Thank you Dan, and thank you Allan for this very reflective interview. That Allan is so honest about coming to the end of his life and his call to action from the youth of today is something to reflect on – I am thinking about this. Shifting from reactive/reductive to proactive/holistic management is clearly genuinely a paradigm shift – and as such is going to demand inner work (as Jeremy Griffith alludes to above). I understand Jason’s concern about a reliance on institutional change, sidelining the central importance of individual and community action. Perhaps Allan’s call on us all to “demand” a shift to holistic management and decision making at institutional levels is a call for community action. What I find so powerful about the way Allan expresses himself is the steady clarity and systematic thoroghness of his holistic framework. He has history and evolution on his side in all his assertions. We can only be the change we expect. How must I be to hold the support of those I depend on to acheive what I know we must acheive?
Exceptional podcast! Super inspirational expansion of design thinking. Certainly these transformative discussions are helping making permaculture stronger. Thanks so much for the practical and profound share. So grateful for the work of both Alan and Dan.
Thanks to all for giving this opportunity to listen to an active process of setting the context for a design; and the active listening skills needed of the facilitator/designer to support the client.
This was also a good revision of the course (advanced design) and your focus on the energy of the words we use and the meta pattern of what is created by intent and how that gives purpose and motivation to sustain the change we see possible.
I appreciated the point you made about aligning or bringing purposes together in terms of being viable as a business and providing value to the world.
A really good listen on both sides. I believe this was an honest reflection of how changing anyone’s behaviour and institutionalising a system is difficult and unpredictable in how it is applied at the end of the day. I pay respect to the Savoury institute for standing by decisions about maintaining quality of their system.
While complexity is not only as expressed by Allan – I appreciated his methodical approach and sanguine reflections. Policy is not just made by gov. or institutions – it’s made by our choices and votes as individuals.
So when is the ‘policy’ activism and permaculture lobby groups starting? (I believe they already have in some Gov. policy arenas):)
This is an amazing conversation, Dan. Thanks for bringing Rowe on. She remains a true inspiration through and through. Most of the subjects that came up are what has been on my mind for years and still consumes my mind. “We’ve lost the plot!” I enjoy her take on the value that permaculture still has too. The wisdom shared in the last 5 minutes of this recording are most important for all of us to be contemplating, designing, and building.
Thank you SO much Dan.
How I love her.
Rowe introduced me to permaculture in my 20’s but I didn’t get to meet her until my 50’s and she continues to be my guiding light.
Inspired by her example we developed our teaching model so that those without income could access it.
We have also now connected with two permaculture teachers in Uganda and Kenya that are local and teaching on the ground. I think providing them with direct support is consistent with the principle of putting energy to its highest use. It is so much more efficient for us to provide these wonderful people with support than to travel there and to attempt to teach them permaculture without the local knowledge or connections. This goes beyond financial support and includes sharing teaching ideas and resources. Both speak excellent English but also speak other languages and dialect. Another efficiency because no translators are needed.
What really strikes me is how both of them have adapted the permaculture design model to their own circumstances, and that resonated with your comments about people designing themselves into places rather than out of them.
It was Rowe that inspired all of this with her call to all of us to support people that aren’t ‘wealthy middle class’ and who most needed permaculture.
Here’s one of them
I appreciate that there are millions of people that do not have access to an English-speaking local with access to the internet, but there are many that do, and that for those of us can’t travel to these places or choose not to there is still much we can do.
If each of us in the wealthy parts of the world connect with one or two fellow permaculture practitioners in these parts of the world, just imagine….
Thanks Dan, an empassioned episode! I really felt like Rowe was speaking her truth, especially powerfully in the first section of the conversation; it was wonderful to hear such a gentle educator and force for good speak out with such raw frustration.
Listening to this, I strongly feel pulled in lots of directions out of a compulsion to do more good in the world, which I’m trying to stay sensitive to and consciously remind myself of where I am now and why I am where I am. From returning to my Arabic degree to working with homeless and refugee shelters, heaps of ideas come flooding to mind of ‘things’ to do…lots of checking in needed with my context, and investigating the difference between what is and what could have been…
Like Meg, I too have huge gratitude to Rowe. I first heard about her at the IPC in London, 2015. She gave the closing plenary at the conference and, to be honest, I was feeling a bit ‘meh’ after two days of keynote speakers who I felt were either a bit out of touch with reality or just telling a converted audience the same old, same old. Rowe stepped on stage and brought a huge energy and light into the room, and her one simple statement – ‘Anyone, anywhere, who knows anything about permaculture should be sharing it with the world!’ – compelled me to start planning my first education project the second I got home (it’s still running to this day, even though I stepped away some years ago). Her speech completely turned around my view of permaculture at a pretty critical juncture on my path!!
Thanks for a great listen, and I’m glad the mythical David Holmgren mini-series will be appearing in my headphones in the not too distant future at long last!!!
Hi Dan. Feels like I’m stalking you haha, let me just say I’m getting very, very good value from your direction this week.
I really liked this podcast as I do most of your recent ones and keen to hear the next instalment. One thing really stuck out for me. David mentioned his original interest gravitated “around food production and more broadly, agriculture, as humanity’s prime way for providing for its needs” and from there the seed of permaculture from the question “why does agriculture, if not look like a forest literally, function like a forest?”
This raises a lot of questions for me around farm scale or landscape scale permaculture that actually provides livelihoods from that kind of agriculture. The farmers I know of that are doing really good agro-ecological work don’t seem to regard themselves was permaculturists although some of them claim some inspiration. Mill Post Farm are giving it a red hot crack but will admit a loss in income and the benefit of no debt to pursue it. Ridgedale Farm seems to be really awesome and I don’t know Richard Perkins or his background but it seems like that farm has had investment way beyond what a family farm might afford and that leads me to questions around viability.
