GeneralWhy Permaculture?

Permaculture, Politics and Solutions Thinking

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
– Albert Einstein.”

How we think colours everything we do, that is indisputable. Our biases definitely affect our objectivity and clarity as well as our judgement, factors critical to effective solutions thinking. Permaculture is a discipline which embodies systems thinking, the ability to think holistically, to clearly see what is before us in its entirety, and to understand the relationships between elements of a system. Equally important to Permaculture is solutions thinking, the ability to create optimal solutions to address specific problems.

If we imagine the implications of these facts, and then consider the prevalence of politics in our societies, we soon arrive at a very fundamental question. Is a collaborative, solutions based system such as Permaculture compatible with competitive adversarial political ideologies, and can political bias affect the solutions we develop as permaculture designers, and our ability to work collaboratively?

Different paths, different goals

Permaculture as both a design system and activist movement has a very clear philosophy for addressing problems, which is very pragmatic and empowering – understand the problem, design a solution to the problem and take action to implement it in order to create the desired outcome. As a consequence, if we are unhappy with something, we don’t fuss and complain, instead we individually or collaboratively create an alternative that better suits our needs.

The Permaculture approach to problem solving is not shared by the majority of political ideologies and their respective advocates. Their general approach is to take a negative adversarial approach, define an ‘ingroup’ and ‘outgroup’ then attack the outgroup, the designated opponents, in order to defeat them and achieve a win-lose outcome favourable to them. This is destructive in essence, and not constructive or solution oriented.

When it comes to getting what they need, these political groups will expect and wait for others such as governments or authorities to deliver the solutions they seek, and they will lobby or pressure them to do so. In order to have influence, power is required, and so the game becomes one of acquiring more power than their competitors seeking attention of those in positions of authority. Obviously, this is not the game Permaculture plays.

Power seeking often becomes an unhealthy addiction, where more and more power is pursued, often desperately and recklessly. The goal of political groups is to spread their ideologies far and wide, to infiltrate groups (including the Permaculture community) to achieve their goals of winning people over to their side or making them sympathetic to their cause.

Are these differences between Permaculture and politics chalk and cheese, are they so fundamentally divergent in their operation and goals that we can readily rule out all political ideologies? No human affairs are ever that simple, it’s far more complicated than that. To better understand the problem, we need to more deeply comprehend what permaculture is actually about.

Defining Permaculture

Permaculture by its very nature is and always has been open, accepting and inclusive. It needs to be because it draws its vast body of knowledge from the wide-ranging wisdom, experience and practices of a diverse range of cultures and people across the world. Out of principle, what is learned that is of value to others is shared amongst all of humanity. As an extension of its ethical principles, Permaculture promotes and values unity, harmony and diversity. We would definitely expect that from a design system that builds communities and works with holistic ecological design.

Furthermore, Permaculture is an applied science, a holistic design system that emulates systems that exist in Nature to create sustainable human settlements and food production systems which integrate harmoniously with the natural environment. ATTRA (The US National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) describes Permaculture as “ecological engineering” or “cultivated ecology”. It has similar goals to engineering, to create solutions that solve real world problems, but in this case, in a sustainable way that is harmonious with Nature.

Permaculture values and respects Nature, and does not support the destructive ideology of western society that man must control Nature and beat it into submission so that it obeys arbitrary subjective human thinking.

Being an applied science, Permaculture has its foundations firmly built on the same foundations as all of science does, as in fact all western civilisation does. These are the foundations of logic and reason of the ancient Greek philosophers, the fathers of western thought. As such, Permaculture values logic, reason and science.

A key philosophy of Permaculture is “cooperation, not competition”. This cooperative spirit coupled with the ethical principle of “care for the people” leads to a focus on unity and harmony, to “integrate rather than segregate” people, to build communities rather than divide them.
This paints quite a clear picture of what Permaculture is all about and what it aims to do. This can serve as our touchstone or yardstick against which we will measure any political elements interacting with Permaculture.

This so far has been a reductionist analysis of Permaculture, looking at the trees in the forest, but what of the forest itself? If we step back for a moment and take a more holistic view, we become aware of a key critical point when discussing the interaction between external political ideologies and Permaculture.

What if Permaculture has its own politics? While some political ideologues may try to push their brand of politics into Permaculture (indeed some already have), what if there was no space to push their politics into because that space in Permaculture was already occupied? Would that not make the efforts of political intrusion both futile and extremely unwelcome?

Is Permaculture political?

