The original article appeared on Medium, and has been deleted by the author. Out of respect for that deletion, we do not include the original author’s name here. However, we find the article an important part of the discourse surrounding permaculture, and while we do not endorse it fully, feel it is important to keep the text accessible.
Ideas improve. The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author’s phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea. -Guy Debord
If you don’t want Open Source Permaculture, FUCK YOU
Here’s to all the fake-ass straw-hat wide eyed motherfuckers who’ve been hogging the permaculture pie for the past decades.
You pilfered it, strangled it, monopolized it and tried to draw it into your little marshes of self importance.
You’re not just kumbaya hipsters, you’re kumbaya hipsters who charge each others hefty sums of money for the privilege of sitting around and listening to the same tired bullshit, re-arranged and re-arranged and re-arranged until you can re-market it.
You’re charging each other and the world pays the price for your irrelevance and uselessness.
And then you make another book, with 3% new stuff in it, 3% which should have been a hefty blog post bringing change and freshness into the world, not an overgrown pet project that you publish for personal fame.
Today I read a list of “ten things to do after finishing your PDC”. Take another PDC. Look over your notes. Hold a local seminar. Arrange for another teacher to hold a local seminar. And so on.
Are you motherfuckers growing PDCs? What is this, the endless PDC harvest of the permaculture fanboys?
Get a grip. This is about the world, and its ecosystem, and about local ecosystems, and growing food and culture.
None of that has fuck-all to do with the tired concept you call a PDC. It has to do with useful, free information, open and malleable and tried and tested.
Not conceptualized and overtaught. Tried and fucking tested. Brilliant
information, not tried and tested by Geoff Lawton with the help of badly treated interns and a worldwide conspiracy of morons who keep buying his DVDs.
Bill Mollison, bless his over-talking soul, annoying as he was, at least had the excuse of having come up during an age where there was no internet. So the only way he could disseminate information was through publishing books. And STILL, he gave more away for free, there’s more free video and audio and written stuff from him than from almost all the “generations” of “permaculture teachers” since, combined.
Permaculture isn’t a fringe topic you should have to study by way of torrents. Permaculture really is the cutting edge, with a few modifications here and there, or putting together the best of what’s come out in the past two decades, permaculture really, truly is the cutting edge of ecosystem practice.
As such, it is also the cutting edge of saving the world and reintegrating human beings into nature, and cultivating their humaniy. AS SUCH, it needs to be free and open source.
Every one of you “teachers” and “instructors” charging 1k and 2k for your courses, badly structured and hard to follow, a fucking shame by any standards (if you were leading an army with this quality of instruction, you’d get slaughtered), you should crawl into the nearest hole with the last bit of honor still intact in you.
You should have open sourced your knowledge long ago. Everything you know, if you charge people for it, you need to put it out in the open. Share it, make it better, let others make it better, grow actual ecosystems, then if someone is willing to pay for your brilliance, let them pay.
But if you charge for permaculture and don’t have all your information out there, open sourced, all your knowledge, to the best of your expression, then you’re a fucking scumbag. Open source it, then you can charge.
And the standard of practice and of quick intelligent understanding and cultivation of ecosystems won’t improve this way. Just charging and making some money “because you have to”, and “you have mouths to feed”, and “this is capitalism”, won’t help that knowledge become quicker and smarter and better and more applicable.
It will just keep it stuck in cycles of appropriation, misuse and non-use.
And for the people who, a few years ago, did a crowdfunding campaign and raised 10k to make an open source permaculture resource available online, then ran with the fucking money, there’s a special place in hell for you.
Because stealing 10k in this world is not that big of a deal, it’s done over and over and over in a lot of walks of life, but apparently in permaculture it’s hard to raise 10k for open-sourcing this field, very hard, and for some low-lives who weren’t able to cut it stealing in some more moneyed field, but came into permaculture to stink up the place and consume the last bit of good karma available, like I said, special place in hell.
Response to later comments and feedback:
No, I will not give you my car and fridge. Those are heavy objects that are hard to exchange and useless in the long term. They reflect a heavy and difficult society, and they also reflect your difficulty in understanding Open Source.
You are against liberation of knowledge, and thus, against the future, and you need to stop or vanish. Either one. Not only that, you are afraid, unimaginative, and lack human value and courage, and you’re clinging to scarcity instead of understanding the pure potential of intelligent knowledge.
