• From Dan Palmer on Joel Glanzberg: Continuing the conversation about permaculture and working to regenerate whole living systems (E20)

    I wanted to chime in here to express my gratitude for you sharing your impressions Jeff & Rosemarie and more generally to bring this fascinating situation into the open.

    One the one hand we have a seasoned permaculturalist (in the form Joel Glanzberg) who has been doing great practical permaculture stuff for over three decades (Including one of the centrepiece three-decade-old food forest examples in Gaia’s garden). Who here in his open letter is attempting to distill and make accessible what he’s learned about the potential and promise of permaculture relative to some of the less promising pathways he sees it walking down.

    On the other we have, I’m assuming, two other well-meaning folk interested in permaculture, namely Jeff and Rosemarie. While this is the first I’ve heard from you Rosemarie, Jeff recently made an insightful comment on another post which tells me Jeff you are not a random trouble-making troll or whatever the lingo is. Anyway the point being Joel’s language lands for you as substance-free hippie mumbo jumbo. Which is fair enough. And where as interesting to me is that no-one else has chimed into say otherwise, possibly meaning that they are either unsure or in agreement with you.

    The situation that fascinates me here is I believe that unless there is some kind of way that more experienced permaculturalists, and in fact any permaculturalists, can productively share their considered reflections with others in a way that prompts some kind of meaningful dialogue, then permaculture is not only missing a fantastic opportunity to grow and evolve, but its chances of stagnating are all the higher.

    I mean this dynamic is pretty common I’m guessing to many forums outside permaculture. Someone takes some time to try and convey something they are deeply passionate about and others skim it and chime in declaring it empty bullshit or whatever. The upshot being zero progress and the likely devolution where any potential for civil, productive dialogue falls flat on its face where folk end up yelling “no your opinion is BS” – “no yours is” and so on, until they eventually each storm off in disgust even more convinced than they were when they started that they are completely right and the other person or persons are completely wrong.

    I mean perhaps Joel has just done a spectacularly bad job of conveying himself here. Certainly it is the first time in the history of this project such declarations have been made. However I would invite anyone in making such a sharing in future to elaborate at least a tiny bit. As in is there anything that you can relate to at all? Is there anything you’d be up for expressing an alternate view of? Is there anything at all you could share on top of your declaration of BS that might contribute to some kind of steps toward clarification or progress within permaculture? Even just sharing that you think permaculture is doing great and doesn’t need any critical self-reflection or further development would be great to know about.

    No pressure or anything, just an invite. I’ll continue to be grateful to any comments for they all give me valuable grist for the mill as in information about how this stuff is landing for folk.

    Thanks again,
    Dan Palmer

    Go to comment
    2019/06/30 at 12:20 pm
    • From Finn on Joel Glanzberg: Continuing the conversation about permaculture and working to regenerate whole living systems (E20)

      Just came back to this post, having seen Jeff and Rosemarie’s comments before and wondering if it ever went anywhere; shame it didn’t.
      I thought Joel’s writing was very clear and uncontroversial. Indeed, it seems to state many truisms from within permaculture and ask a couple of questions, all in all much less ‘controversial’ than much of the content you’ve been creating, Dan!
      And I couldn’t agree more about having a language for advanced practitioners to use to communicate. A recent shoutout for more ‘intro-level workshops’ for the British Convergence had me thinking about how I very rarely feel pushed or challenged at Convergences, often leaving feeling like I’ve had a nice enough time but not especially inspired. When you’re holding events of only a couple hundred people is it worth trying to keep the space broad and encompassing all levels of enthusiasm, or if the workshop offers lean towards being tailored for a more ‘advanced’ crew then should you follow that? Given the fairly slow-moving feeling of genuine permaculture in Britain right now, I know which I’d opt for…

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      2019/07/25 at 10:09 am
  • From Sue Laverack on Concept plans vs detailed plans

    Thank you, thInk you, thank you! I have been struggling with my diploma in Permaculture because most of my designs begin with a concept which is full of ‘roughly’, ‘-ish’ and the detail is often ‘it looked and felt right’ or changes happen becauze ‘it looked wrong’. But my tutor wants me to follow a recognised design pathway and tools explaining that I must be able to present a design to clients. This post has helped me see where we are missing each other and re-assured me that my way is valid if not mainstream.

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    2019/07/01 at 4:15 am
  • From Fraser on Carol Sanford on Living Systems Thinking (E19)

    That was a great interview, Dan. Lots to think about!

    I do find it hard to reconcile Sanford’s insights with my distaste for the whole mega-corp world (her clients include Google, Nike, Proctor & Gamble etc.) and the business self-help vibe of her website, which seems very focused on revenue growth. Given the terrible practices of many of these organisations, and the intrinsically harmful side-effects of a massive profit-extraction machine, it’s hard to understand how a concept of ‘regeneration’ is relevant.

    Not that I’m judging Sanford for working with these organisations – I work in the corporate IT industry myself – I just struggle to understand the apparent disconnect.

    However, the ideas from the interview did really speak to me; so I’ve just started reading “No More Feedback”. Don’t want to judge the book by its cover, so to speak.

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    2019/07/01 at 12:03 pm
    • From Peter Kopp on Carol Sanford on Living Systems Thinking (E19)

      I’m with you Fraser. I quickly lost interest in Carol’s website due to the corporate vibe but I am fascinated by her thinking. Would be keen to hear your thoughts once you’re finished reading ‘No More Feedback’.

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      2019/07/02 at 6:29 pm
      • From Fraser on Carol Sanford on Living Systems Thinking (E19)

        Hi Peter,

        Having just finished the book, I’ve come back to your comment with a lengthy review!

        I think it’s well worth reading if you’re involved in any kind of employer:employee or mentor:mentee relationship. I’d definitely like to try applying some of the ideas to how I work with my manager.

        The basic gist of the book, as I recall it, is that all people naturally have some potential to become self-determining, autonomous, and to take responsibility for the development of their own potential, as it relates to their own life satisfaction and their contribution to the greater good (whether that’s an organisation, a society, or an ecosystem).

        In business, and many other contexts, “feedback” has become the most popular concept in managing people. It is somewhat effective, but has a bunch of negative effects that lead Sanford to consider it a ‘toxic’ practice. Some of these include:
        – It’s a mechanistic concept that doesn’t translate well to the complexity of human development as part of a “living system”.
        – Being authoritarian, it damages people’s ability to self-reflect, use their intuition, and take responsibility for themselves.
        – Despite the appearance of objectivity, it’s actually wildly subjective in practice.

        The alternative that Sanford offers is a “developmental” approach, in which the organisation has a high-level framework of values and goals, and the workers are supported to become self-reflective. Instead of providing feedback, she advises managers and others to become good at using the Socratic method to ask questions that help workers to come to their own insights about their current work and future aims.

        She doesn’t quite flesh out how to put this process in place; I guess it’s covered in her other books and courses.

        One thing I’m not entirely clear on is how broad Sanford’s definition of ‘feedback’is. The book focuses on feedback as a mechanism for staff performance reviews (and similar scenarios); I’d like to understand whether she thinks it’s also applicable to, say, offering and seeking advice more generally. I think Dan asked the same question in the podcast but I don’t think I quite understood the answer.

        Reading the examples in the book did help me understand why Sanford works with the organisations that I called “massive profit-extraction machine(s)”. They’re made up of people, and when people embrace a developmental/regenerative view of career development, it sets them up for looking at how to apply the same thinking in a wider context. There are a few examples in the book of people and companies using Sanford’s developmental approach in a way that countered societal problems. However, what I’d really be keen to see is some examples of people using the approach to tackle what I think of as the *inherent* negative effects of a mega-company like Google or Proctor and Gamble. I’m thinking of stuff like environmental damage, consumerism, forced obsolescence, political interference, exploitative third-world labour practices and so on.

        Go to comment
        2019/07/26 at 5:02 pm
        • From Peter Kopp on Carol Sanford on Living Systems Thinking (E19)

          Thanks for that great review Fraser. I’ve really enjoyed the recent series of conversations Dan has had with Carol, Joel, and then Bill. For me Carol has been the hardest of the three to get a handle on. I may have to read some of her books to try and properly understand her thinking. It seems that being clear on definitions of terms is key. I remember Dan grappling with her meaning of feedback, just as you did, but I think there was ultimately agreement and a happy ending. I think I’ll have to go back and listen again to her conversation with Dan. There’s been so much to absorb in the recent podcasts and I missed a lot of ideas because I was still mulling over previous points as the conversation continued.

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          2019/07/29 at 7:36 pm
  • From Finn on Adventures in Generative Transformation: Trying to Break Client's Design Ideas

    This is absolutely something I’d love some practical skill in! How to softly and gently tell clients that their idea is rubbish until the whole picture has been fully designed. I guess starting off with well articulated goals allows for this more easily, which itself is another process I’d like more practical experience and skill in facilitating…

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    2019/07/07 at 9:03 am
  • From Meg McGowan on On the topic of a practical, commercially viable permaculture design process with Artūrs Freijs

    Another great post, Dan, and thanks also to Artūrs for generating such great discussion.

    I agree with your point about client interviews. I used to send an advance questionnaire and usually found myself going back through it with clients to seek clarification on their answers. This was not energy efficient (and therefore against the principles about using energy efficiently).

    I would suggest that the starting point is to develop a macro perspective of the area using local knowledge and online resources. Working in the same bioregion means my knowledge of the relevant patterns, climate, weather, wind, sun angles, topography etc, transfers from one project to the next but there’s still a need to check how these factors will impact a particular site. Human made features like dumps, heat sinks and potential sources of contamination are worth exploring, as is the threatened and endangered species lists of plants and animals for your area. Noting the location of any large bodies of water and bushland will be relevant to local temperatures. Move from these macro patterns to the patterns on site, noting which reflect local conditions and which deviate. As an example, we are at the end of a keyhole valley so our primary high wind direction is altered. Notice patterns specific to the site and check observations when you can, for example with soil sampling.

    I also think there’s room in this process for auditing the property using the principles (whichever set you use). To what extent does this property…………….?
    It can be immensely beneficial to do this with clients. It’s not necessary to give them a lesson in permaculture. Just ask the questions. It’s sometimes necessary to reword them if the language isn’t clear for the client, but you’re planting lots of seeds regarding the way they view the space, and the kinds of things you’ll be doing with your design. I agree that walking the site with clients and listening carefully to what they say is critical. I also like to wander alone where possible. I see different things.

    I hope this is useful. I’m still working on my current best design process, and I keep redesigning it. I recommend that process too. Collect information, learn, analyse, ideate, plan, implement, review using the ethics and principles and repeat.