It has been argued that Permaculture is political, inasmuch as it promotes a vision of a better world. Rather than protest and complain, Permaculture as a movement seeks to lead by example, take a constructive approach and implement positive solutions to problems rather than just dwell on the problems themselves.

In the PRI Article “David Holmgren On The Social And Political Underpinnings Of Permaculture” we see the solution-oriented focus of Permaculture clearly stated by David:

“I think that to some extent both for me and Bill Mollison, when we met we were at a point, for slightly different reasons, we’d both come to the conclusion that we didn’t want to fight against the world we didn’t want, but wanted to just actively create the world we do want.”

In the article, David mentions the influences of anarchist thinkers such as Peter Kropotkin and his work “Mutual Aid [a Factor of Evolution] and Solidarity”, as well as Murray Bookchin and his work in the area of Social Ecology.

It would appear that Permaculture is indeed political to some extent, the degree of which may be a matter of debate, but has no bearing on the point being made here. It has its political influences on which its foundations are built, which are in essence cooperative, non-authoritarian and ecologically minded. This makes Permaculture compatible with all life-affirming worldviews, and unites people through their common shared values and goals as defined by the three ethical principles – Care for the People, Care for the Planet, and the Principle of Fair Share.

Permaculture Politics 01

Permaculture as either a design system or an activist movement is a fairly comprehensive and complete, and it stands up on its own. It doesn’t need external political bits and pieces ineptly tacked onto it to make it ‘work better’ as some political ideologues pushing their own political views may suggest. It would appear that Permaculture has its own internal political thought, the politics of the Earth, the politics of all life! So, to the would-be bearers of external political ideologies, we can surely say, “sorry, we don’t need any, we’ve already got our own, thank you, goodbye!”

Individuals can bring their various and unique worldviews along for the Permaculture journey), that’s expected, as long as they respect each other’s worldviews (‘care for the people’ ethical principle). What is anathema to Permaculture’s goals of unity and cooperation is individuals or groups using Permaculture as a vehicle or platform to push their divisive politics down other people’s throats with the ultimate goal of creating a monoculture of thought! In Permaculture, we don’t ‘do monocultures’, we favour diversity, which includes diversity of thought!

Valuing diversity

Permaculture is inclusive and respectful of diversity, both in ecosystems and in human communities. Whatever people’s political leanings are, what unites us all is that we’re all humans living on planet Earth, which we need to care for in order to ensure we all survive collectively as a species. A house divided amongst itself falls.

Ironically, the political groups that proclaim diversity the loudest are usually the ones most opposed to it and hostile to the idea in its true sense. The call for diversity is usually a thinly veiled call for more homogeneity of thinking, a monoculture of the mind, where people may look different, in terms of race, colour, gender and so forth, but think exactly the same, in agreement with the particular political ideology of those promoting this false notion of ‘diversity’. Basically, ‘different packaging, all the same content inside’ is what they falsely call diversity.

That’s the part they don’t mention. True diversity embodies a broad range of beliefs and worldviews, creating a more balanced human ecosystem if you will.

Speaking of division, the problem with divisive politic ideologies is that they erect artificial barriers and obstacles between people and set them against each other. They discriminate against people on the most absurd criteria, namely the thoughts in their heads, their mental interpretation of the world they observe and the beliefs they hold to explain it as a cohesive worldview.

If we look at the animal kingdom, some animals compete for access to resources, a smaller number may even fight for them, and a smaller number yet may kill each other for access to resources, but humans kill each other over what they believe and think! Is this rational or civilised? This ugly form of discrimination based on thought powerfully undermines one of human society’s most positive traits that has evolved as a survival strategy – cooperation.

So, what does political divisiveness versus the cooperation favoured by Permaculture have to do with Permaculture design and solutions thinking? They set the framework in which the mind operates, and this has consequences that we will look into and explain below.

Solutions thinking and the false dichotomies of left and right

“Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.”
– Winston Churchill

Sure, Mr Churchill was no saint, and I’m sure the above quote will upset many whom identify with the groups he chastises from both sides of the political spectrum, but that’s not the purpose. This may not be science, but like all stories, tales or fables, it illustrates a valuable message, in this case, that inflexible, unyielding, fixed ideological positions at either extreme can be detrimental, and in our case, detrimental to objective solutions thinking.

‘Divide and conquer’, or more accurately ‘divide and rule’, has been a popular political strategy dating back as far as the reign of Philip II of Macedon (359–336 BC) who is said to have first uttered the words “diaírei kài basíleue” in Ancient Greek, which means exactly that.

