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Sacred is Our Inherent Right to Live Free and Gloriously – Interview with Craig Mackintosh

Interview with Craig Mackintosh by Willi Paul about the new Worldwide Permaculture Network

Willi Paul: Is there a global permaculture revolution rising now?

Craig Mackintosh: Well, there had better be. The other kinds of revolution aren’t pretty. Revolution, I believe, is going to become an increasingly popular word. But often revolutions merely pull things down, without offering meaningful replacements.

Over the last few years the level of interest in permaculture has skyrocketed. People are increasingly realizing the world is running out of options, but many are also realizing that this is exactly what permaculture gives to the world – options.

WP: What are the pros and cons of a world-wide database?

CM: We need people to see the breadth and scope of permaculture activity. If people facing resource depletion and economic meltdown believe that permaculturists are just a handful of scattered, idealistic dreamers, they’ll say to themselves, “nice idea, but too little, too late”, and they won’t get on board. If, instead, they realize that this is actually a worldwide movement of individuals operating at a grass roots level in almost every country on the planet, then they’ll instead think, “hell, I’d better get involved as I’m getting left behind!” Given where we’re at in history, getting left behind in essential re-skilling and future-proofing is not an attractive position to be in.

We’ve always known that permaculture was widespread – permaculturists are on the ground everywhere – but, due to its inherent, decentralized properties, its extent has, until now, been hard to quantify. The Worldwide Permaculture Network (WPN) system will solve this.

The pros are that people who are doing tangible things to change the world for the better right now have a chance to inspire others to do the same – and to demonstrate and educate them in the how of it – whilst simultaneously, and symbiotically, gaining increased knowledge themselves through interaction with other permaculturists in the system. More, they can network with each other and leverage each other’s efforts.

The cons? Well, perhaps just that I will now have even more work to do. But, it’s a small price to pay for saving humanity.

WP: Can you chat live with folks on Worldwide Permaculture Network (WPN)? Can you upload videos?

CM: Not yet, but we have quite a few things we’d yet like to build into the system. So far, with the exception of a few thousand dollars of much appreciated donations from our readers, we (the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia) have carried this on our own. It’s been quite a commitment in time and financing. We trust that the new WPN community will see the potential in what we have, and also in what we could have yet with further development, and will pitch in to tailor and improve even further.

WP: Will you obtain advertisers or other financial support?

CM: Advertisers? Selling products? You’re kidding, right? Given that we don’t live on an inflatable earth, permaculture is about developing steady-state, sustainable, community-based economies. The self-interested, impossible, economy-must-grow mindset is the antithesis of what needs to happen over the next decade, and is thus the antithesis of a PERMAnent CULTURE.

I won’t allow advertising on the WPN.

Offers of financial support from people who understand the vision behind what we’re trying to achieve would be welcome. Indeed, they’d be welcome even if they don’t understand – so long as there are no strings attached. The key thing to know is that this system is not a profit-motivated venture.

WP: What is sacred about the practice of permaculture?

CM: What is sacred is our inherent right to live free and gloriously. Permaculture equips people to be more than mere drones for a system outside of their control. It frees people to live as skilled, self-reliant individuals who work interdependently with other self-reliant individuals, with the goal of obtaining a lifestyle that is centered in health, positivism, resilience, beneficial social interactions and sustainable productivity.

WP: Are there new stories and songs based on permaculture? What are some symbols in your passion with the land and people? Who are your heroes? Talk about the spiritual and the interconnected as possible catalysts for new myths.

CM: Perhaps I’m too pragmatic to really understand what you want here. I haven’t been following stories and songs, and really don’t know what you mean by symbols. I’m also not one for encouraging the hero mentality. We need to be everyday heroes. All of us. After taking on board the realities of what our collective futures will look like if we give in to despondency and inaction, we can become heroes by, instead of letting it get us down, realizing that the only way forward is to start to look at where we are now – our vulnerabilities and our opportunities, as slight as they may seem – and, comparing that objectively with where we need to go, beginning to make steps towards getting there. It will take a level of cooperation never seen before in human history.

I believe the WPN can become a platform for these everyday heroes to make themselves known, and to replicate themselves – sharing skills, seeds, designs, inspiration and enthusiasm.

WP: Are you an alchemist?

CM: I’ve never been described thus before, and don’t lay claim to the title now. Besides, you can’t eat gold.

In my work, however, I have met a few who can turn sand and rocks into fruit and forests, so perhaps some permaculturists could be described as alchemists of sorts.

WP: So WPN is an open network? Is this a permaculture principle?

CM: All who align themselves with the three ethics of permaculture – People Care, Earth Care, and Return of Surplus (back to the first two ethics) – are welcome to join and contribute to the community. The big thing to understand is the WPN is not, unlike Facebook or similar, merely a social club, nor is it a system designed for profit. The WPN is intended to help facilitate well-meaning, collaboratively-minded permaculturists to inspire and educate each other into the kind of world-changing activity we need to see if we’re to head our multiple impending woes off at the pass. While the WPN is not going to be for absolutely everyone, the aim is that its purposes will ultimately come to be shared by all.

WP: At this early stage, how would you describe the common shared vision?

CM: ‘Permaculture’ has been a word for more than thirty years, yet, over this period, many permaculturists treated the design science as merely ‘an alternative lifestyle’ — keeping one foot in their back yard and the other in the supermarket and their almost-always destructive places of employ. Over the last few years this has been changing. The internet has enabled writers like myself and others to join the dots online like never before, and now there’s a sense of urgency that no matter what little oasis of abundance you may have in your back yard, if all your neighbors around you and across town don’t have any degree of resilience themselves, then as the economic and social fabric of society continues to come apart, you’ll still not make it on your own.

In the same way as we’re learning that an apple tree has far more value than a plasma screen, we’re also recognizing that a neighbor with skills to share is worth infinitely more than a drinking buddy.

WP: Love the passion.

Permaculturists – this is our time! Let’s stop considering permaculture as an ‘alternative lifestyle’ and accept the fact that there really is no alternative. As far as our place in history is concerned, it’s permaculture or bust. – Craig Mackintosh

What is the alternative, Craig?

CM: Well, we could just pretend, as do the politicians and fantasists, that everything’s just peachy. We could pretend that the scientists will invent our way out of this (ignoring the fact that they invented our way into it). We could also all sit in a circle, holding hands, chanting, and thinking positive thoughts. For myself, though, I’d rather get busy. The WPN is for all who feel the same.


  1. I suggest that new possibilities built into the system can, until the costs used to develop these new properties are covered, be sold as extras for users who want them and can pay for it. When these new properties of the system are paid down they can be opened for others who might not afford them. I see this as a win-win solution.

    Personally I should like to have an organizer to organize my postings in different subjects, and a bottom for point marked lists. But as many probably don’t find these properties interesting, I think it’s fair if I have to pay for them.

  2. “Advertisers? Selling products? You’re kidding, right?”

    Don’t you sell a bunch of DVDs on this site? And if profit is so evil, why are you selling them when they could be copied infinitely at virtually no cost and given away?

    And what’s inherently wrong with advertising? Might some people have products that others would want if they know about?

    You’ve made a valuable website, and non-profit ventures are fine, but you’re shooting yourself in the foot with both barrels with this crusading anti-profit rhetoric.

