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Permaculture vs. Organics

Posted by mycarbumps z7-8 E.TN (My Page) on
Sat, Nov 9, 02 at 11:18

what exactly is the difference between permaculture and organic gardening, isnt the focus of both to garden or farm in a way that can be sustained without degradation? im kind of new to this so any of your thoughts are appreciated. ~Ryan


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Ryan, I'm still working on figuring this out myself, so I won't be of much help! What I have figured out so far, is that permaculture goes a bit deeper; and encompasses much more than just the garden - kinda sorta more of a lifestyle philosophy?!?


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

I know quite a bit about organics but less so about permaculture. Both traditions take a "systems" approach to land/water management but permaculture is a more holistic approach of systems managed over the longer term. Thus: Perma[ment agri]culture. At some point, the differences between the two method may seem to merge where the organic farm may plant similar tree and row crops, manage the landscape for maximum soil retention and water storage/availability. The permaculture farm may not be organic at all if the farmer uses any synthetic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. This is a sensitive issue with a lot of permaculture activists.

Organic largely focuses on working crops and livestock using natural (nonsynthetic) materials and traditional agronomic practices that enhance soil building and maintain biological diversity. By maintaining diversity of cropping and even incorporated beneficial habitats, the farmer may avoid major outbreaks of pests and diseases while the vibrant soil gives sustenance to the crops. The organic operation is often a commercial endeavor for the farmer rather than a livestyle commitment, and he or she might not even live on the farm. (As I do not)

I'll let the permaculturists add to this point: It is my experience with practitioners of permaculture that committment to place is paramount. Also large and small modifications of the qualities of the site figure strongly in long-term evolution of the property to maximum productivity. Diversity of productive activities and resources is a goal of a permaculture site.

In many respects this system emulates older agrarian systems of ecological and economic zonation from the farmstead. The most labor intensive and often more productive zones lie closest to settlement. The further from this core one ranges, the less intensive the management but often the more important the useful changes in drainage and water storing qualities of the ground. The model often seen in well watered regions include a wooded outer rim of mixes of useful trees and shrubs.


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

wow, i have already learned alot.


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Have a look at the other posts in this forum. You will see conversations about patterns and layering of function and redundancy of function, zones (our interaction with our living space) and sectors (wind, sun and other natural/elemental interactions with our living space) and trying to put them all together using natural patterns. It may embrace organic methods, edible landscape, woodlot management, energy, soil and water conservation and other things but it is not strictly any of those things. A good starting guide is linked below.

Lee AKA Fireraven9
In the comforting shock of this monotone drum,
Someone hastily nails a coffin somewhere.
For whom?Yesterday was summer; here is autumn!
This mysterious noise seems the sound of departure.
- Charles Baudelaire, Song of Autumn

Here is a link that might be useful: Permaculture- A Beginner's Guide


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Marshallz10,

I don't know about permacultalists using inorganic chemicals and fertilisers, Bill would turn in his grave if he was dead..

Permaculture is a form of organic gardening and any person using chemical fertilizers or sprays shouldn't be calling themselves a permaculturalist..

I guess thats the problem you have when a person can go and do a permaculture course for just a few days and then call themselves a permaculturalist, and then teach others, I have read dozens of books on permaculture and organic gardening, I have practiced permaculture principles and organic gardening methods for at least 10 years, yet I still don't call myself a permaculturalist, but I do say that I'm an organic gardener who practices permaculture principles...... :oP


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Who said anything about using inorganic fertilizers? It is about system rather than element. It is not only about growing stuff, but also how to set up living and work (many types of work) space so that energy is not wasted. "Work is pollution" after all. You may have to do some work, but it is necessary to look at yield (product and by-product) to see if the work you are doing is paying off. Like Marshall said above. You can be an organic grower and still use more resources than needed to produce your organic items. Choosing different methods/designs for producing the same items can reduce the resources needed to produce those things and they can still be organic.