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    2019/07/13 at 4:16 pm
  • From Ian on Peter Kopp on the Mapping the Design Process series

    enjoying this extension of the chart; and yes, good resonance for me. when I take time to meditate on holistic design i come to the torus. Let’s spend more time in vibe land! [Paste pic here of torus but I can’t see place for attachment 🙂 ]

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    2019/07/20 at 7:48 pm
  • From Meg McGowan on Bill Reed: Staying in the Game of Evolution (E21)

    Wonderful. I use a similar analogy for whole systems by asking people to imagine dissecting their favourite pet into various sub systems; skeleton, muscular, circulatory, nervous, digestive etc. And then we talk about what ISN’T there. I have found people very quickly get to the “essence” of what made their pet more than the sum of the parts.
    Very much agree with your observation that we facilitate the place and the people to be who they are together.
    I make the observation that we are moving away from the historical (and patriarchal) “hero” narrative, and towards a collective, collaborative narrative where community and cooperation are the precursors for evolving the species.
    The motto of Vermont is “Freedom and Unity”! Perfect!

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    2019/07/31 at 9:44 am
    • From Meg McGowan on Bill Reed: Staying in the Game of Evolution (E21)

      I am also pleased to see ‘mimicking nature’ challenged. This is why I prefer ‘cooperate with nature’ because it allows us to consider the whole of nature, including our own nature, and how we might best return to a natural state of dynamic equilibrium within the context of our place.

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      2019/07/31 at 10:04 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Carol Sanford on loving people, seeing their potential and showing them how to do big things...

    YES YES YES!!!!
    Time to end “us and them” thinking and work cooperatively. If we are not prepared to engage with those that disagree with us in a loving and respectful way then why would they change their minds? If we are to honestly “use edges and value the marginal” then surely that means working with those that are at the edges of permaculture – the cautious business owner, the interested employee, the grounded CEO. I am sure there are those that would criticise me for using permaculture to redesign a police force, and those that would not approve of all the effort I’m putting into sharing permaculture knowledge in my own community, mostly with extremely privileged, right wing voting people, but both of these are examples of getting the greatest return on the energy I invest. It’s easier, and a lot more fun, to train people that are already environmentally aware and seeking to do good in the world, but I’m probably only slightly adjusting their current behaviour. The work I’m doing in the local community has seen mountains of materials that would have gone to landfill being shared for free, people cutting their water use, ending their synthetic chemical use, sharing tools and resources, improving local safety and campaigning for lowering the speed limit to protect wildlife. It’s also taught me that I have as much in common with my neighbours as I do with permies. Nobody wants to kill the planet.

    Carol’s thoughts on nature are interesting and challenging. I’m not sure I understand what she means. This debate seems to be about semantics. Even if I accept Carol’s contention that nature is an abstract concept and that abstract concepts are problematic because they limit our thinking I would still need to find a word to talk about the thing I mean when I talk about nature.

    I’m not convinced by her argument that talking in abstracts undermines our ability to take real action. I know where I can point to nature. For me it’s everywhere. It’s me, and the air I’m breathing and the food I ate yesterday and all things I see in the natural world. My challenge has been determining which parts of the human-made world can be considered “nature” and which parts cannot. So far, my best measure is the extent to which these activities or things increase ecological health when assessed using cradle-to-grave analysis. It has been more useful for me to contemplate the divisions between human nature, natural human and unnatural-and-human. I certainly struggle with the “we are nature” credo when so much of what we create and do is so destructive. Natural systems achieve dynamic equilibrium. I don’t think we can claim to be part of nature unless we can demonstrate that (and we can’t). My concern with the “part of nature” claim is that it can be used to justify a lot of very destructive behaviour on the basis that we are entitled to “garden” our world (where “garden” is taken to mean changing it in any way we like).

    I will keep rereading Carol’s comments and exploring more of her work. Perhaps I am missing her point. I suspect it will become clearer when I understand the kind of work she is doing and the results she is achieving. Certainly I am greatly enjoying getting to know more about what she is doing.

    Go to comment
    2019/08/02 at 2:27 pm
  • From Jason Gerhardt on Carol Sanford on loving people, seeing their potential and showing them how to do big things...

    Kill the language! “Best practices” is a fine start, but it doesn’t stop there. Everyone learns the “pattern language” of “change making” and it’s like using the words themselves makes someone KNOW the topic. A lot of rookie permaculture teachers out there are part of that. And some long time permaculture teachers never graduated past the minors too. “Regenerative” is on it’s way to becoming one of those terms as well! It’s shallow levels of intellectual and spiritual engagement that are weakening Life. THAT is the first point of intervention. To me, what Carol is saying, and if I get her wrong, what I’M saying is that you need to pick some living system and engage with it over and over and over again, which will take a decade at least, and learn about it before criticizing, congratulating, adopting, and/or trying to change it. We’ve lost our ability to dive deep. And we need guides other than social media memes, which, let’s be real, are the things that are patterning the minds of so called “change makers”.

    I don’t diss Carol for working with big business. They are made up of people after all, which are living systems themselves. I don’t work with CEO’s and whatnot, not because I think they’re evil, but because that’s not authentic to my experience in life. So I choose to work with those systems that I know. And much of the time that system is myself, even while in the moment of working with others. The crux of the matter is that we don’t even know ourselves. So what are we gonna do to get there? If we don’t understand the living-interconnected-system of ourselves, how in the hell will we work with “nature”? It’s abstract so long as the projection has been majority outward. Which is where permaculture has spent too much time in my opinion.

    Last, THIS is the issue with people learning permaculture for a perceived profession. Kill the profession! It’s not a vocation. It’s not a vacation either, the other side of that. So what is it? Don’t rest until you discover it.

    This blog is a great place to unrest your rest and especially to disrupt your unrest. Remember, ultimately the words aren’t gonna get you there.

    Go to comment
    2019/08/02 at 10:10 pm
  • From Peter Kopp on Carol Sanford on loving people, seeing their potential and showing them how to do big things...

    I feel like this is the meatiest conversation yet for MPS. Great stuff. The latest round of podcasts from the Regenesis folk has really introduced some great ideas. I love Carol’s style but I’m not yet ready to accept all her ideas. All of the points raised by Meg had me nodding in agreement. And I’m in lock step with everything Jason says. It’s just all great stuff.

    So my thoughts on what I’d like to see moving forward. Maybe it’s time for some weakest link analysis. Is it time to move away from the design process and focus elsewhere? I’d like to see a line of effort exploring how we influence people and thinking: ourselves, our families, our communities, our corporate and government leaders. How do we apply the design process beyond the built and biological, and get deep into the behavioural field. And finally I’d love to hear more voices from outside of Australia and North America. I know you have a guest from Europe coming up in the podcast Dan, but it would be great to bring in some Asian, African, and South American podcast/blog guests if you have any on your radar.

    But the current round of activity has been brilliant, so just keep doing what you’re doing.

    Go to comment
    2019/08/04 at 8:17 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on Carol Sanford on loving people, seeing their potential and showing them how to do big things...

      Many thanks for these thoughts about where to from here Peter (and thanks to everyone for your insightful, honest and even fiery comments on this post). It was already on my radar but your comment prompted me to book in a chat with my friend Charles from Uganda which I’ll record tomorrow. And yes re the other stuff too. We’re coming up to a significant juncture, I can say that much for sure!

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      2019/08/12 at 11:12 am
  • From Lizzy on Carol Sanford on loving people, seeing their potential and showing them how to do big things...

    Great thoughts and views by all. Carols approach to design in complexity allows for attitude change, emergence, novelty and innovation of solutions rather than starting from the assumption we can address everything from a point of expert led best practice.
    Abstraction is a very human trait. We are part of nested systems.
    I agree we want to avoid allowing ourselves to get lost in abstractions to the point of not being effective in our collective action or seeing ourselves as other than animal. That state may lead to despair in individuals as the problems feel too big to affect by my small actions; or delinquency from beliefs such as “I (as human) am better/higher in importance than any other living thing” or “technology will save us”.
    I see that currently a lot of design disciplines and movements appear to be struggling with their language which I think is an indicator of transitions in expertise in a connected world of information. We want diversity not adversity. It’s important to take the time to be careful with language to convey meaning (sharing our stories helps here and avoiding blindly adopting “buzz words” or dogma) and listen deeply.
    When a situation is complex ie, we can’t easily identify all the connections in the system or predict an outcome, There is validity in designing interventions by not tying ourselves to one goal or setting targets but finding out what can we change now, and how can we monitor the impact of that so we know what to do next (in effect consciously applying principles such as observe and interact) ?
    I hope these ideas contribute to the conversation constructively. Just back from three days focussed on complex adaptive systems and designing strategy so timely topic.

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    2019/08/05 at 11:23 pm
  • From Belinda Ogden on Carol Sanford on loving people, seeing their potential and showing them how to do big things...

    Note from Dan: Excuse the picture of my face – just passing on this comment Belinda made on fb:

    I loved your podcast with Carol and have since been looking at quite a bit of her work. I think she has basically explained to me why I am having so much difficulty with change and innovation in my current workplace especially compared to my previous workplace where we managed to transform for the better in an exceptionally short period of time. At the end of the day business as a whole is a big, wasteful conglomerate of things. We all still need some stuff and services no matter who we are or how hard we try to provide for ourselves. Let’s do it in the best way possible.

    Go to comment
    2019/08/06 at 2:03 pm
  • From Bill on Jascha Rohr on the Cocreation Foundation (E22)

    Great stuff Dan.

    Go to comment
    2019/08/12 at 12:58 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Jascha Rohr on the Cocreation Foundation (E22)

    Thanks for another great podcast, Dan.

    I have some thoughts about your ‘essence’ discussion. For me, ‘nature’ might be a better word. What is the nature of this place? What is the nature of this thing? To answer Jascha’s question about the potential for change, I don’t believe that identifying the essence or nature of something inhibits our capacity to change it. Far from it. There is no such thing as a blank canvass. All situations come with their limitations. Much of the damage done to our planet has occurred because people did not respect or appreciate the nature of things. They sought to impose their own patterns, systems, processes, limitations, constraints and so on upon something without due consideration to its nature (or essence). Perhaps the best example I can think of is dynamic equilibrium, which is part of the nature of all living systems other than human systems. Without an understanding of dynamic equilibrium, humans make decisions that disrupt the natural balance. Another alternative to ‘essence’ might be ‘pattern’. What is the pattern of this place? What is the pattern of this thing? When we understand the pattern, we can identify both its potential and its limitations. We can find what I call ‘points of leverage’ and what I think Carol means by ‘nodes’. We can sometimes find a point of leverage that results in a transformative shift. Failing to fully understand the nature or the pattern of something before we seek to change it is analogous to me handing you my prescription glasses and telling you they will improve your eyesight. Seek first to understand the pattern because only then can we find the most efficient ways to evolve it. It’s all gardening really 😀

    These are broad brush strokes. There are patterns within patterns within patterns, as you know.

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    2019/08/12 at 12:36 pm
  • From Pete Kopp on Jascha Rohr on the Cocreation Foundation (E22)

    I’ve been looking forward to this one and it didn’t disappoint. Thanks Dan for another great podcast. I’ll have to listen again to get the Christopher Alexander line you mentioned – something about intellectualising and feeling – it was the perfect encapsulation of some of my current thinking.