  3. JBob- Hear hear.

    Otherwise, great job on the WPN and very well said, Craig. “We could also all sit in a circle, holding hands, chanting, and thinking positive thoughts. For myself, though, I’d rather get busy. The WPN is for all who feel the same.”
    Love it.

  4. @JBob
    In defense of Craig’s position on advertising and the sale of permaculture tools, DVDs etc. by PRI (and I am sure they don’t need my defense but I will say my piece anyway), there is a great deal of difference in promoting effective tools, events, solutions by a Not for Profit Organisation where the proceeds are used to enable and spread the work of bringing valuable knowledge to worldwide attention for the benefit of all, than to allowing self-interested, profit and growth motivated entities to have yet another springboard for their enterprises.

    This work is a shining example of, to quote from this interview, ‘the three ethics of permaculture – People Care, Earth Care, and Return of Surplus (back to the first two ethics)’.

    Yes, profit and growth are twin evils, the pursuit of which has brought our world to a point from which there is no guarantee that we can, as a species, recover. Permaculture is our only hope but it will require a mass abandonment of current practices to have any hope of saving the bulk of mankind from what is ahead of us.

  5. Profit can be achieved in following ways:

    * The workers get paid less than what products are sold for.
    * The products are sold for more than their value.
    * The products are made as cheap and with as short life span as possible to increase the turnover.
    * You use as little money as possible on working conditions, just enough to not adversely influence production.
    * Raw materials and resources are sourced as cheaply as possible and in large enough quantities to make them cheap.
    * You use as little money as possible to deal with and dispose of waste.

    JBob, the DVDs sold on this site might say belong to point two, * The products are sold for more than their value.

    But the DVDs on this site are an exception, as they are actually sold for less than their value, because they are invaluable!

  6. Hi Craig,

    Good work and don’t let the knockers get you down as they’re not doing anything constructive anyway.

    I haven’t done a PDC and never will. Books and experimentation are far more preferable to me.

    I support People Care, Earth Care, and Return of Surplus (back to the first two ethics) on my farm at Cherokee in Victoria although I return more to the native animals than the neighbours (at present).

    It strikes me that the first ethic is not possible without the second ethic. For the third ethic to be possible, you have to ensure that the first and second ethic are in good working order and that nutrients are being returned. We have to get away from the strip mining mentality of agriculture (very soon, before it is too late)…

    Just wanted to say that I’m grateful and that it is wise that your site will be inclusive of all people as long as they support the three ethics.


  7. JBob. We sell knowledge. We don’t have a problem with making the DVD production self-sufficient through DVD sales. You can be sure that a great many people are copying and circulating the DVDs, and we don’t panic about it. As long as there are enough people who appreciate the content and the labour that goes into it enough to support it by buying DVDs, then we’ll keep trying to make them.

    There’s a big difference between this self-financing permaculture evangelisation and education and actually selling products and captalising on the permaculture community we’re trying to build with the WPN.

    I’d love to know exactly what kinds of advertising you think would be appropriate to place on the WPN. Please advise.

  8. The WPN is a beneficial structure that surely has its own right to exist – I think we all agree on that. So, just like other beneficial structures (such as an apple tree), it should have a right to the resources it needs to survive and thrive and do its good work – note that it is in some sense returning more (certainly in terms of usefulness for rehabilitative purposes) than it takes.

    Right now, the WPN seems to be mostly eating up Craig’s time, and the effort needed to keep it stable and growing is not yet properly reflected by an associated quantitative measure of effort – a money stream. I think there are numerous very good reasons to try to get to a point where the money flowing into and through the maintenance of the WPN appropriately mirrors the corresponding effort. An example: Craig may be able to support himself for now and do this in his spare time. But suppose something bad happens to him while on a permaculture mission somewhere out there and he gets hospitalized for three months and cannot do any work over the internet. Then, it would be much easier if there were a money stream that ensures that the time needed to keep the WPN running pays for itself, because that greatly widens the range of people who could temporarily take over – that then would not be restricted to those in the advantageous position of having, in addition to the expertise, sufficient surplus time not needed to keep them economically afloat.

    I am not talking about professional IT consulting market rates here, as these are determined by competition on the market between parties that try to get for their work as much as they can – I talk about covering basic needs, expenditures that occur while doing charitable work.

    A benign model might be to introduce a sort of WPN commission for permaculture courses taken by people who found their teacher over the WPN, maybe as low as 1% of the course fee or even lower – and maybe similar commission rates for consultancy business for customers who found their consultant over the WPN. That should provide a trickling income stream that grows in sync with the WPN and – by adjusting that rate – could be adjusted to just sustainably cover the WPN’s needs. – Basically, that is how trade exchanges would do it.

  9. I completely agree Thomas! WPN is now like a chair with just one leg to keep it up going, and this one leg is Craig Mackintosh. If Craig breaks his leg and in the fall gets into coma for three months, then I’m afraid the WPN goes with him.

    This is why we should try to make at least one more leg for the WPN, or maybe even five legs like claimed for office chairs by the labor legislation of Norway.

  10. I marvel at how the necessity for profit can be taken as a novel idea around here. Of course pathological greed does exist, but so does the desire to create a better life for oneself, their family, the world. Businesses can be used for either purpose and both need profit. Profit doesn’t have to be goal in the game, but you must have it to keep playing.

    As for what advertisers for the WPN – That’s up to the advertisers of course, but I would think things like: PDC courses, gardening magazines and tools, surveying equipment, books (an Amazon affiliation link is great), seed catalogs, water purification systems…

  11. JBob, if people were so noble as you suggest, just seeking making a better life for themselves, their family and the world, the profit motive was no problem. But, like all other animals, people are behaving according to the handicap principle. The handicap principle is double bladed, it can serve or harm humanity. Unfortunately the profit motive tends to fuel the greedy side of the handicap principle, not the social side, which we should design for.

  12. JBob, I’m not blind to the need to be financially sustainable. Give me a little credit, please.

    I do think your magical invisible hand market thinking is very linear, as I’ve shared with you a million times.

    Take your thoughts on advertising, and think it through please. First, you said that what should be advertised is up to the advertisers. That’s free market thinking. So, if someone wants to sell GMO seeds, we should let them do it, right? We don’t want to be protectionist, do we? We should let the seller and the buyer decide, yeah?

    Now, let’s take items that we feel a little more comfortable with, like, say, the water purification systems, seed catalogues, etc. that you mentioned. Please keep in mind that in times past (like, say, 200 years ago), an advert was a simple sign on the front of your residence that stated what you do (Blacksmith/tinker, shoe repairs, tailor, grocer, etc.). This kind of advertising serviced the local community. But what you’re asking me to do is to put advertising on a website that is read internationally, which translates to international sales. This has implications beyond the immediate carbon footprint of delivery. You, for example, might be producing and selling your own type of water filtration system in Town X. Unknown to you, just across town, also in Town X, is Customer Y. Now, Customer Y is not aware of your excellent water filters, and before he’s even had a chance to ask around to see if there is a water filtration supplier near him, he’s found a system he can order from the other side of the world, right from the seat of his swivel chair, through an advert on the WPN. So, with a few clicks through advertising on the WPN, he undermines his own community development (and hence, resiliency), and the MegaCorp water filtration supplier in Country Q attracts mega-sales, and becomes highly centralised in power, money and monopoly. MegaCorp water filtration supplier, to reduce costs and maximise profits, then outsources its labour to Country Z. The goal of the globalised model is to have consumer and purchaser as far away from each other as possible. If you could, instead, see the damage done (environmentally, socially, etc.) from the creation, use and disposal of your goods, you might choose not to buy them. By having everything out of sight and out of mind, the goods keep getting made and bought, despite the real costs involved.

