Aid Projects, Commercial Farm Projects, Community Projects, Courses/Workshops, Demonstration Sites, Developments, Education Centres, Networking Sites, News, People Systems, Project Positions, Urban Projects, Village Development — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor August 18, 2010
How to Help Us Educate the World and Save Our Futures
Note: This is an update on PRI’s position and direction, and an opportunity for you to get paid to help!
The short version: We’re now paying you to write for us! Click here to get started.
The background/long version follows:
Over the last two years since I took over the running of this site, I’ve been pleased to see significant growth in traffic. I’m not so narrow-minded as to believe this is just due to my efforts or Geoff and Nadia Lawton’s or the rest of the PRI team, however. Aside from the tremendous support and input from the wider permaculture community, I also note that current events and the spread of information through the internet is threatening to actually wake the world up – and this ‘awakening’ is seeing an unprecedented growth in interest in sustainability, transition and the creation of resilient people systems. This interest certainly isn’t coming too soon, but better late than never.
For whatever reasons, though, this site is today regularly recognised as one of the, or even the, leading permaculture website worldwide. This has come about with a lot of help from readers like yourself, and permaculture project leaders and workers worldwide. This growth is helping increase permaculture exposure, and is helping our aim to drive permaculture into mainstream consciousness. (Examples: CNN, SBS, ABC, etc..)
But, whenever a site or entity grows, there are always questions about its purpose. I want to share the Permaculture Research Institute’s intentions as succinctly as possible here, and also solicit your support to help us in our goals – goals I believe many of you subscribe to. And no, I’m not asking for donations! (Although these are always appreciated!)
The Permaculture Research Institute (PRI) is an independently audited (annually) non-profit entity. But, it’s a non-profit with a difference. While a large part of our focus is on project aid work, where we seek to implement permaculture solutions in some of the most challenging places in the world, we don’t subscribe to the traditional strategies that NGOs often ‘utilise’. It was my personal prediction that many NGOs will, as our energy and economic woes intensify, lose their funding as charitably-minded people and businesses lose their liquidity and reprioritise expenditure. From some of the NGOs I’ve worked with and spoken to over the last couple of years, these predictions seem to be coming to pass. More and more people and businesses are finding they just don’t have excess funds to pass on to ‘feel good’ causes. In a peak oil world, this can translate to huge humanitarian disasters as dependent populations find supports removed.
In other words, if we only ran on donations, we’d be as finite an endeavour as industrial civilisation.
The PRI, instead, wants to see permaculture education and uptake spread – despite a failing/flailing economy. We thus seek to be as resilient financially as our on-the-ground systems are biologically. As such, our methods differ not only in the solutions proposed (we prefer to teach a man to fish, and how to manage fish stocks sustainably, rather than just dump piles of them at his feet) but also in the financial model that keeps our permaculture evangelism growing and working while we’re still, reluctantly, in the ‘money economy’ era of the society we find ourselves in and are trying to transition ourselves out of.
Another point of difference, while I’m discussing this, is that we regard the suburbs of Los Angeles or Brisbane just as ‘challenging’ as rural Ethiopia or Vietnam – in that people in ‘first world’ countries are acutely vulnerable in so many ways (economy, energy, centralised food systems, etc.), but just don’t see it, nor where they’re headed – and thus don’t see the desperate need to transition to a life based on real-time sunlight. In contrast, ‘two thirds’ world people are generally struggling on a day to day basis, so can be highly appreciative of tools that make their lives more productive, resilient and efficient – and they are often barely only a generation or so removed from a sustainable, low-impact lifestyle, so their skill-set is usually far more practical. As such permaculture ‘aid work’ is just as essential in London and Melbourne as it is in Lesotho and Mombai. Given what’s looming on the horizon, some might say even more so….
The Permaculture Master Plan
Anyway, the PRI seeks to develop and support the growth of successful, mutually beneficial, interdependent relationships (both between individuals and communities, and between these and the land at their feet), with these successful interdependencies occurring by largely self-reliant individuals cooperating with each other to meet human needs in holistically sound ways. The emphasis here is that we seek to build relationships that are mutually supportive/symbiotic, and not competitive. Just as in the plants and organisms around us and at our feet, we believe the success of the permaculture movement as a whole is entirely dependent on our leaving behind the selfish ambition that most of us in the west have been programmed with through our education, media and through our participation in the contemporary, competitive economic model almost universally applied today – and instead to find ways to interact harmoniously to support each other.