    I found the discussion of essence interesting. The idea of essence and personality, the way you describe it, is relatively new to me. My initial feeling is that the essence of a whole doesn’t change, but the way it is expressed – its personality? – will change depending on context. The way we interact with, and within, other wholes will influence the way they express themselves. This is how we can make change. The best we can do is immerse ourselves with other wholes to know their essence as best we can, then make decisions about how to interact with them for generative outcomes. Given the infinite complexity of living systems we have to concede that our decisions will be based on incomplete understanding – or what you said Christopher Alexander said 🙂

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    2019/08/12 at 6:01 pm
  • From Pete Kopp on Bill Reed on Aligning around Purpose, Levels of Thought, and Transforming the World (E23)

    Another great episode! There has been so much great stuff coming in through the recent series of podcast that I’m starting to feel overwhelmed. I’m trying to consolidate all the ideas from Bill, Carol, Joel, and Jascha; and at the same time new ideas of my own are swirling around in my head. It’s all fantastic and exhausting.

    I feel like maybe there is a neat alignment between the function, being, will construct and the Permaculture ethics; People Care (function), Fair Share (being), Earth Care (will). That’s what I was thinking during the discussion and I wonder what others think. I haven’t really developed the idea but thought I throw it out there for discussion.

    I can’t remember the exact language but the idea of ritually evaluating actions against purpose, being, and will is critical, I believe, so I enjoyed that part of the discussion. There doesn’t seem much point in alignment around purpose if you don’t also evaluate against purpose – including how and why we do what we do.

    And the discussion on levels of thought kind of whizzed by as I was mulling over other ideas so I’ll have to listen to that bit again, along with all the recent episodes.

    Feels like exciting times for MPS!

    Go to comment
    2019/08/20 at 4:57 pm
  • From Merry Cox on Bill Reed: Staying in the Game of Evolution (E21)

    Absolutely loved this episode. We need many more Bill Reeds. Unpack uniqueness, what’s the distinctiveness of place, dynamic unfolding of life and understanding…..LOVE this,

    Go to comment
    2019/08/28 at 9:36 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Exploring a Framework for Thinking about Permaculture Design in conversation with Meg McGowan (E24)

    Oh our pyramids are almost identical!
    Mine was influenced by Milkwood’s which I’m guessing was influenced by yours (or vice versa?) so I guess that’s no surprise.
    I loved your confessions of a recovering academic. I have no such affliction which might explain my plain speaking.
    Thank you again, Dan, for the opportunity to speak with you. It always informs and energises my thinking. I am deeply honoured to be in the company of Carol Sanford, Joel Glanzberg and Bill Reed, even if I do feel a bit like a wandered into the wrong room by accident 😀

    PS: I meant to tell you when we spoke that the captcha function on this page is glitchy. When I go to post a comment it sends me back to this page. I just click ‘post comment’ again and somehow I am now an acceptable human. It might mean you’re not getting as many comments as you would otherwise.

    Very best wishes with your continuing adventures in making permaculture stronger. Onwards!

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    2019/08/31 at 2:59 pm
  • From John Carruthers on Exploring a Framework for Thinking about Permaculture Design in conversation with Meg McGowan (E24)

    At first glance your framework seems pretty useful, Dan. It’s simple to understand and practical. Dismissing it off the cuff as “linear” seems unhelpfully premature! A more productive critique would be to ask: “In what kind of contexts could this framework be useful? And, in what other ways could it be improved to be more ubiquitously useful?” In answer to the first, well, it’s certainly VERY useful if you’re a practitioner wrestling with the everyday challenging choices around profiling a client’s readiness and supplying services, amidst the commonplace phenomenon of clients looking for certainty and tangible outputs rather than some sometimes more valuable but intangible outcomes, like fearless dialogue. Does that mean that every client-consultant dialogue need start at the lowest level and ascend to more sophisticated services. No, of course not. Dan, Bill and Joel on this podcast have already suggested optimistically otherwise. Not every client or consultant on any given assignment is ready to skip the more prosaic steps. (Although optimism leads me to assert that we all have the latent potential to do so with time.) Why? Because there are other things going on behind the framework that we’d be wise to pay attention to. Let me posit two: trust and commitment. Together they’re like a double-helix that helps propel collaboration; imagine for a moment trust and commitment (in equal measure from client and consultant) overlaid onto Dan’s model. Together these two attributes are necessary (and mostly) sufficient to support a range of service delivery scenarios proposed by Dan. Maybe the trust and commitment are both relatively low (and assymetrically so for the client). Then endeavouring to skip the early stages will be pointless (until something changes). Or perhaps one of the attributes is high but imbalanced between the collaborators. This is easiest imagined by flattening the helix into x-y axes and examining the combinations. What is most important here is that equal consideration be given to client, consultant and context. If the “chemistry” isn’t right to get to the upper deck of rich dialogue, why not? What’s missing? What can be done about it? What can be done to change it…I’ve got some elaborated thoughts, Dan, but I’ll save them for when we catch up next ..One passing thought: there’s nothing inherently wrong with linear frameworks or Cartesian co-ordinates per se, provided we don’t accept them as the ONLY or end frame and IF they cause us to think harder and ask better questions.

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    2019/09/04 at 1:40 pm
  • From linda mckittrick on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Eleven of Eleven) - Generative Transformation is part of what it means for Permaculture Design to come back to Life

    You are a total joy blessing and joy and the larger morphic field is delighting in you. I know mine is. Thank you. Reading this, and watching the videos (acorn/tadpole) as well as your discussions with folks, is like learning, yet remembering at the same time. I cannot thank you enough. Parts and wholes. Fun. In the moment design. Sounds like a good way to live …. the unlearning the relearning the more joyful living as life/nature “intended” dare I say “designed” us …..
    my total gratitude,

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    2019/09/06 at 10:22 pm
  • From Meg McGowan on Bringing it all together in just. one. diagram. (Part Eleven of Eleven) - Generative Transformation is part of what it means for Permaculture Design to come back to Life

    Standing ovation my friend!
    Just love this. We had a moment during a PDC recently that you’ll appreciate. I’ve been using Rowe Morrow’s place as a case study (because what could be better!) and as part of that process I created a beautiful, detailed, watercolored plan based on her property. When I introduced it I explained that this was not my design but Rowe’s. The plan had been done retrospectively……
    Just like the plan for our place……..
    Um…….wait a minute, was there a permaculturist anywhere that had done a plan BEFORE creating? Okay, maybe. I’ve seen some pretty gorgeous plans over the years and met some people that possibly did that first but I suspect they have the kind of imagination that allows them to explore the site in their mind and then use planning to make notes of what is essentially the beginnings of a generative process.
    Certainly I don’t know anyone that hasn’t deviated from the plan very soon after they started implementing it.
    So now the big challenge. How do we teach this?! I’m still using sector and site analysis and concept plans, as you know, but are they still too far away from the generative process?
    We need to talk.
    You’re not done yet. 😀

    PS: Your recaptcha is working again <3

    Go to comment
    2019/09/07 at 10:52 am
  • From Manuel Morgado on Bill Reed: Staying in the Game of Evolution (E21)

    The relation between types of people and biophysical context happens here in Portugal as well. People are far more conservative in the northern part of Portugal which geographer Orlando Ribeiro named as part of the “granite civilisation” while our metamorphic soils from the “clay civilisation” from the south – in the words of the same geographer – always bred far more liberal (hence embracing communist inclinations) people than the still–very-christian-to-this-day northern folk. Portugal has a very diverse climatology and on the south the cork-oak “montado de sobreiro” ecosystem is one of the most diverse in the World, protected by legislation precedented all the way to the XIVth century. Maybe one could argue that forest to be the long-term causality pattern for that, so some ethnographic fundaments for bioregionalism here? What could that school of thought (and design) be worth exploring regarding this issue about perception of Nature as a whole and ourselves as nested wholes within it?
    Or is my living-systems-thinking epistemology flawed? *laughs* I mean, this is a very interesting method to perceive design, as a whole, pun intended. A process nested between essences of living entities, to be true. However, this wholes and parts thing is always tricky. Could we assess further this method? Looking at the most common flaws among its practitioners perhaps. How do we walk this talk and keep track of our roles, purposes and being? How can we hone this method’s efficiency and be self-critical?

    How does this leaves us regarding the relationships between:

    Perceiving the Whole;
    Identifying nested Agents/Operative Parts(?);
    Understanding Roles and Purposes (Analysis?);
    Strategizing and Goal Articulating (Synthesis?);
    Planning Interventions; Analysing and Simulating (most people refer to this as designing itself);
    Implementing Plans and Adapting Them to Reality;
    Perceiving the Whole

    Go to comment
    2019/09/07 at 11:49 am
  • From Manuel Morgado on Carol Sanford on Living Systems Thinking (E19)

    Regarding environmental phenomenology and perception, why not interview professor David Seamon? He’s remarkable on Bortoft as well as many other authors as Christopher Alexander, etc. Would love to hear his words on biomimicry’s approach to design [Even if we can not actually mimic other living beings, why not learn from them for design?] as well as to understand what contribute discussing design could take from the Environmental Phenomenology. What does he think of Living Systems Theory?

    NCT (Niche Construction Theory) might also have much of value for this conversation regarding what is our role in ecosystems, but regarding that theme I have no clue about who to suggest 🙂 even though I quoted some of those issues for my master thesis dissertation, I haven’t kept up with the subject thus far.
    Been planning on writing to you for a while, but I have been busy such as yourself 🙂 meanwhile, I’ll just keep tracking where this is going, but I strongly believe you guys are right – matters of culture are matters of perception and knowing our role/purpose (someone will hate me, but you know what I mean haha) as/in Nature is very important as a whole and it is the philosophical core of most of these ideologies… someone would say it is not merely an intellectual act of awareness, but a spiritual transformation what is taking place. But let’s not go there without David Seamon 🙂

    Congratulations to you and all participants

    Go to comment
    2019/09/07 at 11:53 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Exploring a Framework for Thinking about Permaculture Design in conversation with Meg McGowan (E24)

    Oh and just to clarify, I agree that there’s nothing wrong with a linear model and some things, like building a bridge, should definitely follow a linear pattern. We’ve talked about this before. It was not my intention to be dismissive but constructive. I think what you’ve come up with is hugely useful and only questioned the pattern, not the content.
    I agree with John’s comments above, even though he seems to have misunderstood both my intent and my meaning. I also made the point that we don’t need to start at the lowest level and ascend. In fact it was the main point of my concerns with a linear pattern of description. I like his observations about trust and commitment. Both need to be built over time.
    I suspect that one of the traps of a design mind is that we become enchanted with patterns and models and can spend hours playing with them. Finding just the right analogy or model is exciting. The risk is that we can also forget why we were trying to define the patterns in the first place. If they help us to deepen our understanding and improve our practice they are useful. I do admit to sometimes finding myself playing with the mental models for their own sake, entranced by the seductive lure of an epiphany. Ultimately the test for me is how useful these models are to others. Do they improve their understanding and, more importantly, their practice of permaculture? Or are they just a more complicated (if beautiful) way of explaining something much simpler? I believe that I have managed both over the years. De Bono’s ‘Simplicity’ made me want to go back and redesign just about everything I’d ever done.
    I like how this model, once described by a non-linear pattern, has the potential to give new designers a scaffold for client interaction that allows them to achieve the greatest return on energy invested. I’m thinking it would be useful to our coaches and we’ll talk about it as the basis for designing different approaches based on where people are within that pattern. Thank you.

