The Trouble with Permaculture

4 10 2016

With the recent passing of Bill Mollison, much has been published on the interweb about Permaculture; While Glenda was here for nine days, I didn’t spend much time at this laptop, preferring to help her set her own stamp on the Fanny Farm and using her very able gardening skills to get stuck into some planting…. and fixing the goose tractor in readiness for the acquisition of more birds, but there will be time for that some place else on this site.

Having published Samuel Alexander’s epitaph for Bill Mollison by merely copying and pasting the Conversation article, I didn’t bother following the links therein; luckily, Greg Bell did, and posted a couple in a comment he left here, many thanks Greg…. as he says in his comment, “Those two “here” links to critiques of permaculture are the two most important things I’ve read all year (and they, in turn, link to even more)……

The first link is to and bears the same title as this entry. Fascinating reading indeed, as are the comments below it.



5 responses

4 10 2016

“The trouble with Permaculture”

Well the trouble is primarily trouble with peoples inability to see patterns and interactions. I have spent all of my working life in civil engineering design and have trouble with seeing the patterns and have a leaning toward straight lines. Bill Mollison on the other hand spent a lot of his life, particularly the early and formative part in touch with nature. One can’t hunt and fish without being aware of nature and how it works.

I do wish that I could see the pattens as Bill could but, just because my trouble is that I can’t always see them, doesn’t detract from his work. Neither does the fact that there are some people who stuff up their attempt at establishing a permaculture establishment because of lack of understanding. His work has given me a direction to aim and a glimpse of the possible.

4 10 2016

The point about how can it be permaculture without animals is really valid, it is hard to have a closed loop system without some manure source. Most people could not produce enough compost to overcome this lack.

4 10 2016

“When it was finally suggested that I should label my farm as being based on permaculture principles and open it to the public, I agreed.

“Unfortunately, I soon found out that there are many self-styled permaculturists and permaculture designers who only concern themselves with permaculture theory and have no idea how to put it into practice. In permaculture design practical experience is indispensable. It is difficult to gain an understanding of nature just from theories. Only those with personal experience can give a professional consultation. So I think it is only appropriate for someone to offer their services as a permaculture designer if they have gathered plenty of practical experience over a number of years. A little work experience and a few short courses are certainly not enough. This is why I advise anyone interested in permaculture principles to find out how much practical experience these consultants have and not just rely on testimonials or other references. It is a good idea to take a look at the consultant or designer’s offices in person before the consultation. This will tell you a great deal about their knowledge and abilities.” (From S. Holzer, /Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture/, Chelsea Green, 2011, p. xvii.)

One thing I like about Holzer’s book is that it is clear that he doesn’t pretend to know everything nor to advise what you should do specifically. With 40 years of experience, he is still trying new things, observing, thinking, and learning what works and what doesn’t.

7 10 2016
Chris Harries

I’ve had my doubts about Permaculture, partly because like many other isms its adherents tend to be rather intensely reverential about the label and the world saving movement. But I liked Bill as a good rapscallion who knew how to sell ideas. One thing is solid fact: whatever its weaknesses and shortcomings, Permaculture is a very expansive global movement and by far the biggest thing to have come out of Tasmania. Nobody can take that away from it.

I remember it in the very early days when Bill would invite us up to his South Hobart home and show us the recycled old carpet alongside the house, Underneath the carpet were a dozen of so road kills that he had collected and thrown under. That was the inception stage of the ‘Permaculture’ he talked about then and this image has stayed in my head ever since.

I think all movements-for-change need to be criticised and pulled apart just to delete any delusions of grandeur and religiosity that they tend to instil amongst the patrons. But overall I think Permaculture has been a great entry for many people who have been induced into doing things differently. Like all movements it has its devotees who sell the idea but don’t get into the substance.

9 10 2016

I’ve read some of Ann’s justifications for criticising permaculture, and I found it to be based on her personal bias systems. She likes to lump everyone into the same basket, based on her minimal experience with a few permies, and the articles they write.

If she gained the kind of people experience in the permaculture movement, as she claims in gardening experience, she’d have more of an informed system to base her opinions on.

Ann seems only able to judge the eagerness, to learn new things and change, as some kind of responsibility and flaw of permaculture though. Bill Mollison didn’t take on the responsibility to limit the zeal of youth, or their mistakes in the learning process, however, just because he penned the principles and started the movement.

Ann likes to promote the problem with permaculture, is the imperfect people it creates. I would argue that every system – even Ann’s personal one for reasoning, can be skewed by imperfection. So what does that exactly teach us about permaculture, and the design systems it ascribes?

Absolutely nothing. But it does teach us that Ann is as imperfect, as those she judges, as being flawed in some manner, for believing something or other. Enjoy your journey, using permaculture systems. I know I do. Because I wasn’t able to successfully garden before implementing those systems. 🙂

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