This Online PDC May Be Just What We All Need…
Permaculture is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts of the modern environmental movement. Sure, it boasts an enthusiastic following of passionate practitioners but most people, even among those who call themselves environmentalists, don’t understand what permacutlure is. I think it’s fair to say that some of the uninitiated at least associate permaculture with organic gardening but even those folks often don’t really understand what permaculture is and what it is capable of.
Until the relatively recent surge in popularity and availability of online education, the only way to experience a Permaculture Design Course was to take one in person. Most often this required carving out 2 weeks of time, forking over a large chunk of change, and traveling to the far corners of the earth. This was (and still is) a great way to immerse oneself in permaculture with a unique and interesting group of like-minded folks from around the world. Sounds awesome! It also sounds a little elitist; the ivy league of permaculture! Weekend or university courses spread over the course of several months have provided an alternative to the 2-week intensive but again, only for those who can spare the time, the money, and can travel to the course-site. Thankfully, online education has opened up a world of opportunity for aspiring permaculturalists.
Some of the old guard permaculture instructors have balked at the idea of learning permaculture online. There certainly is a sense of magic to the live, in-person PDC. Imaging squirreling yourself away on a small farm in Costa Rica for 2 weeks – off the grid; off-line; eating fresh, locally grown food 3 meals a day; living isolated from the outside world as a community of learners. How can you not walk away without new friendships and a deep understanding of permaculture? “I’d do it in a heart-beat if I could afford the time and money.” I’ve heard that sentiment echoed many times, online and in person.
What I feel is more important than the live, in-person, magical, mystery PDC, is simply making such valuable information available to as many people as possible around the world. The very ethics of permaculture remind us that the point of this show is to care for the earth, care for people, and share the wealth. Most of us come to permaculture from a concern for the environment. Sometimes it is easier to care for the environment than it is to care for people. But as ecology teaches us, we are all interconnected. If we all want to benefit from the concepts and applications of permaculture than we need to share the information!
Google ‘online PDC‘ and a slew of options comes up. Geoff Lawton’s Online Permaculture Design Course has earned a positive reputation as one of the best ways to take a high-end PDC, and earn a certificate, without leaving your home. I haven’t taken Lawton’s course but I’ve read lots of raving reviews. Like the in-person PDCs, Lawton’s course is not cheap. Nor should it be. He is a well-known permaculturalist, claims to answer all student questions, and students can earn the much sought-after Permaculture Design Certificate. Fantastic!
At the other end of the online PDC spectrum there are some free online PDCs, that I will not mention, because they don’t come with rave reviews. Poor film quality, lack of in-depth explanations, and questionable ethics of the certifying agencies, are some of the common complaints of free online PDCs. I’m glad the information is available for free, but from what I’ve heard, you may learn more by reading some well-written permaculture books – often available through inter-library loan at your local library.
The middle ground is the affordable online PDC. There are a number of affordable online PDCs to choose from. You’ll pay more for those courses that offer a certificate. Generally you are paying for the instructor’s time as they provide personal feedback on each student’s design exercise. Online PDCs that offer the opportunity to earn a certificate should provide the opportunity for instructor/student interaction. Without feedback on the design element of the course (after all, PDC stands for Permaculture Design Course), I believe the authenticity of the certificate is questionable.
For those who are not concerned with earning or paying for a certificate, Organic Life Guru’s online PDC is a great choice. Taught by Scott Pittman, a member of the old guard who is himself skeptical of the value of an online PDC, it offers hours of great content. According to his website, “Scott Pittman, one of the foremost teachers of permaculture in the US, has taught the subject extensively worldwide on four continents. He is the founder of the Permaculture Drylands Institute and co-founder of the Permaculture Credit Union. Scott co-taught with the founder of permaculture Bill Mollison, and helped to establish permaculture movement in the US Southwest. His experience includes working with indigenous and traditional people worldwide, design projects that range from backyards to thousand-acre farms and activism in promotion of sustainable living. Scott is the lead teacher for most Permaculture Institute programs. He holds Diploma in Education, Permaculture Design, Site Development, and Community Service.” Scott has so much valuable information and experience to share.
Organic Life Guru’s online PDC was filmed at a live, in-person course in Costa Rica. All the student/instructor interaction is captured on film; each student’s design process is documented; every question is caught on camera and answered in person by Scott Pittman and his co-instructor Durga (click here to see Durga teaching a lesson on invisible structures). As I mentioned, Scott is not entirely approving of online PDCs primarily because he feels the in-person experience is so valuable. However, Scott is also a committed permaculturalist. He wants this information made available to as many people as possible around the world. He walks the talk of permaculture. So he was willing to partner with Organic Life Guru to create an online PDC. He had one caveat though. Scott does not feel that a PDC certificate should be issued through an online experience that does not offer opportunities for in-depth instructor/student interaction.
Organic Life Guru’s affordable online PDC is the perfect way to experience a live PDC and benefit from all the great content without paying for a certificate. The course is streamed – so students need only a decent internet connection to view the course. Once the course is purchased students have life-time access to the course so they can revisit any part of the course at any time. Students study at their own pace so they can fit the course in as their busy lives allow. Organic Life Guru and Scott Pittman are hoping to share quality and informed permaculture with as many people as possible around the world.