    Again, these websites are read internationally. They are not read only by 200 people in one village.

    All that aside, I already incorporated one way that users can give back to the system. Those who have a project with the ‘educational’ project type (i.e. they run courses) can ‘upgrade to educator account’, where for a small fee they have a nice function to add as many courses as they want to advertise them for the period of the subscription. This is more along the lines of people who are benefitting from the system giving a little back. And we get to feel good that we’re encouraging people to develop more permaculture education sites (permaculture knowledge and experience being a major bottleneck in transition).

    We may well look at more options like this, and are open to suggestions.

    I’m curious JBob, by my not allowing adverts for GMOs, Sex DVDs, WMDs, whatever – am I not becoming government in your eyes? Shouldn’t I let it just be a free-for-all and ‘let the market decide’? As you said:

    As for what advertisers for the WPN – That’s up to the advertisers of course

  13. Here’s a funny story about advertising and useless stuff.

    Norbert Jorek, after he got his university degree in biology, started a small garden pond company (in Germany). At one point, he was approached by sellers of pond equipment to write a book, they agreed on terms and conditions, set up a contract, and he started writing.

    One of the clauses in the contract was that he would explain the biological side in a way that is backed by sound science. But the point was that his clients from the pond equipment industry, when they saw the manuscript, found that there was too much of “you don’t actually need that” and “that would do more harm than good” in it – they feared that if this book got published, they would not sell any of their stuff. So, they pulled out of the project, paid him off (there was another contract clause for that case), and he just took the money to finance the publication of that book nevertheless.

    By now, that book sold more than 180_000 copies.

  14. “As for what advertisers for the WPN – That’s up to the advertisers of course”

    …Do I seriously need to add “up to the advertisers AND YOU?”

    I bought a Berkey ceramic water filter from an advert I saw on a website recently. These filters are manufactured in Britain. They weigh a few pounds and will filter enough water to last me 20 years. How long should I wait for a local ceramic water filter manufacturer to pop up in my “village” so I can support the local economy?

    How far back into the stone age do we want to go? Transportation of goods and division of labor are always going to be with us, it’s just a matter of degree. Increasing resiliency is one thing, being phobic about trade is another.

  15. Do I seriously need to add “up to the advertisers AND YOU?”

    Yes, seriously, you do. The reason is because you’ve made it clear time and time again that you want to see a completely ‘free’ market, without government intervention.

    A completely ‘free’ market applied to advertising on the WPN translates to ‘anything goes’ – we can advertise anything, and let ‘the market decide’, and if there are problems with the goods, we can let the customers sue the producers.

    Anything less is ‘government intervention’. If I create a policy of ‘no WMDs will ever be sold via our site’, then I’m regulating.

    Okay, so we ignore the need to create a localised version of the Berkey ceramic water filter, and instead encourage everyone on the planet to order those from the UK, by allowing their adverts on this site, instead of encouraging people to find ways to make their own locally. Carry that thought across to everything else we want/need, and we won’t see change in the world. (Actually, we will see change, regardless, because of resource constraints, but we won’t see an effort to minimise damage/suffering by helping to fast-track incrementalised transition.)

    I’m not sure ‘transportation of goods’ are always going to be with us, at least not in the way we see today. We need to start producing/developing/tweaking the things we need from local materials. It’s going to get prohibitively expensive to do otherwise. You, operating in your own ‘self interest’, have secured a water filter that may last you twenty years. What about the people around you, who don’t get to buy one before the UK company goes under (going under because they’ve lost their customer base as international trade becomes prohibitively expensive)?

    If people in your ‘village’ were analysing their needs, and working cooperatively to see how much of those they can create and trade locally (and buying in the rest while they transition), then isn’t that healthier? Isn’t that something to encourage? Do you really want us to be just like everyone else – i.e. following the very same mentality that got us into this mess?

    If I advertise the UK water filter on the WPN, am I not undermining those who ARE trying to create localised versions?

    I’d re-ask the question: by my not allowing adverts for GMOs, Sex DVDs, WMDs, whatever – am I not becoming government in your eyes? Shouldn’t I let it just be a free-for-all and ‘let the market decide’?

    Am I not setting up ‘barriers to trade’ by excluding items based on my subjective view of right and wrong?

    Again, the invisible hand has no morals.

    Your way of thinking results in the kind of nonsense we see in the U.S. – where big corporations, without knowledge of their employees, purchase life insurance policies on those employees so they can profit from their death. The husband dies, the wife gets nothing, but the employer rakes it in – and often even though the employee is no longer in their employ. This is free market capitalism at its finest. The employer is actually incentivised to sabotage their employee’s car, for example, so the CEO gets to fulfil his duty, of increasing shareholder profits on the latest quarterly statement. (‘Dead Peasant Insurance’: see here, here, and here).

    In a previous comment you made it clear that instead of deciding if to shop at Wal-Mart (one of the companies profiting from Dead Peasant insurance, by the way) based on their ethical and environmental activities, or if they systematically dismantle local communities, it’s better to decide based on if their trolleys push straight, or if the aisles between product shelves are wide enough, etc. It’s clear that ethical considerations are not part of your purchasing decisions at all. That’s a crying shame.

    The desire to keep advertising off the WPN is not based in a desire to go back ‘into the stone age’, but rather, to ensure we don’t. We can’t get where we need to go, and build resiliency, if we don’t transition. How can we transition to a more sustainable, localised, steady state economy, if even permaculture sites like ours endorse and even encourage BAU globalised trade?

  16. Thanks Craig.

    The day ads appear on the WPN I will be at last surrendering all hope. I’ll run up the white flag, I’ll go back to the drudgery of 9-5 (or 8-8 or what ever it is these days), earn some serious dollars, bang a chlorine swimming pool over the vegie garden, buy shares in woolworths and coles and sit around drinking beer in what little time I have to spend with the family, as the kids slowly rot their minds with what ever fashion sedative is the latest on the shelves. I’ll age a few years every week and just wait forlornly for big Corp to take final victory and leave the Earth a dusty bowl. Because, I’ll now that Big Corp has reached into the last bastions of hope and laid it’s grubby paws over any chance we had.

    Even the idea that we need a ceramic water filter just fills me with disgust, let alone someone advertising it to a permaculturist.

    Let me know what I can do to keep it from our doors, let me know what support I can offer. I don’t have much money but I’m sure I can offer up something else.

  17. JBob, here finished painted MDF-plates (10-12% glue and covered with acryl plastic paints from petroleum) are more and more competing out local produced wooden panels, as it before used to be a small sawmill in every corner of the country.

    I know the transportation route for these products for the largest supplier of panel plates in Norway.

    The MDF-plates are produced in Spain and Portugal, and from there they are sent to Southern Norway for cutting and profiling. After this they are sent with trailers about 300 km, about 12 semi trailers a day, to a large painting factory in Eastern Norway. Then they are sent back to a central storage in Southern Norway, where they came from, and from there they are sent to building supermarket chains, like Maxbo, Maxit, BM, Optimera etc. all around Norway. From there they are transported to local customers for use.

    Personally I find all this logistics and transportation insane. I think it would have been much better going back to wooden panels’ bought locally supporting the local sawmill using local timber. Also these surrogate plates are too hard, they look like plastic and have no real wooden structure, and no moisture regulating properties.

