Permaculture.coop - Notes on Mondragon & Permaculture
these notes started as a email to the permaculture list hosted by Lawrence London.
1.Mondragon and Permaculture
In the Mp3 audio of Bill Mollison 1983 PDC (Permaculture Designers Certificate) in Stanley,Tasmania (Geoff Lawton attended) that are available as DVD for sale and on the internet, Bill Mollison talks at length about the Mondragon Cooperative (along with Commonworks etc) as an organisational framework - a natural order of People Care and Fair Share for Earth Care that permaculture projects ought use.
I actually found and listened to these Mp3's just before we went to Mondragon (such is life!). We really did Build The Road as We Travel (the only book on Mondragon that we saw on tour).
Also, re-reading the Permaculture Designers Manual 1988 he has a couple of references again to Mondragon in the Alternative Nation section towards the end of the book.
In the audio of the PDC Bill ends by saying something like “I think I will go and pay the Mondragon cooperators a visit”. As far as I know - which isnt much, he never did.
Judging from the conservative, industrial, mass-consumer framework of the Mondragon Cooperatives - who in the 1980s would of been immersed and adapting to the end of Franco’s regime, the enslaught of global neoliberalism i.e. outsourcing, multinationals moving into the local markets etc… Bill may of simply bounced straight-off the Mondragon Experience.
IMHO the Basque language and culture are one kind of self-protection mechanism for the Arrasate locals and also the Mondragon Cooperators. Also the highly developed and complicated internal “corporate culture”, the elaborate and specific "business rules of Mondragon" act as a auto-immune system. Protecting them from the outside.
So an approach from Bill in the early days of the permaculture movement may not have succeeded.
We where told during our information day that permaculture people - pioneers - had visited Mondragon Cooperative. Does anyone have information on who that might have been ?
2. Attack-on and Decline of Cooperatives
Cooperatives (especially worker cooperatives) in the advanced industrial societies are the opposite to the modern tyrannical corporation (with all its pathologies), see the film or the book, The Corporation or the Corporation2020 conference recently held in Boston. i.e. worker ownership and self-management, vs wage slavery and top-down decision making etc
The cooperative sector has been under systematic attack from the state and the business community for the last 30 years.
For instance, a single example (and there are many others) is the chart that maps the number of cooperative organic distributors in the USA. In 1982 there were 28 consumer cooperative distributors. Today there is just 1. http://www.msu.edu/~howardp/coopmap.pdf https://www.msu.edu/~howardp/organicdistributors.html
This pattern is repeated in Australia (New Labor), UK (Thatcher), USA (Reagan) with credit unions, mutual societies, food cooperatives, consumer cooperatives. etc.
The entire social economy, along with the social-welfare state is being systematically dismantled by neoliberalism and being replaced with the rapacious corporate state-capitalism we are now joyously living under. As the saying says “you might not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.”
In the global south, the attack on the social economy and the cooperative sector went much further, with right-wing dictatorships such as in Bolivia or Chile. See Noami Klein's recent The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism [video]. Ominously, the engineer of the Schock Doctrine in Bolivia, Russia and many other countries, Jeffrey Sachs, is now running the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
3. Permaculture Pioneers Adapting to Neoliberalism
The permaculture pioneers, along with everybody else (from the Arctic to the space) have been forced to adapt to or perish from the realities of this form of globalisation.
And so as cooperative and social forms of organisation are systematically dismantled we are being sold an "entrepreneurial story" a lie sold through the commercial and state propaganda of the media. Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent, Understanding Power.
The permaculture pioneers where forced to survive in this increasingly hostile market economy, with its tendency towards concentration of ownership and control.
They where not alone, as many of the products of the 60s and 70s such as intentional communities, ethical businesses etc suffered and where reversed or coopted and transformed during the period. See PHowards studies of the Organics Industry in the USA.
i.e Permaculture International Journal is killed and Gardening Australia takes the niche which is now printed by News Corp. Newsspace AD Specs for Gardening Australia
4. Organisational Succession for Permaculture Pioneers
I agree that there is an entire generation of babyboomer, and now later, permaculture pioneers that need support with succession, this was actually one of the first ideas discussed in Australia for a horizontal Permaculture Cooperative.
