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Internal permaculture critiques
There are several prominent critiques of permaculture and the permaculture movement that have arisen from within the movement itself. Unlike some of the critiques that come from outside of the movement, these critiques are generally intended to improve and strengthen permacultural practice.
Over-emphasis on specific techniques
A common frustration expressed in the permaculture movement is the over-emphais placed on certain techniques. Permaculture is first and foremost a conceptual tool-kit that emphasizes ethics, observation and thoughtful design. Only after careful analysis can appropriate techniques be selected for a particular design site.
Lack of scientific rigor
Although permaculture originators Bill Mollison and David Holmgren first met in a university setting, much of the original development of permaculture was shaped by Mollison's disillusionment with academia. In particular, the academic tendency toward specialization clashes with permaculture's holistic scope. Permaculture has thus developed along anecdotal and grassroots lines . There has been little emphasis in collecting data, running trials and peer-reviewed publishing of results. Permaculture writers tend to cite academic studies very infrequently . However, some permaculture courses are becoming available at universities and researchers working in certain fields such as horticulture and agroforestry are working to incorporate permacultural insights in their work.
Lack of diversity
Despite the permaculture principle use and value diversity, the movement has been criticized for being oriented primarily toward older, white, male, land-owning, and English-speaking individuals. Much of the initial thrust of permaculture was toward communities in Zimbabwe and India. However permaculture is often perceived to be mostly applicable to rural or suburban private residences in Australia, the USA, the UK, and other developed nations. Less emphasis has been placed on urban and rental sites. Further, permaculture consultation and courses are often cost- and time-prohibitive for low-income earners and single mothers. Although permaculture training has been given to subsistence farmers in less-developed nations, these efforts are often under-publicized. This is particularly ironic, as many techniques and other insights added to the permaculture toolkit over the decades have come from indigenous and traditional peoples. Younger people have voiced dismay over lack of access to land.
Efforts have begun to address these issues. Donation, work-trade and scholarships can provide permaculture training to those otherwise unable to afford it. Online training and information sharing are available to those who do not have the free time or transportation needed for in-person workshops or PDCs. Individuals from certain ethnic or religious backgrounds have worked to express permaculture insights within their own cultural contexts. Younger people may be able to network with older farmers who are no longer able to work their land or whose heirs are not interested in agriculture.
Permaculture uses a lot of specific terminology. To some extent this is necessary; permaculture is a different way of looking at things and thus requires a different way of describing them. However, some terms have been singled out as confusing, misleading or superfluous. These include "invisible structures",, and "zone 00".
The rock star effect
The term "permaculture rock star" is often used to refer to certain individuals the permaculture movement have elevated quasi-celebrity status. The implication is that the techinques, results or personality of these individuals is over-emphasized. Probably the most emblematic example is the attention to Sepp Holzer growing lemons in the Alps.
- Permies for Equity
- Black Permaculture Network
- Toward 21st Century Permaculture: Peoples' Science or Pseudoscience? by Rafter Sass Ferguson
- A Critical Review of Permaculture in the United States by Rob Scott
- A Critique of Permaculture Rob Scott interviewed on the Permaculture Podcast
- Permaculture: The Big Rock andy Mountain by Peter Harper
- Cleaning out the Stables by Peter Harper
- The Trouble with Permaculture
- The Permaculture Fail by Frank Aragona