View Full Version : Ethics and principles of Permaculture
17-12-2005, 11:17 AM
I came across this in my recent studies.
Care for the Earth.
Care for People.
1 Everything works at least 2 ways.
2 See solutions not problems.
3 Co-operation not competition in work communications and economics.
4 Make things pay.
5 Use everything to its highest capacity.
6 Bring food production back to cities.
7 Help make people self reliant.
8 Minimise maintenance and energy inputs to achieve maximum yield.
Any thoughts on these points. I like principle 3 in light of the 'lively discussions' that have been taking place in this place lately. :)
17-12-2005, 11:50 AM
Nice one Grease...
It's really very hard to think of anything to add to that, though I wonder exactly whats meant by number 4, make things pay.. I guess maybe it's refering to using things, tools, land etc, if you've got it, use it.
Don't worry - when peoples interpretations of ethics collide, or they forget they have them, the ethos doesn't change. Just the people do. Those that can't find it in themselves to actually honour the underlying principles or strive toward them, usually go off some place and watch for a while to learn, or write a whole new set of ethics that they try to persuade people, are better.
Permacultural ethics have stood the test of time in environments all over the world, and you will find many here who genuinely strive to live by, or incorporate those principles as part of their lives. Genuine folks, who are living the lifestyle don't get all heat up and look for reasons to take offense - they just listen (in this case, read) and consider.
Number 2 is also good. It helps you identify where you want to be, when you realise there's a difference.
17-12-2005, 12:03 PM
Previous posts here have indicated that profit is looked down in Oz. I'm not sure just why....
But if you have a facet of permaculture that you could get to pay, wouldn't it help to speed up the acquisition of other facets? For instance, if you grew extra starts of "permaculture-type plants" (trees, shrubs, veg, etc) and sold them to like-minded people, you could use the profits to buy some steel tanks for aquaponics (imagine waving figures here). With the profits from the aquaponics veggies and fish, you might be able to buy a rainwater-collection tank. Etc. Use the profits from one enterprise to subsidize another facet of permaculture. "Leapfrog" your way toward your permaculture dream by having the dream pay for itself.
Bill Mollison never said you couldn't use permaculture for profit that I ever saw or heard.
Richard on Maui
17-12-2005, 12:25 PM
In fact, Bill Mollison got pissed off at me when I wanted to use thinnings from his Bamboo forestry to make chicken fences... He said he would rather I use steel posts and wire as they were a lot cheaper than what you can get for a bamboo pole. He had invested a lot of cash in getting a bunch of species to trial at Tagari Farm, and wanted to get some payback.
I could see his point of view, but was devastated... I thought and still think that the whole point of Permaculture is to reduce our reliance on stuff like steel posts and wire...
Don't worry Sue, most Aussies are just as capitalist as anywhere else.
17-12-2005, 12:34 PM
I guess I have always considered permaculture principles and ethics to just be common sense, in a written, easy to understand framework for everyone to remind themselves that this is the way things should be done.
If everyone lived by these principles, well I'm sure I don't need to paint the picture. And I feel it's a timely reminder for all of us...
Definately Sue, the people who are pushing permaculture and trying to live it, must also try and make a living from it, whether that be consulting, teaching or selling produce. Otherwise they have to become cogs in the machine and work for someone else to pay the bills.
That must have been bloody good bamboo Richard, coz steel posts aren't that cheap...
17-12-2005, 09:31 PM
Principle number 2 has always been my favourite even before I learnt about permaculture. John Lennon said it best in his song 'Watching the wheels' the line goes "Ah, people asking questions lost in confusion, Well I tell them there's no problems only solutions".
Make things pay I take to be make things (parts of the system) pay their own way. If it doesn't work then get rid of it or use it in a different way.
If it can make money then so much the better. But essentially this concept of 'permanent culture' is about robust debate, co-operation, and at worst agree to disagree (ethic1& 2, principles 1,2,3,4,5) this will help with principles 6,7 and 8.
