Bills PDM Chap 1 Reflections.

Getting ready for the permaethos PDC to start, so today I read the first chapter of Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual by Bill Mollison.  Here’s my notes from the read, followed by my reactions.

PRIME DIRECTIVE: The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.

PRINCIPLE OF COOPERATION:  Cooperation, not competition, is the very basis of existing life systems and of future survival.

The Three Ethics:

1. CARE OF EARTH.  Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.

2. CARE OF PEOPLE. Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.

3. SETTING LIMITS TO POPULATION AND CONSUMPTION. by governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.

Bill’s personal philosophy:

  • Work with, not against, nature
  • Prefer protracted and thoughtful observation above protracted and thoughtless action
  • look at systems and people in ALL of their functions, not just as single yields
  • allow systems to demonstrate their own evolution

RULE OF NECESSITOUS USE: leave natural systems alone until we are, of strict necessity, forced to use it.

RULE OF CONSERVATIVE USE: Once it is necessary to use natural systems, do so by minimizing impact by:

  • reduce waste, and hence, pollution
  • thoroughly replace lost minerals
  • careful energy accounting
  • assess long-term, negative biosocial effects and act to buffer or eliminate them.

Environmental Responses

1. Care for surviving natural assemblies

2. Rehabilitate Degraded/Eroded land

3. Create our own complex living environments.


My reactions:

The chapter is presented mostly in the first person, and draws some rather sweeping conclusions and pronouncements that will take some time to evaluate.  For example, acquiring wealth and or land beyond your needs is immoral.  Well, that depends on how you use that land and wealth.  There is great opportunity to build wealth while supplying food and educating the consumer on the benefits of permaculture design, as well as the opportunity to supply employment for people as farm land holdings grow.  It is probably more ethical to buy the land and set up land trust usage rules that will hold the land in permaculture practices beyond the life span of the original owner, and setting reasonable tenant lease terms.  And if monetary or economic wealth is used in the development of additional conservation, it seems that furthers the prime directive.  Perhaps it is more the comparison of mindsets on land use and wealth generation than the actual accumulation.  In any case, quoting this chapter without backup facts could prove problematic in friendly debates.

The chart is interesting, but there does not seem to be much factual or empirical evidence backing up the claims.  It would be hard to present the chart as anything more than anecdotal evidence based on the authors experience (though I certainly believe the author’s expertise and experience is prodigious).  That is a valuable perspective, (why I bought the book – to learn the author’s perspective) but just a good design won’t ensure that the energy demands, inputs, and reuse of waste will actually happen.  It still requires permaculture management with the ethics in mind.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s