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2011 & 2010, The PDC+++

PDC+++ = the Integral Permaculture Curriculum

IPC10  = 10th International Permaculture Conference, in Jordan

The Theme of the IPC this year was "Water for Life, Water for Nature"

& water, as well as its obvious importance as the basis of physical life, also reminds us of the basis of our soul-life, representing the more fluid parts of human experience: our emotions, creativity, imagination ... which are also the parts which are those parts most difficult to design with / around.

Presentation to IPC10 Convergence

21st September 2011 - WATCH RECORDING HERE

Student Testimonials

You can see evaluations of the course from students on slides 28 - 32 in 
the above presentation, here on the PermaCultureScience.com web, 
and this video by Delia

A student evaluation of the course, 
in particular the Action-Learning format that we use.

The Curriculum

In action-learning the curriculum is quite literally whatever the student decides to investigate.

As a basic guide* to what's out there really useful delving into in depth, we provide some 50 lectures online on these topics, which we consider the standard basic knowledge anyone who is interested in designing sustainable societies should know about, to start with.      Then there are lots of in-depth additional materials in the e-Book that accompanies the course - see below.

*(This is the curriculum we've been developing since 2003, see our presentation to EUPC10 about it, in the PDC Curriculum page)

Each module used to be given over 3 days on site, with practical time for designs.  Now we supply 10 recorded classes (between 1 & 2 hours in length) over 10 weeks, and all the materials in the e-book (we're developing an Integral Permaculture Design manual online as we move along on the course).  To this we add any number of discussion of the topics, and of course developing people's own designs, which we follow and contribute to individually, as required.

Here is a brief description of each module.   For the full programme see
 www.PermaCultureScience.com  (the course site) and 
 www.PermaCultureScience.org (the e-book site)

(In both the detail is added as we progress with the first course.  In September 2011 we are just starting Module3: EarthCare) -   Click on the icon to see the fuller programme for each module, with links to e-book.

Module 1 (M1) - People-Care deals with the Ethics, group & meetings design, personal support (how to design for it), collective intelligence, the meaning and history of sustainability, the scientific process (= design cycle = the action-learning cycle) and the advantages of having clear conscious models that can be tested out in practice: the basis for action-learning.    

for this Module:   See full Programme here       See e-book materials as links from each class

M2 - Design Techniques focuses on the tools for good design, the principles, the importance of thorough observation, the resources scale, the great variety of maps that exist and how to make a base map from raw field data, the choosing of apropiate design frameworks and an overview of the very many design techniques available (this is taken straight out of the Designers Manual adding many practical examples)

for this Module:   See full Programme here       See e-book materials as links from each class

M3 - Earth Care
 is concerned with studying soils, increasing fertility, earth works, plants and animals, cycles, acuaculture, designing  and installing forest gardens + the principles are revisited with earth-care focus (this is taken straight out of the Designers Manual adding many practical examples). 

for this Module:   See full Programme here       See e-book materials as links from each class

M4 - EcoTechnology and BioConstruction is about giving some physics basics (eg. optics for solar-ovens, thermodynamics for choosing types of heating and cooling, EMERGY basics for sustainability), we cover apropiate technology, innovation, alternative energy sources & eco-building techniques.   (mostly from the Manual).

for this Module:    
See full Programme here      See e-book materials as links from each class

M5 - EcoEconomics & Transition - emphasizes the design of local economies, how the current design of money creates most of the structural problems we live with today, history of and different designs for complementary currencies, also we cover the various legal structures and main areas to consider in setting up a small business, with living examples. 
for this Module:   
See full Programme here        See e-book materials as links from each class

M6 - Diploma & Invisible Design  - not part of the PDC, this is a follow-on for people who are considering the diploma.  It is a revew of all modules + introduction to the diploma process and the significance of invisible design, and we advise taking this module some time after the first 5 which together amount to the Certificate in PC.

for this Module:   See full Programme here       

The e-Book

In April 2011 we started what will be a two year process of 'fleshing-out' the 50 basic classes of the PDC+++ course with in-depth additional materials, comprising the Integral Permaculture e-Book, an ambitious project to create a multi-media modern, & collectively designed Designers' Manual.

We started with a pilot project in 2007, with Círculos d'Estudio, a wiki only in Spanish.   We're now transferring those materials and expanding the contents both in breadth & into English also, on this site:

We made a similar presentation to the European Convergence the year before:

Presentation to EUPC10 Convergence

Summer 2010

We Propose that we make a unified and concerted effort at European level

To develop together an improved PC Certificate Curriculum that reflects the new times, keeps staying as a referent for the most advanced in sustainability education in existence & can be seriously considered an internationally agreed standard.


There have been innumerable dialogues, discussions, meetings and conferences about improving on or agreeing the PDC Curriculum, all of which are very valuable in content but at the same time ultimately futile if the dialogues are not actioned & so don't produce any fruits in the real world.

In the Education Lab of the Chaordic PC Institute we have attempted to collate different perspectives, in the spirit of "starting a design with lots of observation":


There are however other fora which also have been discussing this issue, and we don't have them listed in that dialogue.

A Short Presentation Video

(10 mins)

about the videos: they can be loaded on-line and watched off-line later if needed

PDC Curriculum Presentation

A Longer Presentation Video

(20 mins)

PDC Curriculum introduction

If you can't see this video well, try clicking on the image, 
then on the little arrow bottom right and select "see with x video programme" 
for some reason it doesn't seem to run as well as the other one..

