Sunday, July 28, 2013

Permaculture Is Not For Everyone

This post is inspired by a Permaculture Lecture I went to a few years ago. I wrote the article below and then lost it somewhere. I came across it hidden deep in the dark recesses of my hard disk today. Not all permaculturists are this way- but I think we all know a few who are. Like the guy whose lecture inspired this. In one afternoon he did enough damage to prevent an entire village from ever trying it.

Permaculture is not for everyone.

I see permaculturists trying to teach people- lots of them talk as if they are on the high ground, the elite, preaching to the masses. This is not a good thing. For one, the farmers and gardeners they are trying to convert are already successful. We cry "Unsustainable" and "Chemicals are not the answer", but the truth remains that they have raised families and made a living by farming the way that the Agriculture co-ops have taught them. It does work for them. It may not be sustainable, but they believe that science will solve their problems. And as the old proverb goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." He doesn't really have any interest in doing it.

So I suggest that we permaculturists change our ways. We need to work more closely with the chemical agriculturists. I am not saying we should use their methods, but we should accept that they want to do it their own way. We need to teach by example.

Also, we need to keep records, to compare scientifically that what we do is financially viable. If we can prove that, it will open people's minds. We need to measure not only the cost of inputs but also the hours of work that went into the crop. We need to measure brix ratings between permacuture crops and conventional. And we need successive years of data.

And we have to accept that many people are set in their ways- they see beauty in a large field of rice, wheat, or corn. A tilled field is like a blank canvas for them. Long rows of broccoli, cabbage, carrots and onions with no weeds between speak to them of success. The "I won!" appeal of "beating" nature in the form of weeds and insects. Humans are competitive. If our neighbor has the "perfect" field, we naturally want to give him a run for his money.

As permaculturists, we should appreciate their hard work. Befriend and make them our allies. Tear down the fences between us and them, and they will return the favor. Because at the heart of it, we are all plant lovers.
This is the way we can really make permaculture take root.