I actually registered the domain www.Permaculture.coop (and paid for it with mine and kirsties money) under trust with Tagari (Bill Mollison). Our written agreement with Tagari, which has been published to the internet was that Tagari would auspice the domain while we researched and developed a Mondragon style cooperative.
This support service would be a worker cooperative and provide administrative, marketing, finance, legal, IT and also perennial polyculture-style ecological farming services.
On many farms, sites, communes, communities etc… succession is failing.
The founders are really at retiring age, and want a succession, and sometimes will find a WWOOFer with abilities and will to help that transition.
Immediately there is a power imbalance. Usually the WWOOFer is already living precariously and has little support from any kind of succession planning organisation i.e. a global Permaculture.Coop.
Succession takes time, money, knowledge and services. Often is needs patience and is a slow process that goes beyond the skills of a single or small group of people.
Often the WWOOFer and the Pioneer are already burning-out and trying to do too much.
Eventually something gives, an argument ensues and the there is no Social Council (as in Mondragon) or any kind of third-party mechanism for resolution.
So the Pioneers that survive are still running things basically by themselves and are essentially bosses to the workers around them, that come and go.
The WWOOFers have no ownership of the permaculture operation; usually ZERO financial and often very little actual decision-making. They might be able to inform the options for decision-making, but they are NOT the ones taking the decisions.
If you dig below the surface and actually TALK to many WWOOFers or younger generation permies the stories of exploitation, arguments, falling-outs etc are legion.
Indeed for many this is THE Permaculture story.
This dynamic comes all the way from the top of the teacher-student hierarchy down to the smallest operation. Often its not an intentional, I am going to exploit you situation. Its a reality of survival. The Permaculture Pioneer is working abnormally long hours, and expects all around them to do the same.
The fact that there is little pooling of resources .i.e. services, finance, equipment… on an organised and global framework makes harder work inevitable.
5. Example of Permaculture School converting to Cooperative
I havent followed this up, but I learned that the Dutch Permaculture School has made itself into a cooperative so that projects launched as part of the PDC design project have an organisational home. http://gaiapermaculture.com/projects/permaculturecooperative/blog/2009/08/30/permaculture-cooperation-in-netherlands/
6. Permaculture Worker Cooperatives in Britain
I had a kitchen meeting with Andy Goldring of Permaculture Association of Britain about a permaculture worker cooperative and he shared my view, that to scale-up and sustain BIG industrial ecology style permaculture projects, a Mondragon worker-cooperative (or UK-style Rochdale cooperative, or even like the Cooperative Group of the UK) was a natural phase in organisational evolution.
Some groups in the UK are Radical Routes secondary cooperative and Rootstock social investments division. http://gaiapermaculture.com/projects/permaculturecooperative/blog/2009/08/26/permaculture-worker-cooperative-britain-ideas/
Also, Eastside Roots permaculture worker cooperative in Bristol. http://permaculture.tv/?p=998
The UK cooperative (social enterprise) scene is deep and rich and I am hoping to research and develop within this culture. Hopefully doing more in 2010 in the UK.
5. Transition Network
Was in Totnes and had a good chat with Ben Brangwyn, a co-founder of the Transition Network (of Transition Town Totnes).
Interestingly the Totnes Pound section of the website is twice as busy as an other section and the in public meetings its also the most asked about the Transition Towns process.
For the Transition (Transition Towns) Movement the focus is on Project Delivery and Implementation. Rob Hopkins and the TTT team have raised a lot of awareness and interest and now are faced with delivering on the ground and managing expectations.
I expect to see more Transition cooperatives within the Transition Network and would encourage anyone interested in permaculture cooperation to get involved with the local Permaculture groups, Cooperatives & Transition process (they are often the same folks).
6. Social Economy Networks & Worker Cooperatives
Have recently started to email the SEN and share some of the permaculture worker cooperative research.
In the USA, there is an re-emergant interest in social economy networks and worker cooperatives.
