I was highly surprised by Joe’s view of environmental ethics. I made the assumption that because he was a practicer of permaculture and believed in holistic, slower living in communion and conjunction with the land, his view of intrinsic value would be different. I understood his response to Seaton’s question about intrinsic value to be that value is derived from the utility of the object and the more utility an object possesses, the more value it has. This seems to be a purely instrumental point of view. Permaculture itself seems to be an instrumental value based functional system, another surprising reality.
I think the most important thing I learned from Joe’s talk was to avoid characterizing environmental outlooks and viewpoints as automatically based on intrinsic value. Throughout the readings and class discussion, it has become clear that making assumptions often leads to oversimplification of a belief system and makes it difficult to actually understand the tenets of that system. Additionally, regardless of the value base of a belief system, it can still be environmentally friendly, sustainable, and good for the earth and the organisms that it sustains. Joe is living his life in a manner that encompasses all of those things.
I have a hard time believing that permaculture holds the solution to any and all of the world’s problems, however. The majority of environmental issues stem from economic, racial, and cultural issues. Can permaculture solve or help solve those issues? The practice of living life based on the flow of ecological design systems sounds great and is definitely possible to do but I do not see how it can provide solutions to the global issues that environmental degradation stem from.
I definitely agree with the similarity between Joe and Aldo Leopold. Permaculture advocates holistic involvement with nature that mimics its natural systems. Even if based in instrumental value, permaculture is concerned with care for the land, care for people, and creation and share of the earth. Leopold’s land ethic of care for the earth, both because it has value and because we need it, are echoed in the three ethics of permaculture.