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How to Help Us Educate the World and Save Our Futures


Tongue-in-cheek instructional video

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’.

  1. You inspire others to imitate/emulate your example.
  2. You educate people in the ‘how’ of it.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

57 Responses to “Get Paid to Share Your Permaculture Passion With the World”

  1. Christine Baker

    I’ve been been wondering how you get so much QUALITY content. I especially enjoy the many PICTURES. Until I found this site, I thought permaculture was for yuppies with cash to blow on certificates (resume builder / vacation) — I’ve rarely seen USEFUL info at other permaculture sites.

    That’s not to say that I wouldn’t LOVE to go to Jordan again (it’s been over 30 years) and meet Geoff and Nadia, but we simply don’t have the money and we do have our own projects to attend to.

    Today we greatly enjoyed our first monsoon rain that actually got roof run-off flowing into our pond, although it wasn’t enough rain to get water in the swales. After it stopped raining we set a fence post and planted three trees.

    Greening the Desert truly changed our vision for our one acre in the NW AZ high desert and in a few years our neighbors will take note and change their gardening practices (we haul our water).

    But I don’t think we’d make any money offering tours or certificates. People are mostly interested in growing food to save money and to get healthier food and we hope to be able to earn a few dollars by selling what we grow — food and plants.

    I sure wish we could purchase plants, cuttings and seeds from other permaculturists, but I have never seen any offerings. I’d much rather pay like minded people for plants that are used to our harsh climate than buying at the Home Depot.

    I know of a permaculture group in Las Vegas, but I can’t see myself buying a $100 book and making a 250 mile round trip to discuss a chapter in a book once a month. If I make that trip, I want to see someone’s project and trade some plants / seeds and experiences.

    I truly appreciate the content of this site and the absence of the annoying advertisements for debt consolidation and whatever financial services. But I wouldn’t mind seeing ads for products like inoculated cover crop seeds, worms and other items we have to mail order anyway.

    Thanks for a top notch website and I’m looking forward to reading many more inspiring articles!

    Christine

    Reply
  2. Øyvind Holmstad

    I’m happy to hear you stay to principle 3, obtain a yield, and I hope your yield continue to grow: http://permacultureprinciples.com/principle_3.php

    I’m very happy for this site promoting a sustainable alternative for the future. I’m so tired of my local politicians mainly talking about how important it is to get broader and faster roads to Oslo and the continent, so that we can export our products more efficiently and attract more well educated people from the Oslo region to move here.

    While I’m not frightening how we can export more goods and attract more experts here, but for climate change and the looming food crises etc. This is why I in contrary think we should lower our export and plan for a self sufficient bioregion around Lake Mjøsa, consisting of a network of ecovillages. And make everyone an “expert” of living!

    Maybe one should make a payment for comments here too? Because here are too few comments! What about 1 dollar for each comment?

    Reply
  3. Craig Mackintosh

    Thanks all. Amongst others interested in writing for us, I’ve just received an email from a fellow heading to Haiti who wants to report from there. The money we give him for articles he’ll put towards the projects there. This is a perfect example of symbiosis between reports and projects. Our readers get to learn more about the situation on the ground, so are better informed as to who to support with pen, voice, purse or in person, the person reporting is subsidised through his reports, or, as is the case here, the situation/project on the ground is subsidised directly through his reporting. People keep coming back to this site, which grows permaculture interest. Courses worldwide attract more students. Permaculture knowledge spreads. The world becomes a better place. Win, win, win.

    Reply
  4. Jalynne Fuentes

    This is my favorite permaculture site. I like reading your posts, including the cook’s. I’m from the Philippines and there will be a permaculture course here for the first time! I’m so excited. The fee is quite high, but I understand the need to subsidize the local farmers’ training. I can’t afford to go abroad. And now, I have a chance to learn more right here in my own country! I just hope that I can get a 2-week leave from work. My bosses might not understand why a medical officer/fireman would like to attend a “farming” class.

    Reply
    • Mary Saunders

      If supply lines get disrupted, what happens? This is an important reason why growing useful things right where you are is SOO important. Yarrow, for example, a beautiful plant, can help stop bleeding. Trees properly placed can prevent erosion, provide cooling and all kinds of other services, as long as you choose the right trees, taking care against flammable ones and ones with brittle branches. Turmeric has at least a thousand years more trials with humans than some other medications targeted at inflammation. I can think of so many reasons that understanding plant/animal diversity and cooperation contributes toward making a community resilient when challenged by emergencies. Maybe your work will pay you to go?