From a personal perspective we have an open farm and I like ideas and barbecues and beer and have been at the butt end of well meaning visiting permies telling how I should be doing things and offering up all the bamboo, duck and swale tropes.None of these people have had any farming experience except for one really grating dude who worked on a big NGO project which went to ruin as soon as the funding dried up. I think perhaps this is the biggest barrier to larger scale adoption.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m not permaculture trained in any way mostly I think as a result of the above experiences with permaculture ideologues although I would consider Nick and Kirsten, Robyn Rosendfeldt, Hannah and Anton and others as at least good acquaintances if not friends and I really enjoy and have deep respect for the thought that has gone into Dave Holmgren’s Principles work. I guess your work here is addressing it but I really am curious as to what the barrier is to landscape scale permaculture as an agriculture system which is the same question essentially that David and Bill asked back about when I was a wee bebe.
Thanks and Rock On. Fraser
Hey Fraser, one good example to check out might be Mark Shepard’s New Forest Farm : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBRnPcZ8xUo&list=PLY2aX6GnpPbZo-tmPlMkRIMA0OJ0xFbUz&index=2
Designed using permaculture principles, at scale and is not only viable but profitable.
Looks great Shane. I noticed the language is “cutting edge” “ambitious” “innovative” and I was kinda hoping by now we’d be at “normal” so maybe it’s just a time thing. Ecologies take a long time and it takes along time to turn a ship around so it might be that all the work of the last 40 years of permaculture is only just peeking it’s head out.
My partner, a therapist, works closely with many professionals, public and private sector, around neonatal care. There is a broad consensus there that it takes about two decades for new knowledge to progress from ‘accepted science’ to ‘mainstream practice’, and even then the uptake can be slow. Imagine the tens of thousands of women receiving subpar medical support every year as they wait for the obstetricians, midwives, nurses and everyone else involved to catch up with the science?! It’s quite unthinkable, really, but my partner comes face to face with the fallout of that on a near-daily basis.
So if that’s healthcare, just think how long it’ll take the farming fraternity (as we call them in aristocratic Britain) and all the ecologies in their stewardship to play catch up.
I agree, haste is so badly needed, I guess the least we can do is be the pioneers ourselves. A friend in Wales shares a similar passion to you, he just made a fantastic video about it – https://youtu.be/_Ngm1MZ0qL4.
Hey Finn, thanks for that link. I reckon your mate in Wales and I would get along. I’m sure he likes a beer or a cider, should I ever get back to Wales I’d love to share one with him.
I found it very interesting to learn that in the podcast Hakai’s opinion that “the permaculture vision of broad acre integrated land uses of agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, beekeeping, forestry, all of these things being integrated, couldn’t come about under our freehold land tenure system.” And I’ve heard David before mention some sort of neo-feudalist system although I’d need to look that up again to understand the application of that a little better.
It all points to more people in the landscape. Henbant Farm is a good example of just that. A farming couple or family can’t physically undertake all those enterprises and enjoy life. It’s also what I immediately noticed about New Forest Farm which looks awesome but on that scale just the hazels alone would be a full time job requiring mechanical infrastructure for harvesting and processing. Perhaps this is why permaculture is much stronger at designing smaller spaces than mixed farming systems.
All that is to say- If the originating motivation of Permaculture was to address the disconnection of agriculture to ecologies- has it done that?
A pleasure to be stalked by you Fraser :-). Thanks so much for your comments – this is such a ripper question I’d love to explore more and welcome other’s thought on. Part of me wonders if David speaks to this in the next part – can’t remember but I’ve heard him speaking to it somewhere. Makes me think I’ll have to hit him up anyway so if anyone else has a question for him hit me up and I’ll present him with a package deal :-). Personally I’m also excited to create a stand-alone post looking real closely at David’s language here around the seed / originating impulse of permaculture as I reckon there’s an opening there that in a sense was perhaps missed at the time (while much other great stuff was progressed) that feels so aligned with my passions around making permaculture stronger and living design process it’s not funny. Bring on Phase Two proper and thanks again for chiming in Fraser. You have been displaying a pattern of getting the ball rolling in a few of our shared contexts lately – playing some kind of beneficial catalyst role – love it :-).
Great episode Dan!
Wonderful to hear David’s thoughts on the early years and also piece together the narrative of how it all developed from his perspective – what the influences were etc.
Two things really jumped out at me.
1. That quote that you highlighted: “in most places on the planet, nature creates some sort of forest as an optimal ecosystem response to climate and geology and landscape to optimise production and diversity from a sort of an ecological point of view, why does agriculture, if not look like a forest literally, function like a forest? For example why is it not dominated by perennial plants? Why is it dominated by annual plants?” It’s just such a great summary of the problem of imprinting industrial land use patterns on to landscape and the value of biomimicry and ‘looking to nature’ for how we might sole challenges.. Nailed it!
and then no 2. ““Haikai really introduced the framework of strategic planning, which had become a tool used by urban planners, but it came out of the military, as he explained it. Military planners had to act with limited knowledge and where they didn’t control all the factors and that idea of having frameworks of action, but you don’t really know how that is going to express itself in final design form. We started applying strategic design process to what we call tree crop agriculture; how do you not just have grazing animals around a landscape or annual crops, but these permanent, long lived structures of tree crop. Like me Haikai was a tree crop nut; he was obsessed with trees. So the application of that sort of design process was very much part of learning from working with him.”
I really like that way of articulating the challenge of design (or any intent really), by recognising that you never control all the factors, you can’t control the outcome but it’s really important to still engage with that process of creation and sculpting outcomes. To be a part and not separate from the process you’re engaging with and to value the process of thinking things through. Planning is not worthless just because the end result won’t/can’t match the plan. Acknowledging that at the outset and being comfortable in the ambiguity is a great starting point.
Looking forwards to part II!
What a wonderful insight into the history and intellectual DNA of permaculture. Thank you Dan and, as always, I am left feeling deeply grateful to David for not only creating the permaculture model, but for embedding in it the philosophy that was so much a part of his early education; there is no dogma. Design evolves! We are not trying to find the best ever design model but the one that best serves us right now.
