Sample Session: Permaculture Ethics

Given on Wed 25 Sept 2013 by Joe Atkinson, UK, at Mas Franch, Spain

A french write-up of this workshop is also live.

Opening question: The teacher asks if the students know the ethics of permaculture, and if they can explain what they mean for them. Afterwards, the teacher summarises the main points, and can add some comments as appropriate.

Method: The teacher draws a circle on the floor (e.g. with chalk or strings) with scales to represent the “Fair Share” ethic. Then two further overlapping circles are added for “Earthcare” and “Peoplecare.” (An object can be used in each case to represent the ethics). This portrays the ethical framework of permaculture, and a brief explanation can be given on how they are related and interconnected. The simplicity and universality of this framework is highlighted, and its uniqueness to permaculture. In general there is no reason for Earthcare nor Peoplecare to be controversial; however “Fairshare” may provoke more debate. The importance is that these ethics offer a set of tools rather than a set of rules to follow.

Subsequently, a card (or an actual object) is given to each of the students which they have to read out, and explain whereabouts they would place it within (or out) of the three circles. The chosen examples can be more or less polemical depending on the debates the teacher wishes to arise. Example cards could be: Flying; Eating Meat; Fairtrade Bananas; Nature Conservation Projects; Eco-building; Renewable Energy; GM Crops; Transition Towns; Nuclear Energy, etc.

The key conclusion is that there are no fixed answers and we all make choices in daily life which fall into different parts of the framework. The ideal would be of course to always be as close to the centre (where all three circles overlap) as possible, but we all make compromises according to our situation and well-being.

Conclusion: This activity tends to be one of the very first sessions of a course, and is a good way, not only to introduce fundamental aspects of Permaculture, but also as a way to make all the students participate at an early stage, without too much pressure, and to identify the personalities and existing knowledge within the group. The teacher’s role is more of a facilitator who tries to help arrive at consensus whilst allowing the students to freely express and exchange opinions. If any particular debate becomes too long or complicated, it can always be postponed for continuation at a later moment.