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Hey (PDC) teacher, leave them kids alone. (Permaculture and the profit motive).

The Pink Floyd reference marks me out as an old timer, I know. I have resisted writing this post for a long time, I have tried to give everyone the benefit of the doubt to see where this thing is leading, but now I have finally lost faith in this permaculture “movement” and have come to the conclusion that the movement has been hijacked for financial gain, it’s normal, it happens with everything else, why should PC any different.

One of our most recent visitors had spent a month travelling around many leading PC centres in Thailand, one of his first observations was, “most of them go to the market everyday to buy food”. Unfortunately this is not uncommon, growing food is hard work, teaching a Permaculture Design Course and going to buy food with the money is a much easier idea. This happens a lot. This is not to say everyone is guilty of this, there is a lot of good work being done, by people of great integrity who truly believe in what they are doing.

A quick internet search would reveal that, just in Thailand, there are now probably 30 PDC’s per year that’s nearly three a month in more than ten different sites, plus dozens of related workshops, lots and lots of teaching and very little food growing. It is very competitive and every course seems to feature exceptional teachers in awesome locations and promises a life changing experience, it’s difficult not to be cynical.

These courses are not cheap!!! The quality of the teaching declines, good teachers, with years and years of experience, are crowded out by bad ones and the victims in all this are the poor kids who, not knowing any better,  sometimes fork out in excess of 700US for a PDC with teachers with little personal experience of food growing or permaculture in practice. For these reasons I have stopped calling what we do “permaculture”, I feel that permaculture is very often an empty word now, a bit like “boutique hotel” or “eco resort”, sounds good and attracts attention, but it does not mean very much anymore. I know this will be disputed by many, but this is what I see happening around me. I am waiting to be convinced I am wrong.

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