Does permaculture mean more work or less? On the one hand the argument is that by creating systems that replicate nature and look after themselves, without human interference, (like Masanobu Fukuoka) the need for inputs is reduced. By reducing inputs you are maximising productivity, so that although your yields may be lower, the energy put in to achieve them is far less, so the system is more efficient.
On the other hand the argument is that a lot of small holders, who are closer to the land than one huge industrial farm, can pay closer attention to the land and enable it to be more productive, because more attention can be paid to smaller details and maximising productivity. This suggests a system that requires more energy, or at least more time than the current one.
Which argument is right? Maybe they are both right – the cheap energy that is currently sustaining farming is going to become more expensive, so that labour will no longer be prohibitively expensive. At this point having lots of people paying close attention to complex polycultures and natural systems will become more efficient. This still doesn’t sound like the “do nothing” farming that Fukuoka preached though? Maybe he didn’t count all his observation time as work!