should continue to allow our planet to spiral into a uninhabitable one? A planet where you have to actually pay for the air you breath. Sounds like slavery at its purest form to me. Our problem today is a "it'll never happen to me" mentality. Don't lie to yourself so that others can take advantage of you.
     
  16. macey

    macey Junior Member

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    fair point Dirt Surgeon, maybe it didn't come across well in my post but I do agree that a course like you mentioned would be a great thing and very useful to those in the right situation!
     
  17. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    No, I think I understand Purecajn.

    Perhaps I'm not making my point very clearly... I agree that in an ideal world, the leaders would be, well, leaders. And I agree that this world is not ideal and that the leaders are far from being 'leaders'. To put it bluntly they are followers, they have agendas. The thing is many of them don't even believe that we are having an impact on the planet, for all they know we are just pesimistic fringe hippies with delusions.

    Furthermore, governments are 'voted' in and given 3 or 4 years to do something. A totally inadequate amount of time to make real change. Anything that remotely furthers the cause of the environment is political suicide, because anything that remotely helps the environment is really going to hurt a lot of people. This is probably the hardest sell because doing something about the planetary degradation is going to cost a lot of people a significant dent in their 'standard of living'.

    While we have politicians in government nothing will change. We need leaders. Are you willing to be a leader?

    My personal feelings are that governments are inherently faulty, big governments are useless. The best form of government are small localised ones.

    Yes. But, how can we expect governments to do so, when individuals don't care enough about themselves let alone the planet? Why should governments be asked to forces sacrifices upon individuals that individuals are not willing to make themselves?

    My point is that governments are really just reflections or distillations of who we are as a people. The people are just representative of the society we are making for ourselves. If we demanded different things, I mean really demanded them, not just pretend to demand them, then the government will reflect that.

    If we drink buy and drink Coke, then we are asking for a government that looks after Coca Cola. If we drive cars then the government looks after oil interests. If we buy at supermarkets then the government looks after the supermarkets.

    The opposite is also true.

    Do you get my drift? It is up to US, not the governments.

    No, are you saying that people should, until the government does something about it?

    Don't look to the government my friend, no government has ever really done anything of any note to change the world. It is always people; individuals; small groups who affect change. What makes them heroic is that they have had to fight governments or the power that be along the way...

    I'll leave you with Stephen Mitchell's translation of Chapter 65 of The Tao Te Ching


    The ancient Masters
    didn't try to educate the people,
    but kindly taught them to not-know.

    When they think that they know the answers,
    people are difficult to guide.
    When they know that they don't know,
    people can find their own way.

    If you want to learn how to govern,
    avoid being clever or rich.
    The simplest pattern is the clearest.
    Content with an ordinary life,
    you can show all people the way
    back to their own true nature.

    Think about that.
     
  18. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    Love your work, Grahame.
     
  19. ShadowWalker

    ShadowWalker Junior Member

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    I think we're looking at a bit of a catch-22 situation with government and people. We elect the governments we do because of the educations we receive at the hands of the educational institutions we're forced by governments to attend. (Unless your parents manage to home-school you or pay for a private education.) We are also subject to misinformation through the corporate owned media; subject to the propaganda initiated by Bernays, nephew of Freud; had our freedom of choice reduced to a choice between products -Pepsi or Coke anyone!; and on and on.

    I also think we've been domesticated to demand value for our "money" rather than appreciating the true source of everything we need, the land we live on and with, as Native Americans did. As Derrick Jensen says, we value and protect what we consider essential to our way of life.

    The trick is to find the balance that will allow all people to become part of our shifting paradigm as quickly as possible. Sliding scale, free and subsidized courses for those who cannot pay (which those permaculture teachers with a PDC already practice), while those who can or are willing to would pay the full price. This is not an either-or situation, rather it's about educating as many as possible while we still can.
     
  20. purecajn

    purecajn Junior Member

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    Graham, the 3-4 yrs is more than enough time to to start a program for lasting change. With the following leaders respecting and honoring the previous years accomplishments and adding on. How do you think we came to be in the spot we are currently in? And positive changes don't have to "hurt a lot of people." In fact if approached carefully can be much more beneficial. Low cost electricity and transportation for instance. Bill speaks of using a very easy to build air compressor with no moving parts which could power anything from the home to a car. Implementing this technology alone would be a win win for people and society.
    "Why should governments be asked to force sacrifices upon individuals that individuals are not willing to make themselves?" I agree 100% with this Graham, but when you have a government suppressing this type of info.... If it weren't for the Internet do you think most of the people jumping on board with permaculture lately would be doing so? This info NEEDS to be spread as fast as possible and it would be much more efficient if the overlords promoted it rather than suppressing it. And if a government doesn't have humanities health and interest at heart all the time then shouldn't same be removed. Turning a blind eye to government while playing in the garden may make you feel better in that you are making a change, but for every acre of land you repair industry destroys thousands more. And with all their monies it's only a matter of time before industries damage destroys your little plot due to "accidental" chemical pollution.
    For the fastest organized change to happen we are going to have to get our governments on board. People are going to have to sit down and figure a better governing structure, realize what their actual goals are as a country, make those goals known too everyone and then enact the changes needed thru free public education. As for a higher education, sure charge for it. After all the free education should be just the basics which would allow one to live self-sufficient. A society which is secure in housing, open education, food and safety is much more mentally prepared to make rational decisions when dealing with private interest groups and should thereby be harder to enslave as a whole.
    For instance, I'd like for all countries to have a goal of eliminating slavery within its borders. As such all countries should enact laws preventing them as well as their peoples from doing business with any Corporations which suppress technology which can be used for the betterment of mankind. I'd also like to see a law in the books that removes some of the rights of "Artificial Persons" (aka corporations). they have no soul and can't be held liable so why should they have the same rights as a living person?
     

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