A friend of ours on Facebook last night posted an article, and asked a question with it.  The article was about permaculture blitzes, and can be found here.  You can read it if you like, but it is essentially about the establishment of a permaculture round robin work force.  You volunteer to help others, then they eventually get around to helping you.  None of which I have a problem with, I just didn’t find it fascinating.  Then she asked a question, why hasn’t permaculture caught on here in the United States?

Well, my first thought when I read it was, it has.  Look at me, I am a 28 year old retail manager with a background in technology sales and marketing.  I learned about permaculture, and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do with my life.  I want to design, grow and teach.  How many others are there out there like me?  More than we would think I am sure.  Our message is getting out, but of course, all true believers want that message to be 100% of the population right away.  For us, our numbers can doubly yearly and it would still be a fraction of 1% of the population.  So it is growing, but this is the long haul road.

My second thoughts were a list of things that we permaculture people do wrong that are stopping this message from growing faster.  Perhaps these thoughts came to me easier since I am a newbie in this motion.  It is easier for me to take a step back and look at the whole of this because I am not swept up in true believer syndrome.  We cannot be blind to the weaknesses of our message if we ever have hope of spreading it to others.  So here are some of the things that I think we need to address about ourselves if we ever have hope of taking permaculture mainstream.

Issue #1: Our Bible


If you are a permacultureist you know what this book is.  This is the designers manual, originally written by Bill Mollison when he set out to codify permaculture in writing.  This is the book that we tell all newbies to go and read to gain an understanding of what we are doing.  That’s a problem.

Have any of you ever read this book?  I have tried.  Repeatedly.  To make any progress into this book.  I know for a fact there is a ton of great info buried in this thing, but to get through it, you have to sift through a lot.  What information is there is very dry and dense.  It’s also sandwiched between a bunch of claims that have been proven false, such as all trees disappearing from America by 2000, or all saguaros being lost from the desert.  These claims would have been hard enough to believe in the 70s, but at least the dates hadn’t come and gone yet.

Permaculture is a great, wonderful, fascinating and living science.  People in this movement are doing amazing things in incredible places.  We are turning deserts green, and growing annuals foods in the tundra of Montana.  Stop trying to make this boring for new people.  It would be like telling new converts to Christianity to go read the book of Deuteronomy to get them started.  You picked the absolute worst thing as an introductory vessel.

Issue #2: Stop fighting about what is and isn’t permaculture enough


This is a picture of an herb spiral.  It’s a way to grow many of the spices you need for your kitchen within easy access to improve your diet.  This is one of the many dozens of fixture types in permaculture.  So yes, if someone builds an herb spiral they are practising at least a part of permaculture.  What if 10 yards from that area, he has a traditional garden that he tills every spring and puts down fertilizer?  Is he still a permacultureist?

Most people in the movement would say no.  He is breaking the rules.  He isn’t doing it like you would.  He is using chemicals.  I would say, shut up.  At least he is doing something right.  Rather than punishing people for not going 100% of the way into the permaculture mindset, we should encourage everyone who puts even a toe into the permaculture waters.  Let us reward the effort, rather than punishing them for lack of purity.  We should be uniting together with every effort and supporting them, rather than look for reasons that they aren’t as pure as you are.  Every person that we get on-board strengthens the movement, so lets bring them all on.

#3 Stop making permaculture sound like socialist garbage.

There are three primary ethics of permaculture.

Care of people

Care of the earth

Return of surplus

This is straight from the mouth of Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton, the founder and crown prince of permaculture.  If you can’t take their word for it, whose can you take?  I think the first two we can all agree on, I haven’t heard them bastardized yet.  The last one though, that’s the one that causes trouble.

The rule is return of surplus.  This can apply to both a physical substance, such as returning chicken poop to the garden, or something more metaphysical, such as charity work.  In permaculture, we are looking to create closed systems, where the waste product from one thing is used to solve an issue with something else.  Again, like chicken poop.

Instead, what some people want to do, is use that as a justification for socialism.  Taking from those that have more than you think they should based on your arbitrary jealousy.  That is not why permaculture was created.  It is merely being used by some of the same people that always try to advance a socialist agenda.  Infiltrating something good and trying to turn it to evil.  That one phrase has done more to damage the permaculture movement in the USA than anything else, as most of our society still knows that it is garbage.  We, as permaculturists need to stand up and stand against this bastardization of our values.  Our message would spread much faster if it wasn’t carrying along needless baggage.

While typing this I actually thought of more, but I will save those for tomorrow.