Lee AKA Fireraven9
The snow on your eyelids that curtsy with age
A freezing rare stare on tyranny's wings
The bitterness, hardness, warmth of your skin
Is diseased with familiar caresses (Winter Song - Nico/Cale)


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

How would a permaculture approach overcome the limitations of the basic nutrient elements of potassium and phosphorus? I ask this because most of my soils have been severely depleted of these elements, and animal and plant manures taken from these soils will also be deficient. I would like to not buy commercial sources of these elements, and even though they might be considered organic in certain forms, it's certainly not a sustainable choice. Part of my solution is to bring in manures from other farms, but that's still not a perfect solution.

I think another distinction between permaculture and "organics" is working with the land, rather than trying to change it into something else. As an example, part of my farm sits on top of acidic sandstone. Rather than try and lime this soil (which would be acceptable under organic programs) I'm instead going to grow blueberries on part of it and seed a pasture legume such as birdsfoot trefoil that is tolerant to acidity. The rest of it will continue to revert to wild land, which is very important to us.


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

In a perfect PC world you might use "Humanure" - well composted and perfectly safe. You return to the soil what you remove. That has not really been brought up here. I am sure there are some good books and websites on it.

Lee AKA Fireraven9
The snow on your eyelids that curtsy with age
A freezing rare stare on tyranny's wings
The bitterness, hardness, warmth of your skin
Is diseased with familiar caresses (Winter Song - Nico/Cale)


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

I spose you could also bring natural gardening into the equation as well, yet another form of gardening and food growing involving working with natural systems, coined by Masanobu Fukuoka.

Who said anything about using inorganic fertilizers?
Marshal, in his post above:
"Thus: The permaculture farm may not be organic at all if the farmer uses any synthetic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers."

The whole question of a definition of permaculture is a difficult one, and one which is constantly evolving, and I feel that when the founders of permaculture themselves say that it is difficult to quantify the definition, then the point is fairly mute.

As you pointed out Lee it is about systems, but it is also about elements, and looking closely at the elements which make up our systems, and being sure that the individual elements perform more than one task, to make the overall systems more efficient

Yes, organic can be about trying to produce something at any cost so far as inputs go, organic produce literaly means that there have not been any systhetic products (sprays fertilisers etc) used in growing the end product.. But you might use bat guano which has been imported from another coutry, packaged in glossy bags and distributed through multinational companies over vast distances..

Where as a permaculturalist will try to have animals which breed themselves and perform many tasks, providing food, feathers, fur, heat, land clearing, pest and weed removal, etc, including providing manures...

Joel


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Well, maybe a personal example would make an illustration. I mulch with straw and it is not organic straw. So, I cannot say that *all* the things I use are organic. I have put bags of leaves and grass in the woods (bare spots that did not retain moisture), but I am not sure if there were chemical fertilizers used in the grass. However I do not use any pesticides or chemical fertilizers. My chickens nest in that feed store straw too. Sometimes they peck at it and eat a little. I still killed the excess roosters (we kept the nice one) and we eat them. We have the eggs from the hens too. I will need a hen that gets broody before I can raise chicks from eggs the usual way. Not sure I want to mess with an incubator. The used litter is composted and it will be used in the garden ... after I add other elements to balance the chicken manure (not a balanced fertilizer) and all that. I really doubt that there are many systems that are wholly organic. The elements are important, but with only the elements (un-connected and without stacking functions) one ends up with something that does not work well. Make it work and improve it as you go. I suspect that there are lots of people who are interested in Permaculture, but feel that it must be perfect and every element perfect right away and they do not feel that they can do that. Who can? So you do what you can.

Lee AKA Fireraven9
When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than
the ordinary, and shutting out the sky with their thickly inter-twined
branches, do not the stately shadows of the wood, the stillness of
the place, and the awful gloom of this doomed cavern then strike
you with the presence of a deity? - Seneca


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

We definitely try to use only organic materials as far as possible, but I question how many totally uncontaminated materials are present in this world any more? I notice trash and old rope and fishing gear in the seaweed from the beach, and try to pick it out, but does that mean the seaweed itself is completely free of contaminants? The focus has to be on the healthiest SYSTEMS possible, which can buffer or recover from pollution and imbalances by natural processes. That is why a high humus content and healthy micro- and macro-organisms in the soil are so important. One has to look at the amount of pollution hauling "organic" fertilizers over 1500 miles of Pacific ocean would create, vs. using local seaweed, fish bone meal from the local plant, and horsemanure that might not be fully "organic".

