What Exactly is a Permaculture Design Certification and What Isn’t

I have been working with Permaculture, implementing designs and teaching it to others for about 5 years now.  5 years ago like many new to the concept I thought Permaculture was simply planting trees and bushes vs. annual crops, boy was I wrong.

I am an information sponge when a new topic of interest comes up.  When I realized permaculture wasn’t just a word but an entire design science I went into overdrive.  Someone sent me Geoff Lawton’s “Greening the Desert” and my mind opened to things I had never even considered before.  After that, I soon discovered 3 great resources that stemmed from Bill Mollison they were…

I watched the videos and read the PDF at a speed I am sure Bill has never spoken at.  I read it again, watched it again, etc.  I bought copies of Permaculture One, Permaculture Two, The Permaculture Design Manual and any other videos and/or books that seemed worth having.  As is typical I first became an expert in the intellectual sense on the concept and then began practical application along side of that effort.

In those 5 years I became a recognized name in the discipline.  I have guest lectured at PDCs, I have presented at major events, taken part in great workshops as a student.  Along the way I also took a PDC for which I got a certificate.  The course was online as it was the only way I could get it done.  Today I consider that certification worthless.  Don’t get me wrong, the course taught me a lot, I learned a lot, but it was NOT a Permaculture Design Certification course in my view now.

Like I said I have pretty much invested in every single resource that is available in the Permaculture space.  So when Geoff Lawton and Bill Mollison released an entire PDC on DVD I bought it, in spite of a HUGE shipping cost from Australia.  I sat down, put in the first DVD and even took notes (not something I am known for) and in the first 8 hours I learned the following…

  • More about design science then I had from all the other material I had reviewed
  • 5 times what I had in my entire online PDC course at least
  • What Permaculture really is, “ethical design science and art coming together”
  • That many so called PDC Courses in the US are simply not qualified to be called a true PDC

I know this will upset some people, but it is simply true.  A design course should prepare you to go design systems from small to large in any climate on the planet.  A person that completed such a course should be able to look at the shape of land forms and know the climate they are in from that alone.  They should understand earth works, swales, sills, guilds and more.  Sadly many don’t.

Of course Geoff Lawton has now released an online PDC but not everyone will be able to take it.  For some the cost is too high, for others the timing isn’t right and they will only take so many students to make sure that the quality of education is sufficient.  Not to mention someone has to review the final published projects of each student seeking certification.

Additionally for Permaculture to keep growing we need it to be profitable and there are many outstanding teachers out there.  Two that spring to mind are Ben Falk who is actually moving more to doing specific hands on workshops vs. PDCs which I find very cool, I think there is a huge demand for this.  The other that jumps to mind is Bill Wilson of Midwest Permaculture.  I know for a fact Bill’s curriculum was based on direct guidance from the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia.

There are a few facts about the term Permaculture and the history of the movement.  The first is the word was coined by Bill Mollison who co wrote Permaculture One with David Holmgren.   After that is was Bill who developed the PDC curriculum and began teaching and evolving it.  This went on pretty much for about 20 years and along Bill’s side for almost all of that time was Geoff Lawton.  Together these two men made Permaculture into a global concept, they created the brand, taught thousands of students and evolved the concept based on science and ethics.

To me if you are going to say you are a “Certified Permaculture Designer” it certainly isn’t necessary to be taught by one of these two men, though it is great to do so if you can.  What you should do though is go though the material and concepts that actually were created by the industries founder, Bill Mollison.  Again this is based on the science of design, the prime directive and three core ethics.  There are two problems with many courses that claim to be PDCs in my view.  One is what they don’t include and the other is what they do include, both are major hurtles holding Permaculture back in my view.

Problems With What Isn’t Included

This one is pretty easy, here are some questions I would ask any company or individual who wanted to sell me a PDC course, if they can answer them all sufficiently, I think you are good to go.

  1. Can you tell me what a sill is and how it functions?
  2. Can you explain the basic difference between sector and zone analysis?
  3. Will your course teach me about landscape profiles?
  4. Will your course teach me to design systems in any climate or landscape?
  5. What makes your PDC valid, did you receive guidance from the PRI of Australia flat out would Bill Mollison consider a certificate from your course valid?

Bluntly, before I would spend my money on a Permaculture Design Course I would want a satisfactory answer to all those questions, with one consideration.  That consideration is a question to myself, “does certification matter to me, is that something I really want as a credential?”.

