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Why permaculture?

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
If plough agriculture has been used successfully for thousands of years, why practice permaculture?


Idle dreamer

Rob Meyer


Joined: Nov 14, 2011
Posts: 103
One word: biodiversity. In the same vein though, resilience, self-reliance, decreased overall costs, and reduced environmental impact. Plough agriculture releases a lot of carbon into the atmosphere, and causes a great deal of runoff and pollution.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Are those really relevant though if a culture is able to continue for thousands of years in spite of pollution and runoff?

(I think they are relevant, but I'm trying to put myself in the shoes of someone arguing on behalf of plough agriculture - it's hard for me to do it! )
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
with monoculture, millions of tiny lives are snuffed out, plant and animal, some forever


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 614
Location: Northern Italy
    
  13
Ah, the devils advocate. I like you Tyler.

I share this question. In my area, it seems that people are content with the excess labor (job creation) and just the idea in general of following the path of:

1) Denude the landscape.
2) Grow things to turn into money.
3) Add manure when landscape becomes dead.

Honestly, I prefer this to what they do in my home in the US (same path, delete #3, add a ton of chemicals)...but.

Here's how I would approach that question....
I strongly believe that this system works in the short term but in the long term the land doesn't work anymore and they have to let it go fallow, which is another way of saying let it turn back into a meadow and get all the nutrients it needs which they stupidly took out. I also feel that in the long long term (over hundreds or thousands of years) even the fallow approach starts to not work.

I take that back. I don't really think it works as well as it could even in the short term. If we just look at a few things like
1) Carbon released through tilling.
2) 30% soil life lost through tilling.
4) Low rates of photosynthesis over the year in annual agriculture.
5) Eroei rates like 10 hydrocarbon calories in 1 calorie of food. I have to think that even with traditional monocropping, the Eroei rates wouldn't be as high as in a permaculture system that has stuff growing and dying all year round, consuming heat and sunlight as opposed to reflecting heat and sunlight via dead crops and exposed soil.

...we can see how perennial polyculture would be better. We would have to be destructively self-centered to believe that using the web of life as toilet paper is in any way beneficial to us in the long term. It's difficult, and I'd say impossible, to live on this earth while killing it.

One reason I think someone might feel that agriculture "has worked" is that they're not seeing the tail-end of what agriculture leaves in its wake. Mesopotamia and the Savanna used to be very productive eco-systems feeding a large amount of creatures (biodiversity). After agriculture had it's way, they've become deserts. The history of agriculture started with tearing down pine forests and cashing in on that rich soil built up over thousands of years. Soil that is no longer there, because it has long since washed into the sea.

I also feel that the best test of a culture's ability to be sustainable or "good" is the ability to stay in the same place forever. Agriculture has a history of moving into new areas when the going gets tough. By and large, we don't see that because it's "other cultures" that take over, even if the techniques are the same. That's no longer possible, since agriculture has spread into all arable land, and a lot that isn't or shouldn't be. I heard that only 11% of the planet's land is suitable for agriculture.

On a final note, I would say that perhaps the culture has been able to survive in spite of pollution and runoff, but at what cost. If 35% of arable land is now biologically inert, that doesn't bode well for the future, as those figures tend to rise. As do rates for species extinction. As for the pollution, that pollution I assume eventually works its way back to us and our immune systems are compromised and we have diseases particular to our culture because of it.

Hope this gets close to answering your question and gives you some responses for the "aggies".

That being said, I don't believe that people using plough agriculture are very amenable to change or reason or logic. They will have to feel an economic disadvantage before they choose permaculture, like not being able to cope with a drought, or better yet, see their permie neighbor raking in the big bucks.

best,
William

ps: I purposely took out all the "yous" and substituted them with more neutral pronouns, so that this would seem even less directed at you personally and more toward the logic you've presented. Hope that helps.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Thank you, these are helpful responses.

Shawn Harper


Joined: Mar 01, 2012
Posts: 220
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
    
    1
Allow me to add more pragmatic reasons.

First, permaculture is more productive long term. Simply put I can invest energy for 3-7 years and harvest the return for life. Plus as an added bonus each year provides a larger yield than the last year, unless a disaster happens.