Current Problems

Although there have been many dialogues around the issue of modernising the PDC curriculum ...
  • most of these have been repeating similar issues over and over again .. probably because:
  • the various forums are not connected
  • the people involved often don't know each other - this sometimes leads to lack of trust or fluid communication
  • generally our network is scattered and un-coordinated, leading to many instances of "re-invention of wheel" instead of building on past work and improving designs consistently
There is also a language & cultural barrier, with English speakers often assuming that whatever does not happen in their language isn't really happening, significant, or interesting.   

In fact we ask that a special effort be made by English speakers to please remember that language oppression (eg. thinking that it's not necessary to learn other languages if you speak English, assuming that non-English speakers have less of value to contribute, aren't properly educated, etc.) is simply another - very powerful - tool of globalization and that we can consciously avoid participating in and so supporting its assumptions. 

There are instances where the vacuum created by a lack of coordinated intelligent effort in keeping up to date and promoting the (mostly excellent) PDC (existing) curriculum has led to permaculture being portrayed very partially and incorrectly, for eg., Permaculture Design is currently (and quite popularily) now portrayed as a tiny sub-section of the current EcoVillage Development Education (EDE) curriculum, which mentions PC as little more than a garden design technique.   This is of course outrageous mis-information and we believe we also need to take some of the responsability for this situation to have occurred.   

This EDE curriculum is now being spread around the globe (thanks to much institutional & funding support) and with it spreads a very limited, quite incorrect definition of Permaculture.     

Please be clear that we think it would be perfectly fine if it or any other curricula were teaching permaculture under some other name, but it doesn't - it embodies the very same lack of design rigour & flexibility (the core power of PC as a change instrument) that in fact we would like to propose the PDCs world-wide to improve upon.   This we think is in fact the principal problem we would like to tackle with this proposal.

As Andy Langford (CoFounder Gaia University) very poignantly stated in his presentation at IPC7 in Croacia, the 'old guard' in the PC network might seem reluctant to let go of the reins or let in too many 'new suggestions' as to what PC should or could be, because it is clear to them that many of us "younger ones" have never even read or understood the Designers Manual, or integrated the the treasure-trove of design wisdom which they have worked so much of their lives to pass down to us.   

Permaculture is a systemic science, it is not a set of techniques.  
The only techniques that can be said to be truly permacultural are the design methods, especially the observation methods and the scrupulous application of the Ethics, Directives and Principles of Permaculture.     And they can be applied to everything and anything which humans can design.    

For this reason we strongly agree with the thinking expressed in the Nordic Permaculture Institute's important paper about this which Tony Anderson presented at  IPC8:


2) PlanB.doc


4) 10.000TREES.doc

5) DiplConvergence.doc

The diluting of permaculture to a set of techniques (and mostly gardening or building techniques at that), or to a lifestyle or fashion) was also the main reason for David Holmgren to write his Permaculture Principles book: like many other great teachers, he realized that powerful essence of permaculture  was being lost in a sea of forms or examples, which often get copied without any real understanding of why they might constitute a good design in a particular place or set of circumstances.

Proposed Solutions

Here in Stella's Design Portafolio, and also in the shorter video, above there is more detail about how we have incorporated all observations and emergent proposals in the new modular curriculum for the PDC that we use (since 2003, tweaking it all the time in response to observations) in Nodo Espiral.

We are very keen to hear from other innovations and proposals about this important subject, please check the feedbacks collated via de Education Lab of the Chaordic Institute also: http://permacultureinstitute.pbworks.com/Education

Actions & Actors

Teachers, especially experienced teachers, from all Bioregions and Languages possible, to share their experience and perspectives.

Apprendice teachers can give very valuable service in recording, interviewing, documenting, collating, etc. the inputs from all actors / designers (and learn a lot in the process).

PDC Students' feedback of course is also important and hopefully collected automatically after each course - honest sharing of errors as well as successes is important, so we can learn from each other.

Do participate!   (this was the open forum proposed for dialoguing this proposal in August 2010, but was never used)

Resources Required

Thanks to modern communication technologies, we do not need to make expensive great journeys in order to design effective ongoing dialogues about this.   
Although field-trips are always pleasant and undoubtedly in some ways more effective (especially in facilitating warm personal relationships), they are simply not a realistic possibility for many of us.

We feel it is urgent & important that we move, in a conscious fashion, towards better inclusion & participation in the PC network. and in order to start doing this we need to realise how much conferences can and do discriminate heavily (not necessarily in useful directions).

So the main resource required is WILLINGNESS,
with a handful of understanding 
and a generous sprinkling of CREATIVITY, cooperation & imagination

Having said this, if we can also find the resource within the European PC network to organise a European Union funded Teachers' Conference (for people who are actively working on developing the PDC curriculum) we would encourage and support this effort - especially if it allocated funds to a parallel well-resourced internet or virtual conference too.

Update for IPC10 

(Jordan), Sept 2011

For some reason the presentation failed to get to the convergence, and as usually happens, after the gargantuan effort of organizing and running a convergence, there is little if any left for continuing the important dialogues started.

Addressing the lack of continuity & effective (& inclusive) communication is the problem we are pointing out as critical in advancing these issues amongst a sufficiently representative base of activists to make the great proposals 'stick'.

So we went ahead and re-designed, again.    If we call this curriculum something else, then we don't need to get more people on board to advance and improve the quality of the teaching, and in fact we did the opposite:  we let go quite a few unsatisfactory teachers we still had in NodoEspiral (most left by themselves, at realizing we weren't prepared to be a job agency for would-be PC teachers) and raised our vision even higher: we'd go for developing an Integral PC curriculum and only accept integral-level teachers in NodoEspiral.

As Einstein famously said:

"Imagination is more important than knowledge.   
For knowledge is limited to all we know & understand, 
while imagination embraces the entire world, 
& all there ever will be to know 
& understand."

See original news item in our blog about the presentation, here: tinyurl.com/3cs8fut