Many of these courses are actually exceptional, you learn incredible things, lots about design and they can help you a great deal in many ways.  However, if they are not based on the core curriculum of Permaculture’s founder, they are not in my view a Design Certification.  I don’t think most of these schools are doing this for negative purposes, I just think they feel qualified to teach and are selling what they feel people want.  Such schools would do best to simply start offering workshops based on regional design, specific techniques, etc. rather then make their own version of a PDC .  Either that or seek guidance from the PRI to make sure the curriculum is complete.  Either would be fine in my book.

Problems With What Is Included

This is a bigger problem to me.  Most of the courses with this issue have the what isn’t included problem as well, but these are much worse when the missing info is back filled with an agenda.   Being a very nature based system Permaculture attracts what many would call modern day hippies and/or people into a lot of “airy fairy stuff”.  Generally a lot of politics get added in when you start down that path.  Before I continue I want to provide a quote from Permaculture’s founder, Bill Mollison it is…

“So it’s [permaculture] a revolution. But permaculture is anti-political. There is no room for politicians or administrators or priests. And there are no laws either. The only ethics we obey are: care of the earth, care of people, and reinvestment in those ends.”

I want to point out here that the above quote isn’t my view it is the view of Permaculture’s founder, the man whom we all must thank for the existence of the Permaculture movement as a whole.  You can read the interview that quote comes from here.

Here are some examples of things that I know have actually been stated in so called Permaculture Design Courses, none of which I feel have any place in a PDC

  • If you own a gun you are not a real permaculturist
  • If you don’t use your urine for fertilizer you are not a permaculturist
  • You must be off grid 100% or you are not a permaculturist
  • If you are a republican you are not a permaculturist
  • If you don’t believe in global warming based on CO2 you are not a permaculturist
  • If you use heavy equipment you are not a permaculturist
  • Every permaculture student should be a vegetarian
  • All surplus should be redistributed (a bastardization of the third ethic)
  • You can’t have an SUV and practice permaculture
  • Permaculture is all or nothing

That is just the start.  There are PDCs which require the students to camp out, they are not permitted to get a hotel at their own expense as it is considered wasteful on fuel.  Some have a lot of hippy like campfire time with bare feet, singing, chanting etc.  That I actually have no problem with as long as it is something additional for those that want to do it and not part of the curriculum and required.  In some instances it has been part of the core course.

In a PDC if you are discussing energy it should be the potential or kinetic energy of actual scientific forces of nature.  Not the “energy of the goddess spirit of Mother Earth”.  I again have no problem with people who have this spiritual view.  I have no problem with people that gain a Permaculture education and then practice it from this view.  That is fine, we all practice our professions in a specific angle based on our personal spiritually and world view.  It just isn’t something that belongs in the educational components of something that is supposed to be based on design science.  Frankly a PDC should not be used to indoctrinate others with any individual’s political or spiritual views.  It should be all about what works and how and why to do it.

Consider taking a course in architecture at a university.  Now if you talk to students in that course you will find some are Christian, some atheists, some die hard democrats and some die hard republicans and others might be politically agnostic.  The teacher too will have a specific geo political world view.  Some may come though in his teaching but basically he is going to teach his students to design a building.

Along with other training those students will then design buildings and much of who and what they are will go into said designs, heck deeply religious students might specialize in designing churches.  Yet the education will be about structure, engineering, foundations, etc.  In other words what works, what makes a building safe, useable, etc.  That teacher shouldn’t be teaching his students that “the mystical energy of Mother Earth can be channeled though the arches of the building”, such has little place in the world of academia in a architectural course.  If you want such things take a course on world religion or metaphysics.

The approach of injecting politics and spiritually into a PDC is extremely damaging to the movement.  The reality is taking a PDC takes time and money.  Many people with the money and willing to sacrifice the time are doing so because they have seen the results of permaculture and want to be better able to reproduce them.  Many also want to make permaculture part of a business in the realm of sustainable landscaping as part of an existing business.  Some want to go into full on consulting.  Some want to go into teaching workshops and courses of their own.