David’s ideas about design and implementation also resonate strongly for me. I have previously observed that there is a world of difference in the teaching styles of those that have implemented their own permaculture system vs those that have learnt the model theoretically with a view to teaching it. I was unable to stick with two different academic courses because of this disconnect (and one of them was fine arts!). I believe that good design needs at least an equal “talk to do” ratio, and ideally a whole lot more “do” than “talk”. I am reminded of Rowe Morrow’s advice to would-be teachers that our students learn by doing and not by listening to us talk.
What a great story about his Mum intuitively finding the right space for the house. Since hearing you talk about your design work and the living design process I have added a new layer to the “observe and learn” part of our design cycle. It asks students (or their clients when they are designing for others) to wander their site with a printed map and to record their emotional responses to different spaces. I am deeply grateful to you for this idea. The results have been surprising and have led to significant improvements in the quality of the final designs. The most recent PDC students found that the clients for their group design had an unlikely place that was their favourite spot to hang out in the garden. Imagine the client’s delight when they discover that this has been integrated into the final plan. This would not have happened otherwise.
The reference to strategic planning coming from the military has led me back to my considerations of soft systems methodology. I wonder how much of it emerges from the strategic planning that became an integral part of my policing career. Certainly the parallels are worth thinking about. All design is, for me, like gardening. We have a general direction in which we wish to head but we must also remain adaptive, embracing the changes we cannot control and the inevitable surprises.
Thank you again for your consistently inspirational content. I am very much looking forward to your further discussion with David.
What an amazing dialogue. Its incredible to benefit from your work making permaculture stronger. Love the idea of permaculture as a “radical design school”
For a long time I have been curious history of permaculture in relation to psychedelics or plant medicines. I always wondered if Mollison had been influenced by his time with the Shipibo in Peru. In this light I was interested to hear this :
“I suppose I’d see myself growing up as a super rationalist. Even as a child, I would wake up and not remember any of my dreams, probably because the dream world was just too inconsistent with reality. There were a few things that broke down that process. The primary one was the experience of LSD made it clear to me there were more things in the human mind that could possibly be comprehended through simple sort of reductionist methods.” – David Holmgren
An interesting contribution to permaculture history and design process. Brilliant to hear these two great men in discussion. Thanks Dan and David.
I’m so glad I now know something about this Haikai fella! So far it’s just been a name that’s drifted through conversation without much follow up.
I really enjoyed hearing about David’s learning journey and it’s very curious that he published Pc1 at what seems to be the very start of his learning journey, and to be honest it sounds like it was basically just a first punt, and then while Mollison spread it wildly around the world Holmgren was studiously developing his own work, consciously relating it to a field of design and practicing in multiple contexts. I have to say it does kinda feel like Bill took the spark of pc, drew it out into rods of lightning and sprinkled it thunderously for decades, taking centre stage all the way, whilst David just kinda sat quietly with that spark and watched it, played with it, ‘observe and interacted’ it (to nounify one of his principles) like a young child sitting at the hearth…There is a sort of keen feeling that pc’s DNA has been somewhat subdued by all the noise and bluster that followed and, whilst that had some value, Phase Two of MPS looks to be well placed to explore and expound upon that seed of potential. It sound like a Classic myth story, ha ?
Lastly, I notice the glaring absence of any mention of David’s (or Bill’s) interaction with indigenous cultures throughout this formative process. As there are conflicting narratives about this – how directly the pair drew upon aboriginal ideas and practices, how respectfully this was done if so, if credit was ever given where due etcetera…having David’s definitive word on his perception of that narrative would be very valuable (and a recent thread on the Permaculture UK Official FB group attests to the varying perceptions of this). David’s explanation so far seems pretty rational, like he picked it all up at school plus LSD plus a couple white mentors. I’d love to know if there’s another side to that story.
Thanks again, Dan.
Speechless! Humbled and grateful to be here now. To read this, hear this and experience the space and resonance such wonderful thoughtful beings possess and share. Very reverent bow being offered in recognition of the hopefulness manifest in this work and insights. Thank you.
Dan, curious if you asked Rowe what she thinks the “plot” is for permaculture? Her line of “we’ve lost the plot” has been a recurring thought. Just curious what Rowe’s version of the “originating impulse” is.
Love it Jason. I did not, but I will!
This is gold, thanks for this material cant wait for the second part. Lots of great bits and pieces of information. For me its amazing to get so many juicy details about his journey in becoming the wise man he is now.
What I take of most value for designing: the part when he talks about where to find inspiration to create systems, not looking into a pristine natural landscape (super common to hear and say it in PDCs) but rather look for places where there was a human intervention and was then left abandoned observing that intersection. Then he poetically compares landscapes from his region.
David Holmgren is an artist, as permaculturist that is something I want to connect to, passion and experience seem basic ingredients for this, enjoying this journey and thankful to have MPS as I walk it!
Thanks so much Hugo and all for so many great comments and reflections from everyone! I love that different moments of the conversation stood out for different people. Incidentally, we recently got footage in one of David’s very favourite abandoned arboretums, so you can look forward to some sort of video clip about this at some point (and can support the project at www.ReadingLandscape.org). Editing up part two today! Also so you all know I’m planning to take any questions that come out of comments on parts 1 and 2 back to David to hear his reflections and plan to share those here too.