17-12-2005, 11:12 PM
principle five concerns me: "use everything to its highest capacity"
the forest behind me has the 'capacity' to yeild x amount of trees (x being equal to the total amount of tress in the forest). does this mean i can totally denude this forest and still maintain its viability?
david holmgren talks about the "maximum power law" in his book "principles and pathways beyond sustainability", and suggests the following:
"maximum power is achieved when maybe half of the energy is converted...everywhere in nature there is a balance between simply sucking in and dissipating energy for no real purpose, and attempting to get maximum efficiency of energy conversion by squeezing every ounce of possible value out of an energy source. evolution in nature and innovation in society tend toward this balance between energy dissipation and efficiency of conversion that gives maximum power from any particular process or situation." (2002, p.57)
of course principle five could be taken to mean that we should use something that contains high levels of embodied energy over and over again in order to mitigate the initial 'cost' of its production - plastic bags come to mind here. i know someone who's still using a 'biodegradable' plastic shopping bag for everyday use by taking their lunch to work in it - 5-years after they obtained it!
i guess to clarify the issue, as i see it, one could place the word 'sustainable' in between the words 'highest' and 'capacity', and end up with the following:
use everything to its highest SUSTAINABLE capacity.
18-12-2005, 07:46 PM
To me principle 5 means to get the best out of or to use each resource to its best potential. If you denude or wipe the resource out then it is gone.I agree with your last paragraph ecodharmamark
19-12-2005, 10:12 AM
I would be interested in reading more on the Ethics thing. Was that lifted off a web page, and do you have a link handy?
23-12-2005, 12:34 AM
Sorry to take so long to reply Floot but I've been busy elswhere (Life the universe and everything). I originally found the list of Ethics/Principles while looking for other things Permaculture. After reading your reply I tried to google my way back to where I read these ethics and principles but am buggered if I can find the source ( they were on a poster, but didn't discuss them). I did find other sites that went into some discussion but it seems they are relatively fluid and open for dabate within the boundaries of 'permanent culture'. It's a cop out I'll agree and once again I'll desist from.............
23-12-2005, 03:34 AM
No problems at all.
Having listened, watched and read Mollison a number of times I knew Permaculture was about ethics. Just cant remember seeing them listed and more importantly, reading them.
I also like reading reader links as a way of understanding their perspective. An ongoing question and interest I have had since I was a child is 'why do people live where they do?'. This was caused by seeing deserted stone/wood houses dotted around the Mallee. I used to wonder what made some families survive? Now I wonder what made some sustainable and others not, all arrived there broke.
Anyway, I read a number of sites on Permie Ethics. This one offered good clarity and I have saved it. http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:OBIL ... 7%27&hl=en (http://18.104.22.168/search?q=cache:OBILzUA4wsQJ:www.permaculture.biz/ETHICS%2520OF%2520PERMACULTURE.doc+%27%27ethics+of +permaculture%27%27&hl=en)
Richard on Maui
23-12-2005, 04:39 PM
Well, they are listed and discussed in most of Bill's books. I have always had trouble with the varying expressions of the third and probably most difficult and critical ethic, "Share the Surplus"... What do you define as surplus? When you've had all you want, or all you need? If you are working on a needs basis, how do you define needs? Like, I need to get paid back for my investment in that bamboo, so don't think about sharing plant cuttings for free or making bamboo fences for your bloody chickens until I have 20 grand in the bank?
I think that the ethics are like this trinity. You can't care for the earth unless you care to the needs of the people, and you can't do that unless you equitably share all surplus... You can look at any of the three ethics individually, and none will be successful or real without the other two.
I think most Permies are pretty good at #1, ratshit at #2 and bloody hopeless at #3... :cry:
25-12-2005, 07:42 PM
So does Bill owe you 20 grand for your bamboo Richard?
Richard on Maui
26-12-2005, 02:09 AM
No! To be honest I can't remember where the figure 20 000 comes from. But, Bill did spend a lot of money on bamboo speices to trial there and a lot of his own money went to infrastructure on that land. He was hoping that eventually the people working the Farm would make the bamboo a financially profitable thing so that he would get paid back some. Which is fair enough, I suppose. Rereading my earlier post it doesn't make a lot of sense, sorry! I hope that this one, makes some.
I guess my point is that if everyone tries to make money out of one another, sooner or later, some people are going to do less than sustainable things in order to get your money. So, even if your are doing the most sustainable livelihood you could think of - growing organic food, or teaching PDC's, if you take money from people who make it by invading small countries or destroying the environment , in the end, what are you? and what are your ethics worth?
29-12-2005, 09:50 AM
Geez, google is effective! I wrote that stuff up back in 1994 I think! It was for notes in the Introduction to Permaculture Course Handbook that we did way back then.
I have since jazzed these up in a powerpoint with both Mollison and Holmgren principles. Will get this online one day along with a heck of a lot of other bits and pieces.
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