I’ll start out by saying this is a counterpoint and rebuttal to a silly article written by a Marxist. Lots of people have asked me what I think of the garbage article so I’ve copied and pasted his whole article in blue and have added my thoughts below each segment. I hope you don’t feel more stupid after reading his words.
- About a year ago, I posted an article in the Huffington Post detailing some of the reasons why I thought permaculture had become a “gringo” movement irrelevant to the majority of small farmers around the world.
There were a number of reactions, both positive and negative, but I was frustrated that very few people actually offered some sort of solution or proposal for how to “un-gringo” a movement and ideology that we find hope in.
First of all, stop being so racist. There’s no need to reduce the amount of whiteness in an idea and science. It’s a thing, it’s not a person or even a group of people. Permaculture is a design science. You aren’t “diverse” because you “un-gringo” something. Biology isn’t and cannot be white or black or Latino, or Asian. Neither can permaculture unless you are a racist. What is there to be gained by reducing the number of people doing something good based on the color of their skin or the type of genitalia they have on their body? To suggest that there is a problem with too many white men doing something good is quite literally, by definition, sexist, bigoted, and racist.
- After a good deal of reflection, I want to focus now on how to rescue the permaculture movement; how to save it from some of its most disturbing and troubling tendencies. I believe that permaculture does have a lot to offer to peasant and agrarian communities around the world, so I humbly offer these ideas and suggestions not as a judgement; but rather in the hopes that permaculture can become relevant and practically applicable to the majority of small farmers around the world.
The only reason you actually think there’s a problem is because you spend your time with posers who are most likely all SJW leftists and communists/marxists. That’s why you see so much irresponsibility and things that are “disturbing and troubling”. Congrats. Step one is identifying the problem, step two is to get new friends.
- Stop Buying Land in Shangri-La Areas Around the World
We need to understand the effects of our privilege. As a foreigner (most likely white and male, because that is the predominant demographic of the permaculture movement) we are inevitably going to change the dynamics of small, rural communities where we take up residence.
While there can be positive effects through bringing new knowledge and ideas into a community, there can (and often are) unseen and ignored negative effects. When wealthy foreigners buy up land in rural, agrarian areas, this inevitably leads to gentrification. The spike in land prices forces young people off of the land and causes migration.
Improving land causes a rise in land prices. Not improving land is the antithesis of what Permaculture is all about. And to be honest it would be good for there to be more examples locally of effective and practical, suitable technology. There is no reason for people to leave land that becomes more valuable unless they don’t want to be there. Perhaps the people you have witnessed moving into those communities are just jerks who don’t try to assimilate into the local culture. An increase in land value is a benefit to someone who wants to use it. And it has no effect on someone who wants to be there for the rest of their life. If they value selling and moving elsewhere, who are you to decide for them that they’re making the wrong decision? How arrogant.
- I don´t excuse myself from this reality. As a white, North American male, my family and I bought a farm in the mountains of El Salvador that was the inheritance of a young man who was no longer interested in farming. With the money we paid him, he paid a human trafficker to try and make it to the United States and has failed twice. If he tries to go again, he´ll have to deal with a ridiculous wall, increased border militarization, and a racist president.
So you paid someone a fair price for the land he didn’t want to live on, and he did something idiotic with the money? Sounds like you bought land from a fool. How are you responsible for his foolishness? Don’t also be a fool and appropriate his idiocy. And please stop the stupidity of “white guilt”. It’s so tiresome.
- My only excuse is that I fell in love with a Salvadoran woman who invited me to be a part of her reality. If you do end up purchasing land in some hidden, agrarian community, make an effort to truly belong there. If you´re just buying a piece of land to have it as a vacation home and a place to host a couple permaculture workshops during the year, you´re probably causing much more harm than good.
The author does not understand economics. If you buy land, drive tourism there, it can only help the people who want to sell products to the tourists. Unless they’re idiots, or lazy. Or socialists.
- Also, if you are interested in permaculture and are looking for land to create a vision of your own, why not look at land in rural Kentucky instead of Costa Rica? Not only is land in many rural areas of the U.S. cheaper, but there is also an urgent need to repopulate rural areas and increase the “eyes-to-acre” ratio that is necessary for proper land management and ecological care.