      Reply
  5. Winston

    Craig,

    We need a map!

    “the reality – that this is a movement of many tens of thousands of people working, right now, in almost every country on every continent”

    I find myself explaining the above to people with no way to back it up. We need a map. Why not start with the simplest, ready-made, plug-n-play map. The 2 easiest that come to mind are:

    1. map of site visitors from analytics app
    2. user map from forums

    Of course, what I really want to see is a map of all the current projects around the world, but that will take time.

    I do web analytics for a living. Depending on the level of traffic, may be able to donate an analytics account for permaculturenews.org

    Let me know how I can help.

    Reply
  6. Craig Mackintosh

    Hi Winston. Yes, I feel this also. Have done for a while. In a subsequent announcement in coming days/weeks I’ll be launching a new ‘people/projects’ database/social networking site. We want this to be a tool for permies everywhere to network and share. Through it we will get a better grip on who’s doing what and where. People and projects will be searchable by various criteria (type, location, climate, etc.). We hope this will be widely seen as a useful tool and utilised by the greater permaculture community, so we can leverage each other’s efforts. Such a database will also provide possibilities to add features – like a map of project locations.

    Reply
  7. JBob

    First, I’m excited by this call for contributions and will be seriously tumbling some ideas around in my head regarding reports from my farm.

    Second, you say “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…” I’ve never really understood this strategy, which to me has always made PDC courses sound, unfortunately, a bit like a pyramid scheme.

    Isn’t this knowledge supposedly aimed at producing food, pleasing landscapes, and better social conditions more effectively, intelligently, and with less work? Why not actually demonstrate this by selling food or ecologically designed real estate? To me, nothing sells permaculture better than “look at the value of this X amount of food I grew and marketed with only Y hours of labor, all in this wonderful, resilient landscape!” Where X is as big as possible and Y is as small as possible.

    In short, why not take a page from David Blume’s book? Specifically this one: http://www.permaculture.com/drupal/node/141

    Reply
  8. Craig Mackintosh

    Would love to get reports on what you’re learning JBob. Email me and I’ll get you started with details.

    No, not a pyramid scheme at all. We (PRI) just want to see permaculture uptake ramped up, as the world is running out of time, and we see a model that works – financing demonstration sites through education. Secondly, the concept behind not encouraging profit through sale of food and other goods (or at least, as mentioned, not making this the primary endeavour) is because this world got into this mess through people giving up growing their own food, moving into cities, and having other people (a bare and still shrinking minority) grow food for them. If our demonstration sites simply become ‘permaculture farms’ that supply folk who still don’t get involved in growing their own food, then we will feel we’ve failed in our mission.

    We need to relocalise. We need to get more people onto the land, to be stewards of it. We need more primary producers. We’re not about simply giving people more healthy food options when it comes to shopping, but about actually getting almost everyone involved in growing at least some of their own food, and buying/trading locally for the remainder.

    Hope that makes sense. :)

    Do note, this is just something we encourage in our PRI ‘Master Plan’ project sites. At Zaytuna Farm we grow significant quantities of food – but we only sell a very small fraction at the local market, and mostly for the purpose of connecting with locals, rather than profit. Almost all the food otherwise goes to feed staff and students.

    Permaculturists the world over will have different views and methods. They can write about these also!

    Reply
  9. JBob

    “More” people on the land is great, but it will never be “all” people. There will always be people who want nothing whatsoever to do with food production, so there will always be profit in selling food.

    That said, I admit I do prefer to teach gardening over actually selling the vegetables! But people buy food much more readily than they buy advice.

    Reply
  10. Gerald Anderson

    Thanks Craig for again sharing your mission and position -as if you are not always doing that.
    Your remark below expresses my sentiments.
    “If our demonstration sites simply become ‘permaculture farms’ that supply folk who still don’t get involved in growing their own food, then we will feel we’ve failed in our mission.”
    We would like to see some kind of farm work cooperative on our place.
    Perhaps community owned and or vacation supported. The food would remain be preserved and consumed by workers. although it would be nice to see some berries marketed from the road side. We are located in a rural plateau region of NW Arkansas near Tilly Arkansas it is very hot now but as a rule 10 degrees cooler than lower parts of Arkansas. Often very windy and some large companies have come in to develop wind power with the locals. We have not signed up and wish
    something could be done cooperatively with more money in the hands
    of the people instead of wall street.