I am beginning my journey into permaculture, and this conversation sparked a wave of curiosity within me that resulted in pages of incoherent written notes as I tried to process all the strands of information, impactful quotes, and perspectives Rowe offered. As a young person just getting into this work, I am overwhelmed by the potential of permaculture to fuel meaningful, community-based social, cultural, and ecological change. I really appreciated hearing her criticisms of how permaculture has somewhat situated itself within a limited-sphere. I was very conscious in my academic settings that the students interested in permaculture, along with the professors that referenced permaculture in global sustainable development or environmental sustainability courses, all seemed to be middle-class and white ‘granola’ types. While I myself identify with this group…. I really responded to her dedication to bring permaculture where it desperately NEEDS to be. I am at a crossroads of trying to pinpoint where I would like to focus my attention as I forge my own career and try to figure out the big questions: what do I truly value and what do I want to contribute to the world around me. It is so exciting and impactful (many aha moments) to hear Rowe discuss the intersection of human rights issues, community-oriented and empowered development, and regenerative ecological practices in her own work. Rowe’s work is motivating, encouraging, and inspiring. This episode is something I can reference when (if ever) I need to reassurance that this is the field I want to grow from and devote my life and studies to. I just finished undergrad- having based my concentration on the intersection between rethinking global development and the potential of regenerative agriculture- and this episode resonated with me in ways I am currently unable to articulate. I know I am hopping on the Rowe-fan bandwagon, but I am so lucky to have come across her. With permaculture, I am seemingly at a precipice of information that will alter my professional, philosophical, and spiritual life in its entirety. I am grateful to be beginning my understanding of what permaculture is and the potential it has from people like you and Rowe. What an incredible hero to champion! Thank you for the meaningful questions you asked and for sharing this powerful conversation on your podcast!
So glad you got so much out of it Julia. You’ll be happy to hear I’m recording a follow-up interview with Rowe this coming week – if anyone has any questions they’d like to ask me on top of Jason’s one about if PC has “lost the plot” then what is the plot so far as Rowe is concerned? Best of luck in exploring the big questions and I was happy to read your mention of the overwhelming potential of permaculture (which this project is all about exploring and hopefully helping develop).
Hi Dan if you haven’t already thought of this I’d highly recommend these interviews being archived somewhere. They have huge historical importance. Here in Aotearoa both the Hocken in Dunedin and one I can’t remember the name of perhaps in Wellington would have been very welcoming of it. I’m sure there would be one or more in Oz?
From Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: Collaboratively Developing Permaculture's Potential (E28)on
Coming late to the coppice / unfolding potential discussion (you know what with baby making and rearing, pandemics etc) and I think it is a very exciting development.
From Introducing Phase Two of Making Permaculture Stronger: Collaboratively Developing Permaculture's Potential (E28)on
Thanks Pippa. Baby making, pandemic, big year! 🙂
This is a remarkable interview – I am surprised there aren’t more comments. I was fascinated by many things, including about design being a literacy we use in our lives rather than something a 10 day PDC teaches us fully.
Thanks Jon and yes I agree – I got SO much out of this one. I actually did have the thought that maybe I’m doing something wrong given the lack of engagement on what I would have thought was one of the most on-topic and exciting conversations yet had on the show! Lessens the motivation to pursue a follow up conversation with David, though that said there were some great comments on Part One so all is not lost :-). Up next is Carol Sanford on the Seven First Principles of Regeneration – hopefully that one inspires a comment or two, otherwise it might be time for me to start asking some questions about how to make this podcast and blog more useful and relevant for folk :-). Actually that said if anyone is actually reading this stuff and not finding it particularly comment worthy, please leave a comment telling me what would be worthwhile, valuable, and perhaps even exciting future content for your journey with permaculture as a design approach.
Dan, this is spectacular work. It is a deep contribution to the permaculture story. I’m hoping to re-listen and take more notes soon. Keep doing what you are doing.
Message received and thanks Scott, will do!
Hey Dan, I’m a long term listener that has never commented on anything. I’d like to be interactive, but have two young children which stretches my capacities to limited ‘outside of the family’ scopes. I apologise for not partaking in the work. I’m friendly with Dave and have been with him on top of two different hills watching listening and questioning him as he read landscape. As you also said: I was looking at him more than the landscape he was reading, trying to get a feel of how he was seeing.
Thank you for all your work
Hey Tys and thank you so much for popping your head up here :-). Traversing hilltops with Dave is my idea of a great time for sure :-).
I really love these two interviews and am getting so much out of them. I’ve referred to them many times lately within my community of practice. Thanks you so much Dan, David and team for the extra special care you have all taken with producing and sharing these.
I can understand some frustrations Dan with the limited comments and conversation in this forum so far on this, HOWEVER I would take this an indication of great reverence and respect, even if the radio-silence may seem less generative (thus far).
It reminds me of a similar pattern of behaviour I’ve experienced many times.. ie: Sometimes a very special fruit or vegetable is brought in from our garden (the first one, the nicest one, the only one, the biggest one, etc.) and so it ends up sitting coveted in the refrigerator awaiting a very special preparation and occasion to eat and enjoy it together.. THEN of course it is found weeks later in a very compromised state.. why? Because we care so much apparently.. but quite a disfunctional (and wasteful) way to show it! Hope my analogy isn’t way off here.. just something that seemed to relate in my mind 😉
About the interview:
I have been so impressed with what David shared about how permaculture design doesn’t really lend itself well to replication.. therefore IF it could be spread by replication anywhere it’d be in the cookie cutter suburbs! I will always remember this as one of the great examples of ‘the problem is the solution’ and this story will forever serve as a reminder to me to expand my sense of what is possible when we work with the true character and potential of each unique situation.
Looking forward to hearing much more about the idea of ‘strategic design’ in future conversations as well as expanding on the story of David’s mentorship with Hakai Tane.. AND much more about Hakai’s life and work.
Something that was said by Alan Savory in your interview with him has changed the way I am hearing things now about this. It is the idea of seeing ‘Agriculture’ as a whole, not in the limited sense of ‘feild-culture’ with the mere provision of food, but the whole being (roads, clothes, cities, people, laws, etc.). This is having a profound effect on how I am interpreting what David is sharing.
Also, I felt that David’s sharing about the re/democratization of design as an important theme in his studies and work is very relevant for the further explorations of the core essence of Permaculture. This idea is not automatically understood in the reading of common permaculture “definitions”.
I’d also super curious to learn more about techniques for reading the “regoliths” (or is this limited to specialist and these special core tests?). But what can ordinary people do to ‘see’ and interpret these in a landscape with their bodies and feelings, and what are the strategies for applying these observations and interpretations into design process expressions?
So much here is still sinking in and I am looking forward to an occasion to listen through once again.
Thanks for these reflections Adrian and yes, let’s interpret it that way re this episode being an unusually special fruit :-). We had a truly massive egg recently that no one wanted to use until the perfect occasion arose :-). I’m keen to pursue the reading landscape and story of place themes in future too.