Social economies and worker cooperatives emerged from the wreckage of the neoliberal engineered collapses of South American countries such as Argentinia. See Noami Klein's movie The Take. Workers re-took their factories, that the capitalists wanted asset-sripped and closed and restarted their own cooperative economy. This popular economy underwrote the popular governments now running the entire continent.
The US Social Forum 2010 is in Detroit http://www.ussf2010.org/ where there is a lot of food justice, worker cooperative and sustainability style renewal going on now the big auto-makers have imploded and been bailed-out by the state-capitalists.
Mondragon is also working with the United Steel Workers (one of the only real unions in the USA) to work on setting-up Mondragon style worker cooperatives. Mondragon has a unionised operation manufacturing wind power generators.
The Catholics Social Doctrine, that informs the worker cooperatives of Mondragon (the Basque are Catholic, such famous Catholic Basques are Loyola the founder of the Jesuits). Mike Moore is also Catholic. So too are the South American social economy activists, Liberation Theology & Liberation Ecology are the stream of Catholic experience in much of Sur America.
We have the domain WorkerCooperatives.com and have been threatining to set-up a video blog like Permaculture TV. http://gaiapermaculture.com/projects/permaculturecooperative/blog/2009/09/09/climate-change-and-a-climate-of-change-in-manhattan/
The Nation has caused a splash, with a feature issue called “Food For All” about food activism from US coast to coast. A decent, if shallow and unimaginative critique “Cornucopia Blues” in that edition, calls for food activists to go beyond evangalism, for enduring institutional arrangements that go beyond informal volunteer driven local community efforts. Our focus has been worker cooperative organisations: Mondragon, Radical Routes etc.
These networks are forming, In Oakland, the Network of Bay Area Workers Cooperatives and other groups have formed JASecon for Just Alternative Sustainable Economy and hosting a Grassroots Economy Festival at the Humanist Hall. We visited some of these organisations earlier this year, and like Radical Routes in the UK and Mondragon in Basque Country the resilience comes from a network or group of cooperation.
7. Brazilian Permaculture Worker cooperatives
in relation to Jorgen’s direct question about avoiding mistakes when setting-up a new permaculture project in Brazil, think about giving ownership of decisions and the organisation to the people involved.
Perhaps it would be a multi-stakeholder hybrid model. i.e. teachers, students, workers, community.
I have some notes from the Mondragon talk and a PPT that I hesitate to post to the web, but will email privately email@example.com Also have a Mondragon tour video that needs uploading to Permaculture.TV.
8. Permaculture Worker Cooperative Movement
we have been thinking that permaculture worker cooperatives need to become a movement, perhaps with a unique flavor of education, part permaculture, part worker cooperative education.
We have talked a little about having a convergance or an event, perhaps a PDC in Mondragon next year, perhaps before the IPC10 and the Klimaforum2010, we have the domain MondragonPermaculture.com
9. 10 000 Trees: A Planetary Permaculture Strategy to Save the Earth
I have just had an interview with Tony Andersen, permaculture organiser of the Klimaforum09 (the climate social forum preceeding COP15) in Copenhagen this Dec 7-18. See Permaculture.TV
Basically they think that 5-7 metres of sea-level rise is inevitable, its intertia/momentum in the climate/global ecology and we can try to stop the planet from mega-death if we plant something like 5000-7000 trees per person in the next 25 years (most of the sequestered carbon is in the soil within the perennial polyculture agroecology).
We also need to reduce C02 emissions down to 1 tonne per person. They see Permaculture Institutes (and in my view a permaculture worker cooperative movement) as the key to success. I have 30 minutes of interview that I will be posting ASAP.
10. A Transition/Succession to Permaculture Mondragon Complex
Education at Mondragon is subsidised by the industrial cooperatives. The Mondragon University doesnt make money, education ought to lose money. It should be subsidised.
It is possible for students at Mondragon to work part-time within the cooperatives to help pay for study and living expenses. It also gives them a cooperative and industrial experience.
The Mondragon Cooperative is actually a group of 120 cooperatives, all working within a inter-cooperative framework. Organised with Industrial groups.