Open Source knowledge frees up activity and value, and allows people to generate more work and more projects, more connections with more people around the world, and it allows the spontaneous occurrence of brilliance independent of traditional teachers and resources.
Ultimately, this creates more resources for everyone.
There is a kid in Africa right now who could change his village, who is brilliant and hard working and a good human being, and who doesn’t have 10k hours to spend researching permaculture online from wildly different sources, and his potential is being killed because some douchebags decided to make money endlessly off of permaculture.
That is NOT acceptable anymore. Pure and simple. That kid’s brilliance and potential are need to be empowered by a polished, usable, smart and quick resource that is the accumulation of knowledge and intelligence of this whole community and the various resources it has worked with for the past two decades.
To Tom Le Blanc,
Yes, there is knowledge online, quite a bit of it. All of it is rarefied, spread around, generated through economics of scarcity, and not in any way immediately usable as a whole. It is not a unit. All the free info is irrelevant, because it’s mostly low quality and not a structured centered whole that anyone in the world can take up and use.
That is the meaning of Open Source — readily available and usable, not people like you whining that everyone should be able to charge 2k for a PDC. They could charge 10k for all I care, if Permaculture knowledge was Open Source. Right now they’re not charging for quality of instruction, for quality of experience, for intelligence and presence and the great activities happening at their place, they’re charging for secretive knowledge and the cumulative lack of Open Source work of the permaculture community, which comes with a great cost to the world.
In short, they’re charging for a great cost to the world. Anyone who doesn’t understand P2P culture and economics, and the power of Open Source, doesn’t understand this.
So they need to understand, because that is the future, not charging money for knowledge that is meant to make the world a better, more fertile and more powerful place, with more social and ecosystem value, as well as economy and activity value to go around for everyone.
That the Permaculture Institute of San Francisco are being relatively good guys does not change this situation. They are just being relatively good guys within a broken model, and it’s ultimately meaningless as long as they don’t Open Source their knowledge.
Keep your challenges, perhaps accomplish them yourself.
Bottom line is, you’re making apologies for greed and rationalizing it because you hope to profit from it in some way.
Josef Davies-Coates said:
“That is the meaning of Open Source — readily available and usable” (quote from my article)
No. That is not the meaning at all. This is the meaning:
You’re getting stuff all muddled up. It would be perfectly possible and completely reasonable for permaculture authors who had “open sourced” their books, course materials, handouts etc to still charge for courses/ consultation etc (just as creators of open source code do).
But there is a dearth of authors and teachers who have open sourced their work, and imho that is ethically wrong and does need attention (but rants like this are sadly unlikely to generate the required attention nor action).
To their credit the Permaculture Association do routinely release their stuff using the Creative Commons “by, share alike” licensehttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ (which basically means you are free to share it so long as you credit them and also freely share any derivative works using the same license)
But almost no one else in the global permaculture community does so (does anyone know of any others?!). And this is backward. And it does mean permaculture doesn’t spread as widely nor have as much impact as it urgently needs to have. Which I think is the real point I feel you are failing to coherently make, but thanks for at least trying, I guess.
To which my answer is:
No, that is not the MEANING of Open Source, that is the working definition for establishing a basic protocol for the sharing of materials under open source license.
The actual MEANING of Open Source is, as I said, quick availability and deep usability. You’ll find this all throughout the Open Source community, a strive to achieve simplicity where it is possible, and to define the right use and right interface for every function, then achieve it and the most usable way.
That is the MEANING, and for something to be truly useful and truly spread, it has to strive towards these standards.
And the only thing getting “all muddled up” here is your reading comprehension.
I stated quite clearly that there is no issue with people charging for actual Permaculture work and services. Or for their own working presence within an ecosystem, whether in establishing or maintaining it.
They can charge as much or as little as they want for that.
The difference lies in the fact that when you teach about improving the world and the standard of living for all beings, and you teach ethical principles of sharing and so on, but at the same time you need to maintain a competitive advantage towards the public by keeping knowledge secret (to the best of their ability), or keeping usable knowledge processes and usable knowledge structures secret, then you’re not being ethical.
Not at all. And this also suggests that you do not trust that you actually provide a useful ecosystem creation service to the world.