Dan – eternal gratitude for this conversation with Carol. I listened deeply; it is the perfect nodal intervention to shake up/shake loose fragmented ways of seeing. I find fresher ways of being in the world emerging. Best Holiday gift ever.
Thanks Linda :-). So true!
Thanks so much for this one, Dan. How I love the 15 second rewind button and what great use I made of it during this interview.
I do like your caution at the beginning; Carol is not someone that you have on in the background. Deep attention is required.
Some favourite quotes (and there were many):
Wholes: See a value adding process in which wholes are working
Essence: A different way of seeing the world. It’s not seeing its parts and putting them together. It’s seeing it working and evaluating process and what’s being brought at the level of core.
Potential: Once we can see a whole we can come to be able to see its essence. Now we can touch its potential.
Development: Development is the whole of my being becoming more able, less arrogant, less reactive, more able to see impossible things.
Nestedness: You only get to the quantum view when you see wholes nested
Nodal intervention: Most people think of growth and scaleability…some people started to figure out that they can leverage something….but what I want people to get to in essence thinking is nodal….you put a pin in something and poof, the whole system changes.
I don’t have one for fields. I appreciate that you were short on time at this point and I have listened to it a few times and still feel like I’m missing the essence of it.
The quotes must, of course, be considered within the context of the whole of the interview. To do otherwise would be reductionist. The interview must be considered within its nested context. Mostly I am left once again grateful for Carol’s challenging and enlightened thinking.
With regard to ‘wholes’ I feel it may be worth revisiting the concept of ‘holons’, as they are both wholes and parts simultaneously. I have found this word useful in teaching because it reminds students that any division of anything from its context is artificial as nothing can exist outside its context and we only divide the world into separate ‘things’ for our own purposes. Truly no separate ‘thing’ exists. So, for example, we may talk about a leaf, but this is a holon, an artificial boundary we have created in order to consider the leaf, and to do so without recognising the relationship to the tree, and the tree’s relationship with the planet would be to fail to truly understand the leaf.
While I appreciate Carol’s thoughts on not reducing the examination of a site to a list I do feel that for many people this may be the path that leads to a final appreciation of the whole, and Carol herself describes her own development as somewhat following this path. Perhaps for many of us, we build our understanding of wholeness over time having first observed that understanding parts was useful but inadequate.
My own essence included an experience as a teenager when I realised that “I” was a holon, and that in fact I do not have any clear edges. Where do “I” begin and end? The air I am breathing contains elements that have cycled around and around for all of time and the thing I think of as my body is composed of the same elements. When I no longer live those elements get returned to the system, like a cup of water returning to the ocean. While I live those same elements pass through me and from me. There is no cell left that was part of the “I” that had these thoughts as a teenager and yet the illusion of some kind of continuity persists. When Carol talks about seeing wholes my response is that there is only one whole. Everything else is a holon; a thought exercise that allows us to have a conversation about a “thing” but which is ultimately as constraining to our thinking as it is useful.
When I talk about all design progressing from the macro to the micro I start from a planetary perspective; what does the earth need? Carol’s “nesting” language has given me a useful way to describe this approach.
Best wishes to you and your family for a wonderous 2021 and thank you for all the leveraging podcasts.
Thanks Meg and so glad you got value from the chat (i.e., that the podcast as a whole was a value-adding process for you in this instance – woo!). I resonate with your description of holons though I remember asking Carol about them in our first chat and she wasn’t into them in favour of stick with nested wholes. Be great to have a transcription of what she said, exactly, if anyone is keen. One observation I have made is that it is very possible to grasp the concept of holons then to use it in a purely mechanical way, such as Toby Hemenway did in the Permaculture City. In my work on Living Design Process, I’m developing ways of avoiding that trap, where things get pretty damned interesting. One aspect of holonic or holarchic thinking worth reflecting on is to what extent is the whole in part-whole being thought of as a physical container, Russian-doll style, or as a super-part, in the sense of a collection of parts. I’d love more thinking partners in nutting this stuff out if anyone is keen, though we’re making solid progress in the MPS Community of Practice too.
Always a pleasure having you in the mix Meg!
Clearly I’ve been thinking about this podcast all day. 😀
I wonder if Carol is familiar with Lynne Kelly’s work on memory and the techniques used by non-literate cultures to remember vast amounts of knowledge. One of her observations, having taught herself these techniques, is that learning this way provides her with a different kind of knowledge, where the wholeness is apparent (my words but I’m avoiding ‘interconnectedness of things’). In the same way that language limits our thinking, could the written word be causative in the compartmentalisation of knowledge? Do traditional methods of learning naturally support an appreciation of all things as being one thing?
Lynne also makes the observation that children’s stories in indigenous cultures are the scaffold that provides the pattern for all subsequent levels of learning. For me this is analogous to the way I teach permaculture (and I mean no disrespect to students here) where the introductory level is what seems to be a simple pattern but the appreciation of the whole grows with various levels of learning.
All interesting ponderings.
Dear Dan Palmer, I must say I am very grateful about the amount of work and information you have compiled over this whole enterprise. I just found about permaculture last summer and began a deep dive. Right now I don’t have the vocabulary to articulate my feelings or insights about these matters but I will do my best.
I found deeply enriching David Holmgren notion of reading landscape. As Carol Sanford hinted, it is an ability one develops and unique to an individual. Yet it was inspiring and even began to explore my own city to see what is going on. I listened to both chapters of his interview, but I couldn’t make up my mind, I will try to take some notes, if only to find points of resonance and engage in a discussion later next year. The Regenerative Life approach has also been deeply enriching on engaging my life decisions. Mark Savory interview is also excellent. And I find your departure from metaphors intriguing.
I studied oceanography in college, I like the geological side of it, particularely interested on this notion of geodiversity, I was studying fossils before deciding I didn’t like academia enough to stick with it. On the topic of marine permaculture, I found out most of these projects are big scale kelp farms, I wondered what Rose thought of these “big scale” approaches.