Second, permaculture is easier. Instead of learning and using techniques to fight nature, you work with nature hand in hand.

Third, permaculture is cheaper. With traditional ag one must use pesticides and fertilizer, where as in permaculture both are provided by nature.


She changes everything She touches, and everything She touches changes.
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1391
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
    9
Because if I reach 80 years old it is possible that I can still go out and harvest but not likely that I can go out and plow. Heck - I can’t do it now. I certainly won’t have the money to hire someone to do it for me.

Speaking of money: My income is going to be very limited; if I get a food forest established now it may be the only thing I can afford to eat later on.

1. my projects
Isaac Hill
volunteer

Joined: Feb 28, 2011
Posts: 343
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
    
    8
Because a jungle full of food is prettier than an eroded wasteland.


"To oppose something is to maintain it" -- Ursula LeGuin
Hanley Kale-Grinder


Joined: Sep 30, 2011
Posts: 112
Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
    
    1
Simple answer:

For each land/water unit used, permaculture is more productive and produces a higher quality and diverse diet than plowing. It also builds soil instead of depleting it. Almost all major civilizations that have perished did so because they destroyed their soil and forests with abusive agriculture.
Alex Ames


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 351
    
    1
Jeanine Gurley wrote:Because if I reach 80 years old it is possible that I can still go out and harvest but not likely that I can go out and plow. Heck - I can’t do it now. I certainly won’t have the money to hire someone to do it for me.

Speaking of money: My income is going to be very limited; if I get a food forest established now it may be the only thing I can afford to eat later on.


I am not attempting to establish a food forest but a very productive kitchen garden and a few fruit trees.
My thinking is like yours in that I have abandoned plowing out of necessity. Tillers and tractors cost money
and require upkeep. You really can't afford to get anything fixed these days. People that have enough sense
to fix them are also trying to make money and will charge you almost as much as you paid for the machine
on virtually any repair that comes up.

I read one of Ruth Stout's books years ago. Then by some happenstance I discovered Bill Mollison on youtube and
then Emilia Hazelip the same way and I have a blended approach to the three of them with some of my own ideas
worked in as well.

The farmers in the area I grew up in always grew cotton and soy beans. Then they could make more planting corn.
So they sold off their cotton specific equipment and started growing corn. Now they think they would like to get back
to growing cotton but can't afford the equipment required to get back into it.

I like tools so I bought a bunch of very nice tools. The way I garden now I don't need very many of them anymore.
So that is a good thing as I see it. I have perennials and plants that re-seed and I save some seed. It feels like I am
about to get to a very good place.


Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 2404
Location: Vermont
    
  44
Tyler Ludens wrote:Are those really relevant though if a culture is able to continue for thousands of years in spite of pollution and runoff?


What culture would that be? According to Tree Crops, A Permanent Agriculture, the only culture that has not ruined the land has been the permanent type (trees). Most civilizations collapse due to environmental degradation.


My project thread
Agriculture collects solar energy two-dimensionally; but silviculture collects it three dimensionally.
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1391
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
    9
Alex, good point about the equipment. We used to have a riding mower. I don't know how to fix it and my husband had rods and pins in his spine so it is really too painful for him to deal with. Pushmowers are cheap and easier to deal with - plus it is good excercise to walk around the yard. Now if we had more property that would not be feasable but for our acre - lawn being restricted to large swaths big enough to get a big truck through - a push mower is fine.

This year I have started a 'natural' area - hubby is having a hard time with that because he says it looks messy. But he'll get used to it and then I will let it get a little bigger . Less mowing and I intend for the chickens, geese and turkeys to roam through there. Less mowing!

I gave a speech one time about sustainability and it had nothing to do with gardening. The point was what can we sustain? If you buy a 2+ story McMansion now, you may be able to clean those second and third story windows your self. And you may be able to get up there and patch the roof. You might also be able to afford to have someone else to do it for you. And you may also be able to afford to heat and cool it.

But can you guarantee that income stream? If not then it is not sustainable. If you get a smaller house now then it is more likely that you will be able to maintain it later on when you are less physically able and may have less income.