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    2019/09/07 at 12:07 pm
  • From Manuel Higgs Morgado on Bill Reed: Staying in the Game of Evolution (E21)

    Holy crap, I just realised they (Regenesis Group) are the guys I quoted numerous times when I was researching for my master thesis! What a coincidence – I read numerous entries on the Encyclopedia of Sustainability, Science and Technology, which was issued by Regenesis and Story of Place Institute hahaha… I had not the chance to connect the dots so far. Great work that one… really gives you awareness of the breath and depth of the broader environmental movement.
    The living systems thinking maps of “development” etc. were all part of my final dissertation for my Master degree in Architecture and deeply resonated with my own awareness of how design had been changing. If interested feel free to check it out, however, besides the quotes, it is written in portuguese so, sorry for that… ha, but you can still check the monastery project I’ve been a part of there and some images of the process at the project report annex.

    Go to comment
    2019/09/07 at 1:22 pm
  • From Dan Palmer on Exploring a Framework for Thinking about Permaculture Design in conversation with Meg McGowan (E24)

    Thanks John and Mel. I’m grateful to have you both exploring this stuff with me and feel resonance with both your comments. John I think you’re spot on re the trust and commitment piece.

    Now I’m curious to further clarify for myself what “linear” means and doesn’t mean in this context. A part of what a community of practice is about for me is co-evolving a clear, shared language. So humour me here. The online definition that came up for me was:

    1. arranged in or extending along a straight or nearly straight line. “linear movement”
    2. progressing from one stage to another in a single series of steps; sequential. “a linear narrative”

    Given the framework we’re talking about here is unambiguously about nested systems I can’t make the first definition fit. I see the framework in the same way I see the nested layers of cell, heart, circulatory system, organism or leaf, tree, forest, lifeshed, bioregion. If these are linear systems then I think the word linear has stopped being all that useful. Or even better perhaps is serve, rally, game, set, match in that these are more clearly activities that exist as nested layers.

    The second definition I can’t make fit either, in that while I think it makes sense to introduce the layers from smallest to biggest, there is no sense that you exit and leave behind one stage to enter the next. You go out as far as suits you but then all the layers that are part of your mix are then simultaneously present. For example I might be recommending and helping someone locate a composting toilet, while giving them some kind of basic design linking the toilet to several other things, while teaching them about design, while mentoring them in design process, all as part of inviting them into an emerging community of practice. The emphasis might be more in one layer than another in any moment, but the thing is pulsing and alive and there is no linear flow of where the emphasis will go next. Just like the cell is alive and doing its thing inside the heart inside the circulatory system inside the body.

    So I don’t see this framework as linear. To me an example of linear thinking in permaculture would be taking the machine-originated idea of a flow chat and having different boxes or bubbles linked by lines called arrows that you move through in a certain directions. Such as observe -> concept design -> detailed design -> implement -> evaluate. As I have previously discussed with Dave Jacke (which he speaks to in the first ten seconds of that episode).

    One thing I was wondering Meg was if what you meant in this context by “linear” was more around the fact the framework contains distinctions? In which case any framework, model or description is linear. There is also the fact that language is linear in that we say or write one word at a time, and of course to communicate this or any framework language is being used so there is linearity about in that sense I guess.

    Anyways that’s my two cents worth for now!

    Oh yes, I thought I’d also also share a distinction I’ve been finding helpful that I learned from Carol Sanford. It is that between a model and a framework. The idea with a model is that it is prescriptive, like the plans for a model aeroplane or something, and often is created and held and sold by some expert. A framework is more a set of questions or distinctions that is shared and held lightly in an open source of way where its job is to support the co-evolution of understanding and through this effectiveness in the world. Certainly my intention for the thing being discussed here (and which I’ll further explore with Jason Gerhardt and Morag Gamble in upcoming episodes) is that it falls into the latter category.

    Go to comment
    2019/09/08 at 11:16 am
    • From Pete on Exploring a Framework for Thinking about Permaculture Design in conversation with Meg McGowan (E24)

      The model v framework distinction is more useful, I think, than linear v non-linear. After all time progresses linearly, from one moment to the next, so in that sense everything we do is linear. What we are trying to avoid is prescribing in advance what must happen at some point (or points) in the future. That is ok if you desire a predictable result, but even then is problematic as it still involves the impossible task of knowing the future. Instead we need to be alive to the present and move with the flow.

      Go to comment
      2019/09/08 at 7:09 pm
  • From Craig on Exploring Developmental Pathways for Permaculture Designers with Jason Gerhardt (E25)

    Hey Dan – only just discovered your podcasts … or podcasts generally … hangs head in shame) – really enjoyed this one, particularly as my wife and I are in the throes of our (first) PDC which we are doing online given noone would be foolish enough to volunteer minding a near 3 year old for 2 whole weeks :-). The “what now?” question upon completion is something that is emerging as a constant thread amongst the participants.
    The previous podcast(s) with Dave Jacke were just as spot on – there is so much talk of permaculture being a “design science” but no real discussion or guidance as to how one goes about it in practice!
    Anyway, greatly enjoying the podcasts, your insights and infectious enthusiasm – cheers for your efforts 🙂

    Go to comment
    2019/09/19 at 4:12 pm
  • From Fraser on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: Recapping Phase One (and its problems)

    Good on you Dan, I’m looking forward to following along as you divine the essence of permaculture! (Does that mean looking at the roots? Or taking it back to the acorn?)

    Go to comment
    2019/09/24 at 9:04 am
  • From Greg O'Keefe on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: From Solving Problems to Developing Potential (E27)

    Yes Dan, you have done good stuff, but now you are _really_ on to something! There is something profound and important at the core of permaculture that has yet to be clearly articulated, and separated from the particular interests of those who have so far connected with it.

    Go to comment
    2019/09/29 at 8:37 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: From Solving Problems to Developing Potential (E27)

      Thanks Greg and I’m glad you’re feeling it too. I feel like I’ve been tracking a certain luminous being for a while now, as often as not losing the tracks and wandering randomly in the desert, wondering if the whole thing is a delusion until I find another clue. Another hair, or broken branch, or toe mark. Currently, however, I feel so much closer, maybe only a few hours behind it. Some of the prints are so fresh there is still water on the dry rocks where it exited the last creek. I’m starting to get little hints, little premonitions of what shape it is, what it smells like :-). Exciting times!

      Go to comment
      2019/10/08 at 10:17 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: From Solving Problems to Developing Potential (E27)

    Ah wonderful! Does this mean that holistic design turns out to be the next step on the journey?

    I put a comment on the PA facebook page regarding your last post: “I’m excited to know where you are going. Away from strengthening weak links and towards a holistic redesign? Love that the core is the core, and Brenna’s beautiful illustrations make it easy to understand.” I hadn’t seen this latest post at the time.

    This particular post resonates with me. I have never been interesting in solving problems. Our focus has been “How do we get more permaculture happening on the ground?” and by starting with what we hope to achieve we have found innovative ways to design, teach and mentor others. One of the great strengths of permaculture has always been the ethical foundation. How do I find more opportunities to care for the earth, care for people and share fairly?

    Systems thinker Peter Senge used to ask people to compare their organisation to a ship. He would then ask, “Who is the leader in relation to the ship?” Many leaders described themselves as the captain and some as the chief engineer in the boiler room keeping it all running. Staff described some leaders as cruise directors; calling in from time to time to keep morale up but not actually contributing much else. Senge suggested that leaders were actually the people that designed the ship. “People work within systems. Leaders work on systems.”

    Soft systems present us with mushy, complex relationships and my preferred approach is not to seek out weaknesses (although an awareness of them can be a significant clue) but to find points of leverage. Least effort for maximum return. Sounds familiar!

    I’m excited by your new direction and looking forward to what comes next. Thank you once again for the deep thinking and tireless effort. Inspirational.

    Go to comment
    2019/09/30 at 1:00 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: From Solving Problems to Developing Potential (E27)

      Thanks Meg! As I’ve shared I’m preferring Carol’s language of nodal intervention over the more mechanical idea of leverage and not so sure about the ship metaphor and the implication that people and leaders are different. I love the idea from adaptive leadership that leadership is itself an intervention, not a role and certainly not something that happens from outside the system. But I may be missing Senge’s point and I do appreciate his work in general.

      Go to comment
      2019/10/08 at 10:44 am
  • From Jason Gerhardt on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: From Solving Problems to Developing Potential (E27)

    I keep saying it, but I so appreciate how transparent you’re being in your own process. You’re not pushing a pre-formed message as an expert or evangelist, but instead allowing us to tag along on your walk through your developmental growth as it occurs, often along with your clients. The blog is like a little camera inside the unbroken eggshell of Dan Palmer. This post feels like a big peck at the interior, and the shell is cracking. All is in anticipation.

    I wanted to share something I’ve been feeling a lot. On this big project I’m designing and building out I’m getting to witness the potential creating process inside myself in real-time, seeing how much patience, non-attachment, and mental and emotional flexibility are required in this work. For some reason this project allows me to see the site and community development process differently. Perhaps it’s the scales of space and time that we’ve committed to, though it could also be that I’m just on the project full-time. Regardless, it doesn’t feel like a simple pivot from problem solving to potential creating. I think it’s the paradigm shifting, in motion. It’s not shifting from one idea to another better idea. It’s the abandonment of ideas as an organizing force in ones life. What’s left, for me anyway, is a freer experience of being. It’s light, and yet focused. It feels so, well, full of potential.

    Go to comment
    2019/10/11 at 11:35 am
    • From Dan Palmer on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: From Solving Problems to Developing Potential (E27)

      Thanks Jason and you are so right. The shell is cracking! Fuck! Thankfully the fear of entering an unknown new world is outweighed by the joy of what just might be possible out there. The next post is gong to be about the biggest peck so far. The shell’s beautiful work is almost done.

      I love how you put that, the abandoning of ideas as a driving force, and I’d like to hear more (there’s another episode topic, right there!). I have to share a passage I reread recently in Alexander’s The Timeless Way of Building where he says the same in explaining what he means by a pattern language:

      Get rid of the ideas which come into your mind. Get rid of pictures you have seen in magazines, friends’ houses …. Insist on the pattern, and nothing else.

      The pattern, and the real situation, together, will create the proper form, within your mind, without your trying to do it, if you will allow it to happen.

      This is the power of the language, and the reason why the language is creative.

      Your mind is a medium within which the creative spark that jumps between the pattern and the world can happen. You yourself are only the medium for
      this creative spark , not its originator. (p. 397)

      Go to comment
      2019/10/14 at 9:44 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: Collaboratively Developing Permaculture's Potential

    The map is not the territory and the tree is not permaculture. It is useful only inasmuch as it reflects the reality or assists us in understanding it.