I am based in Baja California, sea otter populations were decimated two centuries ago, but rumour says that they are slowly returning, their populations are recovering. I wonder about this idea one friend of mine propossed to me, the idea of reef-culture, you see everytime a wave hits and washes over the sand, a small ecosystem is born, as the practice of flooding a farm and letting nature do her magic. It is a multiculture approach rather than a monoculture. Which the kelp forests farms seem to me looked from a distance, it might ignore the complex nature, the web of relationships below the sea surface. Perhaps a nodal intervention might help.
There is also the Gulf of California, which is controversial, as it involves the interests of a lot of parties (both from the US and Mexico), it is a complex issue, and people seem to blame one side or the other. Even National Geographic is involved. There is overfishing, there is a rise in private properties over the coast, minery residues, the arresting of the flux of fresh water and sediment coming north from the Colorado River. The situation is dire, but I will try to find some potential between these tensions.
It has been a complex year, but thank you for making it better, hope you stay well along with your family. Happy new year!
Thanks for offering the diagram interpretation Dan. It has stirred up some exciting thoughts.. and I still keep seeing it as the torus pattern like the “field process model” is depicted (and your drawing is basically this too if visualized in volumetric shape and motion). The path (generally) following a swirl down through the inner hole; through and around the outer field and back through the inner vortex again, ad infinitum.
I tried to illustrate this too a few months back (as you’ve seen) and realized after comparing these diagrams now that the ‘seeming’ overlap in mine was simply in a non-deliberate place (so as to not show favor).. though ultimately just a difference of perspective (the explicate order (?). But I do really love the idea of regenerative ‘development’ as the ecotone of inner and outer.
One thing I feel wanting to do is drop the numbers from the concept and title as they are not meant strongly as “steps”, but more as nested levels and so the number sequence feels a bit distracting.. perhaps some kind of realm of entry might be indicated by an arrow.. if even necessary. Though I understand why the order is also important (haha, it’s always both-and).. However with the torus concept described above (and of course originally by Jascha Rohr & Sonja Hörster) we can visualize how we are always there –in process, in an evolving field.
In any case.. good to have several models kicking around to get multi-faceted view of the various ‘inclusions’. A technique I find useful.
Something that also came up in this first listen is the idea of ‘nestedness’ where I couldn’t help but recall Christopher Alexander’s excoriating conclusion to his “A city is not a tree” essay where he warns of defining (or worse designing) relationships as strict hierarchies with razor edges. So the lesson that I take from that is: instead of feeling confounded by looking for clarity about the boundaries of wholes and nestedness (like trying to find where the fog begins or ends with a magnifying glass!).. I am just going to let that go because it is always meant to be fuzzy (and is always a matter of mindset, perspective/aspect); then be able to redirect more attention to the essence of the whole (though there is also good value in trying just a little to look for the edges! So you can know when to drive slowly and put the fog lights on). All that said.. I do find it tricky to visualize this nestedness as a 3D semi-lattice (as per C. Alexander’s essay).. and not as an overly chaotic mesh structure.. perhaps a growing, dividing cell in an eggshell in a birds nest in the mesh of tree branches in the life-field of a tree, etc.. (ie: many patterns nested and overlapping).
One last thing.. I’d love to hear more about the roots of these principles from a direct indigenous personal telling and interpretation of them as Carol has mentioned of (a take on Carol’s evolving explorations of these ideas as sincere contribution to the renaissant consciousness; as well as relating these ideas to traditional cultural understanding and knowledge).
My working take away is that ‘essentializing’ is in the sincerity of trying (opening-up) to sense ‘essence’ and moreover it is in the relationship growing processes of that.. while also coming to appreciate that one’s development of understanding is a never-finished situation.. as the essence of the whole is also in process and so too is evolving. The processes of essentializing may be also unveiling one’s own essence (thus ripening potential for both).
About nodes of permaculture education:
I’ve had the opportunity to run a small group PDC spread out over 24 three hour sessions this past year as a living design process. I have not followed an existing lesson plan sequence. Several of the first sessions we’re all about exploring what I felt is the kernel of permaculture –a compassionate anthropocene era vision for Humanity and Earth living within her limits and abundance; coupled with a belief that a conscious human realignment with-as-for living systems is imperative.
With just this we spent lots of time just trying out mentally and physically what this might entail (before even learning any of the established permaculture principles or ethics), harkening a time when Holmgren and Mollison had only a foggy notion.
By the time we got to actually dipping into THE principles and ethics, they were unpacked as just one interpretation of the core concept (Mollison and Holmgren’s kick at the vision and hypothesis).. as well as not entirely novel, just specially curated.. this then allowed us to access the rest of the curriculum through this lens and the idea that permaculture is very much open and it’s all up for interpretation (majorly inspired by your tree chopping Dan). By taking this approach to learning about permaculture I was able to bring the class in at the ground level.
As we moved into learning about processes, these were explored as a whole spectrum of approaches and attitudes to raise consciousness that there is no one right way (and that so much is not known). We looked at the idea of a maturation of one’s process from simple pre-planned procedures to one’s that evolve into more of an intuitive-alive arts-craft –also expandingly faciliatative and educative. The idea of processes occuring throughout whether or not one is consciously involved (or even involved at all) is also a powerful concept to share that resonated really well with the class (ie: the Field Process Model).
All in all, I am really grateful for so many of the mind expanding ideas that are daylit here. The first principles and paradigm literacy work that you are interpreting with Carol Sanford have greatly expanded my notion of what it is to ‘observe and interact’ with the whole being of a (path-project-self-fellow-place). Thanks for opening space for this all.
Adrian like for Susan this lands for me as really beautiful and important work you’re doing here. I think I’m going to have to ask you to share more in a podcast chat some time if you’re up for it!
A beautiful way to approach teaching a PDC! I am saving this comment so I can imitate this when I start teaching. I like it a lot that the students loved the lots of ways to go idea. Your sense of an intuitive-alive arts-craft while also fufilling an expandingly facilitative and educative social role is amazing. It’s a picture of how a whole new regenerative paradigm of society and culture would work. Thanks!
