The Azimuth Project
The Earth Care Manual


The Earth Care Manual is a book on permaculture, by Patrick Whitefield.

According to its back cover:

permaculture n 1 an innovative framework for creating sustainable ways of living, 2 a practical method for developing ecologically harmonious, effiecient and productive systems that can be used by anyone, anywhere.

As its subtitle A Permaculture Handbook for Britain and other Temperate Climates suggests, the book is mainly about Britain.

Structure of the book

Frederik De Roo’s comments

This section contains some personal opinions of Frederik De Roo.

Good book! More than gardening. Gives nice overview. For general public but certain scientific concepts not overpopularized.

Nevertheless, at a few instances I was reminded by the joke:

“Your Honor, I will show first, that my client never borrowed the Ming vase from the plaintiff; second, that he returned the vase in perfect condition; and third, that the crack was already present when he borrowed it.”

For example, when the author writes about the productivity of permaculture systems p 37:

There’s little doubt that well-designed permaculture systems can yield at least as much as conventional high-input agriculture.

Yet yield per hectare is not necessarily the most important thing

But on a world scale, we have massive overproduction

But in the medium term the world population is set to rise by a factor which will dwarf the present food surplus. In the future every square meter of cultivated land will have to produce to the full.

The evidence we have suggests that permaculture certainly can meet the forecast needs.

But to ask whether permaculture can feed the world is really asking the wrong question. Rather we should ask whether the present industrial form of agriculture can feed the world in the future.

Of course, by taking bits and pieces from a text it is easy for me to criticize, but I would have appreciated it if the author had given more backup for phrases like there’s little doubt (In fact, I tend to agree with this line of thought, but I would just like more evidence). He discusses productivity elsewhere in general terms (productivity of ecosystems) but he doesn’t provide statistics on the “productivity of permaculture farms”. However I should add that the author himself also writes that it is a pity that permaculture practitioners do not always write down how they garden, such that a kind of database could be created. (Note: find the correct way in the book how he writes this.)

Another remark is that the book is meant for a general public, which is probably less demanding for too many details and is willing to trust the author on phrases as there’s little doubt, since people who dislike or doubt permaculture may not have read so far into the book anyway. So some of these occurrences of “lawyer’s speech” may be forgiven.