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Your Input Wanted – Guidelines for Worldwide Permaculture Network Users

I know some of you are itching to use the new Worldwide Permaculture Network system. Well, I hope to launch in just a few weeks!

One aspect that I want your input on is in regards to user guidelines. We want to make a clear list of guidelines for what kind of projects are and are not in harmony with permaculture principles, and what kind of behaviour is regarded as acceptable as far as profile information, profile updates, comments, etc. goes. This guideline list will be the basis upon which users can be reported for offences and potentially removed from the system if they persist. The guideline should create a protective fence around the system that encourages nurturing rather than criticism.

The most important thing is to ensure the system is used for its intended purpose – that of fast-tracking permaculture take-up in mainstream society, and helping people transition to a post-carbon world as peacefully and painlessly as possible. This incorporates helping people become permaculture consultants and aid workers, and helping share resources and knowledge and inspiration to get permaculture projects, large and small, started all around us. With this in mind, user guidelines will help us keep this system on track, and help give us the policing powers to stop misuse and/or intentional antagonism by people who do not understand or appreciate the basis and need of permaculture.

Please place listed suggestions in the comments below, and please write specific text as you’d expect it to be in the guidelines, rather than broad philosophical vagaries. I will take the best parts, aggregate them, and later create a final draft we can all revisit to finalise.

Thanks in advance for your support and participation in this important aspect of the new system.

15 Comments

  1. one of the most important permaculture principles in perennial polyculture, and in human terms this would suggest a polycentric institutional framework, i.e. many people and organisations should be formally involved in the management and development of the criteria for the directory

    best-practice would suggest that the network directory be managed by a broad-based membership organisation with transparency, accountability, annual reports etc

    considering also the traditional reliance in permaculture on outside examples that do not consider themselves “permaculture” such as Keyline or Village Homes in Davis California, I question the exclusion of those that do not have a PDC. Many examples and systems that are actually existing permaculture are not self-identified as permaculture, and many self-identified permaculture projects, fall far short of the permaculture ethics, principles, systems etc

    Examples of Best Practice Network Directories with Governance structures are;

    Transition Towns Totnes – The Transition Network
    https://www.transitionnetwork.org/initiatives
    https://www.transitionnetwork.org/about

    The Permaculture Association of Britain
    https://www.permaculture.org.uk/people-projects-places
    https://www.permaculture.org.uk/whats-going-on/association-work/governance

    WiserEarth
    https://www.wiserearth.org/group/search?phrase=%22Permaculture%22
    https://www.wiserearth.org/article/About

  2. Thanks Nicholas. Actually, we’ve already evolved from the ‘must have PDC’ to also include non-PDC holders (which means Bill Mollison can even join if he wants to :) ). Everyone gets some kind of badge. Those who have no PDC are, for want of a better name at this point, simply ‘Member’, and those with PDCs have a PDC badge. PDC teachers get another badge, and so on.

    Yes, polycultures in projects will be a prerequisite. No monocrops!

    Re managing with a ‘broad based membership organisation’, the idea is instead to have it managed by the members themselves – hence the need for clear guidelines to serve as a framework for project inclusion and general behaviour within the system.

    Respected members of the network, who’ve evidenced good nature and ethics and wisdom can be proposed as moderators.

    One thing I want to avoid is the too many cooks scenario, where nothing moves forward due to multiple decision makers all going in different directions. I’ve observed people talking about such a system as this in conversations including dozens, if not hundreds, of people. Nothing comes of it, because when too many people are involved there is rarely a clear outcome.

    Tangible textual guideline suggestions welcome.

  3. Craig,

    Ad “One thing I want to avoid is the too many cooks scenario, where nothing moves forward due to multiple decision makers all going in different directions. I’ve observed people talking about such a system as this in conversations including dozens, if not hundreds, of people. Nothing comes of it, because when too many people are involved there is rarely a clear outcome.”

