Though the general principles of Permaclture seem to be sensible, early texts promote the use of non-native invasive species or environmental weeds e.g. many Acacia species. John Robin has been one of the strongest critics of permaculture, criticising it for its potential to spread environmental weeds, reflecting a divide between native plant advocates and permaculture.

Besides using non-indigenous species, through permaculture higher densities of certain trees (e.g. fruit-trees, nuts, etc) are planted than would be the case in nature. Finally, these fruit-trees, nuts, and hedge-trees are sometimes (if not mostly) selected (cross-bred) varieties which – although they provide higher yield, better growing conditions and such like – are not natural.

Some critics have argued that permaculture is best suited to tropical, Mediterranean or desert conditions, and is largely unsuitable for cool temperate countries.

For example, permaculture in the tropics, as expressed in ‘Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual’, did not produce significant amounts of food or fruit when applied in Northern New South Wales and Queensland, largely since the closed canopy is not conducive to fruit production. The system, whilst very healthy in and of itself, yielded very little produce.

The perceived lack of evidential data about the performance of the system and lack of a central body representing the system have also been sources of criticism.

Bill Mollison himself has also been critical of itinerant teachers of permaculture who would go on to teach after only a short course. At one point Mollison unsuccessfully tried to trademark the term permaculture to prevent this practice.

Perhaps the strongest criticism of permaculture is to be found in the Review of Toby Hemenway’s book Gaia’s Garden, which was published in the Winter 2001 edition of the Whole Earth Review. In it, Greg Williams critiques the view that woods were more highly productive than farmland based on the theory of ecological succession which says that net productivity declines as ecosystems mature. He also criticised the lack of scientifically respectable data and questions whether permaculture is applicable to more than a small number of dedicated people. Hemenway’s response in the same magazine disputes Williams’s claim on productivity as focusing on climax rather than on maturing forests, citing data from ecologist Robert Whittaker’s book Communities and Ecosystems. Hemenway is also critical of Williams’s characterisation of permaculture as simply forest gardening.
Sources: Wikipedia

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