Such people want to know what works, how it works, why it works and how to do it.  They are generally not interested in dancing in mud, chanting mantras or being told they are evil for having their own political opinions.  In fact I have spoken to a lot of people that took PDCs who were very turned off of permaculture because they became convinced that this was the heart of what permaculture really is.  Geoff has confirmed that he has had the same experience in speaking with thousands of people around the world who have been though similar so called PDCs.

Conversely when a person has taken a true PDC based on the core curriculum of the movement’s founder the response is almost always positive.  They are on fire with a desire to implement solutions and frankly capable of doing it.  They become open to how awesome nature’s systems are, they start designing highway medians in their head during rush hour and begin to see every problem as a solution.

These concepts are universal.  Once explained no republican with an open mind has ever objected to the concepts of care of the earth, care of people and return of surplus nor has any democrat, libertarian, etc. whom I have explained them to.  I have never shown the results of a well executed permaculture project to anyone that didn’t think it was an amazing thing.  Almost every human on the planet I show the results side of things to wants at least a little piece of it in their lives.

Permaculture could be the most popular movement on our planet if some us can get out of our own way.  I am not saying you should change your political view or your spiritual view if you are in this camp, just that you should let others be free to have their own views on this stuff.  I am also stating that we should not drag divisional baggage into a universally appealing movement.

Some people feel no one should own a SUV and all homes should have solar panels.  Well, great, get a compact car or a horse for all I care, shut off the grid and put up your panels.  Don’t however attack the guy with a FJ Cruiser, a big AC System on his house who also happens to spend a lot of money and time to transform his entire property into a urban food forest.  His efforts are just as valuable as many who are far more “green” in the totality of their lives.

Frankly his contribution might be better.  Should his backyard become an example to many other upper middle class in his neighborhood and they emulate him.  Sure they may drive gas guzzlers and watch 70 inch TVs but hell isn’t that their choice to make?  Are we not all better off to have 10,000 such people plant their grass lawns to beneficial plantings?  Isn’t it better that 10,000 such families develop 10,000 distributed local food systems even if they continue to do other things you personally consider wasteful.

Simply put once you start down the permaculture path your life becomes more sustainable and your ecological foot print becomes softer.  Each of us chooses exactly how far we walk such a path.  Some will live in an off grid earthship, grow 70% of our own food and buy the other 30% from only local sources.  Others will live a 100% modern style life but transform our landscapes into something productive, beautiful and sustainable.  Most of us are like myself, we are somewhere in the middle.  We reduce our waste, do as much as we can to be self sufficient and sustainable and slowly implement as much design as we can afford into our lives.

There is a place for all such people in Permaculture.  Frankly the die hards among us need a lot of the people on the “permaculture edge” if we want to build a life and an income based on permaculture principles.  Rather then putting down the upper middle class guy with a large SUV living in the suburbs, qualified designers should be selling that guy a design.   If he wants solar panels great, but if he just wants an edible landscape design then design it for him, implement it and bill him for it.  I mean I drive a truck, it was expensive but I don’t know how to build one nor do I want a job doing so.  I don’t really care how to build a truck.  I am also not about to study automotive engineering before I buy a vehicle.  I have a house, I bought it, I don’t want to become a carpenter.

We as designers should be selling design to anyone that will buy it and implement it.  If they want an end to end system fine, but if they only want 30% that is fine too.  Just get them on the path and don’t be afraid to make a profit along the way.  This all starts with good design and good design comes from fully qualified designers.

Don’t take this the wrong way.  Let’s say you have a teacher in your area that has studied permaculture deeply.  Say this person never took a real PDC but developed a course specific to your region.  That course might be amazing and might be worth spending time and money on.  Honestly for some it might do more for them then a PDC, I really mean that.  But a Design Course meant to teach global principles of design and a regional course on specific techniques are two different things.

Likewise if you want to do a two week Permaculture event, dance around the fire, pray to the Earth Spirit, take mud baths, burn incense, discuss politics from your view or what have you knock yourself out.  When I say we have room for everyone, I mean it.  Just call it what it is, a Spiritual Retreat with a Permaculture Component.  Tell people where you are coming from and what to expect and enjoy the hell out of yourself but don’t claim that it is a PDC because it isn’t.

In the end people make their own choices about their own businesses and the market will judge based on results.  This article isn’t to be a seminal work on what makes one qualified to teach a PDC or not.  I just want to make people on all sides of this issue think a bit deeper about it.  Additionally I wanted to provide my audience with my view on how to select a permaculture course or teacher.  Again many courses are really wonderful, saying something isn’t a PDC isn’t a put down, it is just a fact based on the core realities and components of permacutlure design as founded by Bill Mollison.