When people are preoccupied with internal divisions, they can be more easily controlled. Politics is a kind of primal tribalism based on ideological belief that divides people according to their thoughts, that’s not debatable, that’s what it’s supposed to do! Even Machiavelli states this principle in his writings in respect to military strategy.

Any game can be played with intelligence or with abject stupidity. To play by someone else’s rules falls squarely in the latter. To play the ‘left vs. right’ game is to fall into the trap of the mindset of opposition. That’s not how life necessarily has to play out, it doesn’t have to be a competitive zero-sum game where one’s gain is another’s loss! There is always a middle ground, collaboration, compromise and agreement. Everyday life does not need to follow a fixed adversarial combative win-lose approach.

The reality is that there have always been people with conservative ideas that value stability and other more liberal-minded folk who like to experiment with ideas that value change, and they may have always disagreed, but cohesive communities have still functioned and flourished for centuries, millennia in fact.

There is no law in Nature that says people with different perspectives can’t cooperate! There are times when things must be changed because they’re not working. Conversely, there are times when things that are working are best left alone because they do work, and change for the sake of change can be detrimental to the welfare and cohesion of a community and create unnecessary risk. Both perspectives have something valuable to offer, and their solutions will either be appropriate or inappropriate depending on the nature of the problem and the timing.

As permaculturists we seek optimum solutions to the problems we encounter, and to foster innovative thought we exercise imagination, creativity and ‘think outside the square’. To lock one’s mind into a specific ideology and only search for solutions in a narrowly defined field of thinking impairs objectivity and the development of optimum solutions.

Yes, I’m saying that political bias impairs clear thinking and objectivity! Don’t believe me? Here’s some very obvious evidence from some recent research that illustrates this point beautifully:

Blinded by politics

“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
– Thomas A. Edison

An interesting study was conducted In April and May of 2013, by Yale Law professor Dan Kahan and his colleagues Ellen Peters, Erica Cantrell Dawson, and Paul Slovic. They set out to address the question that has puzzled scientists – why isn’t good evidence more effective in resolving political debates? We’re seeing the phenomenon with increasing climate change evidence worldwide and the responses of climate change sceptics who have political affiliations and alliances.

In this study Kahan and his team surveyed 1,000 Americans to determine their political views. Then gave them all a standardised test which determines math skills. It was presented in a non-political context, participants were presented with questions that required them to work out mathematical ratios to determine whether people who used the skin cream were more likely to get better or worse than those who didn’t.

To quote the Vox article on the study “This kind of problem is used in social science experiments to test people’s abilities to slow down and consider the evidence arrayed before them. It forces subjects to suppress their impulse to go with what looks right and instead do the difficult mental work of figuring out what is right.” [1]

The results of the test?

Most people failed, irrespective of whether they were liberals or conservatives.

Those who were unusually good at math usually able to solve the problem and answered correctly. These results support the researcher’s idea that subjects with greeter math skills were more likely to stop, work through the evidence presented to them, and arrive at the correct answer.

The second stage of the test was intentionally politicized to determine if the results would change due to the inclusion of a political element.

This politicized version of the test used exactly the same numbers, and therefore identical math problems as the skin-cream question, but this time the researchers framed the questions around a proposal to ban people from carrying concealed handguns in public, a very polarizing subject in the US. The test now compared crime data in cities that banned handguns against crime data in the cities that didn’t. The figures were presented so the correctly calculated result either showed that banning handguns in public worked to cut crime, or it had failed.

The results of this second stage were very interesting. No longer did math skill predict how well people did to solve the math problem. What they did find is that political ideology drove what participant’s answers!

Liberals performed very well at solving the problem when it was written to prove that gun-control did reduce crime, but when the alternate version of the problem was used where the right mathematical answer suggested that gun control had failed, their math skills made no difference – they tended to get the problem wrong no matter how good they were at math. It was the same case for conservatives, they had the very same test outcomes, only in reverse, in line with their political views on the question.

What the results showed was something much worse than this though, better math skills didn’t bring the two sides closer to solving the problem presented in the test, it actually drove them further apart.

The participants with weak math skills were 25 percentage points more likely to get the answer right when it fit their ideology.

The participants with strong math skills were 45 percentage points more likely to get the answer right when it fit their ideology.

So, the better someone was at maths, the less likely they were to solve the maths problem when arriving at the right answer conflicted with their political views. This would suggest that the more intelligent people are blinded to a greater extent by their politics!

The obvious question is why? Dan Kahan calls this theory Identity-Protective Cognition and explains it as follows: “As a way of avoiding dissonance and estrangement from valued groups, individuals subconsciously resist factual information that threatens their defining values.”  