In my opinion these are also important points in permanent culture (or permaculture).
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Cj Verde wrote:

What culture would that be? According to Tree Crops, A Permanent Agriculture, the only culture that has not ruined the land has been the permanent type (trees). Most civilizations collapse due to environmental degradation.


The example was "China."

Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
Most traditional agriculture assumes a degrading of the soil / land. How is this successful? Okay, back when there was always a valley available to be clear cut so you could keep moving from one place to another, this was fine, because where you were would revert back to forest, eventually (or desert, unfortunately) and then in a few hundred years, you could come back.

But now, all the land has been staked out so you live with what you have, or... you don't live.

There are no more frontiers, so you can't act like you can leave your disaster for someone else.

A tidbit of info here, back when they originally cut down the rain forest in our neck of the jungle, you could grow beans and corn by merely throwing the seeds on the cleared ground, it was that fertile. (rainforest on volcanic lands, it doesn't get much better). Now, you have to work at it, add fertilizer, pesticides, etc.

I personally don't consider anything successful if the end result isn't at least at the same point as you started. i.e. the soil is just as fertile, just as much organic material, just as deep, etc. After all, would I be "successful" if my job was stealing from you? Well, I would be a successful thief I guess.

And those who practice traditional agriculture are nothing more than successfully exploit the land, to the determent of future generations.

Drop the population of the world back to 1 billion or less and traditional agriculture makes some sense since there will be plenty of land you can waste, and then let nature heal, but that is no longer true.


Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Really good points, Fred. Plough agriculture might have been "sustainable" in the past, but is certainly not now.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
gives me more choice of food options when i walk out the back door to forgage for a meal?
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 2404
Location: Vermont
    
  44
Tyler Ludens wrote:
The example was "China."



I had considered China, as in Farmers of Forty Centuries, but then here's the first few paragraphs of Tree Crops written in 1929:
I stood on the Great Wall of China high on a hill near the borders of Mongolia. Below me in the valley, standing up square and high, was a wall that had once surrounded a city. Of the city, only a few mud houses remained, scarcely enough to lead one's mind back to the time when people and household industry teemed within the protecting wall.

The slope below the Great Wall was cut with gullies, some of which were fifty feet deep. As far as the eye could see were gullies, gullies, gullies -- a gashed and gutted countryside. The little stream that once ran past the city was now a wide waste of coarse sand and gravel which the hillside gullies were bringing down faster than the little stream had been able to carry them away. Hence, the whole valley, once good farm land, had become a desert of sand and gravel, alternately wet and dry, always fruitless. It was even more worthless than the hills. Its sole harvest now is dust, picked up by the bitter winds of winter that rip across its dry surface in this land of rainy summers and dry winters.

Beside me was a tree, one lone tree. That tree was locally famous because it was the only tree anywhere in that vicinity; yet its presence proved that once there had been a forest over most of that land -- now treeless and waste.

The farmers of a past generation had cleared the forest. They had plowed the sloping land and dotted it with hamlets. Many workers had been busy with flocks and teams, going to and fro among the shocks of grain. Each village was marked by columns of smoke rising from the fires that cooked the simple fare of these sons of Genghis Khan. Year by year the rain has washed away the loosened soil. Now the plow comes not -- only the shepherd is here, with his sheep and goats, nibblers of last vestiges. These four-footed vultures pick the bones of dead cultures in all continents. Will they do it to ours? The hamlets in my valley below the Great Wall are shriveled or gone. Only gullies remain -- a wide and sickening expanse of gullies, more sickening to look upon than the ruins of fire. You can rebuild after a fire.

Forest -- field -- plow -- desert -- that is the cycle of the hills under most plow agricultures -- a cycle not limited to China. China has a deadly expanse of it, but so have Syria, Greece, Italy, Guatemala, and the United States. Indeed we Americans, though new upon our land, are destroying soil by field wash faster than any people that ever lived -- ancient or modern, savage, civilized, or barbarian. We have the machines to help us to destroy as well as to create. The merciless and unthinking way in which we tear up the earth suggests that our chief objective may be to make an end of it.


Can anyone one reconcile these two versions of Chinese agriculture? My only thought is that it's a large country.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
That is a powerful passage, thank you for posting it.