50 Responses to What Exactly is a Permaculture Design Certification and What Isn’t

  1. I believe that circumstances will push Permaculture into the mainstream in the next 5 – 7 years. This will force the “you need to look just like me to practice REAL permaculture” in to obscurity as many Entrepreneurial designers open up shop. Good old market forces will prevail.

    My real fear is that the movement will be cooped or regulated into oblivion by big agra. Especially after seeing what became of “organic”.

    • Clayfarmer

      Permaculture is by its very nature a distributed system. It’d be much more difficult to co-op or regulate millions of backyard systems than it would the big ag centralized systems. They haven’t found a way to regulate (most) backyard vegetable gardens yet, so hopefully the same will be true with permaculture.

  2. GREAT article Jack! You articulated perfectly what I’ve felt for a long time. Well said, well written & I couldn’t agree with you more.

    • RationalHusker

      Couldn’t agree more, especially with the “agenda” that is often behind the scenes.

    • AMEN! I second this.. Thank you for such a well written synopsis.

  3. Thanks for the time you spent to articulate your thoughts on permaculture. This is one of the best articles you have written. I have wanted to design our 2 1/2 acres since the late 1980s when I first heard of permaculture. Alas, all this time later it is still a hodge podge. I’m not interested in a certificate, nor am I into dancing or chanting. I just want a sound design on my property – without spending a fortune! I’m hoping the costs to do this will be within my reach once the supply side meets the demand! Again, thanks Jack for articulating the thoughts of many of us!

    • “Dancing and chanting” LOL, I’ve seen my share of these that follow permaculture. They love to beat on drums and talk about mother earth and climate change. If they spent just as much time on practical aspects of permaculture they would be much more effective in marketing it.

  4. EXACTLY! I don’t want to learn to make ju-ju and pretend to be the local shaman. I want to start a business based on permaculture principles, and if it doesn’t work out, at least be able to feed my family. The nearest in-person permaculture course to me is 552 kilometers away in the bush and the tuition alone costs more than double Geoff Lawton’s course. It is 120 hours spread out over 6 months on weekends, because the instructors do not think 72 is adequate. Apparently, they know better than the founders. How is all that commuting kind to the planet? I really do not want to camp out in the bush in the bitter Canadian winter, and I don’t see what it has to do with permaculture. Blackfly season in Ontario is horrific — even aboriginals who have lived in the woods since birth have difficulty with it. We have a well-known song about it: http://www.nfb.ca/film/blackfly/. This is why permaculture hasn’t taken hold in Canada as it should. The present instructors in Ontario should remember, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  5. Bonnieblue2A

    Wonderful blog article Jack. Quite possibly your best. Thank you for addressing so many of my concerns about choosing this road less taken and greatly mitigating them in the process.

  6. Joe Moraca

    Jack, thanks for bringing the wonderful world of permaculture to me and many others. I wish I was aware of Bill Mollinson and permaculture 20 years ago but getting started “now” is the best I can do.

    I really enjoyed the Global Gardener series. Thanks for pointing out those resources.

  7. -golf clap-

    “Proper” politics has nothing to do with effective, pragmatic strategies and learning. I’m glad you understand this Jack, sadly, many more do not.

  8. Well said, Jack. Permaculture is a design science, and science is non-political. It just is. People view it with the glasses they are wearing, but the core truths are the same. Thanks for writing this article. I’m sure it will tick some people off, but I see that as a good thing. If we really want to make a difference, then we need to bring Permaculture to the mainstream, and being a neo-hippy and singing around a campfire is not going to do it. Showing how Permaculture design can change lives and change communities… that is what is going to change the world.

  9. The Morgan Hill Homesteading Project

    One of the better blog posts I have seen in a while. I need to practice not bringing up politics as often. Great post Jack.

  10. Jack, have you considered changing the name of the podcast to the “Permaculture Podcast”?

    • Troll

      • Christopher de Vidal

        And even if he’s not a troll, he’s absolutely short-sighted. Pculture is very helpful for long-term survival. I’d hate to be his neighbor when his stored food, fertilizer and pesticide runs out.