    I have a portable saw mill and the garden was very neglected this
    spring due to a sawing opportunity. We have 60 acres we want to dedicte to permaculture. It is primarily wooded. Winter before last we lost half of the timber in a very serious ice storm.
    We welcome WWOOFers.
    Just how much food can one person sustainably produce for others.
    Right now the bugs are the lucky ones in my garden but we had some good gardens in the area this spring. They are struggling now for moisture in the heat.

    Reply
  11. Øyvind Holmstad

    “The tyranny of distance has forced a number of people back to town for various reasons. Lack of access to basic social support systems, such as day-care, has made child raising difficult for remote rural mothers with preschool children, often compounded with a lack of social contact with other women and small children back in the hills, the nearest neighbors frequently being kilometers away over bad roads. The situation might be relieved for some years when children go to the local bush primary school and are happy to play around on the farm out of school hours, but when high school begins it can mean they spend several hours a day in a school bus and have little opportunity to socialize out of school hours with town friends or pursue special interests like dance, music lessons and sports. Many young people are growing up to resent their isolation and some to reject the ideals that took their parents to the bush. I seem to meet an increasing number of families and single parents who are moving back to town for the sake of their children, which ironically was often the reason for moving to the country in the first place.”

    See: http://permaculturenews.org/2008/11/10/design-for-the-human-life-cycle/#more-854

    Yes Craig, we need more people back on the land! But the problem is that there are almost nobody left on the land now, and people, especially women, are very social creatures. This is why I think a network of ecovillages is the best way to get people back on the land. And the huge advantage with an ecovillage is that people can share knowledge on a daily basis.

    Still I recognize how difficult it is to get urbanized and individualistic people to cooperate in an ecovillage. But I think this can be solved quite much if everyone in the ecovillage are required have a PDC-diploma.

    Reply
    • Rob Drury

      The network of ecovillages really is the answer. This allows BOTH access to land and access to social interaction. Rural fails to achieve both. Urban fails to achieve both. As you can see, only something very specific succeeds…

      Reply
  12. bob tatnell

    Craig I do like your style and your energy, though naturally,I do not share all your ideas.
    One idea that I DO LIKE is that all permies should push power to this site (permaculturenews.org)
    Once a permie has done the PDC, there should be some point of reference where the permie can address communications and receive them with feedback both ways.

    One idea that I do NOT agree with (in concert with jbob above) is that without the viability of permaculture farms, the strategy of selling courses begins to implode on itself, with day jobs supporting the permie work and leading only to more courses, potentially profitable farms then needing to sell information to run their farms…this is not ok.
    At Gardenfarm we have made a policy that the farm MUST strive for and achieve viability without the help of funds received for courses (which are an ok extra, as is accommodation revenue)
    The end product of permaculture is viability…in the strict sense of the word(= to live) and if we subscribe to the peak oil/global warming doomsday approach, that viability becomes paramount…PARAMOUNT
    Let’s get some farms up and running, what better qualifications to run courses than we don’t need to!
    Keep up the push and we will try to help, and I will send you some pertinent permie poems along the way

    Reply
  13. Øyvind Holmstad

    JBob, in an ecovillage those who don’t like gardening so much can have another sustainable job, for example having a bicycle repair workshop. This way he can exchange his services for food or using a local currency, within a sustainable society on the land.

    Reply
  14. Craig Mackintosh

    Hi Bob. I think I may be being misunderstood. Our desire to see more ‘permaculture research institutes’ scattered across the global landscape is what I’m referring to. These are our ‘master plan’ projects – educational/demonstration sites. These are what we’re trying to roll out in every country possible. This is the mission of PRI. There are of course other types of permaculture projects out there – commercial or otherwise. We need these to blossom and spread as well. But these just are not the primary focus of the PRI. Our particular ambitions are aimed at having education-focussed projects in key locations to support the spread and development of the kind of farms you’re talking about.

    We need to fast-track permaculture takeup, and having projects in key locations whose primary purpose is education, and who are managing to be self-sufficient financially through that education, is the best way we know how to achieve this. People educated as a result will then go off to start their own projects – perhaps a commercial farm, or perhaps something else entirely.

    Hope this makes sense.

