Permaculture Philosophy: Sepp Holzer vs. David Holmgren? — and more

This post is for permaculture people who wonder about Sepp Holzer, and his relationship to the permaculture movement started in Australia by David Holmgren and Bill Mollison.

And if you don’t wonder about Sepp Holzer, you should! He turned a south-facing mountainside in Austria into a permacultural paradise. His life work offers perhaps the single most dramatic, or at least most well publicized, example of what thinking with rather than against nature can do.

Here’s a little video on Sepp Holzer.

Here’s Paul Wheaton in Montana talking about Holzer and permaculture.

And here’s Paul Wheaton’s great extended comment from permies.com that ranks Holzer and all the rest of us.

The time has come for me to more formally define this. I have eluded to this rough idea in the past with some numbers I pulled out of my butt. I now flush those numbers and clearly define these new numbers.Further, while in the shower this morning, I decided that I am obnoxious and arrogant enough to come up with something and put my name to it. I also give everybody else licence to come up with their own scales for whatever they want. I just need to express myself, so I need ….. SOMETHING!

wheaton eco level 0: about 5 billion people
wheaton eco level 1: about a billion people
wheaton eco level 2: about 100 million people
wheaton eco level 3: about 10 million people
wheaton eco level 4: about a million people
wheaton eco level 5: about 100,000 people
wheaton eco level 6: about 10,000 people
wheaton eco level 7: about a thousand people
wheaton eco level 8: about 100 people
wheaton eco level 9: about 10 people
wheaton eco level 10: Sepp Holzer

Observation 1: most people find folks one or two levels up took pretty cool. People three levels up look a bit nutty. People four of five levels up look downright crazy. People six levels up should probably be institutionalized. I find the latter reactions to be inappropriate.

Observations 2: most people find folks one level back are ignorant. Two levels back are assholes. Any further back and they should be shot on sight for the betterment of society as a whole. I find that all of these reactions are innapropriate.

Finally: I can put whoever I want at the spot of eco level 10. I choose the mighty Sepp Holzer and I don’t give a damn if you think somebody else should sit in that spot on my scale!

Here are some possible attributes of people on the scale

Level 1: is thinking about the environment. Bought fluorescent light bulbs. Is trying to do a good job of recycling. Reads an article or two. Buys some organic food. Their power bill is less than average.

Level 2: 30% of purchased food is organic

Level 3: Has an organic garden and 80% of purchased food is organic

Level 4: Grow 40% of their own food. Studying permaculture. Got rid of all fluorescent light bulbs

Level 5: has taken a PDC and/or grows 90% of their own food

Level 6: Living a footprint that is 10 times lighter than average. Maybe living in community. Maybe living in something very small.

Level 7: Permaculture teacher

Level 8: Doing things that are currently improving the world in big ways

Level 9: masanobu fukuoka, paul stamets, art ludwig, bill mollison, ianto evans ….

Level 10: the mighty, the glorious, the amazing Sepp Holzer

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2 Responses to Permaculture Philosophy: Sepp Holzer vs. David Holmgren? — and more

  1. rtj1211 says:

    I think you should make this a two-dimension matrix;

    1. X axis is the 10 levels of Wheaton Eco-Levels.
    2. Y axis is 10 level of emotional awareness.

    You may then become aware that it is possible to be a relative amateur at permaculture whilst understanding exactly what the experts are talking about, due to a broad knowledge of a lot of things (e.g. climate systems, snow pack systems, mountaineering, other sports, biological research to cutting edge level, consultancy at board level, paradigm shifting skills etc etc) and an ability to recognise traits of experts.

    Here is the rtj111 10 levels of emotional awareness:

    1. I’m right, because it works best for me. People who don’t agree are assholes and I’m gonna crush their little asses to smithereens if I can. Folks like that need legislating against….
    2. I’m right, because it works best for me. I’ll steer clear of those who don’t agree with me unless they threaten my prosperity or insult my church, my football team or my wife/husband.
    3. People who agree with me most of the time are best able to change my thought processes when they disagree with me but we might engage in some full and frank exchanges of views before I actually change.
    4. People who are as good as me but disagree with me must have something to them, but getting to be able to find out what that is is a challenge. I’m learning enough from my mates for now, anyway.
    5. I’m just about reaching the point where I realise how ignorant I actually am. Lord knows what a danger I was to the world when I was so ignorant I didn’t even realise that!
    6. Having come to terms with how ignorant I am, I’m starting to think about what I can learn from different folks. It’s really amazingly liberating suddenly realising that I can trade my knowledge happily with complementary people. My emotional green manuring phase is now underway.
    7. I’ve been following my learning journey for 3 years now and I’ve discovered a bunch of folks helping me on my way, those who won’t, those I can help and those who don’t want my help. My pioneer emotional development guilds are developing well.
    8. After 10 years of my learning journey I’ve completed several cycles of growth, pruning, regrowth and symbiosis in relationship terms. I’m mostly free of my emotional hang-ups and I have parked the things I can’t change in places which don’t hurt me.
    9. 20 years of emotional learning and I can see how different people have followed different paths on their learning journey, have learned using different methods and strategies and found out why they prefer their solutions to mine. It’s amazing how much more you can help people with such a range of perspectives.
    10. 30 years plus of emotional learning journeys means that I spend more time now admiring the sheer mulitiplicity of life journeys that are possible. I see similarities between people’s life paths and niches in permaculture and have formed a unified view of philosophies prevalent in history, currently and what might emerge in the future.

    You can have great fund working out up to 100 types of human being based on that 2*2, from the totalitarian genius, to the permaculturally naive yogi.

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