Arrive at a Solution, Don’t Impose a Solution – Permaculture and Life with Toby Hemenway (PVP037)

“When you are doing work of value, people will support you in a variety of ways, not just money.”Toby Hemenway

Toby Hemenway with Michael Pollan and Chris Kerston

Toby Hemenway with Michael Pollan and Chris Kerston


Toby Hemenway joins me to talk permaculture – how permaculture has changed and how we can work more permaculture into our lives.

“How do you know if you’re on the right track? When resources start to gather around you.”Toby Hemenway


Toby's Keynote Address at PV1

Toby’s Keynote Address at PV1

Key Takeaways

  • It really benefits anyone in almost any field to be able to think in whole systems.  Someone who embraces permaculture can do a lot more than teach and design property.  Apply permaculture techniques and principles to what you do.
  • Find good mentors. Many people want to help others.  You just have to ask.
  • Some standard economic training is good. You can get a great toolkit and then apply it however you want.  Standard training is a tool, a means to an end if you goal is ecological design.
  • Catch kids while thinking in whole systems. Before they are trained out of it into compartmentalized thinking.
  • Starting with soil fertility and building organic matter is a good idea.  It is almost a universal panacea along with being careful with water.
  • Move to the highest generalization.  For example, do you want to open a store, or do you want to make a living providing good products for your community.
  • Find the things in life that you are really good at and do those things.  It gives you good feedback and then you start building confidence and making forward progress.
  • Want to transition careers?  Find ways to make it less scary – lower expenses.


  • “Rather than becoming a permaculturist, apply permaculture to the things that you are really passionate about and your really skilled at.”
  • “Find people who are profiting doing that thing that you want to  do with a permaculture twist and work/help/support or be mentored by them.”
  • “Arrive a technique, don’t impose a technique.”
  • “How do you know you’re on the right track?  When resources start to gather around you.”
  • “When you’re doing work of value, people will support you in a variety of ways, not just money.”

Trojan Horses, Recipes and Permaculture

by Toby Hemenway

“The Transition movement seemed to catch fire right from the beginning, and I confess that its success made me, as a permaculturist, a bit envious. Here was a program for converting to a post-oil society, created by a permaculture teacher using permaculture principles, and it seemed to be becoming better known and more highly regarded than permaculture itself.

Over a thousand towns have adopted Transition plans, national Transition organizations have sprung up in dozens of countries, and the Transition Handbook offers a clear implementation plan for energy descent, while permaculture lacks formal national and even regional centers in most places, and is a word that not only few people have heard, but one that many practitioners can barely define well enough for others to grasp.

What was it that made Transition so comprehensible, exciting, and respectable, while permaculture seemed diffuse, slow-growing, and smelling a bit of patchouli oil?”
Read the full article at Toby’s

Related Podcasts

032: How to Fail Better.  The Quest for Origination, Not Emulation with Javan Bernakevitch. 035: Ditching the Status Quo, Using Your Life Energy to Make a Better World: Permaculture Business.


gaias_gardenGaia’s Garden on Amazon…


Rob Avis of Verge Permaculture Interviews Toby Hemenway.



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Comments 6

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  1. I really appreciate the work that you’re doing and also how you analysis and summarize of the interviews. I found this one with Toby Hemenway particularly valuable with the advice to make yourself valuable by getting skilled.


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  2. Really appreciate what you are doing, Diego.

    When did a college education become vocational training?

    A good, broad college education should help young people to decide what they want to do with their lives. With escalating costs of attending college (much,maybe most, of which is due to government regulations, documenting compliance, etc), many find it difficult to justify except in relation to the income they may be able to earn after attaining a particular degree. A sad situation, really. College should not be about jumping through another set of hoops… but about learning, expanding one’s world view, and ‘cross-pollinating’ ideas and knowledge with others.

    The Founding Fathers felt that a sound republic was dependant upon an educated public. (The USA was established as a republic, not a democracy – which more Americans would know if we were really educating ourselves! )

    Many colleges & universities focus on training students for specific jobs, but apart from physicians and the like – (medical school is a GRADUATE program, not a Bachelor’s degree program!) , this is probably not a good idea – in part because the needs of employers change too rapidly for college programs to keep up. A Dean very close to me found that large companies wanted colleges NOT TO TRY TO ‘TRAIN’ students for specific jobs, but to give them solid fundamentals… teach them how to study, think critically, communicate clearly and precisly both in writing and in speaking, and to have a solid general background.
    Interesting, eh?

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      I hear you. I just wonder if sending someone into that system for 4 years at that cost actually accomplished this.
      “give them solid fundamentals… teach them how to study, think critically, communicate clearly and precisely both in writing and in speaking, and to have a solid general background.”

      I feel like the companies would be better off just hiring these kids straight out of college and let them get that experience there. Obviously not true for all and there is a process to be worked out, but I think that is what I would do if I ran a big company. Or you accomplish that over 1 year or 1 semester of college, not 4 years.

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