    Incidentally, the same problem did come up in computer security. Considering e.g. the design of IPSEC (i.e. internet protocol encryption), the standard that got passed turned out to be incredibly cumbersome to implement, maintain, and use. But people did learn: subsequently, many design problems – such as designing a successor for DES – were resolved not by setting up a large committee, but instead turning this into a design contest. That’s how AES was created. It actually is the winner in a contest for the most suitable successor to DES. (Funny anecdote: The German national telco also submitted their encryption system to that contet. It was hacked even before the speaker could finish his presentation.)

    So, design contests sometimes seem to be a good idea.

  4. Thanks Thomas. Yes, this is the approach I want to see. Not a centralised ‘elitist’ approach, but development based on the best, knowledgeable user input. When everyone registers on the live site, they each have a feedback form. The best suggestions will be implemented as we can afford.

  5. Could the guidelines simply be the Permaculture principles and ethics? (I’m thinking about Rosemary Morrow’s book, Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture, which was used in a PDC course I took last year.) The idea that the Permaculture principles and ethics can be used in any setting, including offices intrigues me.

    For example, if someone was being criticaI rather than offering constructive feedback, members could point out that the comments were not keeping with the ethic “care of people”.

    If someone gave an example of monoculture, the principles of multifunction and multiple elements and perennial polycultures could be pointed out, etc.

    I hope these comments are helpful; I’m a newbie to permaculture, and I think focusing on the Ethics and Principles in the administration of this group would help me and other newbies integrate them into our everyday thinking.

  6. I guess we need the basic stuff first like:

    -Post meaningful, respectful comments—in other words, no spam and no remarks that are off-topic or offensive.
    -Always pause and think before posting.
    -When disagreeing with others opinions, keep it appropriate and polite.
    -If you make a mistake, admit it. Be upfront and be quick with your correction.
    -In all your online post, uphold the ethics and fundamental principles of Permaculture.
    -When posting information, be accurate, do your research well and check that your facts are accurate.
    -Make sure you have permission to post any copyrighted information (e.g. images).

    I found these guidelines to be very interesting and straightforward though not directly in line with the purpose of the Worldwide Permaculture Network Users : https://www.whollygenes.com/forums201/index.php?act=boardrules

    The WPNU will be awesome, I’m sure!

  7. We’ve faced this same issue of how to decide what projects and communities worldwide are worthy of inclusion in our book-in-progress, Sustainable [R]evolution (see sidebar for more info). We have found David Holmgren’s ‘permaculture flower’ to be a helpful guide, including categories of action that permaculture can inform, such as land and nature stewardship, built environment, culture and education, etc, as well as specific initiatives: ecovillages, seed saving, biotechture, renewable energy, recycling, to name a few. You can find it at http://www.holmgren.com.au

  8. Crikey, Craig! OK, here goes…

    Material posted to the WPN *must* (and I stress the term ‘must’, not ‘should’ or ‘may’) be:

    *Directly related to the ethics and principles of permaculture
    *Fully referenced (unless original)
    *Succinct
    *In ‘plain English’ (in the sense that it must be easily understood by a ‘layperson’)

    Any transgression of the above will receive one warning to rectify. Continued transgression will mean immediate termination of account – no appeal.

    How’s that for starters?

    Cheerio, Markos (ecodharmamark)

  9. Just a couple thoughts to add to what has been said.

    For people:

    Criticism should be constructive.

    For Projects:

    To be considered a permaculture project, a project should demonstrate how it acts by all three ethics of permaculture.

    A project which is acting primarily (no matter how successfully) within the scope of a single ethic should not be considered permaculture. For example Greenpeace – Care for the earth. Oxfam – Care for people.

  10. I’d like to take a “free” course in Permaculture, or otherwise learn/apprentice it (and/or related, like natural building) hands-on with the intent to teach/promote it too, as the exchange/barter, given what little immediate funds I have for that. So it would be nice to see many kinds of support/exchange opportunities in that regard, as well as others– related projects/activities, such as in the way of other post-peak oil skills-retraining/community-resilience/etc., if some of these are missing.