    Reply
  15. Angus

    Could you green the Australian desert? How long would it take – 1000 years? I mean the entire place – and 5 people lived every acre – so the population of Australia would be like 1.8billion acres x 5 – so like 8-9 billion people.

    That might be an over kill.

    But could you green the desert? Could it make Lake Eyre fresh water?

    Does it rain more when you green the desert. So i know you would start off with contours and catchments – and deplete the salt and raise the vitality of the soil through compost, mulch etc – but would the new vegetation – attract more rain? Because of the moisture in the plants?

    How would it change the current relationship with the earth and the atmosphere? Surely a large project like that would completely change the weather relationships of inner australia?
    I couldn’t see greening the desert as a bad thing. It’s Yore like a productive thing. It’s a better, easier alternative than colonising Mars – which a lot of nerds – wish to do.

    How much would it cost – depends how quickly you wanted to do it?
    I need to know more about permaculture – because then i could work out the mathematics behind this idea.

    Reply
  16. bob tatnell

    craig

    Bill said in 1985 (perth lecture)

    “I’m selling you information(it is not costing you much)and I want you to sell this information and I want you to be able to make a modest miserable living (like I do)at selling information. If we sell enough information we can change the world…but at the same time we have to put our action groups in place to act on this information”

    I would say this validates your stance

    Let me add that the word ‘miserable’ is pejorative in bill’s wry humble style)
    cheers

    Reply
  17. Craig Embleton

    @Angus

    In response to your question about whether it would be possible to green the Australian Desert please refer to the following paper by Ornstein et al – “Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming .”
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/55436u2122u77525/

    It does rain more when you green a desert. However efficiently you irrigate trees, even the most hardy transpire over 90% of the applied water. If you look up the NASA software Orstein cites in his paper you can run your own models.

    Best wishes
    Craig Embleton

    Reply
  18. Freeman

    Still there is something really wrong into all this tutoring for money thing. How can you sell one of the few alternatives for restoring earth? It makes a bad example (pay us to teach you the proper way, the truth). Also unless permaculture farm production can prove itself to be viable economically in the capitalist world, the only way to promote itself is on the assumption of peakoil or some other catastrophe, something that will be palatable basically only to a very small circle of people, some of them with doubtful not mainstream beliefs and intentions. It is my understanding and hope that permaculture should become mainstream and not a cult for peakoil doomers, religious cults and hippies left over from the sixties. Maybe a better way could be work and food in exchange for a seminar, or some other non profit means of tutoring. There are also the tax considerations, here to do seminars with money in return, you should have a company and thus pay social security every month and taxes at the end of the year, be assured there is no way you can justify the profit versus the expense. A question arises here, what if some permaculture center started giving the permaculture seminars for free? Wouldn’t that landslide into the commercial side of permaculture promotion and hopefully (for me) end all this money for knowledge scheme? I would even go that far to say that in this extremely difficult times for humanity it is time to stop charging for the knowledge of hope and altruistically give away the books and info to help save humanity.

    Reply
    • Tyler

      I want to help any way i can. Learning everything from efficient living permaculture/horticulture hugelkultur off grid sustainable farming/gardening grey water systems to cob building and managing a food forest to feed people natural whole chemical free foods to grafting quicking and easing the fruit production fermenting for preserving improving and properly preparing food for better health to bee keeping as our pharmacies it all intrigues me but i dont know where i should take my first steps where and i should spend my money and time what would be best

      I was wondering if you had any courses in mind i could take or if you have a direction you could point me in to take my first steps.. Ide like hands on work an to be serounded by like minded caring people to do better knowing theres people out there that have me on their radar and know what im after.

      Reply
  19. Freeman

    Øyvind:
    Maybe the teachers would have to get paid a tuition fee.
    But charging a 1000$ each student for 72 hours of communal tuition is a ripoff, and still go against all my ethics. It only tells me that this farms expect to survive by selling the image of a hope, A permaculture farm is supposed to have been made out of a group’s wishes and will for a viable healthy future and not to be a means of making money by making a bussiness out of it’s knowledge. I think all this knowledge should be public domain somehow.

