Author Archive | David Holmgren

Vale Errol Mutch

Errol

Errol Mutch explaining the worm composting system at Edendale Farm August 2003.

I never knew Errol very well but from my first meeting in the early 1990s when he was  the manager at Edendale City Farm in Eltham. I was impressed by the man, and what he and Cheryl had done to transform Edendale from an derelict animal pound to a great example of progressive environmental education. From that first time I was shown around the farm (as a consultant to the shire council) to hearing him sprouk to groups of school children or the public at field days, I recognised Errol as having that rare combination of  decades of farming experience with a passion for biodynamics and permaculture that I was more used to seeing in young environmentalists from urban backgrounds.

The development of Edendale as a public environmental education facility was of course shaped by all the usual factors of funding priorities, politics, bureaucracy and fashions but it also showed the care and attention of Errol and Cheryl’s stewardship that we usually associate with a well loved and cared-for private property. The animal systems in particular were exemplary in not only their good management but also in the significant contribution to maintenance of working strains of heritage rare breeds.

It was a tragedy of the times that this work was never recognised for its significant contribution to biodiversity conservation as defined by the UN Convention on Biodiversity. More than lack of recognition the progressive common sense environmentalism that Errol has demonstrated was undermined and dismantled by bureaucrats reflecting the “nativist” version of biodiversity that was so strong at Nillumbik shire council at the time.

To quote from a letter of support that I wrote in November 2004,

…..the best examples of the pragmatic and productive approach to sustainable land use, such as Edendale are subject to constant erosion by a nativist orthodoxy which dominates all levels of policy making and environmental education (not only at Nillumbik)  It seems ironic that the “state of the art” cost effective land and water management at Edendale with multiple environmental and social value outcomes is to be downgraded while much more expensive indigenous revegetation programs with questionable and unproven water quality and other environmental benefits are retained and reinforced.  The proposed removal of pigs from Edendale and downgrading of the poultry breeding systems without reference to independent evaluation by those with expertise in city farms is analogous to planting oak or pine trees in the shire’s best wildflower reserve without consulting experts in remnant indigenous biodiversity management. 
 
Edendale is one of the last places in Australia where a functional strain of  the Australorp poultry breed is being maintained. This is an Australian contribution to domesticated animal biodiversity and incidentally most of the original breeding and maintenance of the Australorp was in Nillumbik (at Research). Under the UN Convention on Biodiversity this flock constitute “threatened in-situ domesticated biodiversity”. Therefore Australian governments have a legally binding responsibility to conserve this flock.  While these responsibilities are not well known (your environmental staff may not be aware of this) it is an opportunity for Nillumbik to apply for funding to support the excellent biodiversity conservation work at Edendale.

I remember Errol as one of those rare “salt of the earth” natural environmentalists, who charted his own path in working with nature though the difficult decades when such ideas were rare and ignored, to then find a collegiate network of like minded people through the biodynamic, organic and permaculture networks, and finally to become a wise elder inspiring children and adults to find their own path in working with nature.

 

(Errol passed away peacefully Oct. 9, 2013 Aged 71 years.)

0

Permaculture Pocket Knives

Back in February 2012, at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne, I was challenged by a colleague about wearing a pocket knife, which he pointed out was illegal (without a genuine reason). This was news to me and intensified my feelings of alienation as a country person visiting the centre of a large city. What was the world coming to? But it also stimulated thought about what my genuine reasons for carrying a pocket knife in public might be and how that question was intimately connected to permaculture.  In April 2012 I penned an essay, Permaculture Pocket Knives, to explore the issue but it sat unpublished until now.  I offer it here  as providing an insight into permaculture as a social sub-culture that stands in contrast to many of the dysfunctional normalities that characterise modern living in an affluent society. (Permaculture pocketknives)

Forge

Weapons manufacture at Melliodora???
Oliver Holmgren testing a knife blade for straightness he had forged from an antique truck spring. Photo 2005, Oliver aged 19

 

.

6

Monet’s Garden at Melliodora

An invitation to be a “pop up speaker” at the NGV’s Monet’s Garden Exhibition gave me an opportunity to address this vexed role of aesthetics in  permaculture, in a very special context.  I was speaking in the largest exhibition space surrounded by Monet’s magnificent water lillies. This post splices my speaking notes with a selection of photos from Melliodora that illustrate the points of the talk. I began my talk by saying “I feel like the devils advocate invited into the Vatican of aesthetics”

Continue Reading →

0

Household economy counts (full text)

AppleMarkAndy Scerri’s critique of Patrick Jones’ articulation of self-reliance, localism, and gift economies (Arena #115) is a familiar argument that has been used over the last thirty years to dismiss permaculture and related environmental activism by more traditional political activists.

The harsh reality is that neither pathway has significantly impeded the headlong rush of industrial modernity towards the ‘limits to growth’ cliff so accurately modelled 40 years ago by Meadows et al. I am more than ready to acknowledge that ‘our’ collective efforts at positive environmentalism during and since the 1970s have so far failed to catalyse the necessary changes in society, but Andy Scerri’s assertion that composting your private garden counts for nothing, reflects an ignorance of several structural and systemic factors driving and constraining social change.

First, if the changes or innovations required do not confer some advantage to the innovators and early adopters then there is little incentive for others to follow their lead.

Second, unless the necessary changes or innovations can be independently adopted by individuals, households and local communities without the resources, support and approval from central authority, then it can always be blocked by established interests that stand to lose by its widespread adoption.

Third, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for higher order organisations and governments to mandate a reality that doesn’t already exist as working models. Progressive and integrated adoption and refinement of the myriad of strategies and techniques associated with permaculture, enacted at the household and local level, addresses all three systemic issues.

Continue Reading →

8

Spring Creek community forest tours

Spring Creek Community Forest is the name we give to an informal project by local residents managing a section of public land (part of the Hepburn Regional Park) along Spring Creek between the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve and Breakneck Gorge. For over 25 years we have been active in initiating working bees constructing walking paths, managing naturalised vegetation (so called ‘weeds’), planting trees and building gabions and leaky weirs to slow and manage flood waters along tributary gullies and the main creek. Observation, scientific research and  documenting ecological changes over the last 25 years, particularly in relation to willow ecology makes Spring Creek an important reference site in the debate over management of willows along streams in southern Australia.

A tour down Spring Creek with David Holmgren

A tour down Spring Creek with David Holmgren

Continue Reading →

0

Why I haven’t been flying (much)

David Holmgren is not showing his flying skill, only reading the  landscape (at the 2013 Food Forest PDC)

David Holmgren is not showing his flying skill, only reading the landscape (at the 2013 Food Forest PDC)

Over three decades I have received many requests to travel across Australia and across the world to speak at a conference,  teach a course or participate in some worthy event related to permaculture. My reluctance to travel long distances for short stays has meant I have had to turned down many of these invitations. In more recent years the reactions of invitees has moved from incredulity to understanding, and even admiration, as a small but growing list of public figures  are choosing not to travel by air to highlight the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Continue Reading →

8