Is Permaculture Turning into a Landscape Design Product?

After Vera Bradova’s obviously very provocative essay; “Utopians are ruining everything“, which spurred an intense discussion both at P2P-Foundation and at the original essay,  John Wheeler toward the end made an interesting comment:

Sorry I took so long to get back to you. Yes, while I got my PDC almost 2 decades ago, I am well aware of the way landscape architecture is making inroads into permaculture. It is born out of the desire to turn permaculture designs into products that can be sold. It is the need to satisfy the customer that drives that process of making a top-down design and imposing it upon the landscape. And, to my estimation, that is a perversion of what permaculture is supposed to be.


Holmgren may have been one of the cofounders of permaculture, but it has expanded so much beyond Mollison and his vision. Sepp Holzer, for example, uses pigs to dig ponds.


And quite frankly, I think the process you describe is an excellent example of how permaculture is supposed to work. I know in my own training, Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language played a big part, and I think it was influential in the development of permaculture. – John Wheeler

Permaculture was born as a counter culture, but is it now, like so many other counter cultures, becoming nothing more than just another design product to be sold at the capitalistic marketplace? In the name of profit, nothing is holy, not even Permaculture. The branding is already done, a name with very positive associations among lots of people, it’s just for landscape designers to jump on, perverting the whole thing.

As Wheeler says, originally even pigs were used to dig Permaculture ponds, while now they send in huge machines imposing perfect lines using GPS. Can it become further away from the intentions of the founding fathers of Permaculture, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren?

To make it clear, landscape design is a branch of Modernism, which means top-down-design. Read more about landscape design in Kristian Hoff-Andersen’s essay:


As one can see from Andersen’s essay, landscape architecture has already perverted what green urbanism means. It seems like their next victim is about becoming Permaculture. Permaculture was let loose on the world, it might not be so loose anymore, becoming caught and infected by the poisoning tentacles of the landscape architects.

Does nature design ecosystems via blueprints and future-to-present impositions? Does it envision a billion years ahead, then implement? Does nature take a burnt-over meadow and shape it according to a plan? Perish the thought. Lifelong nature observation leads me to be confident in asserting that nature emerges and evolves ecosystems by paying attention to present needs and opportunities, that it works piecemeal rather than in grand designs, and that it relies on co-adaptations of all living creatures to one another in a dance whose result cannot be predicted. – Vera Bradova

Making “Hugelculture” at the Scandinavian Permaculture Festival in Hurdal, Norway, 2013

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