So no, these people are not doing permaculture, they’re not even doing gardening, for the most part, they’re doing PDC teaching and it’s a pyramid scheme.
And that is different from establishing a basis of knowledge and freely giving it to the world and then being useful and creative in the world via your skills and charging for that whatever you can/need/are willing to. And they can charge for the teaching experience as well, as long as the knowledge is open sourced.
Which is of course what programmers do, and if they hadn’t, well it would be a lot more expensive for us to have this conversation right now.
And indeed, this does mean that permaculture is not establishing the right protocols within the world, not spreading and not evolving nearly enough.
That is actually one of the problems for “permaculture designers”. They know when permaculture goes truly open source, the intelligence, density and usability of the information will increase and by sheer process of natural selection a new generation of actual practitioners will emerge.
As for me failing to make a coherent point, you nincompoop, my point was very coherently made in the manner and with the language that I chose for this task, and it worked very well. The more people complain and whine about my language, the more the point makes its way deeper into the places it needs to.
AND IT NEEDS TO FUCKING HURT THERE.
In case anyone missed out on that part, I DON’T LIKE permaculture people selling their shitty little PDCs.
So everyone who doesn’t like my language, choke on it. The more you choke, the more it spreads.
P.P.S: I’m not the only one giving the permaculture saints a good hard slapping. Check out this article: Permaculture is NOT Trademarked.
Anyone reading this should know that there are those who are mentally, financially or functionally oppressed by the current standards of the Permaculture industry, and who have a hard time finding true community in what should be the Permaculture Community.
There are those who are thanking me for this article, and find it liberating. They have put various projects on hold due to fear of lack of approval from the permaculture-saints-that-be, and that is hurting not just them, but a lot of other beings. It is a growing and spreading circle of hurt.
The truth is they are free to practice and grow permaculture to their heart’s content. They are free to do whatever they want, work with nature, and help other beings.
Permaculture is about liberation, freedom and prosperity. Permaculture is about the natural fertility of the earth, and the natural right of every being to cultivate and enjoy that fertility, freely.
There are those who find the current state of affairs in permaculture to be stuck, overbearing, not conductive to growth and liberation, and simply a parody of industry and marketing where financial interests win over human interests.
That is NOT how things will go down long term, and that is what this article is about.
WRATHFUL POWER THAT DESTROYS OVERBEARING COMPLEXITY.
More fun comments:
Person one: Here is as good a place as any for me to bring up my hidden shame: I have read Bill Mollison’s Designer’s Manual and it reads like incoherent jibberish to me. It is all over the place. I suspect he may have been high as a kite for most of it, it’s so wonky, and it seems like he (or an editor) just slapped a bunch of cocktail napkins into typeface and bound it.
Am I alone in this?
Person two: The “all over the place, slapped a bunch of cocktail napkins together” feel has to do with the way the world is physically separated into continents and islands. There is very little continuity in the parts of nature we deal with as terrestrial mammals.
Person three: Silly me. Here I thought it was supposed to be a book, nay, a designer’s manual, even, but of course it is expensive performance art, instead.
I’m not trolling or trying to be antagonistic, I just agree that beneficial knowledge should be free, and that doesn’t preclude any of our ability to pay our bills.
I agree, I’ve been saying since I first heard of permaculture, that it needs to be easily accessed if it is going ot make a dent in conventional farming practices. I’m 27 and living near pay check to paycheck (I’m married). We are lucky enough to be able ot experiment on 10 acres on my father-in-law’s land, but I haven’t even bought the bible, er, Bill Mollison’s $100 book yet. I get emails all the time about local PDC’s. They are so easy to sign up for, just schedule to take a month off work and spend $2,000, no biggie! Though I even have problems with non-permaculture events, like those held by my closest Ag college (Clemson), who seem to think getting non farmers into farming will be easy by having an all day class on a Thursday or Tuesday. Why the hell can it not be on a Saturday!?
The ethics pretty much say give back to people dont they? Knowledge goes under that umbrella in my opinion, and giving does not equal selling.
I’ve wanted to take a PDC for 5 years, but artificial scarcity has made it impossible.
MIT and Stanford lectures are online. They’re doing just fine.
If you get the best people to lecture we’ll all pitch in I promise.
Even super obscure podcasts are doing just fine with Patreon etc.
If you keep doing interesting science the world will keep being interested.