    Reply
    • Maria

      Hello Freeman and others who responded to him. You may want to check out the site http://www.moneylessworld.org. It’s actually through this site that I found out about Geoff Lawton and PRI/ I think it is amazing what Geoff has accomplished and set out to do. He is offering free videos on his site about permaculture.
      I agree that often people charge too much for courses, no matter what these courses are. At the same time the instructors do have overhead cost they have to pay for and, like you and me, need to make a living for themselves in order to pay bills etc.Unfortunately that is still the id of society we al live in. But what could be done is charge for the courses on a sliding scale, so everyone can participate in a course even when their income is very low. What I understand so far from the PRI is that this group is putting money back into the well being of all people. I am very happy I came across this community and am very inspired by them. Let’s focus on the positive and start making this world a better place to live in for everyone and so that, eventually we could live in a “moneyless” world. We all have to work on this together.
      You may also be interested in eco-villages and free communities. These are all like-minded people. There are videos on YouTube on some of them.

      Reply
  20. omadeon

    I have to agree with freeman here.
    My sympathy for Permaculture is deep and I also respect anyone who works for it, but this is entirely a different issue.

    The issue here is the financial or socio-economic structure of organisation, that the Permaculture movement wishes to build. Is it going to be a pyramid-scheme or a capitalist-type hierarchy (with profits collected at the top), OR is it going to be an economically democratic system, such as a co-operative?
    On a worldwide scale, there exist quite succesful, democratically organized cooperative companies of a VERY LARGE scale, such as “Mondragon Cooperativa Internacional” in Spain.

    It is an issue of ethics, as well as social and political goals. Sooner or later this issue will prevail, and the existing efforts to spread around the valuable message of permaculture, will have to face this issue. People teaching permaculture should of course get paid, and paid well, as well as possibly contribute a portion of their income to the strengthening of the collective movement as a whole. However, this is ENTIRELY different from a pyramid scheme or a form of monopoly-capitalist accumulation.

    Reply
  21. Thomas Fischbacher

    To some extent, there is a very real danger to this, and indeed, there are some very entrepreneurially active farmers around (not necessarily linked to Permaculture) who take any opportunity to make money – and regard selling a vision of a sound and sustainable agriculture as just another opportunity for income-generation – a la “I’ll make a million from my book titled ‘how to make a million from one acre of land’”.

    On the other hand, if, as my PDC teacher does it, the money generated through teaching activities is used to provide the funding for the rehabilitation project he’s set up in an extremely poor country, that’s a very different issue I’d say.

    Basically, this ultimately is a question about the “redistribution of surplus to support the aims of earthcare and peoplecare”, isn’t it? I think it’s okay to make a lot of money from teaching – the more the better – as long as it is made very clear that this is then not used to support an expensive personal lifestyle, but used in a reasonably efficient way to further the aims of earth repair and society repair as measured by tangible non-teaching-related(!) outcomes. That, I think, is one important acid test here: the tangible outcomes on the ground, and in society.

    Generally, I’d have a somewhat bad feeling about permaculture places that would not be economically viable without the “teaching permaculture” income stream. But it’s not a straightforward issue. Is there a difference between teaching specific skills (say, grafting) that have a quite immediate fairly quantifiable value, and teaching “abstract ideas”? Is it ok for a small place with multiple income streams that also offers teaching to use the teaching-generated money to cover specifically those expenses that are caused by regulations that have been imposed to destroy self-sufficiency? Has Permaculture by now generally gone too far into the direction of teaching “lofty principles” and should teaching instead focus more strongly on teaching solutions to specific problems (food storage, garden establishment, grafting, seed saving, water management, setting up legal structures)? There are a number of valid questions, which require differentiated answers.

    Reply
  22. Øyvind Holmstad

    What is a rip-off is very relative. My wife’s sister lives in a simple two rooms apartment in the outskirts of Stavanger, a quite small town in Norway, and for this they pay a rent at about 2000 USD a month. What are the prices in Oslo I don’t know for sure, probably about 1000 USD a week. This I call a rip-off!

    Reply
  23. bob tatnell

    perma culture was devised as a combination of the two words permanent and agriculture,and it so happens that we are in need of improvements to agriculture to make it more user friendly, cleaner, viable long term, and wholesome both for its proponents and its customers…
    pc is the coming together of untold brilliant authors through its genius founder bill mollison, and these authors were generally concerned with agriculture in one field, section or another…this is the knowledge that needs to be eked out and applied to the land …a townhouse with a grape trellis and an orange tree in a pot is not going to do it…nor is it going to return an investment on the outlay of a pdc

    Reply
  24. Robyn Williamson

    The video that you describe as tongue-in-cheek is actually very useful and serious stuff for example at Karonga Special School in Epping NSW which caters to over 60 differently-abled students. We have installed 2 permaculture gardens, one outside the staff room and one outside the students’ kitchen, as well as a small orchard. Chooks and much more are currently being planned by the permaculture design team.

