Response to Round 7 Prompt 2


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.


2 responses »

  1. I agree with you on the fact that permaculture cannot solve all of the worlds problems. A question is whether or not permaculture is a solution for everyone since we are technically above carrying capacity for people on the Earth. If everyone participated in permaculture, we may run into other problems such as limited space or not enough food to feed the billions of people who rely on modified food grown on a mass scale.

  2. Even though instrumental may not be the purest value placed on the land, it is better than those who don’t value it at all. I often believe that there is never one solution to any problem. As you said, Joe and Aldo Leopold want people to be closer to the land. If everyone in the world used permaculture then they would all be likely to have a newfound sense of closeness to the land and why the environment is important. When researching permaculture people will find there are three fundamental ethics. One of these ethics is “Fair Share: Taking of what we need and sharing the excess.” This ethic could be used in many situations and could be the start of some people’s ethical viewpoint. In this way, permaculture can be one aspect in solving some of the world’s issues. If nothing else, those who use permaculture are making less of a negative impact on the world than many others who buy vegetables shipped in from other countries.

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