- INDUSTRIAL 87
- CREDIT 1
- CONSUMER 1
- AGRICULTURAL 4
- EDUCATION 8
- RESEARCH 13
- SERVICES 6
- TOTAL 120 cooperatives
Mondragons Strategy is
- People are the mainstay of the enterprise (twenty-first century, century of knowledge)
- We are all owners and protagonists
- One person, one vote (democracy)
- The involvement of everyone in: Management, Ownership and Results
- Decentralised organisation
- Real inter-cooperation in funds and people
- Reinvestment of surplus
- Social responsibility
- Innovation: Technical/Technological, Organisational, Financial, Social
- Balance between job creation and financial profitability
Mondragon's 10 principles are
- Open Admission.
- Democratic Organization.
- Sovereignty of Labor.
- Instrumental and Subordinate Nature of Capital.
- Participatory Management.
- Wage Solidarity.
- Social Transformation.
Within permaculture the member cooperatives might organise in Industrial Groups and be;
Urban, Rural, Marketing, Education, Industrial (Solar, Wind, Hydro), Construction, Food, Research, Publishing, Finance.
- INDUSTRIAL ?
- CREDIT ?
- CONSUMER ?
- AGRICULTURAL ?
- EDUCATION ?
- RESEARCH ?
- SERVICES ?
- TOTAL ? cooperatives
Key to this is a Research and Development, Enterprise Development, Venture Capital and Financial Division.
We Build the Road as we Travel is a good book. The academic work of .... see NOBAWC
Rules for joining the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (MCC), the coordinating cooperative
- Relocation of staff among cooperatives.
- Restructuring results.
- Within the sectorial groups (>15%-<40%)
- Within corporative funds in MONDRAGON (Investment 10%) (Education 2%) (Solidarity 2% - for compensation In Case of losses)
- Solidarity in profit distribution (net profit of each co-op)
- 10% Fund of Education (Law 10%)
- 45% Fund or Reserve of Co-op (Law 20%)
- 45% Returns to workers > Capitalize > Interest 7,5% in cash
- Initial capital (14.000 euros in 2008).
- Solidarity in remunerating managers.
- Reporting of data to MONDRAGON Headquarters.
- Not internal competition between co-ops within MONDRAGON.
11. David Holmgren's Permaculture Principles
according to Permaculture co-creator/co-founder, David Holmgren 1994
"Cooperation not competition. Try where possible to arrange elements in cooperation not competition. In nature they work in balance, a dynamic tension. Natural systems tend to internalise cooperation and externalise the competition."
12. Free Love vs Climate War
When babyboomers went back to the land things where very different from today.
Free love, cheap land, free health care, free education, plenty of work, relatively little debt. Optimism for the future.
Compared with the precarity of todays younger permies, where jobs are scarce, debt is high, education and healthcare are expensive, land is unaffordable.
Today many are attracted to permaculture as a kind of survivalism school, a way to live through the coming Climate War. Not exactly the Free Love era is it ? Lovelock Climate war could kill nearly all of us, leaving survivors in the Stone Age
In the past cooperation was a kind of dream, an ideal. Today its a requirement for survivial.
Pat Murphy's Book, Plan C: Community Survival Strategies for Peak Oil and Climate Change
In Conclusion, a Call for Cooperation
I am personally grateful for the super hard work, creativity and dogged, never-say-die attitude of the Permaculture Pioneers. Like plant ecology, the Pioneers may be loners, spikey, tough, and pretty hard company, but they have had to adapt and survive in extremely hard conditions.
The organic farming, perennial polyculture, community supported agriculture pioneering work has been done.
We need to go back to that 1983 PDC talk of Mollisons and work-out a Permaculture.coop project. In my view its the organisational aspects that have held the international permaculture network back.
Kirstie and myself have been exploring the organisational level of permaculture evolution.
We hope others might join with us in the research and development of such a Permaculture.coop.
Anyone interested please get in touch with us below.
ps: an open letter to copyright holders, how much to make your collection a global commons ? how much money do you want so we can pool and open source ALL of the permaculture content ? making it freely available online ?
- Nicholas Roberts & Kirstie Stramler
- Permaculture Cooperative
- skype permaculturecoop
- email firstname.lastname@example.org
- US Skype phone +1 415 670 9710
- plans http://gaiapermaculture.com
- video http://Permaculture.TV