Furthermore, we seek for our projects to transition to localised resilience in food and other base human requirements (housing, clothing, etc.), but also to become financially self-sufficient. As we do not believe in contributing to globalisation, but, rather, to help transition away from it, we do not encourage projects to be self sufficient through sales of produce or goods, or at least not to make this their primary endeavour, but, rather, to sell knowledge, so the people around them can begin to grow and produce their own goods. The idea, expressed by our Permaculture Master Plan, is to educate the world in permaculture design principles and application – making each project site both an impressive demonstration site of what is possible and achievable by and for local people in their respective regions, as well as a professional education site sharing the ‘how’ of it. Following this demonstrate-and-educate recipe enables project leaders and their teams to concentrate on transitioning/building the community around them while course and consultation fees finance this evangelisation.
We don’t see any losers in this scenario. The ideal and ultimate goal is that these projects will self-replicate to the point where they will saturate the global landscape with mutually interdependent and resilient communities of knowledgeable permaculture practitioners – setting the stage for a softer landing on the peak-oil downslide. Although the income from course fees would gradually diminish over time, as more and more demonstration/education sites multiply – this income would become increasingly redundant/unnecessary as the growth of resilient permaculture sites and communities fills the void created by a crashing money economy.
Time is of the Essence
If you’re following the logic so far, you will recognise that time is of the essence. To have paying students finance the ballooning of permaculture demonstration/education sites worldwide, we need to get a large portion of this ‘evangelisation’ work done before the economic mayhem born of peak oil and climate change begins to hit us even harder than it already has. At the moment, increasingly, people are seeing the need to get permaculture-educated while they still have the finances to do so. Many can still afford to take flights to learn at locations where their hardish western currency can not only train themselves in modern permaculture design systems whilst gaining valuable indigenous knowledge but also subsidise the training of poverty-stricken locals. This will not always be the case. We’re working in a window of opportunity that will close in the ensuing years.
Making the Most of the Time Window We Have
As such, we feel that leveraging the impact of this website (www.permaculturenews.org) is paramount. I note many permaculture individuals endeavouring to develop their own readership in fragmented efforts that, often with the best of intentions, fail to achieve much. The reason they fail to achieve much is that it takes a lot of time and dedication to grow a website, and that growth is largely dependent on a consistent stream of quality content that keeps people returning to, and linking to, your site. People are too busy on the ground to maintain such sites, or dedicate staff to the task. A million small websites sharing intermittent posts is not nearly as efficient as a few larger sites with far higher traffic counts sharing regular engaging content. I like to think of the networking and leveraging of grass-roots permaculture labour and resources – to build mainstream momentum in all things permaculture – as represented by that largest of all biological organisms: mycelium. While various plants and rocks and microorganisms appear independent of each other, there is a common link – in soil biology – that connects them all. In like manner, the internet, perhaps one of the few real gifts the industrial revolution has given us, is enabling us to connect and share our energies in symbiotic and synergistic ways for the benefit of all. For us to reach mainstream consciousness, funneling our experiences and knowledge through reliable website ‘portals’ is, I can say categorically, far more efficient than expecting readers to browse a thousand sites to get the information they need.
How to Leverage Our Collective Energies to Spread Permaculture Fast
The lifeblood of my work, that of trying to drive permaculture thinking into mainstream consciousness, is found in sharing quality reports from around the world. My logic goes like this: when people in mainstream consumer society confront permaculture, if they believe it’s only practiced by a few sandal-wearing souls living on the fringes of society, they’ll conclude "nice idea, but it’s too little, too late", and they’ll write the concept off as being idealistic dreaming. But if, instead, they realise the reality – that this is a movement of many tens of thousands of people working, right now, in almost every country on every continent of this jewel of an earth we call home – then they’ll instead think to themselves – "hell, change is afoot, and I’m getting left behind – I want to get involved, and now!"
The work is happening, and it’s building momentum. But while the word ‘Permaculture’ is now finally in the Oxford English dictionary, it needs to be on the lips and in the hands of everyone if humanity-saving goodness is to reach that tipping point where it’ll take off and meet the enormous challenges we face today.
Those tens of thousands of people are working hard, accomplishing great things, but they’re often too busy to look up and around to view where they fit in the big picture – the big mycelium fungal net, as it were. I would like to say to those people that by writing articles and sharing your work, frustrations, challenges, successes, observations and inspiration, your effort to report, as an ‘element’ in your system, does in itself serve several ‘functions’.
- You inspire others to imitate/emulate your example.