    • Modern Survival

      @Scott have you considered calling in or emailing content instead of just bitching?

  11. Moonvalleyprepper

    Great article Jake!

  12. R little farm

    Great post Jack! All great suggestions for finding a PDC teacher. But what suggestions can you give for those of us that can’t afford to take a PDC course. For us we are a family of 6 with 4 young kids. We live in the suburbs and are doing what we can with all the free info we can get our hands on. I’d love to take a hands on PDC someday, but at the current time we have no plans to become certified designers. We simply want the knowledge for our own private use.

    • Modern Survival

      Find or start a Permaculture meet up in your area, take a short course, use the BILLIONS of bit of free info online, I mean there is plenty available.

    • When you’ve exhausted that, the PRI Au store has an audio PDC by Bill from 1983 which I believe is under $100, there’s the DVD set for $500 with both Geoff and Bill (which I agree with Jack, it is excellent) and there’s the actual Permaculture designer’s manual which I don’t recommend you read cover to cover but is a HUGE resource.

      After immersing yourself in the free information, grabbing one of the recorded PDC’s and being able to cross reference anything you have questions about in the PDM you’re pretty much there except for the certificate. You can understand the system without the certificate and you can use it in your own life as long as you understand.

      Besides, Jack and the TSP community are here to help with questions 🙂

      • Modern Survival

        Exactly certification isn’t for everyone, really it isn’t. Like I said in response to Ben Falk’s great comment go to a research institute or find a designer in your area and if they are the real deal go tour their property or one they designed. You learn so much just SEEING it in action. Many times such things are free or perhaps pay the guy 50 bucks for his time (well worth it). Things don’t have to be expensive.

        To me certification is for three things.

        1. People that really want the skill to design in any climate in any part of the world.

        2. People that want to make permaculture part of what they do professionally.

        3. People that just plain want it and are willing to make the investment.

        If you ain’t one of those three you can become an amazing permaculturist without being certified. May be I should add “unless you are certified you are not a permaculturist” to the list of lies about what permaculture is?

    • Look up Permaculture guilds in your area, not sure where you’re from but most large cities have them, I was a member of the Houston guild for years and that was over 10 years ago.

      Good Luck!

    • Hal Hanevik

      you can start here… https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/hs-432/id450522131 a free course on Pculture… and as Jack stated, there are oodles of stuff on the net. You just need to DO and not be paralyzed by indecision and inaction.

  13. Jesse Hill

    Permaculture is a new thing for me, I only discovered it after discovering the Podcast. Most of my exposure to it is due to Jack Spirko.

    That being said, I want to thank him for exposing a lot of the potential pitfalls that come along with seeking knowledge along the Permaculture path. He is exactly right about keeping politics out of the design process. I am an architect (by education) and I can assure you that the only thing that keeps a building from falling on your head is physics. It doesn’t matter which party or church you belong to, the laws of physics don’t care. Permaculture Design is no different, it just has a different set of “laws”.

    Thanks again Jack, I look forward to sharing Geoff’s new online PDC experience with you and all the others, and hopefully many more in the future.

  14. This is a good contribution to the field. I would add that:
    -if a course is not giving you an opportunity to observe, assess and solve for patterns in systems, than it is not a “real” PDC.
    -skills application is a bonus, but not a core part of a PDC. We are offering it simply for the need.
    -the ability experience a permaculture site: an actual real place in development where solving for pattern is actualized, is hard to overstate in importance. An online course simply can’t offer that aspect.

    • Modern Survival

      Great additions. So let me add if you are taking an Online PDC, find a Permaculture designer or research institute and take a field trip to that place, do two or three if you can. If you are in VT or near there go see Ben his place is amazing. If you are in Illinois (leave and move to a free state) but before you do go see Bill Wilson’s back yard, awesome is an understatement.

      If you are in Florida get over to Barking Frogs they were Bill Mollison’s beach head when he first brought Permaculture to America in the 80s.

  15. Great article. What you’re talking about is Liberty – a lost concept in this country. I recently happened upon Geoff Lawton’s videos. I went out in my yard and saw the potential possibilities…and then got to work on it. I also recognized that I was accidentally doing a lot of it already. That’s called common sense.

  16. Christopher de Vidal

    Nail on the head, Jack. If you were starting over, what resources would you watch/read to get you as quickly as possible to where you are today? And are there cheaper alternatives to those very resources which perhaps would be slower but would save hundreds? Like, this book instead of that DVD.

