Hi, this is just a half-formed thought I want to see if anyone will add to or discuss.
My only real interest in permaculture depends entirely on the central importance of zone 5 in the whole concept. Holmgren and Mollison did a good job of stressing how zone 5 underlies everything in permaculture, but they didn't anticipate the slipperiness of the new-age umbilicologists who would do their utmost to bury it in the self-indulgent baggage they bring with them.
Whodathunk we'd see first zone 0 and then zone 00 get added, while zone 5 would be relegated to an afterthought, if thought of at all. Time after time I'd visit a permaculture project and get the 'tour'. First thing? How We Generate Our Electricity! Every time, honestly, not just a lot, but always. And every time, I'd have to ask, where is your zone 5? If there was one, it was invariably an awkward patch of land they couldn't figure out what to do with yet. It would be where they dumped their trash, and often their coppice woodland (showing the truth of the saying that people can't conceive of more than 4, any more being "many").
So I was wondering if anyone has ideas of how we can help to re-inject the true core of permaculture, and keep it on track. To me, permaculture is like a journey towards the primitive (i.e. first or prime) living. hunter-gatherers essentially practice near-perfect permaculture, and live in zone 5. We only need the other zones temporarily to enable us to have a soft landing.
It'd be a real disaster if permaculture ended up twisted into yet another extension of the collapse of civilization. The permaculture 'movement' offers a great opportunity to promote common sense among a lot of people, but only if we can keep zone 5 at the core of it. Otherwise permaculture will move away from reality and slide back into the fantasy world of the solipsists.
It's worth the effort, because permaculture is quite unique among the new 'green movement' type stuff in that it isn't up for being changed by people's opinions. It was defined clearly at the outset and though it evolves and adds to the body of knowledge, the definition stands and is copyrighted to protect it from "everyone has a part of the truth" type of crap. If you want to fuse some permaculture techniques with yoga and self-development programs, fine, but you can't call it permaculture.
Although it is supposed to be about the principles, most of what I see is obsessed with techniques, which are really only examples by which people can learn the principles. It's like learning katas in martial arts, they're only there to help you grasp an underlying principle, yet many people get so tied up in them they miss the principles completely and think the katas are what it's all about. When 'gurus' add in other stuff they dilute it even further and present al danger that the possibility for real personal development gets subsumed under yet another new-age diversion.
For many, it's not enough to say something once, and then assume it's got across. If it was, then one of the first things we learned in science at school would be remembered and all our 'scientists' would freely admit that most of what they say is probably wrong. The principles are not easily taken on board, except on a very superficial level, whereas the techniques are relatively easy to learn. The principles, the underlying philosophies, have to be accentuated, repeated, drummed in until they are heard and understood.
Maybe a zone 5 module could be produced for teachers to incorporate into their courses? I dunno, there must be ways we can promote it.