As I mentioned yesterday, in the course of writing my post, I was able to think of three more reasons why permaculture hasn’t caught on yet.  So rather than creating one long mega post, I split it up into the two days to make it a little more readable.  The other thing I noticed about how these fell, is that these three can apply to more than just permaculture.  These three are all excellent reasons why many initiatives fail.  So while I am writing this about permaculture, I bet you could apply these to just about every environmental initiative you know.

#1 Hippies aren’t good spokespeople

hippies

Ok, now this one may come off as touchy if you don’t look at it objectively, since many of my readers either were legitimate hippies or at least identify with the movement.  So don’t get defensive.  This is strictly a discussion on the use of hippies as spokespeople, not a commentary on hippies in general.

There are two main problems with identifying as a hippie when trying to promote something.  First, they look different.  When you are selling an idea, you want people to be able to identify with the person selling it.  Either they could be that person, or they could be with that person.  Often people can’t feel either when it comes to hippies.  So while hippies might be a great draw to college children, they aren’t going to make any in roads with the actual movers and shakers in life.

Benfalk

Go for less of the Jerry Garcia look, and more of the Ben Falk.  Ben runs Whole Systems Design in Vermont and is a certified PDC Instructor.  Also looks like a professional.

Second, hippies aren’t very good at actually executing ideas.  Lets take a look at the occupy movement shall we.  A bunch of hippies had the idea that they would block traffic in major cities and change the world.  They got the first part done, but couldn’t even agree on goals.  So in the end, they just ended up hanging out in a park until they got cold and dirty.  So when we have a great system that is PROVEN TO WORK, we lump ourselves in with that when we present it wrong.

Again, this is about presenting an idea, not how you live.  Live however you want.

#2 Free Giveaway = garbage

free

Sign up for this credit card, get a free T-shirt.  That little toy inside the crackerjack box.  Free ski weekend if you sit through this Timeshare presentation.  People automatically associate free with bad.  Free can’t be quality.  It’s going to break.  Worst of all, by accepting this free thing, I am somehow going to get snookered down the road.

So why do we keep trying to give permaculture away for free?

Charity is a wonderful thing, and many people feel called to do better for their neighbours, and those are noble ideals, but people automatically distrust free.  We need less veggie co-ops and more “Eddie’s edible landscapings”.  We need less Permaculture blitzes and more “Bluegrass Food Forestry”.  We are standing on a gold mine of food information that is PROVEN TO WORK.  Stop trying to give it away for free to prove it.  We are living in an era when people are paying $10 a pound for organic Kale.  Get out there and make some money.  People are much more likely to sit up and take notice of a successful business that is creating good in a community than yet another group of idealists looking for donation.  Plus, once a business is successful, others will try to replicate it.  If it is really about making the world better, rather than stoking your ego, the best way to do it is to create a business.

#3 – We can’t afford green initiatives

save

Permaculture is an excellent way to save the planet.  The upsides of this system are nearly endless.  It uses no chemicals, less water and improves the land.  Animals are happier.  People are healthier.  It is the deliverance of all of the green initiatives ideas into one form.  Best of all, it actually makes people freer, unlike many green initiatives relying on government strong arming.

Boy, that sounds really expensive.

It isn’t.  We all know that it isn’t, but we continue to pitch it in a way that sounds expensive.  People are automatically associating us with the $10 kale movement mentioned above.  When you talk about what something can do for the earth, you set off the cash register sound in someone’s head.  Bad for marketing.

What we need to do, is emphasize how much it can save people money.  How much money would you save if you provided 25% of your own food?  Or 50%? What if you didn’t have to pay for medicine anymore because you weren’t sick?  What if you only had to drive to the store once a month?  What if you made some extra money selling veggies or eggs to your neighbours?

Again, these are all concrete benefits that are PROVEN to work.  So lets talk about what they can do for someone.  Marjorie Wildcraft has sold 250,000 of her DVDs because she called it “Growing your groceries” not “Saving the planet in my backyard”.  You need to hit people where it counts.  In their wallets.

So the next time you feel sad that permaculture isn’t the way of the land.  Stop thinking like a zealous true believer, and think about what you can do to correct the situation.  This will spread or fail based on what we do.  So let’s spread the right message.

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