I am flattered that you are inspired Susan. This is still an experiment in progress, but it has garnered very intriguing and promising results and I feel grateful to have had the liberty to try this out (hooray for the agility of small groups!).
This conversation felt particularly relevant to our work; almost like looking where we expect to be in a few years. The bit about removing our biases/preferences from projects is fascinating and an ongoing challenge for us. I liked the simple activity for the PDC to practice at least seeing your initial biases/preferences and trying to break that pattern.
Oftentimes we have clients that ask straightforwardly “What would you do if this was your land/project?”. There is a mess of missing context trying to answer that. When I answer that I state clearly this is based on my skills, capacity, quality of life I want, and so forth. But I do find it is an opportunity for me to apply my bias/preference in a useful way; giving the client a different lens, and perhaps inspiring them to take a more unique approach. Almost always my answer involves something simpler, slower, with less work/time/money than what the client has been striving for.
Appreciate the ongoing interviews!
Great interview indeed!
I am feeling hugely uplifted after listening to this conversation. Absolutely energizing for me!
Thank you Takota for your openness in the meander of this conversation, lifting the paddles out now and then to reflect and drift and see where the current goes.. and the water was moving nicely wasn’t it!
..and Dan, I am so appreciative of what I am getting from the enrichment of your way of being with these questions in this realm.. real coherence was felt in this conversation.
Looking forward to a follow up to this someday and to checking out your book soon too Takota.
Thanks Adrian – I too was so energised by this conversation, and in finding another person, like yourself, genuinely interested in having these kinds of conversations and explorations.
The type of design process you describe reminds me of a waking dream or hallucination I had while on Peyote in which I could design the architecture into which I walked as I went. Most enjoyable. The process you describe also reminds me of how I think humanity has evolved to survive, especially going through population bottlenecks due to climate instability or other profound change by: adapting moment to moment, feeling our way, learning by doing, the pathway being home, barefoot, outcomes emergent.
Thanks so much for your comment Susan, beautifully put, and given how hard it can be to get the deeply nourishing lived and felt experience of designing and creating this way across, maybe I ought to look into Peyote more!
Hi Dan, another long term listener commenting for the first time here despite having listened to all the interviews (I guess I don’t consider myself a good writer 🙂 ). Still, I’d like to share that your work, specially with the podcast, has been a great inspiration and influence for me.
I’m really excited in supporting the Reading Landscape movie as I have a great interest in developing this skills and I believe the movie will be an amazing resource for people like me who want to learn to listen to places instead of imposing our well-intended energy onto places/wholes/beings.
I find incredibly beautiful, and synchronistic, that David Holmgren talks on this part of the interview about his perspective on people doing PDCs and then starting to work as professional designers since I had mentioned to a friend a couple of days ago that it would be very interesting to know what was the purpose of the first PDCs. I mean, it would be interesting to know whether the original idea was to teach people how to design for themselves or to teach them how to create/find solutions for others. One of my questions was: Could it be that designing for someone disempowers those same people to find their own design solutions and their unique way of interacting with the wholes that they are part of?
Greetings from a Brazilian “friend” who is currently working on a permaculture-model farm in Germany and giving the people here some “headache” while trying to put into practice and make sense of the great topics and conversations you bring up on Making Permaculture Stronger 😉
Thanks for commenting Igor and great to know you are out there following along!
What a nice conversation! Lots of energy. It also feels like this talk could be a nice entry point into Making Permaculture Stronger in general. I’m so excited by the work you’re doing and I want to share it with other people, but often don’t know which episode to point them to to start, as many are so deep in the pool, it can be hard for those just learning to swim with these questions.
I was surprised by the depth of this conversation as the title of the new book made it sound much less like a living design process. But this conversation definitely peaked my interest in the book!
As you were talking about this thing of aligning ourselves with nature, or working with nature, another metaphor came to my mind. Like, we are all atoms in a piece of iron called nature. We are all part of it, but depending on how we align ourselves with in it, we’re creating a magnet of repulsion or a magnet of attraction.
Thanks Han and yes it is a challenge finding the right entry point into what to me is such a crucial conversation. I’m looking forward to engaging in collegial critical discussion of this new book in ways that open up some of these doors I keep harping on about. While the focus of the book is certainly not living process as I understand it, it does provide a solid reference point in the larger conversation that I hope will tend toward more and more alive process understandings and practices over time. Also thanks for your metaphor, which took me back to the eddies in the flow of life that just need to stop fighting and trying to swim upstream so hard!
Great masters are humble. I love that someone of David’s intellect and experience appreciate the value of mentors. This conversation highlighted the humanness of design in permaculture and how it evolves through opportunities and reflections. Thanks for probing gently but deeply into his mind Until we ask, we won’t know what people can tell us.
My great pleasure thanks Lizzy!
Great discussion. I’d be interested in a workshop on the web design tool.
Wonderful! I’d also be interested in something interactive on the design web!
Music to my ears, I’d love to be kept in loop for an interactive session. Thank you both for your work…..
One of your best deep dives to date!
I appreciate how you both embody the content – more than a few lightbulbs went off
and concepts really landed because of the HOW of what you explored and not just the What. Just ordered her book. Dan – you are a game changer on the planet – thank you for your own Emergent-ness!
Thanks Linda (you are too kind :-)) and also Josh, Christine and Lizzy. My sense is that it will take some enthusiasm for at least a few others before setting up an interactive session, but I will keep Looby posted and be guided by her sense also. Also – get excited – the next episode is looking to be an interview with the incredible Leah Penniman from Soul Fire Farm.
Happy to have my lover back after 3 months of breakup, 👭👭👭👬👭 thanks to Robinsonbuckler11 (@) gmail com…..😃😍😜😎😆
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Awesome inspiration and insight!
Would love to do a workshop on the design web.
Epic gratitude to you both for this uplifting offering.
Great conversation. Really enjoying the harmonics going on all around. Thank you both.
