Permaculture Designers Manual



Section 3.10 –

Zoning of Information and Ethics in Permaculture

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I am concentrating on people and their place in nature. Not to do so is to ignore the most destructive influence on all ecologies: the unthinking appetite of people-appetite for energy, newspaper, wrappings, “art” and “recreation“.

We can think of our zones in other than product terms and management, as a gradation between ecosystems (the home garden) managed primarily for people and the wilderness, where all things have their right to exist, and we are only supplicants or visitors.

Only excessive energy (human or fuel) enables us to assert dominance over distant resources, when we speak of dominance, we really mean destruction.

What is proposed herein is that we have no right, nor any ethical justification, for clearing land or using wilderness while we tread over lawns, create erosion, and use land inefficiently.

Our responsibility” is to put our house in order. Should we do so, there will never be any need to destroy wilderness.

Indeed, most farmers can become stewards of forest and wildlife, as they will have to become in any downturn in the energy economy. Unethical energy use is what is destroying distant resources for short term use.

Our zones, then, represent zones of destruction, information, available energy, and human dependency.

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ecologist” with large lawns or no food garden is as hypocritical as the “environmentalist” drinking from an aluminum beer can and buying newspapers to read of destructive exploits. Both occupations exploit wilderness and people.

In Zone 1 we are information developers; we tend species selected by, and dependent on, mankind. All animal species tend their “home gardens“, and interdependency arises that is not greatly different from the parasite-prey dependency.

In Zone 2, already nature is making our situation more complex, and we start to learn from species other than our people-dependent selections. As we progress outwards we can lose our person orientation and gain real understanding of the necessity for all life forms, as we do not “need” to exploit most species.

We in fact need and use only a few species of the hundreds of thousands that exist.

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In wilderness, we are visitors or strangers. We have neither need nor right to interfere or dominate. We should not settle there, and thus leave wastelands at our back. In wilderness we may learn lessons basic to good design, but we cannot improve on the information already available there. in wilderness, we learn of our little part in the scheme of all things.



1. Everything is of use. It is not necessarily needed by people, but it is needed by the life complex of which we are a dependent part.

2. We cannot order complex functions. They must evolve of themselves.

3. We cannot know a fraction of what exists. We will always be a minor part of the total information system.


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Thus, we are teachers only in our home gardens, and learners elsewhere. Nowhere do we create. Everything we depend on we have evolved from what is already created, and that includes ourselves.

Thoughtful people (those who get recreation from trying to understand) need wilderness as schools need teachers. Should we lose the wilderness, or suffer it to be destroyed, we will be recycled for more appropriate life In any number of ways, some very painful and protracted.

We can also state our first “error” thesis here; such errors, once made, lead us into increasing problems.


Type 1 Error

When we settle into wilderness, we are in conflict with so many life forms that

we have to destroy them to exist. Keep out of the bush. It is already in good order.”