  18. Thanks Grahame. I work on the assumption that most permies will agree with the no advertising aspect. If I didn’t believe this, I think I’d join you in the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality. I started the WPN so people could get encouraged by how many people are actually out there doing tangible things. When you know you’re not alone, it motivates you to keep going.

  19. Irony lost: Apparently if free market economics is to sustain us, there is need to advertise a water filter, because free market economics allowed the water supply to get polluted for profit in the first place!

    Rock on Craig :)

  20. Thanks Pete. I was tempted to go there as well, but didn’t have the energy for it. I’m glad it’s not lost on readers. Nice to see people joining the dots.

  21. “A completely ‘free’ market applied to advertising on the WPN translates to ‘anything goes’…Anything less is ‘government intervention’”

    This demonstrates an utter incomprehension of the term “free market.” What you and your potential advertisers put on your site has *nothing* to do with government. It’s a voluntary transaction (or lack thereof) between consenting people. This is exactly what I do advocate. “Government” happens when a 3rd party brings a gun to the negotiations and forces you to do something you don’t want to.

    I’m not even saying you *should* have ads. I don’t care; my Adblocker would probably remove them anyway. Craigslist has no ads and they do fine. Do what you want.

    Transportation: I make compost 50ft from my veggies. There’s no problem if I transport this good to my beds, right? How far should I “sustainably” transport it? To the far end of the garden? To my neighbor? Down the street? Across town? To the next county? Another state? Indonesia?

    It depends on a complex set of factors. What means of transport do I have? Fuel price? Empty cargo room on vehicles already going that direction? How badly does someone need the compost (aka price)? Etc. It is pure hubris to think we can make armchair predictions about how every good and service out there should or shouldn’t be transported. It takes countless individuals assessing their own unique circumstances and needs to make this universe of interactions work well. That’s the free market.

    Pete: Which evil free-market villan profited from the fact that birds crap on my roof, necessitating the filtration of my rainwater prior to drinking?

  22. It should be possible to localise advertising on the WPN. At the time of page display you know the approximate location of the viewer (it’s in their profile), so you can search the database of advertisers and select based on their locality and a maximum radius. Google AdWords uses this approach.

    Good advertisers would be somewhat self-selecting (why waste money on a non-target demographic?), and non-performance of others would soon weed them out (how many permies are going to buy GMO seeds?). Good initial screening and user feedback would also help keep quality high.

    If it only serves ethical local businesses and returns some of their surplus in the form of an improved and more resilient WPN, then I’m not sure what the problem is.

    Here’s something Bill wrote on the subject of profit – Permaculture for Millionaires:

    “The rich don’t have anybody to tell them what to do.” Food for thought! Can’t Holmgren’s ‘Obtain a yield’ principle be applied to business too? I need to profit on my permaculture consultations so I can continue my education and expand the business so I can help more people. I think it’s fine as long as the profit is obtained using the other principles and allocated according to the ethics.

  23. Craig “Yes, seriously, you do. The reason is because you’ve made it clear time and time again that you want to see a completely ‘free’ market, without government intervention. A completely ‘free’ market applied to advertising on the WPN translates to ‘anything goes’ – we can advertise anything, and let ‘the market decide’, and if there are problems with the goods, we can let the customers sue the producers.”

    Oh my God Craig. Now I’m completely sure – you are being obtuse on purpose.

    I’m still amazed that JBob has the patience to comment on these political articles.

    You are the owner of the WPN. A free market does not mean that anyone can advertise anything on your private property. It is your property and you can decide what you want to put on it.

    Please please please stop purposefully creating straw man arguments.

  24. Hi Jbob: “Pete: Which evil free-market villan profited from the fact that birds crap on my roof, necessitating the filtration of my rainwater prior to drinking?”

    It’s not an individual tho is it? It’s a corrupt system whereby profit is required to sustain the money supply based on usury. It is a system designed to divert resources and sweat equity away from the individual, away from communities, to concentrate it in the hands of banksters whose only motive is more political power which gives them the “competitive” edge they need to sustain their position, at the expense of the environment and it’s people.

    Look at the Berkey water filter website, did the market concept originate because they saw a need in the marketplace to supply relatively wealthy people who want to catch rainwater from their roof? Or did it originate to fill a need in the aid market where agencies are helping people impoverished by the very system you advocate? People who don’t even have a roof to catch water on!

    Would Berkey be able to fill this “need” if everyone had access to clean water in the first place?

    The Irony lost on you, it that these people do not have access to clean water, and would not be in that position if it was not for the “free” market stealing their natural resources and sweat equity.

    The point we’re all making in round about ways, is pretty simple. This quote from Mark Boyle says it all IMO (paraphrasing)

    “You simply cannot be anti-poverty and pro-the-average-western-lifestyle” [1]

    Unless you can convince me you can be anti-poverty and pro-free-market at the same time, your point about the water filter is irrelevant.


  25. JBob,
    I have given up trying to gain any sort of understanding of the devious pathways along which your mind works but I have arrived at an idea for something useful that you could do to the benefit of all who are focussed on trying to keep our planet and all its lifeforms alive and well.
    Please, please, please take your unique talents and find a way to join the board of Monsanto and confuse the hell out of them for a while.

    Tim Auld,
    You have completely missed the point of Bill Mollison’s Permaculture for Millionaires therefore using it as an invalid argument for your self-justification. The message of that article is basically that big business has most of the money and they are investing it in projects that are not beneficial to anyone but those businesses and that only in the short-term. He is saying that business is not being advised correctly and that there is no long-term future in what they are doing. Bill is calling for the right kind of advisors to persuade big business to get their huge funds redirected into projects that are worthwhile but which will also satisfy their long-term business goals.

    Bill is NOT advocating profit for profit’s sake. When he says “The rich don’t have anybody to tell them what to do.” he means they are not being advised correctly, not that because of their position they can do what they bloody well like.

  26. JBob, Cyrus – you think I’m being obtuse or ignorant, but I beg to differ. Despite what you may think, this is a parallel/direct comparison with government.

    If I was mayor of the Texas town you live in, and said to you all, “okay, you cannot advertise XX, and XYZ within town limits”, you’d call that regulating, and imposing restrictions on free trade.

    As ‘mayor’ of the WPN, I’m doing exactly the same.

    The thing is, I’m doing it because I believe it reflects the will of the majority, and because it’s in line with permaculture ETHICS (ethics being something the invisible hand has no concept of).

    If I truly believed that the majority of people in the WPN ‘township’ wanted to see advertisements all over the site, I would not have built it. I’d know that we wouldn’t get anywhere, so would not waste my time.

    Think about the ‘Dead Peasant’ insurance I spoke of: if government simply made a law that said “people can only insure themselves, not others”, it would immediately remove the possibility of corporations being in the position of actually hoping their employees would die as soon as possible. But for you that’s government intervention in a ‘free market’. Sorry, but if you believe this is acceptable, you’re someone I truly have concern about.

    As I’ve said a million times, government is corrupt and pathetic, and sold out to the interests of BigBusiness instead of the individual and society, but it’s our job to recreate the invisible structures to create new forms that incentivise and protect ethical values and that prioritise sustainable happiness over self-interested competition and consumerism.

    Here’s a cartoon for food for thought….

