Monday, February 22, 2010

The Permaculture Design Certificate

The Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC)
by Jesse Lemieux

What is needed to design a sustainable human society full of abundance and security for all living systems? Information, empowerment and ethics.

The Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) teaches students how to use information, resources and ethics to meet local needs on a limited land base.

There are no "bad guys" and nothing is inherently evil. It is the designs of the systems we use that are the problem. A large machine can be use to bring down a forest, or it can be used to repair damage and degraded landscapes. In the same way, I can either use a hammer as weapon, or to build a house for a friend. The difference in outcome is one of intention and design.

The fact is that we are working with a system that was never designed to provide a sustainable or secure place for life on this planet. The system we are working with was designed to concentrate wealth, resources and power into the hands of a few. This system produces elite classes, sickness and environmental degradation.

The justification for such destructive ways was one of service to the larger whole. In other words, we tell ourselves that while the present way of doing things does not provide all people in all places with a secure livelihood, it can maximize happiness for a maximum number of people.

A great many good things have come out of this system, like this computer I
type with. But it is obvious that the time for change has come. The planet is raising alarm bells. Fancy technological adaptations may give us some extra time, but if we are concerned with the long term survival of the human species, then we had better start evolving and designing our systems using more sustainable models.

At the very core of our problems are the assumptions we make regarding human nature. We design and build our systems with the underlying belief that human nature is dominated by greed. As a result, we see human interaction with other humans and the environment as brutal struggle, domination and conquest.

Nothing could be further from the truth. What makes us human is not how savagely we can treat each other. What makes us human is our large brain, and our capacity for abstract thinking and creative problem solving. Human nature is one of choice. We as a species and as individuals are capable of just as much positive action as we are negative. In my experience, 99 out of 100 people have good intentions and want to do the right thing.

So what is the issue?
The issue is design. The Permaculture Design Certificate teaches how we can utilize today's tools and technology to shape a more sustainable and equitable world for all species. Permaculture is more than just planting a garden. It is a sustainable design approach that is applicable to all human activities. An organic garden is one element in a total design. Permaculture is about where we place the garden in relation to the house, site topography, climate, water run off, capabilities of the users, where money comes from to finance it ...ect. Using a designed approach place the organic garden in space, time and form so as to gain the highest output for lowest input.

The PDC is an intensive 72-hour study in all things sustainable. It uses the 14-chapter text book "Permaculture, A Designers Manual" as its reference and works through the following topics:Introduction to Permaculture
Concepts and Themes in Design
Methods of Design
Pattern Unders
Climatic Factors
Trees and their Energy Transactions
Earthworks and Earth Resources
The Humid Tropics
Dryland Strategies
Humid Cool to Cold Climates

The Strategies of an Alternative Global Nation

As you can see from the above list, permaculture covers all aspects of human life. It is grounded in practical real world design and extends into the complex realm of sustainable social design. It extends further into the invisible design of organizing energy exchange between people and communities.
The PDC empowers, informs and trains people to be effective designers and agents of active change in their homes and communities. The PDC endeavors to teach teachers, in order to spread and localize this important information. Following this strategy, permaculture has spread rapidly to all corners of the globe without any form of centralized administration or governing body. As a result, there are many collectives and collaborations between different permaculture teachers and institutes, but all operate as independent entities. The permaculture community is unified by the common ethic of earth care, people care and return of surplus.

Permaculture does not ignore the massive challenges we face today. We maintain a healthy of the challenges and difficulties of the modern world. We choose to focus our time and energy on a positive and active approach. Rather than spending a Saturday at a rally protesting something I don't want, I would rather spend the day with a group of friends and strangers installing a food garden in the community. In this way we actively change the world one garden at a time.

Many of my students quickly move on to be involved in all levels of change from local to global some as private business others for NGOs.

Adrian Buckley of Calgary took his PDC in August 2009. This course was taught by Pacific Permaculture on behalf of Ravis Sustainable. Since that time, Adrian has started a small permaculture business called Big Sky Permaculture, which recently hosted its first Introduction to Permaculture Workshop this past January. He is a great example of how quickly a PDC can change the direction of one's life.

Angela Gentili of Toronto attended the Pacific Permaculture part time PDC in Vancouver in the spring of 2009. She has recently co-founded a non-profit community organization in Toronto known as They are involved in all kinds of great community agriculture initiatives using permaculture in their work.

Aaron Elton of Vancouver is yet another student of ours, from the PDC course that Pacific Permaculture hosted last summer on Denman Island. Aaron has initiated a permaculture aid project known as Our Mother Earth Villages, which will be operating in Uganda and teaching its first PDC to local and international students in late 2010.

There is no doubt in my mind that a full education in permaculture design is a positive experience. It's an investment that anybody can make regardless of profession, background or age.

Pacific Permaculture is offering a second annual installment of a Vancouver part time course starting April 3. If you are interested in the 2-week intensive format, we are hosting a course on Denman Island July 4-17, and teaching another in Saskatoon in the middle of August.

Please visit our website for more info.

We are not the only group that is offering the PDC in western Canada. Below is a list of other groups and organizations that regularly teach the 72-hour PDC.

Ravis Sustainable (Calgary)

Urban Farmer (Edmonton)

OUR Ecovillage (Shanigan Lake)

Blue Raven Permaculture (Salt Spring Island)
Kootaneey Permaculture (Winlaw BC)

The term "permaculture" was coined by Bill Mollison and gifted to the college of graduates of the Permaculture Design Certificate. As teachers, we all agree to adhere to the design curriculum as laid out in the 14 chapters of the permaculture designer's manual. Only graduates of this curriculum may refer to themselves as permaculture designers and permaculture teachers. However, anyone engaging in activities which relate the ethics and principles of permaculture may refer to their work as permaculture.

Before attending a PDC be sure that the whole 14 chapter curriculum from "Permaculture A Designers Manual" is being presented. The course must cover all the material over 72 hours. and should not have extra material included. Good luck and we will see you out there.

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