    I actually think that the design process IS largely generic, with some variations between soft and hard systems, some branches based on whether we are problem solving or innovating and some acknowledgement of the fact that our systems are never ‘done’ but designed to constantly evolve.

    For me, the significant difference with permaculture is that our design model is ethically based. It’s not the only ethically based model, but being ethically based is what differentiates it from the fundamental design model.

    I still prefer to use a spiral to describe it rather than a tree. Perhaps your ‘bottleneck’ thinking has been influenced by the model. I respond with the observation that while a tree-like structure might create a bottleneck, actual trees don’t exhibit the same problem and have no difficulty functioning via their trunk. In fact, the trunk is critical to their success and their survival. A trunk stays relatively stable and puts on girth over time, with the top of the tree undergoing considerably faster changes. This is a fair analogy for the difference between the ethics and principles of permaculture (that serve as a foundation for all design) and the strategies and principles (context based and changing with technology, innovation and improvement). I still think the analogy limits thinking because the primary evolutionary opportunity for a tree comes from reproducing. Perhaps a forest is a much better model, with the soil being our ethics and principles?

    Here’s my latest design model. It’s a spiral. I played with trees. This worked better.
    The other (other) design cycle!

    Everything should be as simple as possible and not one bit simpler.

    Loving this new direction.

    Go to comment
    2019/10/21 at 1:39 pm
  • From Jarrod on Exploring Developmental Pathways for Permaculture Designers with Jason Gerhardt (E25)

    Great chat. Exciting to hear Jason announce his efforts toward curriculum pathways!

    “Find mentors and follow them around” golden tip!

    “Permaculture is an internal process”
    In here lies the key!

    If we dont really know why we’re doing a thing it will never be its essence. And in the case of permaculture alot of people feel the power, the wattage eminating from its essence just waiting to be practiced and nourished and ushered into evolution. Though we don’t even know it’s full potential!

    Thanks again for all this epicly thought and soul provoking work you are doing Dan and, of course Jason and all guests and friends of MPS!

    Go to comment
    2019/10/23 at 9:48 pm
  • From Kathryn Pegiel on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: Collaboratively Developing Permaculture's Potential

    Hi Dan you make some good points. I really found your endnotes about grafts interesting. And a thought ocured to me while listening is that the grafts are really a symptom of a greater cultural problem. To always have the answers. And rush to grab anything quickly that looks like it will do the job. A pattern you often see repeated in politics.

    Go to comment
    2019/10/30 at 8:06 pm
  • From Finn on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

    Hey Dan,

    This is another one of the episodes that largely went over my head and will have to listen back to again to make proper sense of it. I enjoy following your learning journey with the Regenesis group but sometimes I feel like I’m playing catchup to concepts and nuggets of wisdom you’ve come across between episodes, and I need a second listen to really tune into what’s being spoken about. Also I listened while doing the dishes, which might not be the best time to process meta-level thinking tools that I’m hearing for the first time!!

    Re: Originating Impulse, I think it would be remiss to not include Mollison’s ‘Prime Directive’ in our investigations. I don’t know where it comes from, but it is always quoted verbatim so he obviously wrote it down at some point, and is as follows: “The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.” (Source:

    Interestingly, in this interview Ben mentions that “permaculture provided [him] with a set of questions, which are the same questions he is trying to answer with the work he is doing today, whilst not providing the “mental tools” he needed at that time . I found this a very noteworthy statement – I have often in my head formulated permaculture as a ‘narrative’, a ‘way of seeing the world’, or a ‘set of questions’ which challenges the mainstream and strives for something else, because this is the way I most actively use it in my everyday life. However, these terms suck for use in an elevator pitch because they come across either too vague or too exclusive! My new favourite def. of pc, as of last week and I want to keep it for a while, is as ‘a field of study’ (trying to find ways to create human systems with greater ecological harmony/of meeting human needs while increasing ecological health). The benefit of this term is that it implies there are many roles: researchers, students, practitioners, social activists etc., all of which exist in pc. It also implies that it is asking some seriously big questions, none of which have straightforward answers and all of which are going to take a lot of time and energy to answer, and which can be tackled from multiple different directions.

    I know I preach to the choir which much of this, but I felt compelled to emphasise that the hugeness of the questions the pc community is trying to answer is what keeps us all engaged, motivated and still talking to each other as colleagues! Perhaps it was the case in the 80s and 90s that pc represented itself as having the answers to those Qs – I don’t know, I wasn’t there and can’t put myself in those shoes – but by the time I inherited the pc concepts and toolkit in 2015 it was very much my understanding, which will have been facilitated by the teaching process (although I know everyone leaves a PDC with slightly different understandings depending on context), that permaculture was in no way a ‘done deal’, it didn’t have everything ‘sorted’, and there was still a lot of work in trying to get it right every time.

    Now I guess the task ahead is formulating these questions (that I’ve referred to a lot but not articulated!!). I think the question IS the originating impulse, the prime directive. Perhaps you, and others here, will feel the need to strip back what’s already out there and try to go a couple layers deeper towards an innate essence, or perhaps reformulating the original writings of Mollison as questions is good enough. All I know is that getting the right questions is the next nodal intervention along our co-coppicing journey 😉

    I’m really interested to see what other folk put forward on this.

    Go to comment
    2019/11/05 at 8:58 pm
    • From Dan Palmer on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

      Thanks for this Finn and I’m with you all the way here and thanks for bringing in Bill’s prime directive – super relevant for sure. It is interesting that a lot of people have been telling me they’ve been listening to certain episodes twice or even three times and getting more each time. I’m not sure quite what to make of this in terms of how I go about things from here. Like should I be slowing the pace and aiming to get them such that folk can grab onto the key nuggets in one shot, or is the fact there are layers to go back and unpack for those keen enough rather a positive thing? I also want to repeat your “All I know is that getting the right questions is the next nodal intervention along our co-coppicing journey” – YES!

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      2019/11/26 at 10:14 am
    • From John Carruthers on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

      Hey Finn, you’re not alone (riffing Jason’s encouragement too). I reckon I’ve replayed the companion interviews with the other Regenesis principals too at least 3-4 times. While not doing the dishes (!) and with quiet reflection time in between. Only in that way have I been able to let their clarity really speak too me. This one will be no different I expect. Another absolute gem from the curatorial genius of Dan Palmer.

      Go to comment
      2019/11/07 at 7:16 am
      • From Dan Palmer on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

        As always you’re too kind John 🙂

        Go to comment
        2019/11/26 at 10:19 am
      • From Finn on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

        Ahh, time to focus followed by quiet reflection time, that thing of great myth that parents of tiny people often dream about, and barely believe ever existed or could again exist! ha 😉

        Jason, I wrote a long and drawling answer here, luckily I got interrupted and had to leave the computer and by the time I came back my thoughts had crystallised much better. For me, calling it a field of study (or even a discipline?) is more true because it brings with it the narrative of seeking knowledge by asking questions about the very essence of being and experimenting on them. Contained within that narrative is the idea of the ever-expanding knowledge base – ‘the more you know, the more you know you don’t know’. I think there are many fields of practice associated with the field of study which all share certain commonalities but definitely require different focus and skillsets. Perhaps fields of practice could be considered different types of experimentation, or perhaps fields of practice could mean something more like Holmgren’s seven Domains.

        In short, study = pursuit of knowledge whilst practice = application of knowledge. There is clearly already a great deal to practically do with all that we already know about this thing we call permaculture, but we can also acknowledge that there’s far more out there to learn than what we already know. Bringing it back to the elevator pitch, I also think that ‘field of study’ invites a more inquisitive mind than ‘field of practice’ – imagine the difference in response between someone who is interested and says “Great, how can I start learning?” (A) compared to “Great, what can I do next?” (B). I think A will sooner take the journey within themselves, whilst B will more likely want to be shown the nearest demonstration garden. I’m not suggesting one is better or worse, but they have different functions and I know with the way you’re thinking about refreshing your PDCs that this subtle difference could have large ripples.

        If you want help putting the finishing touches on your piece then hit me up, I’ve helped with some of Dan’s work and he’s always very complimentary 🙂 you can ask him for my email.

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        2019/11/08 at 10:44 am
        • From Jason Gerhardt on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

          Great points, Finn. Thanks for thinking on this with me. I like how you explain “field of study”. It has an inward characteristic, which is something I encourage in permaculture. Field of practice has an outward quality in the sense of application. I also like the idea of permaculture posing a “set of questions”. That has been my process. Lots of internal and external questioning, never ceasing.

          Ultimately, I think with something as aspirational as permaculture, it has to be both internal and external and maybe more. We need inward and outward forms of study and practice. I think the practice of designing and building (even just little design decisions implemented in ones daily life) is the space in which permaculture becomes a discipline that sharpens ones mental faculties and shapes ones character, so maybe discipline is a good term after all. Toby Hemenway and I discussed this idea of permaculture as a ‘discipline’ a lot. His argument was that permaculture doesn’t look like other disciplines that have a singular focus and typically many levels of study and practice. My argument was, well, what if we made it look more like that? Which is not to say we should make it an academic discipline (I tried that in academia, it’s not the way). I think it’s more like an evolutionary discipline for self and world improvement.

          We have to try things out in order to stumble and course correct, which I think is the experience of life in general. That’s the developmental process. I want to develop the proper guidance that leads one to use that process as a pathway to continue to improve oneself and the results one gets from ones work in the world, thereby improving the community of life for all. I also hope to provide something for those with the outwardly projected idea of improving the community of life. And ideally that sends them within and without, with a process that allows them to continually grow and improve. Or something like that. 🙂

          Go to comment
          2019/11/10 at 4:11 am
    • From Jason Gerhardt on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

      Excellent comment, Finn! Definitely stick with this podcast. Listen over and over. Ben has articulated something deeply insightful.

      I like your “field of study” definition, but want to seek your thoughts on permaculture as a ‘field of practice’. Does that shift anything for you? In general, much of your comment resonates with a piece I’ve been writing that recontextualizes permaculture. That it is a field of practice is a big part of it. I also think you are right on the target with the prime directive. Part of what Ben is saying in this interview is that we’ve not emphasized the personal transformation side of permaculture. I think that is the core of it actually and the prime directive is the germination of that seed. Permaculture is indeed aiming for something much larger. I hope to share the new piece I’ve been working on in regards to that soon.

      Go to comment
      2019/11/07 at 12:28 am
  • From Amber Lehrman on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: Collaboratively Developing Permaculture's Potential

    I also love the thought process behind this. I have only recently found this project and wish I had come across it much earlier. I teach the PDC through both the Kansas Permaculture Institute (in collaboration with 2 other instructors) and at the University of Kansas (on my own) and I have run up against these same issues in my students’ understanding. I struggle with how to explain what is both a design process and a state of co-evolving with an ecology over time. As I go through my own design practice and my own co-evolving with my small piece of the world and the constantly renewing process of trying to help others begin this journey, I have run into these same realizations and questions and struggles. I suppose this is a long way of saying thank you for doing the work and I’m so glad to have found you!