This is the first good idea I’ve read. However, some people may prefer to live in the tropics, or to live a life outside the USA. Who knows, maybe I want to live somewhere people all live a slower lifestyle, with less technology, and somewhere I can grow bananas and mango. Don’t be a mango hater. But this is the typical leftist SJW mindset, intolerance for anybody choosing to do something for themselves, or to better themselves. What if the person actually needs to live in a more tropical climate for health reasons? Perhaps they are just fed up with first world issues and want to get away from it all. Who are you to decide for someone else what they should do with their life or where they should live? Again, arrogance and intolerance.
- Don’t Make Permaculture Courses Your Primary Source of Income
That’s a good idea, you shouldn’t make anything your primary source of income, because it’s foolish to put all your eggs in one basket.
- I understand that a number of people in the developed world have the extra income to spend on a $2,000-dollar permaculture course. If they’ve got the money, why shouldn´t they pay?
Here’s that Marxism popping up again. But the point is valid. Don’t be an idiot and put all your eggs in one basket. Duh.
- The problem is that if you derive the majority of your income from offering permaculture courses, you´re automatically divorcing yourself from the reality of your neighbors who make their living from the land. You can´t claim to offer a viable economic alternative (no matter how ecological it may be) to your under privileged neighbors who see that your income comes from hosting wealthy North Americans.
What if we were to use that money to re-distribute economic opportunities to our neighbors? We need to be honest and admit that establishing an economically viable permaculture system takes time and money. I´m not saying that we should stop offering courses all together, but rather reconsider how to invest that money into the dreams and visions of neighbor farmers who don’t have the same economic potential as do we.
Man, you must be surrounding yourself with some really selfish jerks if that’s what you see as the majority. Again, I suggest finding a new circle of friends. Everyone I know of in the sustainable ag circles are actively investing into their communities. But then again I don’t surround myself with social justice warriors, leftists, socialists, or marxists. Maybe correlation can shed some light on how this can be.
- After all, isn´t that what the third ethic of permaculture is all about: redistributing surplus so that others can enjoy the long-term abundance that comes from ecological design?
No. That’s not what the third ethic is all about. The return of surplus to the first two is about returning the surplus, be it fruit, vegetables, timber, manure, sawdust, weeds, leaves, meat…. it’s about establishing a cyclical regenerative, recycling system that continually bolsters the first two. Not dispersing abroad the production. The dispersive model is harmful, the recycle model is beneficial.
- Stop Appropriating Knowledge
Start looking up the definition of words. Use one of those gringo things called a dictionary. Learn how to use one. Literally the definition of the words you used is as follows. “Stop acquiring, taking possession of, putting to special purpose, knowledge.” If he misused a word then fine. But these SJW marxists constantly pervert the definitions of words to make something good into something evil. So I’m inclined to believe he intends to define appropriation as a negative thing and honestly I can’t even begin to imagine the twisted definition he must have for the word.
- There is nothing that angers me more than watching permaculture videos on YouTube where some permaculture expert claims to have “developed” or “invented” some revolutionary technique to help preserve soil, store water, or save the environment.
The person may have actually invented it. I know it’s amazing to think that someone might come up with an idea that’s EXACTLY the same as another person’s idea. Just because someone else invented something at the same time, doesn’t mean the person in question didn’t ALSO invent the thing. How arrogant to assume you are the arbiter of all inventions and knowledge. The whole of human history is likely replete with inventions that were invented before. Again, I bring attention to a dictionary. Invent means to devise, originate, fabricate. To think it’s my responsibility to search the whole world for a similar fabrication and give credit to everyone else who may have come up with the same idea around the same time is just plain and simple, stupid. You should save your anger for something that isn’t as common as breathing. People see a problem and fabricate an answer to the problem every day. To say they do not deserve to tell the world they invented something is authoritarian and mean. (Mean: inferior, poor, shabby, ignoble, small minded, stingy, malicious, ill tempered.)