"Organic" is certainly good, my definite preference, but it cannot be the only determining factor.


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Hey Lee, have you thought about getting some ducks, I have a pair of muscovys, and as a test of her cluckyness I stuck a couple of chicken eggs in their nesting box, as soon as she saw them she became clucky and sat on the chicken eggs... No messing around with incubators, let your ducks rear the chickens...

Joel


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

I have heard good things about ducks, but right now I just have chickens in a solar chicken coop. We are still getting eggs because it stays a reasonable temperature in there. There is a black 55 gallon drum of water in the south window and it radiates heat back out at night. When it gets colder (sub zero) we will probably put a lighbulb (with special tin shade for night time) out there for warmth. What sort of setup do ducks take? None of the chickens (Auracanas, Silver Laced Wyandottes and some pale buff colored bird that was an extra) seem to care to sit on the eggs.

I do wish we could get organic straw! Not just for the plants, but for growing oyster mushrooms! They could be certified organic (and sold as organic) if the straw was organic. There are some organic wheat producers in Kansas and Oklahoma (maybe even southern Colorado), but it would be a long drive (hundreds of miles) to pick up a load of straw and the gas it would use would make it unreasonable. If I had a huge barn or shed we might be able to order a truckload, but we do not have a place to store that much straw, and building something that serves only one purpose seems wasteful. It is still one of those things where you have to do what you can and when an organic grower pops up locally, you support them by doing your business there.

Lee AKA Fireraven9
"Goddess Bless us, every one!" (my friend Marky)


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Sounds like you suffer from the cold a bit where you are...
Where I live in Australia we are lucky to get one night a year where it will drop below 5 C Which is still way above freezing

When you actually way up the pros and cons of ducks vs chickens the ducks can be better than chooks in many situations, they are more hardy, less susceptable to disease, laying breeds like khaki campbels lay up to 300 eggs a year, more than many breeds of chickens, they don't dig your garden and mulch, when you let them out And they are more intelligent than chickens....

Do you have much land Lee? My brother has 5 acres, and in one year he managed to to grow 250 bales of straw.. , he doesn't have a bailer but one of the local farmers did, and he came in and cut it all for 50% of the straw, so my brother had to do nothing and he got 125 bales of straw, totaly organic, from his 5 acre property...

Joel


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Oh yes, plenty of land but it is mountain land (just over 5 acres) and only a small portion is good for growing. The rest is wooded and the open meadow is mostly devoted to orchard and other food crops. We also have a short season (90 days - in good years a little longer) and producing hay or straw is not practical here. There is limited rainfall and ground water is scarce. It is a bit cold. When I was saying I would add extra heat when the temperature got below zero, I meant zero degrees F. That would be about minus 18 degrees C. Pretty cold. The solar coop design does well though. We have plenty of sun here. I guess that is why so many do solar heat and/or electric here. I will look into ducks next year. They might work for us. I really like having the chickens though.

Lee AKA Fireraven9
"Goddess Bless us, every one!" (my friend Marky)


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Wow, you do get it cold hey, well we have the opposite problem here.... For the last few days it has been between 102 and 107 F, and last night didn't provide much relief as we only got down to about 78F...


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

who would have thought that this would be such a hot topic? i think that permaculture and organics are like religeons, they have different customs but they worship the same god. you use different methods but they are trying to obtain the same thing, helthy- sustainable agriculture. ~Ryan


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Sorry I didn't get back to this forum sooner...sort of forgot when no one was posting.

Earthbound, I did not say that all Permaculturists used synthetics but I was trying to make the distinction in approaches: the PC is system-centered much more so than organic producers. Sorry I wasn't clearer. I went to check my copies of Mollison's books but they are still missing from loaning them out a long time ago. (In fact, I seem to be missing a lot of books from that section.)