Alex Ames


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 351
    
    1
Brenda Groth wrote:gives me more choice of food options when i walk out the back door to forgage for a meal?


This is how I see permaculture being important. My needs provided and some excess to share with
friends and neighbors. My next door neighbor shoots me a deer every year in exchange for some tomatoes
and other vegetables. This I can get my mind around.

I don't know how you roll out permaculture on a large scale. The diversity limits pests and all manner of problems
without chemicals but I see it being a problem at harvest time if you are doing anything on a scale that will make money.

So I am considering the possibilities and looking for ideas that will work on a larger scale. Holzer, Geoff Lawton and others
who lead the "movement" seem to make ends meet by teaching courses and giving tours, etc. So I am not yet convinced of
a good way to make money with permaculture on any meaningful level.

I like the idea of being able to "walk out the back door and forage for a meal" that is very useful indeed.
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
Cj Verde wrote:
Can anyone one reconcile these two versions of Chinese agriculture? My only thought is that it's a large country.


I do love the book "Tree Crops", but there is certainly a wide diversity of bioregions within China. If you have access to Netflix, the 6 episode series "Wild China" is well worth watching. A lot of interesting footage from all across the country.
http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Wild_China/70205730?trkid=2361637

btw... i'm certainly not advocating plough agriculture in any way


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 2404
Location: Vermont
    
  44
I think the answer to my question is here:
Forest -- field -- plow -- desert -- that is the cycle of the hills under most plow agricultures ...


I forgot the key word is hills. Even in Tree Crops Smith says to leave the flat lands for annual agriculture. It's is when the hills are plowed that the land is ruined. So if the techniques of Farmers of Forty Centuries were used on the flat lands, it all makes sense.
Gray Simpson


Joined: Jan 12, 2012
Posts: 67
Location: McDonough, GA
Agriculture has only been around for 10,000 years. Humans lived as hunter-gatherers for millions of years before that. How's that for contiunuity? The diversity of cultures (as opposed to today's one global culture) meant that every habitable region on Earth had it's own well-adapted tribe of humans, who did very little to harm their environment. (read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn)

In fact, Wendell Berry talked about a Native American tribe that was forced off their land when the government created a wildlife sanctuary. However, the bird population decreased because there was no one left to maintain the ancient irrigation systems.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Gray Simpson wrote:(read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn)


I wish I could get more people to read it.
Rose Pinder


Joined: Nov 18, 2011
Posts: 124
Gray Simpson wrote:Agriculture has only been around for 10,000 years. Humans lived as hunter-gatherers for millions of years before that. How's that for contiunuity? The diversity of cultures (as opposed to today's one global culture) meant that every habitable region on Earth had it's own well-adapted tribe of humans, who did very little to harm their environment. (read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn)


Which cultures specifically? The one's I am aware of had harmful impacts on their environment (Native American, Australian Aborigines, and NZ Maori tribes).
Alex Ames


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 351
    
    1
Rose Pinder wrote:
Gray Simpson wrote:Agriculture has only been around for 10,000 years. Humans lived as hunter-gatherers for millions of years before that. How's that for contiunuity? The diversity of cultures (as opposed to today's one global culture) meant that every habitable region on Earth had it's own well-adapted tribe of humans, who did very little to harm their environment. (read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn)


Which cultures specifically? The one's I am aware of had harmful impacts on their environment (Native American, Australian Aborigines, and NZ Maori tribes).



Some things are relative. The Native Americans may not have had a single thought of preserving their environment for all I know. It may
just be that they couldn't eat enough to destroy it all. What areas they may have trashed, healed over naturally enough. What the Europeans
got was pristine compared to today. The Indian Chiefs were always depicted in early movies with that sad look and a tear coming down the
cheek at what was happening to their land. I think there was a strong element of truth in the way they were shown.

In my area if nobody shows up for 6 months to a year everything: houses, roads, cell phone towers will be covered with kudzu or
wisteria.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
The Plains tribes of North America could be considered to have had a beneficial effect on their environment. With fire and the help of the bison they created the North American prairie ecosystem, one of the most productive ecosystems on earth. Horticulturists (not agriculturists) in South America may have contributed to the productivity of the Amazon rain forest.

http://kennysideshow.blogspot.com/2008/05/agriculture-or-permaculture-why-words.html
Terri Matthews


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 405
Location: Eastern Kansas
    
    3
Tyler Ludens wrote:If plough agriculture has been used successfully for thousands of years, why practice permaculture?
Because I am no longer strong enough, LOL!