He further explains that what we believe about the facts tells us who we are, and a primary psychological motivation most people have is to protect their idea of who they are, and their relationships with the people they trust and love. It is essentially a phenomenon of group belonging, and the threat of being cast out for being in disagreement with the group that an individual chooses to identify with. It appears that people, being social animals, are content to let the truth slip a bit or overlook it where necessary to retain their sense of group belonging.

The consequences of this phenomenon as it relates to solutions thinking in general should be quite clear.

Viewing reality through a political keyhole

Restricting one’s thinking to a particular political ideology and trying to develop solutions to problems that aren’t similarly confined is simply a naïve mental act of trying to fit the vast everchanging nature of the world and of life into a rigid, fixed human ideological perspective, a single solution. It’s like using only one tool, a hammer and treating every problem as a nail.

Businessman keeping a green leaf in his pocket

Ideological subjectivity is an unnecessary constraint on the objectivity required to develop optimal real-world solutions. It’s futile, so why don a mental straightjacket? I’ll tell you why. People stick to ideologies, pre-packaged worldviews, because they create a simpler and more comforting perspective of a complex world.

Some of these individual only wants to see the world in simplistic terms, where everything is black and white. A more intelligent approach to problem solving would be to take a holistic view that acknowledges the range of possible ideas and utilise whichever provides the most appropriate solution – this is pragmatic thinking that does not lock one into a mentally crippling rigid line of thought.

Another thing to consider is that sometimes the solution to anything, or what we seek as ‘truth’ for that matter, might never found in one extreme or another, but usually somewhere in the centre of the two. That’s a central idea in the philosophy of Buddhism’s “Middle Way’. Searching for solutions at the ‘edges’ or extremes only will inhibit finding the solution where it naturally exists across the wide spectrum of thought.

Let’s get real here, no political ideology has a monopoly on truth, it’s childish to even pretend that any one does. So why lock ourselves into the extremes of other people ideas? Why not try thinking for ourselves, and acting for the greater good rather than furthering someone else’s divisive political ambitions?

Distractions from the real issues

Where does buying into the whole political game lead us? Let’s consider the whole US ‘Democrat versus Republican game’ or its equivalent in any other western country. The reality is that the US is a corporate oligarchy and both sides primarily pander to corporate interests. The positions of power have been bought and paid for by powerful corporate interests that fund the parties which do not represent the will of the people at all. [2] While this sideshow of confected modern tribalism is going on and the masses are distracted, both sides are busy passing laws to favour corporate profits over public health, as they’ve done for a long time.

The question we need to ask ourselves is “What really matters, and what will make a real difference?” We can reclaim our power to choose the kind of society we want and what issues we want addressed. Better we choose rather than follow GW Bush’s “Axis of Evil” shenanigans or Obama’s politically correct social engineering sideshow nonsense about the government legislating who can use the male and female toilets.

Responsibility? No problem, just blame each other for any real-world issues that aren’t being addressed that the people are complaining about. Meanwhile, under both sides the war machine rolls on, spilling innocent blood while the corporate profits pour in from the activities of the military industrial complex to pump-prime the deeply indebted US economy.

The true “opiate of the masses” is divisive politics, and we know that’s the truth because that’s what governments use it for! Once we focus on the real game rather than the distraction, we can get on with the work of implementing constructive Permaculture solutions to address the world’s problems in the ways that we can.

We often hear many individuals state that they feel disempowered by one or other political election outcome. Permaculture doesn’t seek (or wait for) big government solutions. In fact, due to Permaculture’s eco-anarchic roots, its drive for community self-determination and its bottom-up grassroots movement modus operandi, increased government control and regulation does not sit well at all.  

Permaculture promotes the power of cooperative communities. Our real power lies in creating our own future rather than waiting for politicians to save us. By acting locally, withdrawing our financial support from unethical and environmentally damaging corporation by not buying junk food, not supporting retail monopolies, growing our own food or sourcing it from organics growers where they get a fair price for their work, we can make a difference. We can lead by example and reclaim or power to shape our own future.

Life is not a spectator sport, if we’re unhappy about the state of the world, or what politicians are doing, then it’s time to get out there and do what we feel compelled to do to implement real change. If moaning and whining about the results of democratic elections is not going to lead to positive outcomes, then its best to direct that energy to an activity that will. Remember, we’re activists and positive, peaceful change is what we do best!