For 17 years I inspected farms for organic certification in California and Arizona (and Mexico). Among some of these were PC operators. Talking with them led me to believe that PCers have used what would have been prohibited materials and practices in organic operations. This is not being judgemental. In the PCer's attempts to minimize off-property inputs, he might well scavenge/salvage lots of useful materials not acceptable to certified organic operations. How many times have you brought on spoiled straw or hay, or spent malted grains, or such stuff from conventional (ie non-organic) sources?

I think I'll check with some other permaculture listservs about this issue.


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Labels and titles...... :O) See i guess when i think of either permaculture or organic growing, i'm not thinking in a commercial sence at all, I'm talking purely growing, not whether or not you can stick a label on your produce because it has been approved by a body or organisation...

If we are talking certified organic growing vs permaculture, then there are vast differenceS...
An organic grower in this situation is trying to make money and to keep his certification, where as permaculture is more about a way of life, it's about treading lightly on the earth and working with nature to grow things in harmony, not so much about sticking to the rules, but more about making the most of what you have.. One example is the fact that permaculture promotes the idea of growing open polinated heirloom varieties, and keeping your seed wherever possible to keep a wide biodiversity, as we have lost over 90% of vegetable varieties which were around 100 years ago. Where as a certified organic grower would probably buy his seed each year, and seeds he knows are going to work for him, he might not care if they are hybrids or not, what may be more important to the organic grower could be size, looks, or shelf life....

Marshall, is there anything in the organic certification process about growing geneticaly modified plants? You've got me thinking now..... Because technicaly you could grow genetiacly modified plants and animals organically, couldn't you??

You could grow plants or animals for that matter, in a huge highly mechanized warehouse, a computer controlled sterile environment, under grow lights, with automated ventilation, automated feeding and watering, and still label it organic, so long as you have been feeding the plants or animals untainted organic matter....

Could battery hens be considered organic if you feed them only organic feed? And if so, does that mean that we could be eating geneticaly modified featherless chickens, grown in highly mechanised battery facilities, yet sold as 'organic'??

Where as in permaculture, these things can't possibly even be consideredpermaculture is about taking responsibility for your actions, the earth and the environment ....

Joel ( going off on tangents )


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Permaculture vs Organics

" The organic operation is often a commercial endeavor for the farmer rather than a livestyle commitment, and he or she might not even live on the farm."

I think you summed it up well here Marshall.. :o)


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Earthbound, rest easy, youngster. Organic farmers led the fight against gm seed, sewage sludge, and food irradiation when the USDA tried to slip them into the Rules. Organic livestock producers are restricted to organic feed and have limits to the extent of confinement. The livestock interests are very powerful and have resisted regulations limiting confinement practices and have swayed the USDA rule making even for organics. Still, animal welfare is given some added consideration in certified organic.

I am not certified and so no longer call my products "organic" in spite of following the Rule. I raise chickens for egg, vegetables, and small and tree fruit. We make all compost onsite from onsite materials supplemented by spoiled straw when available. I market all crops locally, mostly retail through subscription and through local market, restaurants and caterers.

I am not part of the local permaculture clique which seems more interested in lifestyle and politics than in establishing permaculture sites as going concerns.


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

I wish I was a youngster........ :oP

And hey, I wasn't having a go at you Marshal, just asking questions.

So it's the department of agriculture which makes the decisions and rules, the department of agricuture here in Australia has been responsible for guiding our farmers for years, and we are now in some of the worst trouble ever, salinity from land clearing is the biggest environmental problem we have here in Aus.... We have many other problems like nutrient levels in streams rivers and inlets, farmers being forced off their lands at higher and higher rates, and most of these problems have eventuated at least partly due to advice and guidance from the ag dept..

Besides, shouldn't we be passionate about these things, there are some things people have to be more pasionate about, things like GM products, we have monsanto planting GM trials in Australia before legislation has even been passed to allow GM crops to be grown here, and they have been in court trying to keep the locations of these trials a secret.. When previous experience has already shown that GM crops can cross with normal strains from miles away, if we aren't pasionate about debating and trying to stop such things then we could end up with whole species becoming contaminated with the modified genes..