  27. Personally I support Claude Lewenz rule of thumb, with an 80% local and 20% external economy.

    Local Economy

    The economic foundation of a Village Town is a diversified local economy that includes both

    * Money in – businesses that sell local to global, contractors, employees and workers who get paid from the outside, as well as those living on pensions, retirement or outside investments.
    * Money turn – businesses, workers, non-profits, and Village Town-owned enterprises that sell local to local. Money turn also implies intent to reduce money leakage which is what happens when local purchases involve too much money leaving the community.

    As a generalization that could use more research to prove, it seems a ratio of 20% money-in to 80% money-turn is necessary to assure the right balance between prosperity and protection from external economic shocks. The surrounding farms that feed the Village Town are included in the definition of the local economy and money-turn. If there is more money-in, the economy is vulnerable to downturns when those earners find their takings drop. In the money turn side, the greatest success comes by reducing money leakage.


    To achieve this goal of an 80% local economy is impossible within the framework of globalism and a free market economy. Only within a patterned economy you can achieve this:

  28. As we are, so the world is. That is, if we are greedy, envious, competitive, argumentative so our society will be competitive, envius, greedy etc, which ultimately brings about conflict and misery.
    The state is what we are.
    to bring about order, peace and equality we must first begin with ourselves and not with society, not with the state.. for the world is ourselves.
    each one must first examine, understand and change ones self. you cannot help another or change others uless you know yourself and change yourself.
    ideals and idealogies.. whether socialism, capitalism, permaculturism etc etc come to nothing unless we change..

  29. Greg, it’s a bit more complicated than that. We need to change both the individual, and the system. The system, as it stands, incentivises destruction, and also actively shapes the individual.


    Particularly see the sub-section titled: “Getting to the heart of the matter: Corporate greed is a CEO’s legal obligation”

    At the moment sustainability is essentially illegal in many places and in many ways. If we don’t change the system, all our best intentions can amount to very little, and the system keeps programming people into meaningless, and destructive lives and lifestyles.

    Be the change, for sure, but don’t make this realisation an excuse not to create concerted movements to rebuild society along ethical, sustainable, lines.

    This series may also interest:

  30. Greg, I believe we cannot change ourselves. How can we change ourselves when our consciousness/sub consciousness has a ratio of 10/11000000??? No, like all other animals we are slaves of the handicap principle. This is why we should find out what kind of designs, visible and invisible, which encourage the social side of the handicap principle, and suppress the greedy side of it.

    The only difference between humans and animals is that we are so advanced that we behave according to both sides of the handicap principle. While the Arabian Babbler only behaves according to the social side of it. And the Satin Bowerbird only behaves according to the “greedy” side of the handicap principle.

    This is why I have no trust in that we humans can change our selves, we can only change the design we are a part of! And the design can change our behavior to the better or the worst.

    And about the consciousness, which we think separates us from the animals, is only an exaggerated tool for sexual selection to boost our ego.

  31. Hi craig..and many greetings to you..
    if we change ourselves..if we take full responsibility now for our own state of consciousness..and manage our ego and its greed, anger, self interest etc..(which is quiet a task in itself). if we could actualy BE the change we wish to see in the world..
    the world would ways we could only speculate.
    if we dont change ..nothing will change.. the same systems will resurface..just dressed up in new clothes..
    bye for now and
    wishing all the best to you…

  32. I don’t disagree with you Greg, but I see too many people not taking this ‘change’ far enough – that unless the ‘inner change’ leads to ‘outer change’ (systemic social change), we’ll always fight a losing battle, as the system, as it currently stands, is working against sustainability and REAL happiness in almost every way possible.

    It’s a pity you didn’t take the time to read the section I mentioned above, where you’ll see it’s a CEO’s legal obligation to screw society for the sake of shareholders. Unless such laws (in this case, the corporate charter) is changed, no matter what inner nirvana state you’ve reached, the system will keep steamrolling you with selfishness and soul-, environment- and livelihood-destroying greed.

  33. To be very specific about this “business and profit” issue: the model that is in alignment with the permaculture ethics pretty much is the one known under various names as “triple bottom line accounting”, “people, planet, profit”, or “three-dimensional sustainability”. Of course businesses can and due fail due to money flow problems – but being financially sustainable is only part of the equation, and environmental and social sustainability are just as important.

    This is precisely where permaculture differs from that strange “the market always knows best” idea. Actually, it is quite interesting what the Wikipedia article on “Triple Bottom Line” accounting lists as counter-arguments:

    Division of labour is characteristic of rich societies and a major contributor to their wealth. This leads to the view that organisations contribute most to the welfare of society in all respects when they focus on what they do best: the baker exchanges his loaves with the shoemaker rather than making his own shoes – to the benefit of both and by extension the whole of society. In the case of business the expertise is in satisfying the needs of society and generating a value added surplus. Thus the triple bottom line is thought to be harmful by diverting business attention away from its core competency. Just as charitable organizations like the Red Cross would not be expected to attend to environmental issues or pay a cash dividend, and Greenpeace would not be expected to make a profit or succor the homeless, business should not be expected to take on concerns outside its core expertise, provided the business doesn’t do obvious harm to people or the planet.

    The problem being of course that the most cost-effective way to do business usually is to screw the environment. But isn’t that a very funny concept: “Protecting the environment – that’s Greenpeace’s business (implicitly: not ours)”. Of course, taking this a step further, it’s then also Greenpeace’s fault if rainforest gets destroyed despite their best efforts. Surely they should fire their director and replace him by someone who really knows how to protect the environment…?!?

  34. No Greg, people either play the role of the Arabian Babbler or of the Satin Bowerbird. Without the social control of an in-group extreme sustainability for some will get the anti-reaction of extreme consumerism with others. This is why we need a society designed upon in-groups. The tragedy is that today’s society is almost entirely designed around the Satin Bowerbird’s strategy.

  35. Craig, You aren’t the “mayor” of WPN. You’re the owner. Politicians don’t own the lands they rule over. They usurp such authority from the true owners of property.

    Now, I have to get back to reading about Geoff’s post on CIS solar panels. Very interesting stuff, but I think maybe I should wait for my village blacksmith to start manufacturing such panels before I buy them. The west-side blacksmith of course, not the east-side smith who is unsustainably distant from myself.

  36. Hi Bernie Edwards,

    Bill did not advocate “profit for profit’s sake” and neither did I. On the other hand, he did not berate the profit motive in that discussion and made it clear that what was missing was a comprehensive ethical framework and design system (“The rich don’t have anybody to tell them what to do”). Just as wind is a natural force entering a system, potentially creative or destructive, so too is people’s desire for profit. You can work with it or expend energy trying to fight it.

    Money is a loose but convenient proxy for human energy, in itself not necessarily destructive. Guided by the permaculture principles and ethics it can be creative. In Bill’s PDC teachings he often talks about profit from various enterprises: producing this many acres of yabbies this way will net this much profit. It represents the increase in value to humans the system created and concentrated from the inputs (sunlight, water, minerals, carbon dioxide, etc.)

    Bill says tools don’t have an intrinsic value, it’s what you use them for. Money is a tool and you can use it for good just as you can use it for exploitation. Self-sufficiency is a fantasy – there will always be trade to some degree. There may be better ways to facilitate trade than our modern money systems, but that’s what most of us have to work with at the moment. Geoff Lawton says we won’t get to utopia tomorrow, so use what’s appropriate now.