We as a Permaculture community can consciously step away from distractions, the ‘game’ of divisive politics, but that won’t stop those political types trying to infiltrate. That’s where the responsibility falls on the Permaculture community, being true to their movement’s goals, to keep out those who see their political goals as more important, and seek to exploit Permaculture to promote them.


1. How politics makes us stupid, by Ezra Klein on April 6, 2014

2. Dr Mercola, Don’t Panic About Politics — Realize Where Your True Power Lies Instead, November 08, 2016


  1. Theres a number of false assumptions in this article. The first is that politics divides into just two extremes, the left and the right, with the left being supporters of change and the right being advocates for the status quo. Firstly, politics a spectrum with people holding a range of views across that spectrum. Take the environment as an example. There are those that believe the environment must always be places first, given priority over any human need or concern and there are those with the opposing view. Then there are those that fall somewhere along the spectrum (with movement to one side or the other depending upon the issue). So I might accept that some level of land clearing and development is necessary for human habitation but I want it done in a way that preserves some land for wildlife and minimises environmental harm. There are similar sliding scales for a range of political issues including education, the development of infrastructure, social welfare, immigration and so on through all the various social aspects impacted by political decisions (in other words, everything!).
    The author’s oversimplification ignores the obvious; Those at the opposite ends of the spectrum on any issue have a fundamental disagreement to overcome if they are to work cooperatively under a permaculture model. As much as I appreciate the sentiment of forming multi-disciplinary teams, when our problem is a conflict of values over something like the environment (and not just whether or not we need change) then no amount of facilitation or ‘social permaculture’ is likely to resolve our differences.
    Curiously the author quotes the homily about everything looking like a nail when all you have is a hammer, and then applies a permaculture hammer to the oversimplified model that’s been described. I also note that this inclusive new future won’t include people with strong political views to it also fails the inclusivity challenge proposed by the author.
    Ultimately, I reject the assertion that all political parties operate on an adversarial model and seek only to criticise their opposition. A perusal of the policies of any major party will reveal a wealth of proposals for activities aligned with their particular philosophies on a given issue. It’s true that the disagreements between government and opposition make interesting media stories, but the unreported day-to-day activity of building roads and infrastructure, funding public services including hospitals and education, providing government services and all of the other myriad government activities goes largely unreported. There’s a lot of unrecognised people out there on government salaries, including police, ambulance and fire brigade officers, teachers, public servants and DOCs workers.
    I believe that people with a knowledge of permaculture should be encouraged to join the political party that most closely aligns with their personal views. I believe Australian politics (or the politics of any other country) would benefit enormously from the injection of systems thinking, evidence based decision making and respect for diversity that permaculture brings to the table. We may have a future coming where our government systems collapse and we are forced to rely upon our own resources to survive, but wouldn’t it make more sense to change the existing system from within so that collapse doesn’t happen?

    1. I must agree There are more than a few moments of cognitive dissonance while reading. With out a long critique i submit in all cases value attribution is where the ivy twines. And i would humbly offer for consideration (that i intuit with out the math…)
      Engineering is Information ordered like a recipe, always heavy ladened with ethical intention, a kin to “strategies”, designed to achieve the intended.
      Engineering is first a social science.

  2. Hi Megan, thanks for your comment and the points you raised.

    You can appreciate that this is not a treatise on political thought, it is primarily about permaculture and solutions thinking, and how these are affected by political thinking.

    Despite a political spectrum of thought, curiously, you’ll find that politics does indeed divide into just two factions, the two-party political system is a mainstay in US and Australian politics and in many other countries.

    The tendency of left leaning people to be supporters of change and right supporters to be advocates for tradition is a distinction in human psychology, not political party ideology. There are neuroscience brain studies that have shown that the brains of liberals and conservatives work differently! That should make for a great follow up article.

    You mention that those at the opposite ends of the spectrum on any issue have a fundamental disagreement to overcome, and they have differences in values. Firstly, I’m not proposing that everyone hold hands and think loving thoughts, to resolve the differences between everyone, disagreement and differences are a natural part of diversity of thought and belief. I’m not proposing a neo-Marxian utopia of any sort.

    I’m suggesting that permaculture practitioners (not political parties and their staunch adherents, who are unlikely to change their thinking or behaviour) who wish to engage in objective solutions thinking need to look beyond the confines of certain political ideological perspectives to see reality as it is, because as the evidence presented shows, political beliefs blind us to reality.

