A Criteque of Permaculture

Bill Mollison's "Permaculture: A Designer's Manual" is undoubtedly a seminal work in the field of permaculture, and it has inspired countless people to embrace a more sustainable and regenerative way of living. Mollison's vision of designing human systems that mimic natural ecosystems and maximize the efficient use of resources is a powerful one, and many of his ideas remain relevant and valuable today.

However, it is worth noting that some of Mollison's claims and assumptions may not be entirely accurate or up-to-date. One such claim is that permaculture is a highly efficient and productive food production system. While permaculture can certainly be effective for managing land and creating resilient ecosystems, it may not always be the most efficient or productive way to grow food, especially on a large scale. New agricultural technologies and practices are in some cases enabling higher yields and efficiencies to be achieved than conventional permaculture.

Mollison's belief in having valid copyright claims over the word 'Permaculture' is highly questionable, as research suggests that a single word lacking a clear description of a physical product or specific service cannot be copyrighted. Furthermore, evidence indicating that the word 'Permaculture' was in use prior to Mollison's claim significantly undermines the likelihood of his claim being upheld in a court of law.

However, it is important to note that the specific arrangements of words in Mollison's books about Permaculture may be subject to copyright as a technical work rather than a literary work. This means that the way the words are organized and presented in the books may be protected, but the underlying ideas described in the books cannot be copyrighted or patented.

Additionally, seeking design rights for Permaculture would have presented challenges since Permaculture is a concept rather than a tangible product or easily defined service. As a result, Mollison's attempts to trademark the word 'Permaculture' were repeatedly refused by IP Australia, indicating that it is not eligible for trademark protection.

In summary, Mollison's claim to copyright the word 'Permaculture' is highly unlikely to succeed due to the word's lack of a specific physical product or service and evidence suggesting prior use. While the specific arrangements of words in his books may be protected, the ideas themselves cannot be copyrighted. Furthermore, the concept of Permaculture does not qualify for design rights or trademark protection.

As the global population has continued to grow since Mollison's book was first published, the challenges of food production have become increasingly urgent and complex. Declining output from conventional agriculture due to climate change, soil degradation, and other factors has made it clear that we need to explore a wide range of approaches to feeding the world sustainably. While permaculture can certainly be part of the solution, we should also be open to other new, innovative and evidence-based approaches to food production.

While Bill Mollison's "Permaculture: A Designer's Manual" is a foundational text in the field of permaculture and contains many valuable insights, it is important to critically evaluate his claims and assumptions in light of new developments and challenges. We should continue to explore and experiment with a variety of approaches to sustainable land management and food production, drawing on the best available evidence and adapting our strategies as needed to meet the needs of a changing world.

New developments in advanced aquaculture and hydroponic techniques are important to consider in the context of sustainable food production. These innovative techniques offer new possibilities for producing food in a more efficient and sustainable manner, particularly in regions where traditional agriculture or even permaculture techniques may be difficult to implement due to climate change or other factors. Additionally, the growing demand for water and the increasing aridity of certain regions are urgent concerns that need to be addressed in the context of sustainable land management and food production.

Furthermore, the declining supply of meltwater from mountain ranges is a growing concern that could have severe impacts on millions of people who rely on this water source for agriculture and other needs. This highlights the importance of developing more resilient and sustainable water management systems that can adapt to changing environmental conditions.

The threat of rising sea levels and the disastrous increase in plastic waste are also pressing challenges that require urgent attention. These issues have significant implications for global food production, as well as for the health of marine ecosystems and human populations that rely on them.

The growing potential for mineral resource shortages and increasing proposals to mine the sea bed also raise important questions about the long-term sustainability of our current economic systems and our reliance on finite resources. It is critical that we explore new approaches to resource management and sustainable development that can meet our needs without compromising the health of the planet or the well-being of future generations.

Sandponics, or sand-based hydroponics, is one promising approach to food production that has the potential to increase yields and reduce resource inputs when compared to traditional soil-based agriculture. This technique involves growing plants in a nutrient-rich sand substrate instead of soil, with water and nutrients delivered directly to the plant roots through a controlled irrigation system. With a by-product of the system being the raising of edible fish, which has the potential to either replace or reduce the need for red and white meat production.

While variations of sandponics may not be entirely new, and may possibly have been used in ancient times, it is true that this approach to agriculture has gained renewed attention in recent years as a potential solution to the challenges of climate change, water scarcity, and food insecurity. The ability to grow crops in sand-based hydroponic systems with minimal water usage and without the need for pesticides or synthetic fertilizers makes it an attractive option for regions with arid or semi-arid climates, as well as for urban and peri-urban areas where space and resources are limited.

The adoption of sandponics and other innovative growing systems could be an important step towards greater food sovereignty and resilience, allowing communities to produce more of their own food locally and reducing reliance on global food supply chains. By embracing a diversity of approaches to sustainable land management and food production, we can build a more resilient and equitable food system to meet the needs of all people, while at the same time protecting the health of the planet.

More to follow