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Any thoughts about this recent post & its description of Permaculture?


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Hi Hank,

Yes, I strongly agree with Hemenway, and am often frustrated with the stubborn idea that equates Permaculture with gardening in such a way that limits interest.  People interested in the general topic of "sustainability" often don't know that Holmgren's book: "Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability" actually is about sustainability in the broad sense, and they don't even bother to take a look, because they're not interested in gardening.  He uses examples from "gardening" all the way through, but you'd be hard pressed in using the book to learn specific gardening techniques. 

Here's a comment at on this article, and my response:

"I confess to being confused but possibly much enlightened. Permaculture to me has always meant an enlightened form of gardening/farming. Looking up the Oxford dictionary confirmed this; the word is derived from permanent + agriculture. However Toby seems to be suggesting a new origin for the word; permanent+culture, i.e. a more permanent way for society to live in our changing environment. If this is the case, it's a marvellous idea, the downside being that I'll have to have my Websters dictionary beside the Oxford, for quick reference."

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  • It's not something that Toby just invented. The term was originally from permanent+agriculture, but it was soon realized that this design system was applicable to so much more than gardening systems, and it morphed into the idea of permanent+culture. This is, in my mind the biggest problem - that people tend to think it's just about gardening or landscape design. Hemenway contributed to this mistaken identity with a best selling permaculture book that focused on gardening: Gaia's Garden.

    I try to get as many people as possible to read David Holmgren's book: Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability. The best single book I've seen that provides a realistic way to deal with the realities of energy descent. Whether you've got a home garden or not, these principles can be applied on all scales. Built from a foundation of expectation of less available fossil fuel energy, it is very much about most effectively harnessing the energy available in the most ethical fashion, and strongly influenced by Howard T. Odum's understanding of how energy flows, stores, transforms, feeds back, and sinks in all systems.

Thanks for the response David. I am familiar with & appreciative of Holmgren's comments & essays, but don't have his book yet. I'll have to take the next step! (I had been wondering about Gaia's Garden.)


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