- For example, recently I watched a video of a permaculture farmer who claims to have developed a technique to slow erosion through making banana leaf boomerang barriers on the slope beneath where he planted some fruit trees. The idea is no doubt a good one; but it´s far from a unique development. I personally have seen dozens of small farmers throughout Central America do the exact same thing. Of course, they don’t have access to a camera and the internet to show the world their invention.
It’s people like the author who literally rail against the promulgation of good ideas simply because someone hasn’t spent 5 hours explaining that “someone else probably came to the same conclusion I have and my idea is probably the same one that someone else has come up with, so I don’t want to take any glory from anybody else for this simple usage of contour and berm to capture water and slow it down using principles and patterns found in nature… blah blah blah” It sickens me when someone is so hateful that they feel the need to denigrate someone on the good ideas that they have. It’s a ditch… we’re not talking about a touchscreen tablet invention or a freaking rocket.
- To put it bluntly, this is appropriation of knowledge, and it´s the same thing that mega- pharmaceutical companies and agricultural corporations have been doing for years through the patenting of medicines and seeds that have been stolen from the shared ecological wisdom of indigenous and peasant cultures throughout the world.
Ahh, and here we have it. “Acquiring” something, and “stealing” something are the same in the author’s mind. He just doesn’t have the moral fortitude and honesty to come out and say it straight away. He couches it in a different word, and changes the meaning of the other word to suit his/her/ze agenda. This is dishonest in the extreme.
As to the author comparing patents to the claim that a person “developed or invented” a technique… How much more dishonest can ze get?
- Be humble, and recognize that while permaculture may very well have a number of unique skills to offer, many of these skills and techniques have been around for hundreds of years.
Perhaps the author could take his own advice and be a little more humble? It’s quite arrogant to assume the role of idea police. But then again, that seems to be a common theme with this type of person. Policing ideas and thought. Thought police… Where have I heard that term before?
- Stop Demonizing Small Peasants
There are a number of very serious problems with how many small farmers in Central America and other parts of the world farm their lands. The effects of the Green Revolution on small farmers around the world have led to an almost complete loss of traditional farming knowledge in some rural communities
The excessive use of pesticides and herbicides, burning crop residues, tilling hillsides, and other examples of ecologically damaging farming practices are obviously unsustainable, unhealthy, and damaging to the environment. The solution, however, is not to criticize these farmers, but rather to humbly seek to understand their situation.
If you had an acre of land and 6 children to feed, would you prioritize permaculture farming solutions that might offer abundance a decade from now or would you continue to follow the well-trodden path that while unsustainable, does offer subsistence and income?
Instead of criticizing small farmers who adopt unsustainable farming practices, it would be much more valuable to look at the sociological and systemic factors that lead to this adoption. Permaculture has not had much of a voice for advocacy, but it would be heartening to see permaculture “experts” around the world offer their voices to fight against unfair distribution of land instead of simply blaming small farmers for their “ignorance.”
This is the first whole, and complete thought articulated well. I agree wholeheartedly here.
- Start Farming Grains
I understand that annual grain farming does come with a number of difficulties. The annual tillage of the land and the monocultures of one crop obviously present an ecological challenge. But you know what, agrarian communities around the world subsist on the farming of annual grains and that is not going to change. Even if you stoutly believe in developing a “food forest” or “stacked polycultures” of tree and perennial crops, dedicate at least a portion of your land to developing more ecological solutions for annual grain crops.
It takes years for a perennial food system to develop enough to offer any sort of subsistence or income, and almost no small farmer around the world has enough savings or alternative sources of income to wait around for their system to develop into the marvelous and awe-inspiring productive systems that you see on a 20-year-old permaculture farm
I´m not saying that we should throw out the idea of food forests or perennial crops, but avoid the tendency to offer those systems as the “only” way to grow food in an ecological and sustainable manner. When you show off your acres and acres of food forest to a small farmer in Central America, chances are that he or she might find it interesting but have little incentive to try and reproduce what you have created.
If, however, you had a diversified landscape with an acre of food forest, an acre of pasture, and an acre of annual crops, there is a far better chance that your neighbors will find interest in what you´re developing.