    If fast-track of Permaculture takeup is one of the main goals, then these certainly would be some good ways and in keeping with its spirit.

    Aaron wrote:
    “A project which is acting primarily (no matter how successfully) within the scope of a single ethic should not be considered permaculture. For example Greenpeace – Care for the earth. Oxfam – Care for people.”

    I’m inclined to agree (holism is good) otherwise we seem to get the equivalent of monoculture.

    A word of caution, wrapped in some quotes, regarding the mentioned “policing powers” of the new site:

    “In democratic countries, freedom of speech… generally includes:
    * the right to criticize the political system and political leaders, including those in power;
    * the right to criticize public and corporate policies;
    * the right to criticize religious and political ideas.”
    ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_Speech_%28International%29

    “As a director of the U.S. government’s ministry of propaganda during World War II, Archibald MacLeish knew that dissent seldom walks onstage to the sound of warm and welcoming applause. As a poet and later the librarian of Congress, he also knew that liberty has ambitious enemies, and that the survival of the American democracy depends less on the size of its armies than on the capacity of its individual citizens to rely, if only momentarily, on the strength of their own thought. We can’t know what we’re about, or whether we’re telling ourselves too many lies, unless we can see or hear one another think out loud. Tyranny never has much trouble drumming up the smiles of prompt agreement, but a democracy stands in need of as many questions as its citizens can ask of their own stupidity and fear. Unpopular during even the happiest of stock market booms, in time of war dissent attracts the attention of the police. The parade marshals regard any wandering away from the line of march as unpatriotic and disloyal; unlicensed forms of speech come to be confused with treason and registered as crimes.”
    ~ ‘Gag Rule: On the Suppression of Dissent and Stifling of Democracy’, by Lewis Lapham

    “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
    ~ Abraham Lincoln

  11. Where can we see a statement of the core Principles of Permaculture that the majority of Permaculture founders, practitioners & adherents agree upon?

  12. @ Edith Wiethorn:
    I have it in my copy of Bill Mollison’s, Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual.
    1. Care of the Earth
    2. Care of People
    3. Profit ;D

    Just kidding about the 3rd one (although the way things can go, you never know!).
    As for the two previous, you may wish to make sure those are correct, but I’m pretty sure they are.

  13. G’day Edith

    “Where can we see a statement of the core Principles of Permaculture that the majority of Permaculture founders, practitioners & adherents agree upon?”

    A ‘statement’ on the ethics and the principles can be found by reading Holmgren’s ‘Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability’. Whether ‘the majority… agree upon’ this is debatable. It certainly works for me!

    A short version of the above is freely available here:

    https://www.holmgren.com.au/DLFiles/PDFs/Essence_of_PC_eBook.pdf

    However, for those inclined to deeper thought, I would urge you to study from the entire (previously cited) volume.

    Cheerio, Markos.

  14. G’day Caelan

    I have no problem with “freedom of speech”, “critical” or otherwise… just as long as it is informed. I’ll-informed speech, in my opinion, is a waste of time and space. However, how one comes to decide just what is informed, as opposed to ill-informed, is probably one of the greatest debates continuing to occur across the breadth of humanity. Perhaps the WPN could have an area set aside for ‘theoretical and philosophical debate’?

    The greatest threat I see to the viability of the WPN is with its legitimacy. If the input of material cannot be supported with knowledge that has been tested in the crucible of scientific (in the broadest sense) debate, then we run the risk of having it devolve into something akin to a program based on mythology and superstition.

    As an aside, I have yet to see an example of a truly “democratic county”… truly democratic in the sense that decisions which have the ability to effect all people have been reached via a mode of governance that includes the views of all people – i.e. direct democracy.

    Cheerio, Markos.

  15. Thank you, Caelan & Markos – I am Permaculture by nature & nurture. Your links will help me be aware of the current, global language & terms of Permaculture.

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