I am not trying to bash organic growers, as they are stepping in the right direction, put I also see another step ahead of that, sustainable production, which organics can be, but quite often isn't..


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Our USDA and States' ag departments have long pushed chemo-agriculture and limited research and extension services aimed at alternative and sustainable agrosystems. We also experienced soil degradation but were blessed with bountiful soil resources, unlike much of Australia.

I posted the question or Permaculture vs Organics on a premiere permaculture listserv but got few responses. Most seem not interested in organics, feeling that organics is mainly food production while permaculture is management of biosystems or their part of the biosphere.

The responders agreed that Bill M. advocates natural farming and landuse but several argued for the limited use of herbicide or pesticide for intractible problems. This is vigorously challenged. So, while Bill might insist on "purity", in practice permaculturists do what they will do.

Here is a link that might be useful: Permaculture listserv


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Man this is a very enjoyable thread!!! Thank you all!

Don and I decided to NOT get our 'organic certification' several years back, when we could have pretty easy, because some of the things that USDA classified as acceptable for use in/on legally organic plants gave us the willies!

I LOVE your comment "Earthbound-Joel" about people who take a course or two.... LOL. You sound like us, how can anyone ever think they could be an overall PC expert! You can't just learn it, you got to live it and even then you learn all the time. It is a consistently evolving set of ideals... I mean you can be a certified Design Consultant etc. etc. as my brother Don is, but you know I have never known him to charge anyone to get them excited about the concepts or help with designs etc. any more than I do.

Being Native American I have my own twists and turns that I apply into the PC structure and such, I would imagine most of us have things we do that are appropriate in that particular little place on the earth we tend.

I am blessed in spending at least half of each year in Honduras and am always so astounded at how rapidly many of the local people there pick up the principals of PC and fly with them, PC is only variations in what many live anyway and they appreciate the benefits they receive from the PC ideals.

Nowdays I don't have a homestead here in the states. I use a wheelchair fulltime now and my hubby needs to have his employment in the city due to a serious injury he sustained a couple of years ago, but I can still live in ways that apply PC principals as much as possible in my situation. And in these days am actually able to work with and help more people with PC, sufficiency and other ways. Funny how things always balance out when that is what we are aiming at... LOL

I enjoyed all the respondents additions to this thread, it is in our diversity that we shine... ENJOY!! DD


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

I think here it was said most of what there is to say about the subject.

i also want to add that in PC there are not really specific rules, its a process in wich you try to work the best with what you have and in time you plan to achieve your vision, and your vision has everything to do with your ethics and the Pc principles.
It can be that people in PC dont understand the whole implications of the principles, but if you understand them fully there is no way you can use inorganic elements or pesticides and such, but there is the problem that not always you can have the ideal picture going on... you are moving towards it.
There is an other problem, as PC is a free movement, maybe its not well tought by the facilitators, or maybe there is no follow up so one person can do what ever he or she wants... its about your personal responsability and commitment to your own life, to human beings, to the earth.
Although i havent met a Permi that isnt right on the path, there most be a lot, but i havent seen them.

I had this same question about Pc and organics, and i found no awnser for a long time, some permis would be offended or would look down to me because they thought i didnt got a thing about PC, and after all, it IS a way of life, and a philosofy.
Im no expert, but i have the philosofy in my bones since childhood, im walking...

Something more specific i can say is that in my wondering i did a lot of research and what i found is the following:

Organic Farming promotes the use of natural fertilisers, making use of the natural carbon cycle so that waste from plants becomes the food (fertiliser) of another. In organic farming however, as with ALL farming, minerals are being lost from the farm everytime a truck load of produce is carted to market.
Permaculture goes one step further. Permaculture brings the people's wastes back into the cycle, it reduces the energy wasted in transporting the foods by producing the foods where the people are, in permaculture the people contribute in their daily life toward the production of their food and other needs.
The Permaculture garden is more than an organic garden.
It is also responsible for its waste, it aims not to pollute the surrounding environment i.e. with either excess nitrogen into the water systems or weed seed into any natural systems.
It uses design to minimise the gardeners chores and energy input. Repeatative, hard work is the joy of few permaculturalists.
It aims to imitate nature. Visually this is the most noticeable difference between organic gardening and permaculture. In permaculture gardens (home systems is the more wholistic term) there is rarely bare soil, the conservation of soil and water is a high priority. There is a more complex use of space. Plants are allowed to set seed, are interplanted for pest control. You will be unlikely to see plants in rows
The permaculture system aims to harvest and maximise water, sun and other natural energies (e.g. wind, dust, leaves, bird droppings)
The permaculture system aims to provide nutritious food and habitat for people AND native animals and birds.

