Permaculture

A Critique of Permaculture, Cleaning Out the Stables by Peter Harper [2003]

A CRITIQUE OF PERMACULTURE

Cleaning out the stables.

Peter Harper

Centre for Alternative Technology

2003

[Introductory remark: This is a slightly modified version of an article originally written for

the Permaculture magazine in the late 90s. You have to make allowance for its age and the

passage of time, but I would stand by most of what is written].

In Crash on Demand, David Holmgren not only updates Future Scenarios (2007) work but also builds on his essay Money vs Fossil Energy: The battle for control of the world (2009), as a running commentary on the rapid changes in the big picture context for permaculture activism, especially in the Australian context.  It assumes understanding of these previous works and, of course permaculture.  ‘Preaching to the choir’ it may be, but hopefully it contributes new perspectives to keep permaculture activists ahead of the game.

Permaculture teaching and activism have always aimed to work with those already interested in changing their lives, land and communities for the better, rather than proselytising the disinterested majority.  Over many decades, idealistic youth have responded positively to the ‘can-do’, personal empowerment of permaculture design, but it has also attracted more experienced citizens disillusioned with top down mainstream environmentalism’s failure to stop the juggernaut of consumer capitalism.  Similarly, disillusioned social and political activists are just starting to recognise permaculture as a potentially effective pathway for societal change as 20th century style mass movements seem to have lost their potency.

David’s argument is essentially that radical, but achievable, behaviour change from dependent consumers to responsible self-reliant producers (by some relatively small minority of the global middle class) has a chance of stopping the juggernaut of consumer capitalism from driving the world over the climate change cliff.  It maybe a slim chance, but a better bet than current herculean efforts to get the elites to pull the right policy levers; whether by sweet promises of green tech profits or alternatively threats from mass movements shouting for less consumption.

Crash on demand (2Mg pdf)

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