    Secondly, on the matter of values, that is contentious, because all permaculture people should share the same primary values, the permaculture ethics, that’s what defines the permaculture community and their goals. With political parties, I would actually contend that they are often primarily driven by the goal of retaining power, and have no actual values. In Australia recently, the Gillard-Rudd-Abbott election debacle was described as a race to the bottom, with neither party espousing policy aligned with any values, one adopting a populist position of whatever goes that will get votes, the other adopting a strategy of targeted vengeance to punish the disadvantaged further for not voting for them. Where are the values here?

    If you really believe that political parties don’t operate on an adversarial model, the previous example should indicate that it’s worse than I’ve stated. They’re adversarial even to each other WITHIN their own parties! The drama of Shakespearean proportions which played out in Australian politics in the last few years in both of the two major parties is a case in point. What ensued made international news, the backstabbing, betrayals, factional battles and shady backroom deals to depose their leaders within the parties themselves. These guys tore each other to pieces! Not adversarial? Please check your facts.

    The message of this article is how political ideologies obscure clear systems thinking, which compromises our effectiveness as permaculturists, and how political adversarial behaviour impairs our ability to see past our differences and cooperate (with people who want to similarly cooperate) to build a better world, hindering our ability to implement solutions and create the world we do want rather than protest against the one we don’t..

    This is a very long reply so I hope I have addressed the points you raised.

  3. Thank you for continuing to keep Permaculture apolitical!!! May we let the sensibilities of math guide us in our decision making. If we do that, then as long as 2=2+4, our designs will stand well and accomplish their goals.

  4. This article makes VERY little sense at all unless you confuse politics with party politics. I think is highly political. Even the values earth care, people care, fair share. Discuss them with people and you will realize that there are a damn lot of people that actually oppose them! Earth care means we have to degrow the industrial society, people care means we have to care for the poor, the ill and work against discrimination (like being told to only use the toilet of the opposite sex), fair share means the abolition of capitalism which accumulates more and more wealth in the hands of very few, leaving the masses poor and without the means they need for a good life. I really don’t see how anyone could possibly argue that this is not political! For me permaculture is radical politics, wanting to change the society from the roots up (which is what radical means).
    If you take away the politics you have to take the values and you end up with ecological design which could be part of fascism, capitalism or communism where [Editor Edit:](nothing) is given about human rights, the wellbeing of people or fair share. But for me that is not permaculture anymore.

    1. Hi Ben, the article makes complete sense if read fully! You may have missed the whole section under the heading “Is Permaculture Political” which said “It would appear that Permaculture is indeed political… It has its political influences on which its foundations are built, which are in essence cooperative, non-authoritarian and ecologically minded.”

      The article clearly distinguishes the stark difference between divisive politics of many ideological flavours and permaculture’s politics of unity and cooperation. This is a critical distinction.

      The point is that permaculture doesn’t need anybody else’s external politics added to it (yes, especially party politics) to “fix” anything. Indeed, the article explains how many political ideologies, some of which attempt to infiltrate the permaculture movement, are inherently incompatible with the internal values, goals and politics of permaculture itself.

      Bill Mollison summed it up beautifully when he said “The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter”

      It should be clear that we are not those futile ‘garden-less’ revolutionaries who blindly peddle the divisiveness of their partisan politics, engaging in name calling and violence.

      Yes, permaculture can be considered radical politics, not because it is inherently radical, but because the world is so out of balance on so many levels, that in contrast, compared to where permaculture sits, it appears that way by comparison. Old Bill expressed this idea when he said “I teach self-reliance, the world’s most subversive practice. I teach people how to grow their own food, which is shockingly subversive. So, yes, it’s seditious. But it’s peaceful sedition.”

      Only in societies and cultures that are way out of harmony with the planet and all life, can self-reliance and food sovereignty be considered radical. In cultures that respect the planet and treat it as sacred, that’s a normal way of life.

    2. This a conversation worth having. Thanks to all who are contributing. While beliefs are important to each one of us, and honest, respectful communication is essential, none of it directly impacts the soil. Permaculture is many things to many people, and the problem being addressed here is how to bring it into the mainstream.
      I once heard an Australian Aboriginal Philisopher explain that their philosophy could never be integrated with Anglo European civilisation because; For Aboriginal people, Men’s Business is everything that is ‘out there’
      and ‘in your face’ and Women’s Business is everything cyclical or hidden. She argued that in White Australia Men’s Business is criminalised and Women’s
      Business is completely overlooked.
      For Permaculture to be integrated into the mainstream
      may not be the best solution. For Permaculturalists to
      Discuss and experiment with ways of replacing or working with the mainstream might be more useful.
      For example Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Institute’s
      Experiments with broad scale horticulture and dairy
      farming are courageous and useful steps in this direction.