In a true permaculture design minerals are not lost because they are cycled,
same goes for organic gardening however, bags of organic resources may need
to be purchased.
In a permaculture design the cycle is hopefully, closed. we create the
requirements of the system, setting one element near another so that natural
forces such as gravity and wind etc can transport the waste of one element
into the next element as a needed resource. We go one step more than
organic really because we try to let nature determine the shape of the
garden.
The different use of energy is an important point.


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Very nice statement of principles and some of the contradiction.

I conclude from your discussion that PC is not an economic enterprise in that it does not create any large surpluses to be marketed so as to earn the participants a significant cash income nor significant capital accrual. Any operation producing much beyond the subsistence level will by definition be exporting biomass/minerals.

As I see it, although diversity might be the hallmark of good PC design, specialty higher-valued surplus production is needed to sustain the system financially. Unless of course, one or more of the residents work off site or are what we used to call "trust fund babies."


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

As Diogenes went about with a lantern looking for an honest human being, I'm looking for an organic one. Someone, for example, whose flesh would contain no more than a few nitrogen atoms from the Haber process [indusutrial fixation of atmospheric nitrogen for fertilizer which started up about 1920]; someone who, even for a part of a lifetime, makes no use of unnatural pharmacuticals, polluting fuels or harsh chemicals.

I've heard that the most significant event of the 20th Century, the event that has had the most impact on the human condition, is the Haber process. Without it not half of us would be here on this planet. We have thought it miraculous that water could be changed to wine but what about changing air into human beings? This essentially is what Dr. Haber has done. When I look at the people I love in this world, my little 12 year old girl for example, I have thought that I should be ashamed of myself should I forget to thank God and Dr. Haber for them.

I have not for many years thought the organic proposition with respect to fertilizers acceptable. There is not enough manure in all this world to support even half our numbers. I would invite people intersted in organic agriculture and permaculture to read the book, 'Chemicals, Humus and the Soil', Donald Hopkins, 1948. It may be downloaded from the link below.

Kind regards . . . John Warner

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil and Health


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Without goin into details, i personally believe this thread has a awful lot of BS in it. Either culture, is dependent. I'd like to see a PC that never utilized an outside source,......To me.the ideas are the same, but the focus is more varied in the PC world. I say DO TO IT......whatever you call yoself.its the effort to give back to the earth that matters. Not the petty arguments over holier than thou. The truth is, the way we are created, makes us all dependent upon one another..git over it, an start realizin there aint no such thang as an elitist, in the natural world. It's all ..interdependent...)))


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

I confess to skimming, so pardon me if I repeat...it seemed odd that organic gardening is being defined strictly in terms of farming...organic gardeners practice organic methods on any little bit of garden of any sort we happen to have.


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics

Organiculture arose out of farming and later evolved with modern homesteading rather than horticulture. Now, organic standards have become a Federal matter of defitions and regulations. Some materials and some practices are common to organic ag and to organic horticulture (i.e. gardening.)


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RE: Permaculture vs. Organics (NEWBIE)

From what I've understood it is different emphasis: organic methods emphasise the particulars, specifically avoiding things that are too far removed from the ecology (e.g. not petrochem-synthesized, not GM) -and therefore ecologically costly- whereas permaculture is more of a heurism of looking first at what is already there before thinking how to disturb it and then only disturbing it in ways that uphold and harmonize with what is good already.

Both have an element of thrift that accords on a deep level, but like much suffer from being hard to quantify on a level with the demands of society as it stands.

Perhaps the two approaches are seen better in cooperation?


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