- You educate people in the ‘how’ of it.
- You make your work known. People can’t help and support you if they don’t know you or your work exists. Such assistance can come by way of encouragement, gifting practical knowledge/information that is relevant to you, and actual physical involvement and financial support.
- You enable us (PRI) to better understand your situation, and tailor support to assist, assuming you are seeking such assistance.
As many of you will know, I regularly undertake to do such reports myself, and have done so in places as far afield as Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Chile, Jordan, the West Bank, Slovakia (and), Australia, (and, and, etc.). But, while I will continue to seek to profile successful examples of permaculture around the world, we want to hear your views, your experiences, your challenges, your successes and gain knowledge and inspiration from your particular observations. You don’t have to understand the science of web promotion – that’s my job. You don’t have to understand how to deal with websites, image optimisation and editing – that’s also my job. I get tired of hearing my own voice, as I’m sure do our readers. We want to hear yours! I want to see the permaculturists out there, from novice to
guru expert (we don’t believe in gurus – but rather, real people doing real doable things), sharing their knowledge for the benefit of all.
Get paid to spread knowledge and inspiration
And guess what – we’ll even pay you to do it! Recognising people are very busy, and that in today’s world time is food, we will pay to hear your stories on a per-post basis. Click here to learn more.
We of course still welcome volunteer posts. Again, we’re a non-profit, so the more money we save the more we can inject into starting and assisting projects worldwide. In the last year, for example, we have donated approximately $100,000 to projects worldwide, either by way of direct donations or through teaching or consultation time. Over the next year we anticipate this figure will increase again. And we’ve assisted further through my time – utilising this high-traffic website to bring course adverts for diverse locations worldwide to the attention of our readers. We’ve seen sites where they were struggling to find students, but after an advert here the courses filled up. This is what it’s all about! This is funneling information and resources to spread permaculture as fast as we can!
This website and our forums (which we’ve recently upgraded by the way) have been a gift from PRI to the permaculture community. We’re very glad to see them getting utilised. I still see many people, however, not quite understanding our ’services’. Many almost appear to think we’re some kind of independently wealthy (or even publicly funded?) entity with a duty to spread research knowledge and long term analysis of various aspects of permaculture systems, and share it freely, not understanding that within our current capitalist framework such important but time-consuming work is impossible to do, simply because it’s price prohibitive. We remain financially independent, yes, but only due to the hard work of people within the team – and that work is based on classroom and field education. We’d love to initiate research-and-document projects, and create unending ‘how-to’ videos and articles, but doing so takes time and money. As such, we encourage all permaculturists to undertake these tasks as they are able, and to share them to the largest audience possible. We’ll help subsidise this work, by paying per-post as an encouragement/incentive to take the time out to do so.
So, in the busyness of life, I hope you will see that, as I’ve often said to PDC students, reporting on your work and observations is just as important as the physical design work itself. Make your voice heard. Share your knowledge and we’ll ensure it gets maximum exposure.
I look forward to receiving and sharing your articles!
Articles in exchange for course advertising: Until today we’ve had excellent results from our arrangement with people interested to advertise their courses on our site. In exchange for a separate non-promotional article (i.e. something inspirational or educational or both), we’ve put their course adverts up at no charge. This arrangement will continue. Here’s what I write to people who request we publish their course adverts:
We often get such requests, and we’re happy to facilitate. How it works is that the reason we generate a lot of traffic is because we have a lot of good content for people to read/watch, which ensures they keep coming back. This means that when people list courses, there are a lot of eyeballs to look at the course advert.
So, the arrangement we have with people who want to advertise their courses is that when they send through their course advert, they also send through a non-promotional article that ‘gives’ the reader something to take away. That ‘something’ can be practical permaculture knowledge, and/or inspiration and/or interesting commentary on relevant current events, etc. The article could be on challenges you’re facing, how you’re facing them, any successes and human interest stories along the way, etc.
The article that ‘gives’ contributes to attracting readers, which ensures there are lots of readers to view your and other people’s course adverts! I’m sure you will appreciate the logic and synergism found in this approach/arrangement. Many projects have been and are benefitting from it, and by this means we’ve often filled courses that were looking unviable before running the advert on our site.
In short, advertising with us is free – you just need to contribute to our readership with an additional article. We encourage you to make regular submissions, so that there is then no delay in getting your course adverts up when you need to run them.
Please note that often the non-promotional article is more promotional than the advert, as it gives the reader appreciation for your work, your knowledge and generates enthusiasm to learn from you and/or support you.