      1. Rotha, thank you for sharing the perspective of the indigenous Australian people and their philosophies. The Aboriginal people’s understanding “that Men’s Business is everything that is ‘out there’ and ‘in your face’ and Women’s Business is everything cyclical or hidden” as you describe it is also shared in eastern philosophy. In Taoist philosophy all that is ‘yang’ is external, expansive, outer and masculine, while the ‘yin’ is the dark or hidden, inward directed, creative and feminine. In indigenous Australian culture, ‘men’s business’ is sacred, ‘women’s business’ also sacred, and the two sexes respect each other and recognise each other’s value and contribution in society and how it contributes to a harmonious whole. What do we have in our ‘superior first world culture’ (intentional sarcasm here), we have the ‘battle of the sexes’…

        People need to realise that modern Anglo European perspectives, political or otherwise, are but one of many ways of looking at the world and living life (and probably the very cause of our problems!) Looking at the way we treat the planet, frankly, I find the Anglo European assumptions of cultural superiority delusional.

        What point is a wasteful and destructive industrialized society if it is not sustainable? Where is the wisdom there? Having the humility to recognise the value of other people’s cultures, perspectives and the inherent wisdom within them is a true way of learning.

        Excellent point!

  5. Thanks for sharing Angelo.

    Way to often people fall into the trap of waving a political flag and thereby outsourcing the problem solving to someone else, whereas permaculture activism and principals force individuals to rethink their own actions.
    Even though the outreach of this type of activism might not be nearly as strong as from a this-or-that dichotomy, the effect in my opinion is much more valuable.

    1. Kaius, totally agree! You’ve nailed it right there!

      Many flag waving political types are actually avoiding responsibility and outsourcing their problem solving to someone else, whereas permaculture activists do take responsibility for their own lives, those of others, and the planet as a whole, take ownership of the problem and work together with others to implement solutions. This approach is much more empowering for individuals and communities.

      What you’ve described really shows the real difference in values!

  6. I’m largely sympathetic to the viewpoints expressed here, and the worldview expressed here, but I have enough self-knowledg to recognize that my viewpoints don’t necessarily represent “THE OBJECTIVE TRUTH,” as much as I try to align my perspective with reality. I accept the reality that I have my own biases. The author talks about discarding the Left/Right dichotomy as overly simplistic, then announces a very leftist view of the world as reality. Um, you need to take a step back and view your own views a bit more objectively, or maybe that’s just not possible, as you, perhaps unwittingly, demonstrate. These are important issues, and I appreciate the effort, but keep trying. ;-)
    I think the most important idea here is to stop merely wishing for an ideal world and get to work on creating it, through Permaculture. It’s not pointless to also be engaged in the political process (arguably disappointed Bernie supporters who sat out the recent U.S. election may have helped tip the narrow balance in a few key states), as votes do count. It’s a wildly imperfect system, but it’s what we’ve got to work with.

  7. Great thought provoking article.
    Divisive politics is indeed a problem.

    It would be great for permaculture to find solutions for some great political questions:

    To what extent shall we distribute money and resources such as land, in society?
    To what extent shall we place limits to how far rich one could be?
    Should genetic engineering of plants be allowed a chance?
    Localism or global governance or both?
    Free trade? To what extent?
    In what circumstances should abortion be permitted?
    Taxes? Universal income?
    Should guns and weapons be restricted?
    How can conservatives and liberals coexist? Or in similar way, science and religion?

    Can consensus be found?

    1. *It would be great for permaculture to find solutions for some great political questions:*
      I try to answer !IMO! and from my point of view as an ex-european, now self-sufficient person living since long time in Africa, where permaculture is traditionally common

      *To what extent shall we distribute money and resources such as land, in society?*
      Money is just needed as it is made for: an exchanging vehicle – land has to be logically 100% governmental/world – owned, because we wasn’t asked when we were born, but for now land should private owned, then one can decide what happens with it.

      *To what extent shall we place limits to how far rich one could be?*
      A real sulf-sufficient person don’t care at all about the rich. Let the rich! Just help the neighbours and the poor with exchange of knowledge.

      *Should genetic engineering of plants be allowed a chance?*
      As long as plants germinating alone and nobody wants money for seeds, no prob.