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    2019/11/18 at 10:52 am
  • From Amber Lehrman on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: Collaboratively Developing Permaculture's Potential

    In thinking more about this, perhaps the choice of tree is suspect. What if the model was an aspen, not an oak? An aspen grove is all a single organism with a single root system but many trunks and canopies generating from them. If a single trunk is not well suited to its place, it dies and a different one regenerates to try again. Applying this to the model, each trunk is its own variant on a design process customized to the place it is being applied but still rooted in the same philosophy/ethics/principals. Each manifestation of that design process (canopy) can itself look very different based on its place in the world just as one aspen tree can look different from another. I think this ties into the comment above about looking at the process as a forest instead of a single tree but with the addition of the forest still being, essentially, a single being.

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    2019/11/20 at 5:08 am
    • From Dan Palmer on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: Collaboratively Developing Permaculture's Potential

      Interesting thoughts Amber thanks. I’m sort of moving on from this whole metaphor in my mind, be it tree or forest, in that all metaphors are misleading (as well as hopefully helpful in clarifying certain similarities between one thing and another and in the process generating new questions). Yet I think your suggested tweak does shine a helpful light on a different aspect of this whole conversation, namely that each instance of a design process will (hopefully) be a unique variant on a deeper underlying theme. The question this generates for me is “what then is this underlying theme?” – a question I’m not ready to answer but so look forward to diving into and seeing what further questions it leads too. Look forward to exploring all this further in due course and hope to enjoy your continued input then!

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      2019/11/26 at 10:34 am
  • From Trevor Lohr on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

    There’s a lot in this conversation that I would like to respond to, but since it’s been over a week I’ll just speak to the originating impulse of permaculture.

    I recently attended a talk by farmer-activist Leah Penniman, of Soul Fire Farm in New York, which runs farming training programs for Black, indigenous and other people of color. She delivered the somewhat radical statement, “Permaculture has collapsed,” and later elaborated that she means it’s never explicitly integrated it’s true origins, and therefore has stolen from the indigenous beliefs, ethics and practices upon which it was based.

    If we’re going to talk about the wider conditions, context or system in which Permaculture originated, we should be addressing the stagnation and imminent decline of the global economy, and the very present decline of the biosphere. David Holmgren speaks particularly about this decline in a recent conversation on The Permaculture Podcast, and he offers the notion that our way of organizing land use, and the production of goods and services is not the only way. He was inspired by Mollison’s community of self-reliance, and both of them understood that many indigenous cultures past and present understood the intertwining of the health of their culture and the land, and as such organized land use and production in ways that benefited the environment and increased diversity.

    In my PDC, there was a token mention of F.H. King’s Farmers of Forty Centuries, and much less on the cultures that lived on their lands for millenia. I would like to expand the discussion on indigenous influences in Permaculture, and particularly in the area of design, but I think this will suffice for now as my two cents on Permaculture’s often detrimentally ignored originating impulse.

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    2019/11/21 at 12:38 am
    • From Jason Gerhardt on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

      This comment has been percolating within me for a couple days. Lately, I hear this idea that ‘permaculture is dead’ a lot. And it’s always chalked up to that is has “stolen” the ideas from indigenous cultures. I’ve been there, and after sitting with it for a long time, I’m very sure it’s not so clean cut. I think it behooves us to be more precise with our thinking and language.

      In everything I’ve experienced in permaculture, the originating impulse of it is to understand who we are and how we harmoniously relate to all things. Or as I say in my classes, “permaculture is about what it means to be alive in an ecosystem”. That’s not only an indigenous culture urge. It’s a human urge. Permaculture, and things like it, all arise from the desire to improve life on earth. In my experience, that’s why people show up to PDC’s, because they feel the inner yearning to wake up and develop harmonious relationships with life. This is an innate quality to every human, and I see no basis for any culture (or movement, or religion, or design practice) past, present, or future to claim ownership of that.

      It would be a disservice to see permaculture taken down by statements like “permaculture has collapsed”, because permaculture represents one of the few things that people today can grab onto and learn how to be in better relationship. We will need many forms of those things too. If I squint, it’s almost looks like the politically correct among us are saying people that are non-indigenous have no right to strive to decolonize their own minds and lives. And let’s face it, we’ve all been colonized by the separation, exploitation, greed, anger, and all the other things that industrial culture has programed us with.

      So perhaps the greatest potential is to ENCOURAGE people to learn permaculture and adopt it as a practice in their life. That feels like a very high order of positive contribution for the future. I don’t know why we would want to stifle that urge in others. That’s certainly not been the case in my experience with indigenous and traditional land-based cultures either, so something is amiss.

      To be more precise with our language, permaculture certainly has to recontextualize itself. It must include honoring indigenous cultures, it also must include a pathway for more and more people to learn ways to truly wake up, which inevitably means ancient ways will get re-articulated and made fresh for the time and people. We will have to grow to see that as a positive thing for life on earth.

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      2019/11/28 at 4:20 am
      • From Meg McGowan on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

        Hi Jason,
        I have responded to many of the ‘stolen from indigenous cultures’ comments by observing that:
        a: all knowledge is derivative and builds on what has come before. This is part of why our species has proliferated: we can learn from the achievements and mistakes of others (although our ability to do so is often outweighed by our preparedness to do so! 😀 )
        b: the indigenous knowledge in permaculture was not appropriated as it honestly credited indigenous knowledge where it was referenced, and
        c: indigenous knowledge was not the only thing that informed the development of permaculture. It was also strongly influenced by contemporary systems thinking, the rise of the environmental movement and the work of people like Fukuoka, Yeomans et al. So yes, it does reference indigenous knowledge but it is far more than JUST indigenous knowledge. It is an ethically based design pattern that can be applied to any design task.

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        2019/12/13 at 6:46 pm
      • From Trevor Lohr on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

        Thanks for your well articulated and very nuanced response Jason. I completely agree, permaculture’s essence is about relationships. I really appreciate the depth and coherence with which you addressed these “permaculture has collapsed” and “stolen identity” narratives.

        Usually when someone asks me the basic “What is permaculture” kind of question, I often struggle to reach the realm of fundamental human desires to deepen relationships on Earth, and how that work can address the trauma in human communities and bodies perpetrated by colonization from the dominant culture of the West. There’s so much depth and history to this core narrative because we’re talking about both societal and individual trauma and needs. There are many threads to trace, through social, economic and environmental justice, and often the lack there-of.

        The threads mostly lead back to wholeness, what it means and how it arises. This blog stands as a great example of a deep exploration of the meaning of wholeness, and how we might create it- or at least avoid contributing to more separation. So thanks to all for contributing their insights and experience to make it so rich and exciting.

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        2019/12/04 at 12:20 am
    • From Dan Palmer on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

      Trevor I really appreciate your input here. Makes me want to get Leah Penniman on the show – I love this ways of phrasing things around in how neglecting to integrate its true origins PC has been more prone to grab and import stuff from outside, where for me this has been perhaps more from modern industrial culture than from indigenous beliefs, ethics and practices. I would also like to expand the discussion you mention and would invite anyone out there to help us do so!

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      2019/11/26 at 10:41 am
      • From Trevor Lohr on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

        Yes Dan, I totally agree. You mentioned in a previous episode how Permaculture had merely imported industrial/reductive design strategies into its process, which I had also come to realize through my conventional landscape design classes. We were using essentially the same kind of categorized map layering that I learned in the PDC.

        It was mostly thanks to your focus on Christopher Alexander- back then- that I could see how similar the conventional design process is to the modern permaculture one.

        I don’t really agree with Penniman on permaculture’s collapse, but I think she’s right that many indigenous cultures exemplify permaculture’s deepest aspirations to be resilient and regenerative.

        I think Alexander offers a critical difference in perception between the industrial/modern permaculture design reductionism, and the more holistic spatio-emotional tool of the human ability to make beauty and community (human and non-human relationships) upon a landscape. It’s odd to think of Alexander’s spatio-emotional process as functional, but that’s the effect of a person moulding the space around them with their whole living context as an influence. We can’t mentally conceive of our whole living context in any given moment, which is why the rational process must at least be tempered by the emotional. One could say that the emotions are a kind of rationality, our “evolutionary environmental safety logic”. And of course, within socially-adept humans at least, emotions are so much more. I would say Alexander is closer to the indigenous perspective. The word “indigenous” means ‘born inside of’, so we can be sure that the English word ‘place’ is not the first word for human-land community.

        I don’t mean to paint indigenous cultures so generally, but the fact is that many lasted far longer than this modern civilization has so far, and I would argue that was essentially due to a core understanding and perception of “home” that allowed place-based cultures to maintain their land with a biogeocultural reciprocity. They shared narratives built over centuries and millennia that carried implicit truths about who they are, where home is, and how to respect it. It’s that kind of understanding of origin and essence which I believe we are seeking to recreate with permaculture. The essence then isn’t the narratives themselves, which are more like the ties that bind, but it’s the culture of kinship where all beings are included as kin. It’s the sense of continuity that comes from considering lineage and ancestry in the kin-ecological context, think of totems.

        I wonder a lot about that sense of continuity within the precious few remaining indigenous cultures. Their stories and cultures must have changed extraordinarily through the past and present colonial oppression to be represented today. I think such magnitudes of adaptation and resilience are only merely available in permaculturists’ dreams now. It’s those dreams that breathe intention into permaculture’s potential to flower within a dying civilization.

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        2019/11/27 at 6:23 am
        • From Dan Palmer on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

          I’ll plan to reply properly later Trevor but want to say thank you – I go so much out of this comment (and not only because it starts with agreement then has a central focus on Christopher Alexander :-)) and can’t wait to dip back into it. There are many flavours here that resonate deeply with what are emerging for me as the right next steps with this project. Actually I think this is not the first time you’ve demonstrated an uncanny ability to steal my thunder, come to think of it :-).

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          2019/11/27 at 4:14 pm
          • From Trevor Lohr on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

            Well the feeling is certainly mutual. Listening to your conversations, I often catch myself smiling when the subject weaves through the same threads I’ve been exploring on my own. I really appreciate your recent enthusiasm and focus on language, as I’ve also been digging into word meanings and etymology.

            For instance, the Old French meaning of “Develop”, *desveloper*, was to unroll, unfold, unveil, reveal the meaning of, explain. Even more interesting, it changed in English by the 18th century to mean: “unfold more fully, bring out the potential in”, “come gradually into existence or operation”, “advance from one stage to another toward a finished state”, “become known, come to light”.

            Exciting as some of those meanings are, I also think “Development” is a risky word to use in common circles without explaining our meaning, and how it’s different from the common understanding. I think most people hear a kind of biblical, “make Bread from Stones” meaning, which is practically antithetical to the meaning we intend. The common meaning is essentially a colonial imposition of space and a powerful meme or mental tool for extractive capitalism.

            There is another surprising word with a similar meaning as “Develop”, which I couldn’t help thinking about during this conversation. Apocalypse is generally considered to mean “end of the world, cataclysm”. Once again though, the etymology reveals a much richer origin in the Greek apokalyptein- to uncover, disclose, or reveal. The prefix Apo means off, away from, + kalyptein is to cover, or conceal.

