*this is an out-dated version of this concept. I’ve revised it off the web and will repost it later.*
In the same vain as Primitive Skills Vs. Rewilding, permaculture does not encompass a world view change away from civilization. In fact, I see permaculture more often than not used as an example of how to save civilization from collapse. As much as it may seem like this essay means to attack permaculture, I actually think permaculture works great as a starting point for learning indigenous horticultural practices and preparing yourself for the collapse of civilization by disconnecting yourself from the industrial food economy. I read and practice permacultural principles and base my garden plans from them! I have a copy of Toby Hemenway’s Gaia’s Garden on my shelf. [/disclaimer]
In the 70’s a bunch of hippies started discovering horticultural techniques and came up with the word permaculture. It originally stood for “Permanent Agriculture” (excuse me while I vomit). Permaculture most often refers to a civilized farmers attempt at returning to a more horticultural life. I generally refer to it as a bastard child of civilizations agriculture, mainly because most people who learn permaculture I see planting gardens and making cob saunas, not restoring and/or planting forest habitats. “Permies” (as they call themselves) also seem to emphasize the idea of the “food forest” which seems to me all-to-utilitarian in perception. Horticultural peoples did not think of themselves as “managing” “food forests,” but rather relating to and interacting with other-than-humans. Permies won’t receive my award for “Best Modern Human Subsistence Strategy,” but they do win “Honorable Mention” in my book.
Though the essence of permaculture came from indigenous hunter-gatherer-horticulturalists, the people of civilization only see “sustainable agriculture.” Most obviously the root of the word itself; Permanent agriculture. To words that send a shiver up my spine. Put them together and you’ve got permaculture. This looks like a early 70’s, civilized hippies grasp for a word or term like “sustainable.” This obviously ignores the defining characteristics of agriculture (tilling & mono-cropping), and only further muddles an understanding of our collapsing culture. Chalk it up to denial or cultural blinders, it doesn’t change that this way of seeing permaculture has permeated every inch of the permaculture culture.
It doesn’t make much sense to “talk shit” on permaculture any more than something like organic agriculture. I think it works great as a means of self-sufficiency and a nice first step. I also think that it needs mentioning that these methods still lack an all encompassing cultural/environmental economic system of sustainable management. In fact I believe any form of living that has sustainability does not think in terms of ‘management’ but in relationships.
The principle of Zone 5: The “Wilderness,” forms another element of permaculture that reflects civilized thinking. This assumption of “wilderness” shows that the foundations of permaculture still lack the understanding of how indigenous peoples interacted with the land, and the romantic European notion of untouched nature. Wilderness did not exist in hunter-gatherer-horticultural societies. Humans related to every piece of land, managing it on a large scale. Permaculture lacks an understanding of larger scale management most likely because it came about in the self-sufficiency on a homestead craze; its scope of land management appears rather small when compared to the large territories of horticultural/hunter/gatherers.
Aside from having an arbitrary wilderness zone, it creates the mono-cultured garden. For example, say 10 different people all buy their own piece of land and permaculture it. That means that each one of those people has their own pear tree, and apple tree a such-and-such in their permaculture garden. Basically, agriculturalists traded in mono-cropping farmland for mono-horticulture homesteads where everyone has the same horticultural plants rather than creating a mixed forest or oak savanna and trading with your neighbors who live in an old apple orchard or some such. Most permaculturalists lack enthusiasm for restoring native plants populations and practices. A permaculture garden looks exactly the same whether you make one in Finland, Ecuador or Uganda. I have seen little to no emphasis on native plants, which means no emphasis on a particular landbase. Permaculture lacks sense of place and lacks a larger sense of bioregional subsistence.
Permaculture does not fundamentally help to dismantle civilization, it simply means a garden or farm that civilizations military owns and can kick you out of when all the other farms soil has eroded. I hope you stock your permacultured land with guns. Having a truly sustainable permaculture farm involves dismantling civilization by no longer allowing those in power to take what they want, when they want without concern for the environment or your permaculture farm.
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