    One other wheelbarrow tip I would like to have seen is pointing the empty wheelbarrow in the direction that you will be travelling once it is full. It’s much easier and less hazardous to do a U-turn with an empty wheelbarrow than when it is full!

    Reply
  25. maha shehada

    Hi
    I,m looking for Person called Beter Wade from permaculture Institute, please if u know any thing about him contact me
    thank u

    Reply
  26. scott middlekauff

    I feel annoyed at all these comments shaming permaculturists for trying to support ourselves as we do work in alignment with our deepest mission in life. This is a double standard, since no one is telling the folks who work on wall street, or on oil rigs, or in hospitals or restaurants that they should donate their time. It sounds like you are saying that the more beautiful and important one’s work is, the dirtier it is to be economically supported by it. I believe the opposite; everyone ELSE should donate some of their time and money to support the Permaculture farmers. Rather then expect us to be saints, please offer your respect, encouragement and real support.

    Reply
  27. Al

    It seems like the goal is to initiate the use of permaculture principles, not to grow permaculture as a movement, that will happen as a side effect. so

    Reply
  28. Robyn Williamson

    Bravo Scott. Apart from the wall streets, oil rigs, etc and not forgetting the real estate developers, banks, pharmaceutical, chemical, seed and other corporations whose staff are paid OBSCENE amounts of money to rip people off and bribe government officials, do people expect to do a university course for no money? I’m actually thinking of enrolling my 7 year old grand-daughter in university because it would be a helluva lot cheaper than child care! However, a university course would be totally useless in this changing world … I would prefer that she do a permaculture course and learn skills for life.

    Reply
  29. pete

    Why can’t a teacher support oneself by teaching? The world over teachers are paid for their labor and not expected to donate their time. Permaculture should be no different.

    But yes, we do need more permaculture farms producing food and more people growing food for themselves. But we also need more demonstration sites out there to connect to them.

    Reply
  30. Thomas Fischbacher

    Pete,

    the problem is that there is a very real danger for Permaculture to then turn into a pyramid scheme a la Permies making money by teaching others how Permaculture works and using that money to finance a typical middle-class consumer lifestyle.

    There is a very real danger of a “preaching water and drinking wine” situation here. The acid test – I think – is: do an individual’s activities really lead to an overall improvement in terms of healthier soils, reduced emissions, a reliable energy supply, and overall resilience?

    Reply
  31. Geoff Lawton

    Geoff here in Istanbul, Turkey where Nadia and I are teaching a PDC with Bill and Lisa Molison to 120 new recruits just about to be released on the world.

    Time will tell what and who are changing the world for the better and you will not have to wait too long now.

    If you think you can teach PDC’s and produce active students you should get out there and do it. If you can do for free good, if you can do it and charge lots of money that is fine too, because if you are real the third ethic tells you what to do with your surplus.

    Then feel free to report in to this web site and we will show case your much needed success to the world for you.

    Reply
  32. Bryan

    I have just read the essay from Craig and then every comment that has been posted.
    I am reminded of something a guest speaker said to a school assembly I attended when I must have been about 10 years old. The most important moment in the future is right now. The most important place is right here.
    We can wax lyrical about greening deserts and all manner of things, but unless we start by doing something – and doing it here and doing it now – then it all is folly.
    I suspect that the lack of immediate, local action among attendees of PDC courses has given rise to some of the misunderstanding of what permaculture can offer.
    I also suspect that if we each act now and act here, then the principles of permaculture will emerge with a momentum that will outlive its very name.
    I will report on my doings in my little part of the world. Expect to hear from me, Craig.