Liking the discernment sparking around patterns (which can be such an abstract notion, but now being appreciated with more nuance.. eg: implicate process and development patterns.. and how they express into explicate patterns of form and function).
I’d love to engage more with this here and whatever an interactive session might be. Webs, nodes, waves, wholes, eddies and nests.. Oh my!
Wonderful discussion, great to hear Looby’s voice again here. I did the Cultural Emergence course at Applewood in October 2019 – just before setting off on permaculture exploration travels to South America. I used her dedign web to plan my trip. I ended up getting stuck in Uruguay because of the pandemic but as a result I have met some amazing people and we are trying to start a project together here.
I would love to take part in an interactive online workshop with Looby.
Thanks again and best wishes.
Please do share Tyson thoughts. The conversation needs continuing and maturity needs practicing. I have disagreements and questions and there are not many ways to process these thoughts without a continuing conversation.
Hey David thanks for commenting, right on re the need for maturity in these conversations, and prepare to have Tyson chime in (with a rather different perspective) when I release the next episode later today!
Dan, thank you so much for making this conversation happen. I really enjoyed listening to Leah. She contextualized a lot of her comments and perspectives well. I appreciate that she clarified that she wasn’t coming from a permaculture background, hadn’t taken a course, etc. That helped for me recognize how she might consider permaculture as a set of stolen/borrow/appropriated techniques, as opposed to the process of design, of reconnecting to place that I believe your work, this show has really tried to distinguish. More evidence of the need for this show.
It was interesting how you expressed the weakness of the approach of the appropriated permaculture grab bag as taking techniques out of context of their usefulness while Leah expressed it as something closer to theft. Both of you recognized this grab bag approach, whether from youtube videos and permie books or direct from indigenous land stewards, as highly problematic.
Leah’s clarity in defining decolonization, the return of land, period, was refreshing; and will inform my use of that word.
My follow up question; let’s see how well I can articular them:
If we are striving to acknowledge/compensate for the use of indigenous practices in our work, at what point might that be a barrier to people having the courage start a garden, plant a food forest, etc? We already suffer from paralysis by analysis in taking these leaps. I can genuinely see how this conversation would make people stop and question if they should make raised beds or design a multistory polyculture because of fear of political correctness, because of wanted to do it perfect, but knowing they can’t. So how do we both give people permission to do all these things, which as Leah said, are good things, that we want people practicing, all people, while simultaneously meeting the standards of acknowledgment and compensation? Is one of these more important? What tools allow us to do both simultaneously?
Huge fan of Leah’s work and appreciate her articulation of complex ideas. I enjoy how they make me think about my teaching, our clients, our work in a “developing country”, etc. More of these conversations please!
Thanks Scott and great follow-up question. Look forward to seeing how Tyson’s in some ways refreshing perspective on this lands for you :-).
Lovely story unfolding as the property was designed. It was great to see a few masters at work and you unpacking their approach. I would love to hear more about the property and how things ‘stuck’ or evolved.
As everything has a context, is the ‘element assembly’ design teaching an artefact of permaculture teachers and how they taught at the time?
Thanks Lizzy and that’s a story for another time how it has all evolved from back then, suffice to say Yandoit Farm is still going strong and continuing to find and walk its own unique path. With a gorgeous house dam that is almost always full to the brim :-). For me ‘element assembly’ design thinking, teaching and practicing is an artefact of the mechanistic worldview that has held modern civilisation captive for a long time. Meaning it ain’t no small thing to resolve or dissolve or put in its proper place! I’ll keep chipping away though :-).
Utterly fascinating – he’s such an original thinker and disruptor. It’s definitely time we started learning from Aboriginals and their culture. Lucky (in spite of our efforts in the past and ongoing) we have so many brilliant minds we area able to listen to in that community.
I think there’s a lot of truth to be gained by looking in the side mirror. Things are closer together than they appear. I’m grateful for this episode because I think the conversation shows how true that is. Thank you Leah, for your spirited work, and thanks Dan, for doing the show.
I can clearly see Leah’s perspective on permaculture. I think it’s a fairly surficial view, as I’ve observed very different outcomes of permaculture’s history, but on the surface I share a lot of the same criticisms. It’s really just the surface though, kinda like judging a book by the cover. The cover is still there and it’s annoying, but Permaculture’s full history hasn’t even been captured so that someone could actually dig deep and learn about it without having been very involved in it. And it’s imperfect, hence the reason for Dan’s work in the first place.
We’re in a time of feeling very deeply for the pain that people cause each other. We should feel that pain, and we should change the conditions. I know I’m there. We might hope that critiquing everything and shaming things will be enough to change them, but that strategy has a very low track record. It can be enough to get an acknowledgement, but it’s never been enough to shift the pattern. Time for something new. The on the ground work is what matters and Leah’s work is fucking awesome!
So good to hear from you Jason and beautifully said. Hope to talk again soon my friend!
Dan, I’m keen to join any future workshop with Looby, I’ve listened to both conversations twice now, enjoying the richness here.
Hey Dan, I really appreciated listening to this conversation, and the follow up with Tyson! I wanted to share something I’ve found helpful – distinguishing between decolonising and de-colonial -ising. I think MPS is doing the later for permaculture.
Decolonsiation being about colonised people reclaiming & healing their land and culture.
and decolonialisation being about settlers giving back what was stolen, dismantling the dominating power structures, unlearning habits of control, entitlement, separation etc. learning to be humble, reciperocal participants in the creative unfolding of life. MPS is ever refining and enriching my perspective with that worldview/habituation stuff, so thank you 🙂
Hey Rowan and thanks for this distinction and my pleasure!
Hey Dan, you are doing important work reaching people that HM wouldn’t reach. I often share the podcast with you and Allan to people thinking that permaculture and HM is incompatible.
Thanks Gustav and glad that lovely chat with Allan hit the spot!
We have used the David Jacke process and found it really helped us with the design of our site, we had become bogged down with functions and elements and pulling out to loook at the overall patterns and broader concepts of the ‘whole’ site freed us up to progress the design.