      *Localism or global governance or both?*
      Only local. A global representant only for the arriving Aliens. ;)

      *Free trade? To what extent?*
      The free market is the only instrument how the humanity can get equal. At the moment, the market is not free at all! (But the acteurs telling us). Free is it only in some parts of Africa, and there the society develops equal, but slow, so… fair. The market now has the wrong restrictions made by politicians who are controlled by the finanz-oligarchy. And their aim is injustice, just watch what they do and not what they say. As we know, it is easy affordable to throw poverty away, but no one is interested.
      So, lets make the market-conditions leading to justice and the world will become -just by the power of the market- fair. When I studied economics, that topic “free market” was never talked about, because they said: “we have a free market already”. We learned theories of Keynes, Marx, Smith…but never a solution for a fair market. All dogmatic systems will faile and never bring justice. But fair market conditions are easy possible.
      Example: A free market would not ask for driving license. A free market would sell cars to everyone, but a sensful law restricts the market in that way: no driving for underaged people. Now just think on your own, which actual market restrictions (patents, subsidies, taxes, costums, lobbying etc etc etc) are today sensful, sensless or how it could be better…always in the meaning of a justice/equal world. Normally I would call it “research” and that should happen at a university, but universities often don’t deserve the name “-Uni-“ cause they just teach the actual theories and that wont lead to research because changes can destroy the status quo and THAT is holy in economical terms. The injustice is concreted by the wrong market conditions. Now, just become your own market strategy researcher… ;) costs nothing, but can bring good ideas…
      And only for that reason (the new arrangement of the market conditions) we *might* need politics as the “voice of the people” to make a change. It would be called democracy, but parliamentary politics cannot be 100% democratic, even not 50%. Best democratic model these days I can see is in Switzerland.
      The actual politics is already explained here in the article with “divide et impera”. Nothing to add.

      Self-sufficient people deciding alone and don’t need daily politics(as their” voice”) maybe just like insurances or football, so not at all! As long as freedom for everyone is guaranteed by the constitution and safed by the law/judicative I don’t need politics.

      In what circumstances should abortion be permitted?
      Abortion should be permitted by the simple wish of the mother.
      As I live in Africa, I hardly recommend to limit the number of children to 2 or 3 by each family. It will happen alone, cause of the rising growing-up costs. Here is contraception free or very cheap, depending which way the woman choose. Just the church should change their dogma for that and Africa would be literally from one day to another “normal” in terms of reproduction. Otherwise it becomes here simply “darwinistic”.
      PS: As I teach my 3 children alone (homeschool) so the school stuff, sciences, animals, nature, art, music(piano, guitar) and languages (English, French) I can say: AFTER the self education of 3 children I am tired! It takes 16 years and then its really enough and time for pension or lifes evening. But THAT –education of children- is the biological job of parents. Not the job of the state! But that’s another topic.

      Yes, but low to feed the national health care (like the NHS in England), the national police(security) and manage food reserve fonds, in case of natural catastrophs

      *Universal income?*
      Self sufficiency doesn’t need that. It makes finally people willingles subjects, depending on the state(donator). It creates just consumers. Quite the opposite of what permaculturists want;)

      *Should guns and weapons be restricted?*
      Yes, guns and weapons should be only allowed by authorities who deal with them controlled and carefully.

      *How can conservatives and liberals coexist? Or in similar way, science and religion?*
      Every person should think and believe what he/she wants. Freedom in mind and speech is important for freedom of life. For the matter of self sufficiency, like planting, farming etc one don’t need to discuss different thoughts. Just plant and harvest. Live is not complicated, but its told so. Well, who believes it, get catched! Like the Voodoo Believe here;)
      *Can consensus be found?*
      Yes, but people have to change some habits and thinkings, but that won’t hurt. I can promise! ;) A free live with healthy food and plenty of time for the family (24/24) in a warm climate is the greatest lifestyle one can have (as I said: IMHO)
      The future of permaculture is hardly combined with the development of robotics and altenative energies, so the technical progress. Only when each family/community don’t need more than 2 hours a day to feed themselves (excluding cuisine) on own land with the help of little garden robots in common cause (cc), water circles, little harvesting machines or technics ->solar or wind powered, then more and more people might be interested in it, because they have beside their food enough time to make private other things (money-extern job, hobbies, travelling, exchange etc)
      As we talk about communities also, one can work his “ordinary” job and another one can take care of the Self-sufficiency. I don’t see really problems there, as long as we have an uncensored Internet and exchange our knowledge in forums or social networks for free. So common cause. Its not a long way anymore, we have so much wealth and knowledge on that planet compared to just 100 years ago, that IMHO the human project on that planet cannot fail anymore. We will sustain. Just buy enough land for yourself in a climate you want to live and earn food from, be peaceful, help your neigbour, take care of your family and that’s it. ;) Now Siesta!

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