    • Modern Survival

      If I was starting over I would go strait into a real PDC. I had to be sold on that the first time around. I would buy Permaculture One and Two and the Designer’s Manual. I would watch everything that is free online, all of Bill’s old stuff. I would get all of Lawton’s DVDs and I would trust design and patterns from the beginning not test them piece by piece to convince myself they work over time.

    • Christopher de Vidal

      Thanks. Can you / have you recommended some “real” PDCs? I see you mentioned Barking Frogs and Midwest Permaculture; Any others?

    • Christopher de Vidal

      Another question: Isn’t “Permaculture One” + “PC Two” the same as the “Designer’s Manual”? I already have the DM, just wondering if I need to drop another $75 for what I already have.

      • Modern Survival

        No not at all. The first two are more a book book, easier to read though. As you know the DM is that a manual, some material from one and two are in the DM but not all of it. Look for used copies on Amazon, etc. I got both of mine for under ten bucks each.

        • Christopher de Vidal

          Where do you think I got the cost of 75 bucks? 🙂 Prices have risen a little in five years…

  17. To think that science is not political is at best naieve. If focus on results and free market is the way to go, than ask yourself how we got into these troubles in the first place. If you think you can keep driving the gas-guzzling cars but your doing your bit with an edible garden, than you don’t get the system-thinking of permaculture. This not about PDC, everything is linked. It’s transferring from one system – that is destructive – to another – that is sustainable. You can not pick and choose what is acceptable for you. You have to go for the whole system, as you abandon the whole of a defunct one.

    • Modern Survival

      Spoken like a completely indoctrinated drone! You really don’t get it do you? Don’t go telling me I don’t get the system level thinking, I most certainly do, I just know not everyone is ready for the full system and some can’t yet afford it. Likely you are the typical person to spout this crap. All or nothing but I bet you don’t have a solar power car and I bet your house is on grid.

  18. goatboy825

    Jack has great insight. I am an architect. I am enrolled to take Geoff’s PDC on-line. All for the very reasons Jack so eloquently presented. When I started, I din’t even think about the full ramifications (designers tend to act first, then rationalize) of why I wanted a ‘food forest plant list’. As I went through the introduction to Geoff’s PDC I discovered I been lead to a teacher who truly speaks of design and the problem solving skill set. His methods are very much like those of my professors years ago in architecture school: thought provoking, engaging, exploratory and evidence based. I don’t know if I will every use the PDC certificate (assuming I can make it that far) any more than I have with my architectural licenses, but I want to learn the ‘permaculture’ skill set, not just implement a recommended plant list.

  19. Christopher de Vidal

    Listen up and learn, Democrats: If you want to convince more to take care of the earth, SHOW Permaculture. Don’t just talk about it, SHOW working gardens. This former Republican knows that seeing Permaculture lets the cat out of the bag. There ain’t no going back after eyes are opened ^_^

  20. goatboy825

    Maybe I’ll spend more time proofreading?

  21. I appreciate this perspective.
    I might even take it a step further and say, the pattern-observations and design science are key and even doing backyard ‘food forestry’ is not obligatory. (Of course healthy soils, clean water supplies, and good food are critical human quality-of-life issues, and I hope many more people do jump on the productive horticulture bandwagong.)
    I’ve used permaculture design principles to re-organize an office, and they teach some remarkably similar principles for manufacturing (TMP e.g. ‘kaizen’) assembly work. We were making a transition to carrols instead of an assembly line, something that is pretty similar to ‘keyhole’ garden beds if you think about it.
    Learning to observe, think for yourself, and improve the efficiency of your surroundings – using natural laws, not arbitrary conventions that may or may not favor your actual goals – is valuable anywhere.

    • Modern Survival

      Your point is valid, I think you could likely come up with 100 questions for a perspective teacher, pick 5 at random and effectively screen out those who are not teaching a PDC the way it was designed. The questions I came up with just so happen to be the ones I have most commonly found to be missing as I checked into a few PDC courses. I likely should have also included that if the school says you need a 2 year course to be certified they are completely full of shit. Doesn’t mean their course isn’t valuable but as a PDC it isn’t valid.

      PDCs are not full of extra baggage, you can learn all you need to academically in 72 hours and though the design of a project and feedback on it via a qualified instructor.