    Reply
  33. bob tatnell

    five years turning this hobby farm into a productive permaculture food producer….beef,lamb,vegetables,fruit,free range eggs, and now the fish are jumping! (haven’t worked out how to catch them yet)
    would I love some permies to pay me to teach them what I know and am learning? yep…certainly would help build the enterprise….

    but the main thing is to have the farm produce provide a living for those who work it…and THAT is the challenge folks
    (any aquaculturists reading this please call me)

    Reply
  34. Liza

    How somebody can think that anybody who shares his or her knowledge should not be value?
    If Permaculture teachers should not be paid for sharing their knowledge, because it should be available for the good of humanity, than any teacher should not be paid either! That is ridiculous!
    The same way, doctors, nurses and any other people who are supposed to use their knowledge for the good of humanity should not be paid either! And let’s especially not forget the POLITICIANS and any public servants too, because they seek such positions knowing that they have the duty to work for the good of all us.
    Permaculture teachers are not the ones anybody should be worry about being money oriented and screwing up humanity, but big corporations and specially our own governments.

    Reply
  35. Cameron

    So…charging for courses is a permaculture pyramid scheme? Would all the rich permaculture tutors please put your hands up? Come on, get real. When you choose permaculture as a designer or tutor, you are choosing poverty. My PDC cost me NZ$1700 and included food and accomdation. You could have spent that on the food alone.

    If any of us think our problem is too many rich permaculturists, we really are dreamers.

    I’m off to plant a tree.

    Reply
    • Erica W

      Me too! (off to plant a tree)
      I’m lucky enough to make a ‘modest miserable living’ selling information relevant to permaculture. My extended family also largely make their livings selling information: teacher, minister, lawyer, consultant, HUD compliance officer / housing advocate, social worker, engineers, computer analyst.
      If you don’t have a problem with people making their living any of these ways, then there is nothing wrong with making a living selling consulting or info about sustainable life-ways. If that information is not accurate because the teachers are teaching teachers without reference to practice, that’s a different problem than people making money from teaching.
      Now, I live with a rocket mass heater, and the info I sell is about rocket mass heaters. So I practice what I preach there. I can answer most questions from experience, and refer to others’ experience if mine isn’t relevant.
      I also know and can teach cob building methods (to students from elsewhere), although our local soils are not suitable for cob. Am I being a hypocrite when I teach about cob since I don’t live in a cob building? Or am I being realistic when I suggest cob as a great option for certain regions, but stone or wood construction (such as we have used for our mass heater) where soils are mostly silt?
      I do recognize that it’s important that permaculture techniques WORK; we need to advocate not a cult of hopeful and laborious alternative practices, but a viable path forward to an abundant future in a world that has almost given up on that possibility. I think mandala gardens are a great teaching tool (very applicable for inspiration and class groups) but perhaps not as efficient for one-man commercial farms. I think mulch, polyculture, shade-grown cash crops, and cover-cropping have a proven history worldwide, and are also vital tools for today and the future. I think we need a much more realistic conversation about water rights, ASAP, to survive the current depletion of worldwide reserves.
      And unless you live in a high-rise, “back to the land” can apply to you as well. Urban permaculture, turning urban wildlife deserts into human food production is a great use of land, even if you only have 1/8 acre to work with.
      Off to plant pear, cherry, and poplar today.

      Reply
  36. authimoolam

    I ‘m an Indian and would like to know more about Permaculture and wanted to have a farm of the same type in our town
    Regards
    Audi

    Reply
  37. Scott Jackson

    Have just re-read all of the comments on this thread after seeing them for the first time a couple years ago, and most of it (the discussion about the ethics of “selling information” via PDC courses) seems fairly pedantic it this point.

    There’s no need to brow-beat ourselves over the about the ethics of charging fees for practical courses, since in fact the PDC courses are heavy on the practical side. Anyone is free to pay for their own “hands on” experience of certain skills via specialized courses. The information, i.e. the theoretical part of what would be taught at PDC course is already totally out there in the public domain, and most permaculturists have been giving it away in one form or another to the extent that there is already a vast amount of information on the subject out there for anyone to learn from.

    In one week’s time I’ll be doing my PDC course at “Jardin de los Presentes” in Capilla del Monte, Argentina, although I’ve already been studying and practicing Permacultural design for 5-6 years. After obtaining my PDC, I will be teaching organic gardening for free at a local urban community garden here in Cordoba (ARG), which I’m collaborating on. Why do I want to do the PDC if I’m already *essentially* a practicing designer? Resume building, legitimacy, to get hands-on experience on some areas that I haven’t personally done before (natural building, earthen construction, etc….), and also so that when I practice and collaborate with people here in Argentina, they are aware that such a thing as a global educational framework for permaculture exists by virtue of the fact that I will have a certificate as a designer. All of these are reasons that I find appealing and important for me personally.