            I was perhaps a bit overzealous to refer to the current global context as “dying civilization”, but there is certainly enough revelation available to anyone wanting to know that the cracks are now gaping chasms. Between dozens of countrywide protests by young and working people against the failed neoliberal economic consensus, and central banks ramping up their bail outs of the failing banks and corporations *again*, the global system that distributes our goods and services is looking like it may never, and maybe should never recover to its current form. I believe this past decade will be looked upon by history as The Great Stagnation, but also as The Great Revealing.

            I don’t mean to get too political, I just mean to address the context to which Mollison and Holmgren were ultimately responding with permaculture. There are certainly even wider contexts, larger wholes beyond our earthen economy and ecology, and I think we will need to consider even those systems at some point along our earthly descent if we are to true regenerative cultures into existence.

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            2019/11/28 at 2:09 am
  • From Adrian Hodgson on Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: Collaboratively Developing Permaculture's Potential

    Thanks for this tree colony model Amber. This had me thinking about what statistician George Box said: “all models are wrong, some are more useful than others”.

    Taking this aphorism as an axiom for my design practice I have been playing around with the idea that patterns become frameworks when we select them as potentially useful, they then become models when we begin to apply them to our thinking, and seen as they are inherently wrong (but some are useful) we can try to use at least 2 or 3 of them to strengthen our relationship to what we are trying to explore/interpret. An unlikely pattern choice can reveal the unseen.

    Ultimately this may just be a wild-design technique to add to my design proceeedures, though it has led to some interesting insights for me and helps me try to take some of the ideas that have been shared here lately into the realm of the practical.

    .. What an enchanting forest gap this space has been.. to sit on the log of this fallen tree and to contemplate things that could only be thought in just this place. Daydreaming a little, the light flits through the leaves at a penetrating angle.. it is late afternoon..

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    2019/12/01 at 7:56 am
  • From Trevor Lohr on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

    Forgive me for another long post, I’m in between jobs and have too much time on my hands. This is the most important post I wanted to make regarding the recent conversations though.

    I want to offer one more wrench into the works about this conversation around Potential. I see a danger that’s similar to our discussion on Development, where we are intending a different meaning from the colloquial usages. We must be very deliberate with our language, especially because we are discussing things that border on the indescribable (wholeness), which tends to prefer eloquent poetic illustration rather than rational dissection.

    I think there’s a problem of perspective in this definition of Potential. It’s particularly noticeable to me around defining the unique character of a place, project or being. We have to rely on someone’s subjective perspective of something objective, which is a problem in a culture that places such a massive chasm between subjective and objective. Then we use that same subjective perspective to describe what is currently called for in the immediate, local, and greater wholes it is nested within. And finally, we subjectively speculate about what actions could harmonize the unique character and what we think is needed in the future. So whoever gets to decide and name those aspects of another being is extremely important, because the potential must change with who’s mind is filtering the present and future conditions of a place or being, and especially with their perspective on the means of resolving those conditions.

    I don’t believe in such a rigid difference between subjective and objective perspectives, but their separation is palpable throughout our culture. The definition for Potential that we’re discussing may not save us from property owners making the same decisions they always have regarding their investments, namely short-term, exploitative and profitable decisions. Who gets to decide what the unique character is, what the pertinent conditions and needs are, and how to harmonize them can be a kind of gatekeeper whose own vision and intention are the driving force of their place’s development.

    So how do we reconcile this idea of a place’s inherent unique character and it’s current conditions with the problem of subjective perspective and its associated intentions? My guess is, *there is no inherent potential of a place that is separate from the intentions of it’s inhabitants.* Therefore, it is the intentions and worldviews of people that are the key leverage point in any place’s development and potential. So the highest value work is the cultivation of a culture that can maintain life-affirming intentions for generations, which means that we have to learn to make decisions bearing fruit that we will never see.

    Finally, I’ll reply below with an excerpt on Potential from a favorite book of mine, Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble by Stephen Jenkinson. He weaves an excellent narrative for the kind of village-mindedness that many people seek, especially Holmgren in his latest Retrosuburbia. In this chapter, he wonders about the history of colonization and the ways by which it demoralizes and exterminates place-based narratives and cultures. He makes a riveting case that the primary mechanism of colonial oppression is in our language. Through verbal reinforcement, a culture could be assimilated into the dominant culture within two generations by cutting the children and grandchildren off from their ancestors and linguistic traditions. In the first generation, there is trauma and cultural devastation, but by the second and third generations, those events are mere history, and the future of the West is far more captivating. Jenkinson lists four linguistic habits that feed our place-based poverty: The Universal, The Eternal, The Potential and The Inevitable. He refers to them as spells because they are so casually recognized and spoken, and yet so powerful in affecting our worldviews and what we believe is possible.

    Thanks again for all your patience with my long posts, I hope this isn’t leading our conversation too astray. It’s a privilege to have the time and space here to share my thoughts on the wonderful conversations Dan has been hosting!

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    2019/12/04 at 3:02 am
    • From makingpermaculturestronger on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

      Thanks again Trevor I so appreciate opportunities to consider and refine our language and the frameworks/stories/perspectives informing it. Potential is totally a kind of buzz word that so often gets used in problematic ways, one of these being so future focused the past gets left behind and we miss out on the present. I look forward to musing further on this and I’m also drawn to relating it to the idea of possibility and navigating possibility. As for the subjective/objective thing your guess re reconciling resonates though I’m enjoying moving from the concept of ‘leverage’ to ‘nodal intervention’ point in my thinking thanks to Carol Sanford’s prompt.

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      2019/12/13 at 8:35 am
    • From Trevor Lohr on Ben Haggard on Potential and Development in Permaculture and Beyond (E30)

      The Potential
      Chances are that some well-meaning teacher offered this to you, in the name of inspiring you or goading you: “You’re not living up to your potential.” When you hear this as an older person, it amounts not to inspiration but indictment. Apparently everyone else can see who and what you should be and do with yourself, and how to do it, though the self-evidence is lost on you. Alas, it seems that it may not be in your potential to live up to it. If you hear this as a young student, you are cast adrift on the secret sea of “could be.”

      Potential means something like “could be, but isn’t.” Held to a standard of “maybe,” young peoples’ potential is fated to remain an allegation. Forever in the future, drawing you towards itself, somehow more authentically real than you are—that’s your potential.

      Well then, what is the potential of whatever history you studied? What is the potential of children who are stillborn? What is the potential of the aged, the played-out, the spent? I know the instinct rises here to placate and to cheerlead, and I feel it myself. But allow the usual understanding of potential to run its course, and let the claim of the thing, its self-evidence, weaken as it will, and do you notice how little potential there is in the going, and none in the gone? That’s because potential requires a future, because potential is a hope-addled addiction to the virtual, to the fresh and clean, to the promise, to the untainted. To heaven, in other words.

      Never mind what’s been done, the dross of possibility not quite realized. What’s yet to be: that’s where the best part of us appears. That is as fundamental an article of faith in the West as there is.

      But prod this bit of the architecture of hope and faith, and mortar starts to fall away. If the future is the repository of the best part of us—for that is the faith architecture of progress, of evolution—what or who are we now to those who came before? Are we not their future? Are we not the best part of them shimmering into the world, into time? Are we not what they might have been, just as surely as the present is the past’s future. Are we not either the incarnation of their potential, or its exhaustion, or both?

      If that is who we are, the irretrievable playing out of what they could have been if only…, then is this the machinery of progress we’ve been tinkering with and relying upon for a good while now? Are we the betterment of our forbears? And if potential is that perpetual motion machine that grinds the past into raw material for a brave new us, could it be that the spell of potentiality that we labour under is what keeps our ancestors from us?

      No, we are not potential anythings. We are meant and dreamt somethings.”

      Excerpt From: Stephen Jenkinson. “Come of Age.”

      Go to comment
      2019/12/04 at 3:03 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Adrian Hodgson's Sketches on Design Process Ecology and Succession

    Hi Dan,
    Loving these explorations. I’ve been tossing around the client interview process. I have always done it after sector and site, but when I teach I acknowledge that many designers interview the client first. Recently I had a clear thought around why I don’t work this way. My friend and fellow designer, Sandi Pointner, said this:
    “When we were looking for land to buy, people used to ask us what we wanted to do with it. They seemed confused when I told them that I wouldn’t know what we were going to do with it until we found the right piece of land, did our sector and site analysis, and allowed the land to let us know what it needed, and what its potential might be.”
    The human ego inclines us towards anthropocentric thinking, where human needs take precedence over everything else. Surely one of the primary aims of permaculture is to turn this around and to reconnect us to our place in the natural world; to understand that we must first care for the earth before we ask what the earth can do for us. There’s a blog post coming (of course! :D)
    Now I’m shifting the client interview to even later in the design cycle and working on a model where we reconnect people to place, help them to read their own landscape in an evolving and ongoing way so that they can restore and rehabilitate before they reap and impose. How do we get people to understand that food production is not the aim of permaculture, but one of the many techniques we use to minimise our impact (at least) or to restore ecosystems (at best).
    Here’s my new favourite definition:
    Permaculture is an ethically based design pattern for creating and maintaining systems that rebuild ecological health while providing for human needs.
    I agree with Rowe: I am yet to see a design task that isn’t improved by applying the permaculture pattern. I appreciate that it is not the only design tool available to us, but it is a consistently powerful and effective one. What a debt we owe to David and Bill.
    I hope your health issues have resolved and that the move wasn’t too distressing for your family. I’m very much looking forward to the advanced design course next year.
    Best wishes
    PS: Your recaptcha is still glitching 😀

    Go to comment
    2019/12/13 at 6:39 pm
  • From Jason Gerhardt on Shane Ward on the Carol Sanford and Jason Gerhart Episodes

    I appreciate the ongoing attention to these topics. I still feel there has to be a successional process to generative transformation or to living through a different paradigm or anything that differs from where one is currently, but I’m sincerely sitting and practicing design with it and seeing what comes up. I have no final answer. One thing that keeps coming up in regard to the “to map or not to map” dichotomy is the map in my consciousness. I think that’s the crux of the matter whether I draw it on paper/screen, lay it out with bales, bricks, stakes and flags, or never articulate it materially before grabbing a shovel or directing an excavator operator. The question I’ve been most deeply with is, ‘so what’s the difference if it all comes through consciousness?’ I think the crux is HOW we are using our consciousness (and therefore how anyone working with us is using their consciousness), which is what I think Shane was getting at with “mastery” (or attitude). For example, HOW does one actually distinguish between whether one is interpreting or observing, or projecting or being more authentically present? My best insight here is that we need to start teaching about consciousness in Permaculture. The curriculum is fairly comprehensive about how so many things work and how we work with those things, but has very little to offer about how WE work, and further, hasn’t been giving us the tools to continually be aware of ourselves working. Design is just decision making, and that is conscious action. Consciousness, then, seems like a most important place to start. It’s where I will be starting the discussion of design process with my upcoming PDC. In fact, I will be weaving it through the whole course. We’ll see what comes out. (I know, I know, Bill Mollison is rolling in his grave screaming ‘NO WOO WOO!’ Sorry, buddy, but it’s all consciousness, and that ain’t no woo woo.)