  37. Here is more about the Satin Bowerbird’s strategy:

    Here is more about the Handicap Principle:

    Zahavi A. 2008. The Handicap Principle in Human Social Interactions. In Judaism in Biological Perspective. ed.Goldberg R. pp. 166-172. Paradigm Publishers London.

    The editor of this book edited my paper without my consent – resulting in a large number of misrepresentations of my ideas. The following is my original presentation without the editor’s “corrections”

    The handicap principle in social interactions.

    By Amotz Zahavi

    The handicap principle was first suggested by me to explain why peahens prefer peacocks with elaborate, long, heavy and cumbersome tail (Zahavi 1975). I suggested that the ability of a male to survive and move efficiently, in spite of the burden imposed by the tail, is a reliable test and a demonstration of its quality. The peacock’s tail serves as a reliable signal of quality, since males of inferior quality cannot function with a tail as heavy as that of the higher quality ones. Later, experiments verified that indeed the males with the heavier tails were the better males that have more offspring (Petrie et al 1991). I compared the effect of the cumbersome tail to that of the handicap (weight placed on the better horse) in horse racing and the handicap in golf competitions and other sports.
    Social sciences have already started using the handicap principle to explore the messages involved in social interactions and to explain the evolution of various rituals and other social displays ( Hawkes 1991, Hawkes and Bliege Bird, 2002, Kohn & Mithen 1999, Miller 2000). I myself have been applying the principle very profitably to watching my birds and the people around me. I therefore welcome the attempt in the present volume to apply the handicap principle to religious rituals and to suggest that these rituals reliably signal certain important information to members of the religious community. In this introduction I wish to describe the biological background of the handicap principle.

    Communication is a social act entailing at least one signaler and one receiver. Almost always additional individuals are indirectly involved as potential signalers, competing on the attention of one or more receivers. In order to evolve, communication has to be advantageous to both signaler and receiver. A signaler benefits from signaling if the signal changes the behaviour of the receiver in a way that would fit the interests of the signaler. A receiver may benefit from reacting to a signal if the signal contains useful information that was otherwise not available to it. However, since the interests of any two individuals may conflict, it is reasonable to assume that evolution selects receivers to respond only to reliable signals and ignore unreliable ones. The handicap principle is a mechanism by which a signaler can ensure the reliability of the message encoded in a signal: the signal itself handicaps the signaler in something that is related to the information provided by the signal. The investment in such handicaps should be differential: it should be affordable for an honest signaler but not for a cheater. Thus, although the handicap principle was formulated to explain the evolution of extravagant signals of mate choice, it can just as well ensure the reliability of any other signaling system (Zahavi 1977a, Zahavi and Zahavi 1997).
    The investment or handicaps signalers undertake are taken in order to gain (increase their biological fitness) . An individual that takes on a reasonable handicap to signal is like an investor spending on advertisement. In both cases excess investment may lead to a loss.

    The investment in a signal may be in different modalities: wasting time, energy, or materials; movements, voice, concentration, body shape, chemistry, a loss of social prestige and even some sacrifice of reproduction. However, the detailed pattern of the signal is shaped according to the message encoded in the signal: Wealth can be signaled by a waste of money and courage may be displayed by taking a risk, but taking a risk cannot display wealth. This connection between the pattern of the signal and its message content is a powerful tool for understanding the messages encoded in signals.
    It is a common practice to decipher the meaning of a signal according to the reaction of the receiver: a show of one’s muscles is assumed to be a threat signal if the receiver retreats. However, different receivers may react differently to the same signal. The same show of muscles can, at the same time, deter a rival and attract a mate or a collaborator. It is therefore better to comprehend the meaning of a signal, i.e., the information provided by the signal by examining the handicap it entails. Thus, a show of one’s muscles can be simply understood as a signal of strength – carrying a reliable message about the strength of the signaler. On the other hand, there are several different ways to signal strength: one can show muscles – or amplify the show by some decoration, or perform a deed that needs strength, etc.
    The differential investment is a basic demand of the HP. If every signaler can signal alike and under all circumstances – the signal can no longer serve to distinguish between signalers. A signal of the same magnitude should be easier to perform for the higher qualified individual than for the lower qualified one. The investment should be such as to distinguish between them. This differential may also apply to the same signaler under different circumstances.

    Ritualization is the process by which signals evolve from characters that are not signals (Huxley 1914). The process results in the evolution of signals that are performed in a more standard way than the same characters before they became signals. Huxley, and following him most ethologists, (Morris 1975) believed that the standardization evolved in order to make the message clearer so that, for example, a threat signal would not be confused with courtship. They also believed that some of the information is lost due to the standardization. However, I suggested a different interpretation for the ritualization process (Zahavi 1980). I claim that rituals evolve out of the competition among individuals to display certain characters, rather than from the benefit of making the meaning of the signal clearer. Observers can better judge small differences among competitors if they display their abilities according to a standard way. Strict standards are therefore imposed in sport, beauty, or musical contests as well as in any other competition. Ritualization is the process by which such competitive standards evolve. For instance, an outside observer may be impressed by the standard pattern of a greeting ritual. However, when greeted by a friend one may well react to a “good morning” by asking “what happened?” reacting to slight differences in intonation of the signaler. Thus the greeting itself (the standard signal) may reveal differences between two signalers or between the signaling of the same individual in two different circumstances, precisely because of the standard way in which it is performed.
    Other examples are patterns common to all members of a species, or the style of clothing common to a social group. The standard interpretation is that the common dress evolved in order to display the affiliation of individuals with a group, to avoid mixing with individuals of other groups or other species. However, my suggestion is that the common dress also evolved out of competition among members of the group. The uniform dress may reveal differences among individuals in the quality of their body, their movements, or the ability to take care of the dress, or even in the quality of its materials.
    It is comparatively easy to understand the handicap in a cumbersome tail or a pair of heavy antlers or the investment required to spend a few hours in a religious ritual. It is more difficult to consider as handicaps the investment required to perform a small ritual, such as starring at an opponent, or the detailed pattern of a dress. Starring at an opponent, for example, displays threat, because fixing ones eyes on the opponent means that the signaler is not collecting any information about what else is happening all around. A signaler who has not yet decided to fight if his opponent does not submit requires additional information; thus it has to watch around and cannot fix its gaze at its opponent. Thus, for an individual that has already decided to fight, starring at an opponent entails a smaller investment than for the one who still hesitates. Staring can be amplified by small decorations, such as eye-lines as in the Great gray Shrike (Lanius excubitor). However, while amplifying the steady gaze of the determined individual, such lines also amplify hesitation, increasing the handicap. This example shows how even small decorations, such as eye-lines that are considered to be mere species’ “markers”, or “badges of status”, entail differential investment for signalers of different qualities. To appreciate the investment in a particular marker or a badge of social status one needs to understand thoroughly the social system and the values appreciated by its members.
    Signaling honest and detailed information about quality that is otherwise unknown to observers, thus involves handicaps. The same signals that display accurately how much better the signaler is than some, also provide information how much worse the signaler is than others. While displaying clearly that the signaler is superior to an individual of a lower quality, it also displays that it is inferior to one of a higher quality. This information would not have been readily available without the detailed display. Hence the handicap in such cases is in the modality of providing exact information. Better quality signalers are less handicapped by displaying their quality and inferior individuals lose more.

