Permaculture, Communities and NVDA

rbomford rbomford at
Thu Oct 30 19:40:38 EST 1997

Hi, I post the following for peoples to read. The first is an report
from the beatiful valley of Nant Crafnant in North Wales (Cymru),
where a combination of forward thinking local residents and direct
action activists have at last ended the rein of colonial forestry in
North Wales. The second extract is from the winners of the prison
reform trust essay for 1997, residents of Ford Prison. (full text
apc.susag.permacul) The writer/s nicely expesse the way forward for
sustainable management of land by Permaculture (tribal?...) methods.
Read on....

Campaigners in North Wales recently set up the Gelli Tree Village to
protect deciduous trees around a badger sett in a cash crop forest.
The Forestry Commission had planned to clear fell the forest but after
a month of the Villages existence they finally noticed the protestors
presence. Campaigners put together a list of demands concerning the
areas future management: this was accepted by a nervous Forest
Enterprise. Over two hundred coniferous trees and a greater number of
deciduous trees all marked for felling were saved. In case this
excellent news is not enough, the media attention generated by the
campaign helped pressure Forest Enterprise into agreeing to replant
the forest with deciduous not coniferous trees and to run the forest
under a community management scheme. One commentator
has claimed that if this takes place it will be the first community
run temperate rain forest in the Northern hemisphere. Hurray for the

'Permaculture', that is, permanent agriculture or permanent culture,
is a term coined by Australian ecologist Bill Mollison.  It draws
together skills and knowledge of many environmentally sound practices
techniques - traditional and modern - to create ecologically efficient
systems in our households, gardens, communities, businesses and
institutions.  The principles and practices of permaculture can be
used by anyone, anywhere.  It encourages us to be resourceful,
self-reliant, and is a conscious part of the solution to the many
problems facing us both locally and globally.  In fact its philosophy
and practices encapsulate the green slogan 'Think Globally, Act

Permacuture offers us a sustainable system for our support materially
and, because it is ethics based, spiritually as well.  Its ethics are
enlightened self-interest: care of the Earth, care of people, return
of surplus.  It is a surplus of design, of incremental design, where
there is gradual improvement through the empirical method.  It
requires a considerable investment in time and effort, observing the
site and working out a detailed design which is site specific in every
way.  No two sites are the same so, although permaculture principles
of design and methodology are universal, their specific application is

Permaculture is all about the relative placement of components for
integrated efficiency.  Any integrated efficiency is complex.  This
complexity arises in the number of species and/or things in the system
and the number of functional connections between components.
Observing natural systems tells us that there is a strong relationship
between its permanence and its complexity.  It is only by way of
imitating and improving on natural systems that we can achieve

Sustainability is the goal that we all have to achieve if human life
is to continue on this planet.  The definition of a sustainable system
is one, which over its lifetime produces or saves enough energy to
reproduce itself.  Permaculture, therefore, takes close aim at energy
flows - inputs as well as outputs - and it insists on renewable energy
sources for inputs into any permaculture system. 

Permaculture does not say to ordinary people: you must leave it to the
expert. Quite the opposite, for it seeks to empower people, to make
them responsible for the way they live their lives and to move away
from this commonly held view that we as individuals are powerless.
The proposals outlined here present an interesting challenge to people
who find themselves under stress and who may well have a perception
that in some respects they are powerless, and who may never have
thought that prison could offer them tools of empowerment and a
glimpse of a sustainable pathway into the future. 

There is an assumption that contact with and handling organic
materials particularly soil and plants, has a therapeutic and
beneficial effect at a psychological level.  There is a further
assumption we make which is that being responsible for growing some of
one's own food and having stewardship of one's immediate environment
induces a sense of responsibility.  It is hardly surprising in these
circumstances to find that permaculture has been successfully applied
to city farm sites in England and the United States.  Its natural
constituents are marginalised, disempowered, broken people.  There are
many such people who populate our prisons. 

It might be said that compelling inmates to grow their own food is
something akin to the practice in Chinese communist labour camps,
where dissidents are sent for 'retraining' in the countryside to do
hard han many paid badly, because that way lies efficiency.  It is
important to look at efficiency and to recognise what a narrow and
partial definition we have conventionally given to the term.  It
usually means the measure of a ratio between a given sum of
expenditure in return for a product. 

Essentially, it is an index of accounting.  It is narrow because if
the concept had a wider range it would surely encompass ecological and
environmental factors and would focus on net energy inflows and
It is partial because being an accountancy ratio it ignores that which
cannot be 'counted'.  Since ecological, environmental and energy
consequences are never counted they are deemed not to exist!  Is it
surprising that such wilfulness has led us up the ecological blind
alley we find ourselves in?  Permaculture seeks to be efficient in the
wide impartial sense and is particularly concerned to measure the
inflows and outflows of energy.  Unless these movements can be held in
equilibrium there can be no long-term energy efficiency and without
efficiency in this wide sense there is no prospect of sustainability. 

Productivity means even more and ever better work from ever fewer
This leads us into the social blind alley of fragmentation,
marginalisation and excluded groups and strata within western

We need to change. Now, not in 20 years time please note Mr Clinton.

2's up  love jimting

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