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    2020/01/01 at 9:14 am
    • From Shane Ward on Shane Ward on the Carol Sanford and Jason Gerhart Episodes

      “I think the crux is HOW we are using our consciousness (and therefore how anyone working with us is using their consciousness), which is what I think Shane was getting at with “mastery” (or attitude). For example, HOW does one actually distinguish between whether one is interpreting or observing, or projecting or being more authentically present?”
      Exactly! 🙂
      It’s the ‘talking with’ rather than ‘talking to’ (the landscape) distinction..
      I’m trying to tease out this idea alongside Dan that if we aren’t conscious of our own role in the process and mindful of what we bring with us (hopes, agendas, patterns, expectations and & assumptions) then we start doing things TO the land again (which is what got us into this mess), and disconnect us from the reality of where we are – as many of us are not able to benefit from generations of deep local knowledge of our particular landscape any more – so gigging designers and those newer to it are starting from scratch (sort of) on each new site.
      If we go too far back into how we ‘feel’ (unquestioningly) about any element/plan etc, then it becomes much more of an ego-driven exercise where ‘the customer (us/the client) are always right’ and we repeat the mistakes again.
      All of this takes time, practice and self-awareness of where we are on our learning journeys etc – hence the mastery bit. You stumble and/or succeed enough and you get better at reading the signs and sensing which paths to take and so on. In the balance of ‘what the land/person wants’ – Bill leaned towards the land, and I kind of sympathise.
      For too long we’ve been imposing patterns, and it’s a hard habit to break. Even when we try to be better and walk the sustainable path, it’s all too common to see people fresh to Permaculture design instinctively do this (herb spirals, swales, hugelmounds anyone? lol), clinging to stamping familiar tropes, and therefore this idea of making sure we understand how we work and why we’re making choices is important.

      Go to comment
      2020/01/05 at 11:49 am
  • From Meg McGowan on Shane Ward on the Carol Sanford and Jason Gerhart Episodes

    Oh it’s all making me tired and confused. Maybe it’s the fires. Maybe it’s my lack of an academic education. So many complex ideas.

    I read it. Shook my head. Went for a walk. Came back and read it again. I think it’s all moved to a place that I struggle to understand, and perhaps that’s the point. I’m past my edge and out into the land beyond, but far from making me feel energised and inspired it has left me feeling confused and overwhelmed. I find a small, chewable chunk:

    “….doesn’t ask people what they want, and if they tell her, mostly ignores it (because what people say they want is so often different to the thing that would most reveal and manifest their essence and potential right now, not to mention being contaminated with however many limiting models and paradigms)”

    Okay, this one sort of resonates with some thinking I’ve been doing around client interviews and the ongoing discussion about whether we should do them before or after site and sector. It occurred to me recently that starting with client’s wishes/visions/dreams/desires/needs is about as anthropocentric as it gets. Finally I have clear reasoning for wanting to learn all I can about the site first, and to determine what the earth needs in this particular location. I also think this process should include the client in a kind of ‘allow me to introduce you to this land’ kind of way and I’m redesigning our coaching model to do this. I’m hopeful that this will shift them from wish list thinking to genuine connection with place and a deep desire to cooperate with nature rather than impose human will upon it.

    So I get not asking people what they want. And also the idea that goal setting can be limited by our current thinking (my latest blog post includes thoughts on this topic) but I am sorry to say the rest is beyond me. I might circle back again later and see if I can do better.

    Happy New Year Dan and thank you for all of the amazing and wonderful conversations, blog posts and deep thinking. You’re an inspiration.

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    2020/01/01 at 1:00 pm
  • From Meg McGowan on Shane Ward on the Carol Sanford and Jason Gerhart Episodes

    Oh it’s all making me tired and confused. Maybe it’s the fires. Maybe it’s my lack of an academic education. So many complex ideas.

    I read it. Shook my head. Went for a walk. Came back and read it again. I think it’s all moved to a place that I struggle to understand, and perhaps that’s the point. I’m past my edge and out into the land beyond, but far from making me feel energised and inspired it has left me feeling confused and overwhelmed. I find a small, chewable chunk:

    “….doesn’t ask people what they want, and if they tell her, mostly ignores it (because what people say they want is so often different to the thing that would most reveal and manifest their essence and potential right now, not to mention being contaminated with however many limiting models and paradigms)”

    Okay, this one sort of resonates with some thinking I’ve been doing around client interviews and the ongoing discussion about whether we should do them before or after site and sector. It occurred to me recently that starting with client’s wishes/visions/dreams/desires/needs is about as anthropocentric as it gets. Finally I have clear reasoning for wanting to learn all I can about the site first, and to determine what the earth needs in this particular location. I also think this process should include the client in a kind of ‘allow me to introduce you to this land’ kind of way and I’m redesigning our coaching model to do this. I’m hopeful that this will shift them from wish list thinking to genuine connection with place and a deep desire to cooperate with nature rather than impose human will upon it.

    So I get not asking people what they want. And also the idea that goal setting can be limited by our current thinking (my latest blog post includes thoughts on this topic) but I am sorry to say the rest is beyond me. I might circle back again later and see if I can do better.

    Happy New Year Dan and thank you for all of the amazing and wonderful conversations, blog posts and deep thinking. You’re an inspiration.

    PS: recaptcha is still glitching 😀

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    2020/01/01 at 1:01 pm
    • From Meg McGowan on Shane Ward on the Carol Sanford and Jason Gerhart Episodes

      Okay, I just followed the link to Carol’s take on nature and on loving people and seeing their potential and I’m feeling much better. Loved it. Yes.
      If we only work with those that agree with us and share our perspective and our values, then we are disconnected, the opposite of what we are hoping to achieve. To love ALL people is one of the great challenges.

      Sorry, I seem to have posted my previous comment twice! Feel free to delete the other one.

      Go to comment
      2020/01/01 at 1:09 pm
  • From Ian on Shane Ward on the Carol Sanford and Jason Gerhart Episodes

    My first take is similar to Meg’s. Will I read it a second time? Maybe. All those “Nevers” are confronting. Which seems to be the intention. But I don’t find Carol is bringing new or useful stuff for me, and as Dan says at one point, contradicting herself sometimes. If she is so much into disruption, could be useful for some/many. But so much of my permie-related conversations with so many skilled and competent change agents have been along these lines already. So perhaps I’m needing exactly what I’m reading in the MPS blog 🙂 [smile] Multipl re-inventions of the wheel may be what we need to change business as ususl.

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    2020/01/01 at 9:13 pm
  • From Christopher Milton Dixon on Shane Ward on the Carol Sanford and Jason Gerhart Episodes

    Oh, my. So much going on here!

    On Carol, disruption is certainly what we need. It takes an event and energy to make change. Change is by definition something different.

    One thing different about movies and landscapes is that movies trend towards the linear, while landscapes have a linear path but also a depth and breadth too. And, the design path of a movie in this example is 3x, a landscape has all of our efforts, plus the efforts of each and every one of the beings in it.

    What would a design process look like if it was not linear? How would would we hold a vision of the whole? What if we don’t even hold that vision but take direction? Makes me think of the telescope vs. the microscope.

    What would a design process be like if it was 100% co-creative?

    How do we get out of the way of our own performance?

    I have been inspired by this video on counter mapping:

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    2020/01/04 at 10:05 pm
  • From Janie on Dan Palmer's Journey with Permaculture Design Process and David Holmgren's Response (E11)

    Hi Dan,

    I have just listened to this in preparation for Saturdays workshop at Catherines. It resonated so strongly with my own journey as an Occupational Therapist working in Mental Health, and the deconstruction of Health. Thank you for articulating this process and sharing your story! There are so many parallels also with OT and Recovery, and your reflections.

    I really truly wanted a road map, paint by numbers, to achieve a particular outcome that I thought was my clients or at least what they needed! I used to come up with grand master detailed plans and expect them to be implemented with a specific out come at the end.

    When I finally stepped back from needing to be the expert with a process and knowledge that was going fix people or get them their goals, and instead truly “be” with people, walk alongside them, being responsive day to day, and practice mindfulness in my work, I felt a great relief and started enjoying my mahi more, and the relationships were more authentic. We use small slow solutions. I get to observe and interact as peoples vision/goals/expectations/dreams change and evolve in response in response to reflections and discoveries made along the way! I have only been able to do this as we have been able to develop a way of working as a service that has enabled such freedom to focus on how we do things as opposed to what our outcomes are.

    Anyway looking forward to meeting you on Saturday!

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    2020/01/14 at 4:09 pm
  • From Kathy Killinger on Joel Glanzberg: Continuing the conversation about permaculture and working to regenerate whole living systems (E20)

    I wanted to say how much I enjoyed both of your interviews with Joel Glanzberg. I’m not trained in permaculture but am exploring patterns in nature as a way to understand economies and cities. I found my way to your podcasts following a Twitter trail. After writing pages of notes, I’m feeling grateful for Joel’s perspectives on applying permaculture principles in a variety of settings and inspired to delve more deeply into this work. Thanks!!!

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    2020/01/27 at 8:55 am
  • From Han Kortekaas on In Dialogue with Dave Jacke (E06)

    I’m catching up on some older podcasts from before I discovered the series, and damn, this was a great episode! There is so much here, it’s amazing.

    Something that stuck out is this interpretation of ‘A Pattern Language’ as then just assembling a bunch of patterns together instead of patterning being an integrated approach to designing a site. It just hits me in relation to software development, which is another field that has been heavily influenced by Christopher Alexander’s ‘A Pattern Language’ and consequently there have been many books written about Design Patterns and how to apply them and in which situations (searching “software patterns” on Amazon in the category books gives you 7000 hits, just sayin’). Everyone is talking patterns, but almost always it’s in a context of: “Okay, we wanna do ‘this’, so let’s apply the strategy pattern here.” So it is very much about assembly.

    So what would it mean to think of these patterns differently, more integrated? I don’t know what the answer is. Code, in its artificiality, also doesn’t have the same boundaries, restrictions, etc. as living systems, though there is something alive about code as well. In any case, it is very interesting and I feel there is something we as software developers can learn from this perspective.

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    2020/01/27 at 10:13 pm
  • From Jason Ross on What permaculture isn’t - Guest Post by Meg McGowan

    Kia ora! Its nice to image you in a relaxed flow of gardening and design Dan!

    Your definition inspired an even more wordy version here on a rainy day in Southern Aotearoa

    I pluralised “pattern” added principles and swapped in “guide” for design. “Design” has singular, finalised masterplan and static connotations. Can we do without it or do we reclaim and re-define it? Heres a version without “design” just to see how it feels…

    Permaculture uses ethically based principles & patterns for guiding evolving systems to simultaneously increase ecological health and provide for human needs

    Go to comment
    2020/02/04 at 3:24 pm
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