Let’s have a go at compiling a list of articles, people. and/or groups working toward anarchist and egalitarian permaculture. Here are a few to start:
David Holmgren: To Collapse or Not Collapse
"Even though, of course, I as an anarchist question this simple dichotomy [collapse vs no collapse]..." -David Holmgren, Permaculture Co-Originator @ 00:08:15
Uncivilizing Permaculture: An Anti-Civilization And Anti-Colonial Critique Of “Sustainable Agriculture”
Both horticulture and permaculture contain elements of gardening. They both have this measure of scale to them, and encourage diversity (as opposed to agriculture’s monocropping). There is a continuum between permaculture and foraging. For example, permaculture’s most wild zone, zone 5, allows for hunting and foraging. And even some of what has been perceived as foraged wilderness in horticultural societies has sometimes turned out to actually be their version of a permaculturist’s food forest. If then, the aim is the wild, and not simply the garden, then permaculture is a step in the right direction. Though, to be honest, it never seemed that many permaculturists I encountered ever seemed to see the forest for the trees – they only ever saw a garden.
Permaculture allows for multiple functions, ecologically, but Hemenway also claims that it can’t perform all of them, hence the necessity of large wild spaces:
“You can’t just turn the whole world into a garden. There are major eco-system functions that aren’t going to happen if we have completely gardened the entire planet. We don’t know enough about eco-system functions to run it all ourselves. We have to let alot of it stay wild so that alot of the not well-perceived and not well understood and unmanageable eco-system functions can proceed.”So again, permaculture’s success, like that of horticulture, is predicated on allowing wild spaces for ecosystem functions. And here, in the presence of the wild, is where the question of the carbon footprint and carrying capacity really clash. The standard understanding of an individual’s carbon footprint refers to how much land, or how many Earth’s (!) are required for their needs. This usually relates to human use of land – agriculture. But if the whole world were a farm, or a garden, then where would the animals be? No, not cows or chickens, but wilds animals. Where will the resources be? Carrying capacity relates to every living being (human or not) in a given bioregion, so there’s an obvious problem with anthropocentrism to some extent within permaculture too. So every inch of this Earth is not simply a production unit, as some may perceive with their precision in measuring the output from growing grain on a piece of land versus using it to raise cows. The trick, again, is anthropocentrism. Both choices agricultural and neither allow for the survival of wild animals. This brings up biocentrism, the idea that we don’t inhabit this planet for our exclusive use – we share it.
Against agriculture & in defense of cultivation
To be against agriculture does not require advocating mass starvation or a return to an exclusively primitive or foraging existence, and it doesn’t lave to mean eradicating cultivated food altogether. We need to make a distinction between “agriculture” and other plant (aid possibly animal, although the ethics of the domestication of animals should be viewed with suspicion) “cultivation” methods that have been, and are continuously being developed by people around the world. The problem of agriculture is largely related to the scale. “Horticulture” refers to garden-scale cultivation rather than field-scale, as in the prefix “agri”. For example, permaculture is a specific cultivation method that aims to integrate die garden system into the wild ecosystem around it. Industrial farming (even organic) places the “field” — the monocrop — outside of our immediate surroundings, removing our social lives from the polycultural, intimacy of “the garden”. Subsistence horticulture doesn’t depend on industrial systems or take more than they give back ecologically, or even require specialization of labor, or long monotonous work hours. The most effective methods have always been diversified community efforts, which cut down on work hours as well as monotony.
"We are skeptical of attempts to map agricultural social systems (hierarchy, feudalism, etc.) to permaculture-based communities without suffering the same negative unintended consequences agriculture has proven to foment for several millenia. Most permaculturists recognize that agriculture is a failure in terms of permaculture's First Ethic. We suggest that agriculture inherently fails on the Second Ethic because of a specific set of impulses: the causal relationship between land enclosure, domestication of the plant and animal kingdoms, and an cultural veneer--however thick--of human control. We extend this to predict that combining permaculture earth principles with agricultural people principles will lead to embedded tension between the First and Second ethics of permaculture.
We are skeptical of attempts to form egalitarian intentional communities that embed agricultural systems of (1) intensive domestication of plants and animals, (2) a mindset of control (e.g., constant management after design implementation), (3) contractual and financial commitments, and (4) sedentism (e.g., homestead or fortress mentality), into their subsistence systems. We think the inaccurate conflation of “egalitarianism” with “sameness” leads to excessive development of cultural norms."
"Mollinson’s principles of permaculture provide a model not only for the successful and abundant repair and redesign of our food production systems, but also have wider implications for the reorganization and implementation of a sustainable social order – a ‘permanent culture’. His emphasis on thoughtful design over mindless action offers a model for all anarchists to study and learn from in imagining a future society and for implementation in their home, community and garden today – one emphasizing the necessity of harmony and cooperation with our environment to assure survival."
**Permaculture Nodal Land Projects
"...there’s the ethnographic record rife with peoples living in wildness with intimate communities persisting almost incidentally...
There has to be more out there
… a [way] to bridge that chasm is through pursuing the idea of forager norms (and perhaps values, but that rapidly gets complex) versus agriculturalist norms (with pastoralists and horticulturalists imprecisely, but not arbitrarily, tossed in with the latter). This arrives at the fundamental divergence in mobility orientations between hunter-gatherer cultures (nomadic, non-sedentary, immediate-return, etc.) and agricultural cultures (sedentary, delayed-return, etc.). Foragers must move regularly for subsistence reasons, and farmers can’t move regularly for subsistence reasons. The implications of this difference to cultural adaptations permeate life. Anthropologists and archaeologists are quick to complete the story of the instantiation of private property, division of labor, hierarchy, patriarchy, zoonotic disease, theism, and the other unintended consequences of the civilizing process.
Permaculture came later in the community’s theory, but its ethical foundations provide one way we might think about resolving the question of forager norms and agricultural norms in the context of community. The three ethics of permaculture are:
- Care for the earth.
- Care for people.
- Consider limits to consumption and production, and redistribute surplus to the benefit of 1 (earth) and 2 (people).
If permaculture’s founders, Dave Holmgren and Bill Mollison, hadn’t realized the flaws in thinking about the concept as “permanent agriculture”, and scuttled that in favor of “permanent culture”, we would reject it. And though the movement can feel subsumed by farmers and gardeners and capitalism, Holmgren, Mollison, and Mollison’s protégé Geoff Lawton all give nods to hunter-gatherer life as a model from which to learn. Since they did drop the agriculture bias after seeing permaculture’s broader potential, and they do recognize forager life as a source of inspiration, and hunter-gatherers have demonstrated the closest examples we have of permanent cultures, interpreting the three ethics along those lines seems the most reasonable place to start.
We also take the rejection of agriculture further than most permaculturists, but feel on firm footing with Toby Hemenway’s article implying that sustainable agriculture is an oxymoron. We diverge through our view that permaculture, when taken to its logical conclusion, is, and can only be, fundamentally anti-agriculture.
Put simply, we forward the hypothesis that intentional communities drawing from agricultural principles in designing for any of the three ethics will inevitably fail. The only question is when."
What have we missed so far that should be added?