Because tractors are expensive and I cannot afford one, and I am not zoned for horses.

Because this is the only form of agriculture that, since I got Multiple Sclerosis, that I am satisfied with. The little trees are thriving, I ate my own asparagus yesterday, I have 3 vases of daffodils on the table right now, and permaculture has brought me a little of the lushness that I have always craved.

Permaculture works, and I can actually suceed at it. I wait with great curiosity to see what permaculture project I will do next!

As Shawn has said, permaculture is both cheaper and easier.
Alex Ames


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 351
    
    1
Terri Matthews wrote:
Tyler Ludens wrote:If plough agriculture has been used successfully for thousands of years, why practice permaculture?
Because I am no longer strong enough, LOL!

Because tractors are expensive and I cannot afford one, and I am not zoned for horses.

Because this is the only form of agriculture that, since I got Multiple Sclerosis, that I am satisfied with. The little trees are thriving, I ate my own asparagus yesterday, I have 3 vases of daffodils on the table right now, and permaculture has brought me a little of the lushness that I have always craved.

Permaculture works, and I can actually suceed at it. I wait with great curiosity to see what permaculture project I will do next!

As Shawn has said, permaculture is both cheaper and easier.



This is a great testimonial for the small scale approach to permaculture that I espouse. Don't quit that day job.

Geoff Lawton's youtube of the Kitchen Garden where he comes through the gate grinning like he has had a few shots of
his favorite herb is a great sales tool for permaculture on this small scale.

- He tells how to set up double row reach beds
- he shows the diversity that confuses the pests
- he intimates that there is an element of therapy working in this system
- and the kicker: Everybody should have one, some version of this.

Worth an occasional re-viewing.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
A link to that video would be fabulous right about now!

Alex Ames


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 351
    
    1
Tyler Ludens wrote:A link to that video would be fabulous right about now!



Just google it Geoff Lawton- Kitchen Garden youtube should do it. I don't know how to post links.

I also noticed I said "double row reach beds" and meant to say "double reach row beds" in any event
you are able to reach to the center from either side.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Geoff Lawton Kitchen Garden http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npB8qltaB6g
Alex Ames


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 351
    
    1
Tyler Ludens wrote:Geoff Lawton Kitchen Garden http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npB8qltaB6g


While you were hunting that up I went out and picked myself a nice salad. Three or 4 different varieties
of lettuce, a couple of radishes, curly parsley and a little flat leaf as well. I forgot to pick some spinach but
life goes on. Then I thought some garlic chives might spice it up so I stepped out to the herb spiral and got
some of that. Life does have it's simple pleasures!
Alex Ames


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 351
    
    1
In the video Lawton describes the food forest as an expanded version of the kitchen garden. I like the simplicity of
that idea. I am scaling things down to some extent. Zone 2 seldom comes into play. Introducing animals in to the mix
is not in the cards for me as I am currently set up. So that video has given me ideas. Sepp Holzer put hugelculture in
my head and that is how I built my beds. Scaled down and dialed back for my needs. I liked Emilia Hazelip's approach
and find it to work well. She had slug issues and so do I. What grows does grow well.


[Thumbnail for IMG_1612.JPG]

Rose Pinder


Joined: Nov 18, 2011
Posts: 124
Tyler and Alex, I agree that many peoples have had systems of food (and other) production that didn't involve ploughing and was relatively sustainable. But we also know that the North American continent, Australia and NZ all lost multiple species with the arrival of humans, and sometimes major changes to whole ecosystems.