    On another note, the cost of doing a 72-hour PDC course here in Argentina seems to be a lot lower than in other countries. I’m paying 2000 argentine pesos to do mine, which is about $400 USD as of today (January 19, 2013). Considering the cost of living here in urban Argentina is still fairly high (i.e. comparable to where I lived previously in suburban USA), I would have to say that cost of doing the course here is much more affordable in other places I’ve seen advertised on this website…

    Cheers to everyone. Keep up the good works!!!

    Scott

    Reply
  38. terre tulsiak

    Obviously the answer is some version of a time-bank. The people need to eat, buy supplies, advertise, spread news, educate and not everyone wants to or is able to, grow all their own food. But every single person has some value, not just as a human being, but to someone else, we’re just reluctant these days to admit we need help, or admit we CAN help. I don’t have the answer but I’m open to both helping and being helped, it’s just difficult for people from different ‘neighborhoods’ to trust each other’s motives.

    Reply
  39. Allan Adika

    Hi,
    Just bumped into this site. Am so amazed at this information about permaculture. I never knew it is even practiced in my own country. Am one who needs the information desperately. Thanks.

    Allan.

    Reply
  40. Frank Edwards

    Wow how easy it is to be so far behind and how embarrassing to find you are! Getting to the end of Craig’s stumbled upon article above I was excitedly thinking of who I’d be passing it on to as the latest news and then finding its already three years old and here we are in Durban South Africa way behind the times as usual. I’m not only going to circulate it but print it out as well for our climate change office who think permaculture is a gardening method to be practiced in the tool shed instead of a planning tool to be used at head office. I hope I’m the only one to take three years to trip over it but maybe another update of PRI’s position would be good for its inspirational value for us out here in the sticks!

    Reply
  41. Robyn Williamson

    Welcome Frank, your world is about to change. Get yourself on Facebook and start building a local support network. There are plenty of permaculture groups and people out there willing and able to help. One word of advice if I may, we are not knocking on closed doors or trying to change the status quo, we are building a new system that will make the old one obsolete. If your climate change office doesn’t respond don’t worry about it and get on with learning more about permaculture. Good luck! PS friend me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/robyn.williamson2

    Reply
  42. Ulysses Martin (Ibrahiem)

    I commend you and your PermiNetwork in spreading the truth. I have found purpose in PermaCulture and have thrust myself upon the PermaCulture Path to resilient communities. I intend to assist this transition by providing real-time project updates on examples from the Pacific NorthWest Washington State (USA) (400 acre urban demo majoring in food forrest) in conjunction with local government / 5 acre Chinampa themed urban demonstration site initiated by Islamic community. From Northern Mexico Drylands themed demonstration site and more to come.
    Hope to converse with you soon!
    ABE

    Reply
  43. EIleen Lewington

    Hi there. I’ve just jumped on the permaculture bandwagon about a year ago and have been inspired ever since. I am a writer and would love to share my blog – the reluctant treehugger and would be happy to let you know and write about any local permaculture projects that come up – voluntarily

    Reply
  44. Maria

    You can read my comment to a comment posted by Freeman on September 23rd, 2010. I didn’t realise that post was so old. I should have written my comment here.

    Reply
  45. Chris McLeod

    Hi everyone. As a general rule, I tend to give away produce and plants to the local groups here and also to most of my other contacts. This provides social currency that money could never buy. In addition to that the produce becomes a talking point for people into a world that they never quite considered and more often than not their interest is gained.

    Reply
  46. George

    Hello. I would like to thank all the people who spreading permaculture around the world. I just read that you pay for articles and I had one question for developers of permaculturenews.org : do you plan to translate your site to other languages? Because I`m interested in translation of Permaculture News into Russian and want to share Permaculture information in my country.

    Reply
  47. Nan

    I echo Frank’s comments of September 17, 2013. I also just “tripped over” this site – Craig’s article and others’ comments. It is lovely to read many of my own thoughts and know that others have been thinking the same sorts of things for years. I am a couple of years into practicing “drought-tolerant plant” gardening, and I came across permaculture concepts about a year and a half ago. It was like coming home as I began to explore the concepts. Hey, I am off to plant a couple of trees on my little lot here in town on the mixed-grass prairie, a windy, droughty, clayey, alternately scorched or frozen land where I’m bound to garden. Thank you all for your comments!

    Reply

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