    The testing of the social bond.
    I explained above why individuals have to take on handicaps in order to prove the reliability of their signals. Later I found out that individuals also impose handicaps on others – in order to extract reliable information on attitude towards themselves (Zahavi 1977b)
    Since 1970 I have been studying the complex social system of the Arabian babbler, a bird species that cooperate in breeding and in defending their common territory. Babblers live permanently in small groups (2-20 members). They often fight with neighbouring groups. During such fights a babbler may be attacked by several rivals and is then dependant on members of its own group to save it. For this and other reasons a babbler has to assess daily its social standing with other members of its group. Much of the babbler’s daily activities involve displays that test the social bond among group members. Babblers impose handicaps on their group members: they clump, dance, play and allopreen with them (Ostreiher, 1995, Posis-Francois et al., 2004 , Dattner, 2005). The response to these impositions is variable. Often the response is positive; sometimes, however, the other individual may move away or even respond with aggression. When clumping, babblers lose time they could otherwise use for feeding and the risks of predation increases. Babblers nearly always invite the group to dance in the open, away from the canopy of a tree, where they are more exposed to predators.
    I suggest that many of the love gestures animals (including humans) perform, test the social bond and require investments, that is, handicaps. The investment may be in time, freedom of movement etc. Social rituals, such as dancing, shaking hands, embracing or kissing, provide reliable information about the relationship of the interacting parties with one another because of the burdens they impose.

    Altruism as a handicap. Perhaps the most important finding in our babbler research was the conclusion that their altruistic acts are signals (Zahavi, 1977a, 1995). The altruistic act provides information about the quality of the altruist and may also advertise the interest of the altruist in other members of the group, as discussed by Sossis in the present volume. Babblers perform many complex altruistic behaviours such as tending to offspring that are not their own, donating food to others, standing guard when the rest of the group is feeding, participating in fights with neighbouring groups, risking themselves to rescue group members from predators or in inter-group fights.
    Altruism is not equally performed by all group members. Dominant individuals donate food to subordinates but subordinates very rarely donate to dominants. Dominants may even interfere with subordinates that try to serve as sentinels (Zahavi and Zahavi, 1997, Ch. 12), or when they attempt to help in fighting rival groups (Berger, 2002), or mob predators (Anava, 1992), or when they attempt to donate food (Kalishov et al, 2005).
    The competition among babblers to act as altruists and their interfering with the altruistic acts of their group members suggested to me that the altruist must be gaining directly from being an altruist, rather than indirectly from the benefit the group, or kinship, acquires as a consequences of the altruistic acts. If the benefit to the individual came through the benefit to its group, there would have been no reason to compete over altruistic activities (since the benefit would have occurred anyway) and certainly no benefit in suppressing the altruistic activity of others. I suggested that the altruist gains by increasing its social prestige. Social prestige, like an invisible peacock’s tail, deters rivals (e.g. group members of the same sex) and attracts collaborators, (e.g. mates as well as collaborators of the same sex (Zahavi, 2003). None of the other theories that claim to explain the evolution of altruism, such as Group Selection, Kin Selection or Reciprocal Altruism can explain why individuals should compete to be altruists, even more so why dominants often interfere with the altruistic acts of others.

    Life in a cooperative group is a mixture of common and conflicting interests. Among babblers the common interest is the defense of the common territory against neighbouring groups; but they conflict about their chances to breed. There is very little overt aggression among adult group members. The constant presence of other group members renders aggression more costly. Even a winner in an intra-group fight may end up wounded or tired and thus vulnerable to aggression by a third individual that did not participate in the fight and is still fresh. Threats are also more dangerous, since they may escalate into fighting. Hence conflicts have to be resolved by other means. Altruism directed towards subordinate members of the group, as is the case among babblers, and the competition to act as altruists, can advertise the quality of the altruist and thus replace overt aggression as mean of resolving conflicts. However, conflicts are ever present, and when signaling (by altruism) does not resolve them, aggression may erupt, and two babblers that for many years displayed love and affection toward each other are suddenly fighting violently, until a former partner is either killed or is chased from the group.

    It has been claimed that people (and animals) act altruistically and follow religious teachings because of an inner urge. This is certainly true. Natural selection selects for traits beneficial to the individual carrying them. We “naturally” love, eat, like to be in company with other people, act altruistically, take on handicaps and do many other things without stopping to analyze them. It is also true that a society composed of altruists is often better off than otherwise. Still, we have been selected to acquire these traits and feelings because these traits contribute directly to the survival and the reproduction of the individual.


    Anava, A. 1992. The value of mobbing behaviour for the individual babbler (Turdoides squamiceps). M. Sc.. thesis presented to the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Hebrew with English summary), Israel
    Berger, H. 2002. Interference and competition while attacking intruder in groups of Arabian Babblers (Turdoides squamiceps). Thesis submitted towards M. Sc. degree. Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel (Hebrew with English summary).
    Dattner, A. 2005. Allopreening in the Arabian Babbler (Turdoides squamiceps). M..Sc. Thesis, Tel-Aviv University, Israel (Hebrew with English summary).
    Hawkes, K. 1991. Showing off: Tests of another hypothesis about men’s foraging goals. Ethology and Sociobiology, 12, 29-54.
    Hawkes, K. and Bliege Bird, R. 2002. Showing off, handicap signaling, and the evolution of men’s work. Evolutionary Anthropology 11,58-67.
    Huxley, J. S. 1914 The courtship habits of the Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) with an addition to the theory of sexual selection. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 35:491-562
    Kalishov, A. Zahavi, A. and A. Zahavi,. 2005. Allofeeding in Arabian Babblers (Turdoides squamiceps). J. of Ornith., 146: 141-150.
    Morris, D. 1957. “Typical intensity” and its relationship to the problem of ritualization. Behaviour 11:1-12.
    Kohn, M. and S. Mithen. 1999. Handaxes: Products of sexual selection? Antiquity, 73, 518-525.
    Miller, G. F. 2000. The Mating Mind. Doubleday New York London Sydney Auckland.
    Ostreiher, R. 1995. Influence of the observer on the frequency of the ‘morning dance’in the Arabian babbler. Ethology 100: 320-330.
    Petrie, M., Halliday, T. and C. Sandres. 1991. Peahens prefer peacocks with elaborate trains. Animal. Behaviour. 41:323-31.
    Pozis-Francois, O., Zahavi, A. and A. Zahavi. 2004. Social play in Arabian Babblers. Behaviour, 141:425-450.
    Zahavi, A. 1975. Mate selection a selection for a handicap. J. Theor. Biol. 53: 205-214.
    Zahavi, A. 1977a. Reliability in communication systems and the evolution of altruism. In: Evolutionary Ecology, ed. B. Stonehouse, and C.M. Perrins. pp253-259. London: Macmillan Press.
    Zahavi, A. 1977b. The testing of a bond. Animal. Behaviour. 25: 246-247.
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    Zahavi , A. 1995. Altruism as a handicap – the limitations of kin selection and reciprocity. Avian Biol. 26: 1-3.
    Zahavi, A. and A.Zahavi, 1997. The Handicap Principle. Oxford Uniersity Press. New-York. Oxford.
    Zahavi, A. 2003. Indirect selection and individual selection in sociobiology: My personal views on theories of social behaviour. Animal Behaviour, 65, 859-863.


  38. JBob, in an 80 % local and 20 % not-local economy, it’s obvious that for most economies the production of solar panels would belong to the 20 %. While bakeries for example should be a part of the local economy. It’s a huge difference between high-tech and low-tech, although much high-tech better should have been replaced with low-tech. This it what it means to be a permaculture design opimist!