  22. Having just discovered permaculture I am very glad I found this article. It is nice to have this information for the future.

    Great article, thank you.

    Regards, Martin.

  23. Thanks for writing this. One of greatest concerns about teaching is that students will leave the course with out being skilled and confident to design and implement. The less the course focuses on the design process and ecological principles, the more they become too “wu-wu” as Bill Mollison described it, and the students are not really equiped to design and meet human needs as permaculture’s early writer’s and practioners intended. Prospective students should seek a course with at least a few teachers with years of practical experience.

    Michael Burns

  24. I agree with most of what you say and certainly think it a very important contribution to permaculture.

    You list the questions you would want good answers to before choosing a permaculture design course. Very few people will be in a position to ask those questions before choosing a course. Elsewhere where this article is being discussed I have noted people who are well on with their diploma who had to look up what a sill is.

    I would question whether the design course should enable one to go anywhere in the world and produce complete permaculture designs. Perhaps the Diploma course that requires the PDC to start it here in UK should.

    When I do my design course I want to learn more about things I can apply in the UK climate. If I later go to a different part of the world later the onus is then on me to learn about the local conditions and what they imply before using the ethics and principles in any designs I produce.

    As to politics, wouldn’t it be great to have a political party whose policies all followed the permaculture ethics and design principles?

    • Modern Survival

      Dave I think you are missing the point, design is design that is the entire point. UK, US, Russia, Africa, should not matter if you know design you can design. Finding what plants will go well in a given climate is simple to do, placing them together and sculpting the land with them is where the magic happens.

      Diploma programs? I find that a suckers game! The PDC is 72 hours, if you want to learn the system as designed it is all you need, from there what is lacking is experience. This can be gained by independent work or perhaps an internship. But taking something that is designed to be taught in 72 hours and turning it into a two year course? That is exactly what Bill wanted to prevent when he copyrighted the word, permaculture, Bill stated, “I wanted to own the word so I could keep it out of Universities, because I knew universities would destroy it”.

      As to politics? Actually that sounds like a terrible idea, based on the way so many twist the ethics if we did get such a party it would end up being the twisters that ran it, they are always the ones that are most political. Politics is about telling others how to live and controlling them with laws. Taking money from some by force and giving it to others in wasteful ways that are against natural order. Permaculture is about SHOWING others how to live and letting nature take its course. Reinvestment of surplus to the end of the first two ethics as it is decided by the PRODUCER OF said surplus. Not some clown in the capital 1,000 miles away who didn’t do a damn thing to create a surplus deciding what happens with surplus.

      Politics do not belong in Permaculture, frankly the way the clowns are running things today, government doesn’t really belong here at all any more.

  25. The only political statement permaculture needs to make is the kind of protest guerilla gardener Ron Finley made about farming vacant strips of land in South Central Los Angeles. See his TED talk here: http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la.html?utm_content=awesm-publisher&awesm=on.ted.com_Finley&utm_medium=on.ted.com-static&utm_campaign=&utm_source=google.com

    • Modern Survival

      As my niece would say back when she was still a 5 year old little girl, Pazackly!

  26. Permaculture may be apolitical but the scientific principles of permaculture could be applied to politics with great effect. Can you imagine how different the world would be if politicians followed the permaculture ethics?

  27. Thank you so much for the great advice and info. I am new to permaculture the lable. But living a lot of my life on remote ranches, I’ve seen the remains of a sustainable life style. Some still in use. I will say a lot of ranchers have gotten a bad rap. Most generational homesteaders I knew lived in harmony with nature, they had to take care of the land and neighbors to continue to servive sustainably. One of my elderly neighbors and closest at three miles away. Said, “During the great depression years, they were not affected at all. Its the big industry cattle raisers that have raped the land, and others who were ignorant Those who are in it strictly for money and themselves, and government agencies who are supposed to be protecting the land and wildlife, out of their ignorance as well. Unfortunately government always has a political agenda no matter who or what they hurt or destroy in the way of their agenda. And I’m not talking about the government of the people, that doesn’t exist anymore. Because our constitution is of no effect on an ungodly people, according to our founding fathers. Permaculture is needed as much now as it was in the beginning. It’s also the pathway of health. I want to be able to help as many as I can. Thank you for giving to the Lord.