Chapter 1 Escapism

Chapter 1 The Origins of Permaculture
Chapter 1 Breaking into Media
Chapter 1 The Origins of Permaculture
Chapter 1 Breaking into Media

Chapter 1

In search of meaning

The origins of



As always, there are two vocal extremes of opinion on the environment; managers (who are always in the middle ground) are sadly lacking. The ‘extirpationist’ extreme makes comments like:-

See one tree, you see them all.” (Ronald Reagan)

Trees pollute the air more than cars.” (Ronald Reagan)

Then, “Why would you want a million birds, a few hundred would do.” (cotton grower, draining the Macquarie marshes).

Such people should be given a small island to exist on; they would learn that resource conservation and biodiversity, is life itself. They are as self-interested as they sound, as though they can always buy what they need, no matter if they live on a rock, or in a high rise.

On the other extreme (but foaming at the mouth) are the rabid conservationists, who would not alter one thing; they at least are not self-interested, but their life style demands ‘exotic’ food (not bush tucker), leather, paper and so on. If they are to live, they must try to set up sustainable lifestyles; we all agree that the little that remains of natural systems should be preserved, but it is long past time that we also planted systems for our future needs, and expanded threatened environments like marshes.

Managers try to balance these extremes, acting to cull animals if they are in danger of eating their territories out, or to thin, plant, or even burn areas if that’s what it takes to keep biodiversity. The factor that defeats managers, is that consumer industries always seek to sell more product, and no natural system can cope with an ever-expanding demand, not coupled with total recycling or any responsibility for resource replacement. ‘User pays’ in nature, but never in commerce, where ‘User dumps’ is the rule.

If conservationists do not lead conservative lifestyles and are not involved in resource management, they are hypocrites, and have no real argument. At least the extirpationists are honest – they want to kill all of us! We need to train thousands of managers, from the home, to the industrial level, if we are to leave a world that can be occupied by many species, or by us.

Whenever anybody gains some measure of notoriety, infamous or noble, or both, people want to know more about them. My notorieties are both infamous and educational; as an educator, I have travelled the world many times, on all continents and most countries. People who could never name presidents or prime ministers know me, for I am a gardener and teacher; I teach design.

Because I have many friends who will help me with my tasks, there are now (after fifteen years of travel), some 600 other teachers, many of whom also travel. I am also an author, and my books are popular and widely translated. They describe the system of design called Permaculture; and they are (historically) the first books published of the design of whole settlement systems for least energy input, given the state of knowledge and local resources.

Everybody, tribal or professional, urban or rural, is interested in good design, and especially empowerment by way of increased self-reliance and good common-sense information. What I and my fellow-teachers have done that makes us notorious, is to use common sense as the basis for an integrated system of sustainable human societies, in their local ecology. And to create journals, information systems, and itinerant teachers or open academies to link people with each other; they often meet in national, local, or international conventions.

So we have a unifying, harmless, and beneficial educational message, which is all-inclusive, to convey to others. As Permaculture is open to new information, and to every person, it results in highly individual expressions or projects everywhere. As we are largely self-funded, we cost very little, and are not controlled by outside monies. Thus we are not subject to any external controls beyond our own ethics, or own will to act. As we are a non-hierarchical network joined only by volunteer or the user-pays principle, we have no internal status differences, and we relate as equals. As we never need to vote, we are democratic; each acts as they see beneficial.

People who want to complain about something are asked to set up their ideal system, not to attack or criticise others. A critic thus becomes somebody who not only let themselves in for a lot of work, but who frequently shoots themselves in the foot. As we teach students and encourage them to become teachers, we are self-generating and our numbers are increasing exponentially; and as our students have to pay for training, they are self-selected and already self-persuaded of the value of such education. Self-motivated. It follows that poor teachers lose students, good teachers are well supported. The quality of education, although based on a common curriculum, is thereby preserved by student support, or poor teachers are abandoned by student decision.

If somebody is motivated to study for many hours, they want value for their trouble. Because Permaculture teaching centres or individual teachers are locally organised, where legal systems such as trusts or teaching institutes are set up, they are independent; and because anyone who has trained can set up such a centre, there are no unique preserves, no defended territories, no permissions needed from anybody else. This also is democratic, immune to control by others.

In effect, the whole worknet that is the Permaculture system is world-wide, everywhere autonomous, self-correcting, open to information, includes all races, sexes, and beliefs, and is self-generating and self-funded. Such worknets inevitably become their own nation, with ethics and information in common; information is freely passed everywhere, and both builds and energises the system. Such systems do not appeal to, and cannot be controlled by materialistic, hierarchical, power-centred, or secretive elites; they cannot be controlled by money, orders, or force. They are changed, in the sense of being better ordered in total, only by information. They promise in the end, to change whole societies and extant nation states.

Almost incidentally, the present Permaculture system is already the most comprehensive and widespread ‘aid’ organization in the world. But it is aid without debt; aid controlled locally; aid without impoverishment, and with only minor reliance on material goods. It is also becoming its own education system, its own market, its own source of expertise, and controlling its own land base, with a great influence over land-use everywhere. We are idealists who believe that idealism is the only realism.

So, pleading guilty as the first teacher of Permaculture, and to date, its most prolific author, and the one who set up the first teaching institute, the first academy; as the originator of these systems, I offer some clues as to my life. What am I? :-

- a gardener; a lover; an adventurer; a non-conformist; a dreamer; a fighter; a father; a friend; a coward; a hero; a lecher; a drunkard; a bad singer; a poor poet; a scientist; a stubborn person; a relaxed person…I am everyman; and so are you.