My question earlier was about the statement "The diversity of cultures (as opposed to today's one global culture) meant that every habitable region on Earth had it's own well-adapted tribe of humans, who did very little to harm their environment.". I'm not sure that is accurate, and I don't think it serves us to idolise native cultures (not sure if that was what Gray was going). It might be better to be looking at them with a critical eye on their successes and their failures, as we should look at our own efforts.
Gray Simpson


Joined: Jan 12, 2012
Posts: 67
Location: McDonough, GA
No human culture has ever been perfect, it's just that the dominant culture(s) today are much farther from perfection. (We humans can't even agree what perfection is! I like how Masonabu Fukuoka put his revelation -- that nature is perfect just as it is -- into practice because it was impossible to explain to people in words.) Yes, everything always deserves a closer look.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Rose Pinder wrote:But we also know that the North American continent, Australia and NZ all lost multiple species with the arrival of humans, and sometimes major changes to whole ecosystems.


This is the case when any apex predator moves into a new territory. It is not unique to humans. There's evidence Smilodon, the Saber-toothed Tiger, out-competed or hunted to extinction many species in South America after it migrated south over a land bridge a couple million years ago.

Rose Pinder wrote:My question earlier was about the statement "The diversity of cultures (as opposed to today's one global culture) meant that every habitable region on Earth had it's own well-adapted tribe of humans, who did very little to harm their environment.". I'm not sure that is accurate, and I don't think it serves us to idolise native cultures (not sure if that was what Gray was going). It might be better to be looking at them with a critical eye on their successes and their failures, as we should look at our own efforts.


I think it would be nice to be able to discuss other cultures without (for once) being accused of "idolizing" them. I don't think there's been a single instance when I have been in this kind of conversation online in which someone did not mention "idolizing" non-civilized cultures when one is simply pointing out positive aspects of them. The "Noble Savage." One is never accused of "idolizing" civilization when one talks about the benefits of plough agriculture and cities.

I agree we should look at other cultures and evaluate their successes and failures. We can see that behavior of non-civilized cultures was sometimes destructive but generally not even a remote degree as destructive as the behavior of civilized cultures over a similar length of time. It took the Australian Aborigines some 40,000 to 60,000 years to turn parts of the continent to desert through burning of forest edge, compared to 10,000 years of traditional plough agriculture and pastoralism in the Middle East and 100 years or less of modern plough agriculture and ranching in the American Southwest. My own region had its carrying capacity reduced to 1/5 of what it had been in about 100 years due to plough agriculture and ranching. Native peoples had lived here for thousands of years in the lush ecosystem of the prairie, now virtually gone (the native peoples are extinct).

Here's a series of essays on this topic if anyone is interested in a comparison of civilized and non-civilized cultures: http://rewild.info/anthropik/thirty/index.html Though I do not agree with all the author's personal conclusions, the essays are well-researched and based on anthropology. They fly in the face of what most of us have been raised up believing about our own culture, while not "idolizing" other cultures.

And because I have been through this particular argument ("idolizing" other cultures) for literally years and don't wish to debate it again, I will remove myself from this discussion.

Rose Pinder


Joined: Nov 18, 2011
Posts: 124
It's alright Tyler, I agree with you and regret using the word 'idolise' (I know exactly what you mean about how that affects conversations and also don't want to get into that). Please don't leave, as I think how we look at other cultures is important to your original question.

I also wasn't intending to compare and contrast civ with native. It's a given that current modern practices are massively and quickly destructive and cannot usefully be compared to what other peoples have done/do.



This is the case when any apex predator moves into a new territory. It is not unique to humans. There's evidence Smilodon, the Saber-toothed Tiger, out-competed or hunted to extinction many species in South America after it migrated south over a land bridge a couple million years ago.


That's very interesting, thanks (and would make a great separate thread: at what point do human cultures stop being an ordinary apex predator within nature and become [whatever it is we are now]?).
Rose Pinder


Joined: Nov 18, 2011
Posts: 124
Gray Simpson wrote:No human culture has ever been perfect, it's just that the dominant culture(s) today are much farther from perfection. (We humans can't even agree what perfection is! I like how Masonabu Fukuoka put his revelation -- that nature is perfect just as it is -- into practice because it was impossible to explain to people in words.) Yes, everything always deserves a closer look.


I think it's not so much that we are less close to perfect as we are just completely insane I wouldn't see perfection as the goal so much as realigning ourselves with the rest of nature imperfections and all.
 
 
subject: Why permaculture?
 
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