Despite the challenges, it is possible to grow grains in a sustainable, ecological fashion. Susana Lein of Salamander Springs Farm in rural Kentucky lived and worked in Guatemala for close to a decade. When she moved to her own farm in Kentucky, she started a no-till Fukuoka method of annual grain production that was adapted to the traditional corn and bean diet of Central American farmers. If she can do that in Kentucky, why aren´t more permaculturists doing the same in Central America, or experimenting with no-till rice harvests in Asia.
I agree with this to some extent, although the author may be illustrating ze’s lack of real world experience. As a side thought, this is actually a typical thing for a socialist/marxist/facist to want the food economy to be dominated by something that is easily controlled by governmental powers like grains which are easily stored and portioned out. Grains are not a feasible or appropriate crop to grow in every environment or location. So to make the blanket statement that everyone should be doing this is irresponsible and naive. Instead, protein from animals should be the focus of every producer. That is where you will really gain traction and drive the fertility cycle. You do not have highly fertile soils without animals, and you often have malnourished peoples where animal protein is absent or difficult to acquire. But for those who live in appropriate locales for growing small grains, then I think devoting a small amount of your time to those pursuits is a worthy endeavor. The important thing to realize is that on a small scale, the yield per hour invested can be rather small with growing grains unless you’re doing it right. It makes the author’s advice potentially bad depending on the individual.
- Be Aware of Alternative Epistemologies
This is the author trying to use a big word without knowing how to use it. Epistemology is the “Theory of the method or grounds of knowledge.” There’s no such thing as an “alternative study of the grounds of knowledge”. It’s literally just the study of the limits and validity of knowledge. Knowledge being the “the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association (2) : acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art, or technique”
But using a big word like that gives some gravitas to the shoddily done opinion piece.
- The bread and butter of the permaculture movement is the PDC, or permaculture design course. The two-week curriculum has been offered by thousands of teachers in every part of the world and has been adapted to the specific and particular contexts of small farmers everywhere.
Many of the folks who critiqued my first article argued that they offered free PDC´s to their neighbor farmers. While I find that commendable, I think it´s also important to recognize that many rural, peasant and indigenous communities don’t learn the same us westerners do.
The pedagogy of a course with Power Point presentations, lectures and “visits” to the field might actually be so foreign to a small Guatemalan farmer that he or she might get nothing out of it. The Brazilian professor Boaventura Sousa Santos talks of the idea of epistemicide, the elimination of alternative forms of knowing through the colonization that comes through western academia and forms of learning.
An NGO that I worked with in Guatemala found that the best way to “teach” small Guatemalan farmers had nothing to do with courses, workshops, agricultural schools, or the like. Rather, they simply brought small farmers from neighboring communities together to tour the farms and lands that each one worked.
While one corn field may appear just like every other corn field to the untrained eye, these visits allowed for small farmers to learn of small variations in growing techniques, in seed saving, in the combination of companion plants, in soil preservation that many “experts” might never have noticed. At the same time, it allowed for small farmers to take pride in what they were doing which is so often criticized or ignored
Perhaps the famous PDC needs to be laid to rest and other, more appropriate pedagogies developed if permaculture is going to find relevance with small farmers around the world
Perhaps the author means to say, “No two people learn the same”. If so I definitely agree. This is why as of now I will definitely not be teaching a PDC. It’s why I prefer to educate with real world practical experience and illustration. While I see some merit in a PDC, I prefer to teach through example and hands on illustration.
I truly hope that this article doesn’t come across as a futile and derisive attack on permaculture practitioners around the world. I do honestly believe (and hope) that permaculture has a lot to offer the world. We need to recognize, however, that what´s most important isn´t the content or subject in itself, but rather how it is presented with respect for the local autonomy of the placed agrarian communities around the world.
My conclusion is that I feel stupider for having read this tripe. I hope I have been able to provide a valuable counterpoint and inject some logic and sanity into this debacle.
If you would like to read the article as published by www.huffpost.com please follow this link. But be warned, you will have a lower IQ if you read it for a second time…
Nick Ferguson – Homegrownliberty.com