  39. JBob,

    you write:

    Craig, You aren’t the “mayor” of WPN. You’re the owner. Politicians don’t own the lands they rule over. They usurp such authority from the true owners of property.

    I take it this then likewise holds for tribal chiefs, right?

    By the way, you are technically wrong with the assertion that Craig would be the owner of the WPN: he of course does not own most of the content – the user and project profiles. These are owned by the users. So, his “mayor” analogy is quite appropriate here.

  40. Hi Tim,
    Thank you for your comments but I continue to maintain that profit, profit motive and profiteering have nothing to do with permaculture.

    Incidentally I beg to differ on the point that you did advocate profit for profits sake, by your use of Bill’s article to back up your need to make a profit from your business, a point you continued to maintain in your latest comment. This makes you part of the problem in my view, not part of the solution. Profiteering is exploitation. Bill advocates the use of ‘not for profit’ structures not profit based corporates.

    We should not be allowing ourselves to get too much caught up in money based systems and this is also something that Bill advocates with his idea of voucher systems for local currencies. I foresee, along with many professional forecasters, that the world’s financial systems are likely to be heading for a tremendous collapse in the near future, the like of which has never before been experienced. On this basis I couldn’t in any way advise people to place much reliance on monetary wealth, or property, for their future wellbeing as these things will have little value in that situation. On the contrary, people should be attempting to shed debt as quickly as they can and to move any surplus funds out of the banking system into more enduring options.

    However, all of this is straying markedly from the thrust of the original interview subject on the launch of the WPN site. This conversation was lead astray at the start by a couple of people who couldn’t accept the designer’s decision not to allow advertising on the WPN site. There have always been, and probably always will be, people like this who want to stir the pot mainly, I feel, for their own aggrandisement. There will also always, I hope, be people like me who can’t stand by and let them get away with it.

    I view permaculture as quite a simple process of caring, yield raising and return of surplus to the process, with most of the input of human involvement coming from the heart not the head. Yes, we need ideas and knowledge but they should serve the process under the direction of the heart.

    Pointless arguments about policy and also cerebral dissertations on Handicap Principles or Bowerbirds do not contribute anything to, or serve the process, in any way. They also do not serve to better promote permaculture to the external view of people investiging what the process is all about.

  41. Bernie, I’m sorry I’ve not been able to make you understand the importance of “the handicap principle”, which is one of the most important discoveries of the 20th century. There is no way we can create a sustainable human society without understanding this principle. Surely it would have been much better if you could have read the book “Det biologiske mennesket” by Terje Bongard:

    I’m sorry the book is not in English. Anyway, throughout the book Bongard uses the Arabian Babbler and the Satin Bowerbird as examples of the two sides of “the handicap principle”. Personally I completely agree with Bongard that the Arabian Babbler and the Satin Bowerbird are excellent examples for illustrating the two sides of “the handicap principle”.

    I’m also sorry if you reject the whole science of human behavioral ecology, which is about the understanding of why people act like they do in different settings. If the observation of human and animal behavior is irrelevant to permaculture design, I’m afraid there is something you have missed. Don’t you remember permaculture principle one, to observe and interact:

    In the field of human behavioral ecology Amotz Zahavi is a major player, and Terje Bongard, Norway’s leading scientist in this science, regards him with immense respect. I’m sorry you don’t understand his major contribution to humanity.

    In fact, Terje Bongard suggests a model to rearrange the whole organization of my country to fit the social side of “the handicap principle”, including the democratic model. I’m really sorry if you find his arguments pointless, and if you think his ideas are irrelevant to permaculture. Personally I find his ideas extremely interesting.

    I see it’s time somebody explain the importance of “the handicap principle”, and all we can derive out from its understanding, to the permaculture world. I hope somebody like Terje Bongard can do this, as I’m obviously not able to explain its importance properly. But if there’s nobody willing, maybe I’ll give it a try? This is because without including the understanding of “the handicap principle” into permaculture design, I don’t see much hope for the permaculture movement. Or for the world!

  42. Øyvind,

    that’s an extremely tricky issue. We all too easily fall in love with marvellous theories that manage to explain so much in the world around us. Then, we try to apply these theories and re-shape society in accordance with its promises. And often, that fails very very badly, in all sorts of painful ways.

    Karl Marx had a fascinating theory about society. The Nazis believed they had learned something from Darwin. Mao thought that Lyssenkos ideas about inheritance of acquired properties certainly must have been right. There is a long list of examples that failed in extremely bad ways.

    The “let’s build a society on the principle that man is inherently greedy” ideology also is on the way to fail soon, and, it seems, will fail quite spectacularly.

    The problem with observations is that their interpretation most often comes from some mental model that originated within the skull of some other human being. If you want to indoctrinate and mislead people, the best thing to do is to first give them a mental model.

    It is clear that the failure of the “man is greedy” model will leave a vacuum that will be filled by some other model for society. And it also is quite clear that we won’t have the resources to buffer the impact of another inadequate model. So, getting it not too wrong will in many places likely be a matter of survival. For that reason alone, I strongly advise getting some overview over marvellous ideologies that failed before adopting yet another belief about how people tick.

  43. Thomas is right on. The last thing we need right now is yet another ideology.

    I take you back to the title of this piece in an extract from the transcript:
    “WP: What is sacred about the practice of permaculture?
    CM: What is sacred is our inherent right to live free and gloriously.”

    People cannot live freely and gloriously under any form of mental model, however well meaning, because adherence to such things is all about the surrendering of personal power, liberty and self-fulfillment. The only hope we have for any decent sort of future is that people will start thinking for themselves and take steps to ensure their own liberty from political, ideological, religious and economic oppression, all of which are based on some form of mental model.

  44. Bernie,

    problem is though: one cannot make decisions without having some sort of mental model, hence “ideology” in the widest sense. (One may substitute “religion” here just as well, and if we had that discussion 100 years earlier, we would be talking about religion instead.)

    That, then, is precisely the reason why Gandhi considered the atheist perspective as that of ‘a man saying that he breathes but that he has no nose’.

    Ideologies are tricky things. My perspective is that, while mental models are very important simply because we cannot do without, it is crucial to realize that they are only models, made by humans, and hence one should take great care to not blindly fall in love with them.

    Personally, I already perceive David Holmgren’s Permaculture Principles as maybe one step too far in the direction of an ideologization of permaculture.

  45. Thomas,
    I agree. Of course we need mental models in order to function. The problem with writing is that it is very easy for the word images to not exactly reflect just what the writer was thinking at the time. Perhaps instead of plagiarizing the term ‘mental model’ I should have used ‘dogma’ which, as often used in references to religion, implies some sort of force or imposition of an ideology on others.

    Permaculture is of course, at a basic level, a mental model itself and I agree that there are cases where it is over-ideologized (if that is a real word) to some extent, not least in the comment pages of this forum.

  46. JBob, you continually repeat the need of profit. The fact is that there is no need for profit; we have just designed a society around the profit motive. Humanity has now been given an enormous new power through the discovery of “the handicap principle”, though some readers of this blog unfortunately disregard its importance. By using this principle and the huge knowledge gathered by the science of human behavioral ecology, we can now replace the profit motive with the in-group motive and other relevant patterns.

    People can be motivated by a long range of other tools than the profit motive. The fact is that the profit motive is in most ways quite destructive:

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