Author Archive | MegU

RetroSuburbia Rollout

Retrosuburbia is more than just a book – it is a wholehearted celebration of empowered do-it-yourself and do-it-ourselves culture. With the book now into its second print run, the retrosuburbia team is focusing on complementary ways of getting the ideas out there: we are calling this the ‘Retrosuburbia Rollout’.

Many aspects of the Rollout are already happening spontaneously and organically, such as the book clubs popping up around the country, and the enthusiastic sharing and discussion flowing on the Retrosuburbia Community Facebook page. We also know there is plenty happening under the radar with people quietly sharing ideas with neighbours, friends and family, and leading by example in their own lives.

The retrosuburbia team aims to support and enhance these personal, neighbourhood and community sharing opportunities.

As part of the Retrosuburbia Rollout, David will continue concentrating his efforts on public talks. These talks have mostly been in partnership with local governments, and include the entertaining ‘Aussie Street’, a permaculture soap opera in four acts from 1955 to 2025. As well as spreading retrosuburban ideas, these events inform the general public of council supported programs, and promote local permaculture, transition and other groups as well as book clubs, workshops and courses relevant to the audience. The audiences at these events have so far ranged from 40 to 400, with MCs from local activists and sustainability facilitators to Mayors and media celebrities.

David has also been active in building partnerships with NGO’s, academics, researchers and policymakers to provide the evidence base to substantiate and support retrosuburban strategies and actions, based on their environmental, economic and social benefits. For example, he has recently become an associate of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and has written the foreword to a new academic book Degrowth in the Suburbs by Samuel Alexander and Brendan Gleeson.

While permaculture educators will naturally adopt much of the retrosuburban agenda and promote solutions relevant to their participants, we believe there are ways in which we can strengthen these synergies, as well as other educational frameworks for rolling out retrosuburban solutions. There are also many community and household level change programmes already running or in the planning stages, mostly focused on climate mitigation and/or adaption and run by local government, transition and other community groups. Further, there are always people just doing stuff at the household and community level without funding or a formal structure, and those that are keen to see uptake in their neighbourhood but don’t necessarily see themselves as educators or activists.

Photo: Phil Hines Photography and Transition South Barwon

To contribute to these types of Rollout pathways, we are running two day Retrosuburbia Trainers and Facilitators Workshops that draw on and expand the material in the book. Rather than creating a set formula, we are using a more open source approach where we share educational tools and resources we are developing and encourage participants to combine this material in ways that make sense for their communities, households and participants. In particular, we want to see established trainers bring along material and resources they have been using or developing to avoid reinventing the wheel. Workshop participants will be free to use our resources in their own courses and to apply to have their own workshops and courses listed on retrosuburbia.com.

Beck Lowe, experienced permaculture educator, editor of RetroSuburbia and manager of the ongoing Retrosuburbia Rollout, will lead these workshops.

In the lineage of self-regulation that has generally worked over four decades of permaculture education, we think that these workshops will:

• enable established educators to connect to colleagues and add to their credentials and curricula to keep them ahead in this rapidly developing field
• help enthusiastic young activists find their feet spreading retrosuburban behaviours and designs through their neighbourhood and networks
• encourage and support householders leading kitchen table and backyard centred activities, including skill sharing, RetroSuburbia book clubs and other small-scale sharings in their neighbourhood.

The RetroSuburbia book, already a best seller without mainstream media reviews, remains the primary vehicle and driver of the Retrosuburbia Rollout. The numerical and financial success of this innovative marketing strategy that bypasses the retail monopolies such as Amazon is critical in showing that we can create livelihoods changing the world for the better while boycotting systems that damage nature and community (see RetroSuburbia: network and community marketing).

The retrosuburbia.com website will continue to expand as a portal of case studies, resources and reviews that amplify the value of the book for householders, trainers, academics and activists. The Retrosuburbia Community Facebook group will continue as the noticeboard and discussion space for all things retrosuburban.

We won’t restrict the free flowing adoption of retrosuburban ideas and have consciously decided not to trademark the term ‘retrosuburbia’, however any attempts by others to capture the branding of the term will be precluded through maintaining our prior and ongoing use. In this way, we aim to combine the value in branding that is available to those associated with the source of retrosuburbia and its deep foundation in permaculture, while at the same time encourage a thousand flowering expressions of these ideas using whatever label, framework or sources of support that others choose to work with.

David Holmgren & the retrosuburbia team, November 2018

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Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary

Samuel Alexander, from the Simplicity Collective has just published a new book, Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary, co-authored with Professor Brendan Gleeson, with a foreword by David Holmgren.

The book addresses a central dilemma of the urban age: how do we make suburban landscapes sustainable in the face of planetary ecological crises? The authors argue that degrowth, a planned contraction of overgrown economies, is the most coherent paradigm for suburban renewal. They depart from the anti-suburban sentiment of much environmentalism to show that existing suburbia can be the centre-ground of transition to a new social dispensation based on the principle of enlightened material and energy restraint.

David’s foreword to the book begins thus:

Historians charting the trajectory of industrial civilisation will note the remarkable disconnect between the status accorded to “evidence based decision making” in our culture and the relentless pursuit of perpetual growth on a finite planet. While the contradiction has always been clear to the simplest of folks, the publication of the Limits to Growth report nearly half a century ago gave us the means to better understand the complex system dynamics that would characterise humanity’s overshoot of global limits.

Because these understandings coincided with the oil crises and resultant recessions, in affluent western countries there was some public discourse, and even early action, to consider the possibility of futures other than ones of continuous growth. On the fringes of society a flourishing counterculture gave birth to lifestyles and concepts (including permaculture) that have been the source of a continuous lineage of creative change. Some of these fringe ideas – such as the internet – have contributed to powerful creative action that has transformed society, whilst others – such as renewable energy and regenerative agriculture – provide pathways promising to manifest transformation now.

You can read the rest of the foreword here.

You can read a review of the book on Make Wealth History.

You can purchase the book here.

As a companion film, here is the latest offering from the talented folk at Happen Films:

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Reclaiming the Urban Commons

We are in the midst of a great shift, a fundamental transformation in our relations with the earth and with each other. This shift poses humanity with a challenge: how to transition from a period of environmental devastation of the planet by humans to one of mutual benefit? How do we transform our relationship to the land, nonhuman lifeforms, and each other? Reclaiming the Urban Commons argues this change begins with a deeper understanding of and connection with the food we produce and consume.

This book is a critical reflection on the past and the present of urban food growing in Australia, as well as a map and a passionate rallying call to a better future as an urbanised species. It addresses the critical question of how to design, share, and live well in our cities and towns. It describes how to translate concepts of sustainable production into daily practices and ways of sharing spaces and working together for mutual benefit, and also reflects on how we can learn from our productive urban past.

                    Reclaiming the Urban Commons:
                    The Past, Present and Future of Food Growing in Australian Cities and Towns
                    Edited by Nick Rose and Andrea Gaynor
                    UWA Publishing, RRP $29.99

David Holmgren’s chapter is Garden Farming: The Foundation for Agriculturally Productive Cities and Towns.
Here’s the opening paragraph:

Australian suburbs can be transformed into productive, resilient and sustainable places to live through garden farming. Growing food right where people live, in back and front yards, has environmental, social and psychological benefits. Garden farming in the household, non-monetary economy is complementary to commercial urban and peri-urban agriculture that, collectively, can be the heart of a resilient bio-regional food system.

You can buy the book here.

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2018 Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize Winner

Thank you to all the poets who took the time to compose and send in poems to the 2018 Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize – we received 154 entries. The content of the poems was beautifully varied: some were engaging, some funny, some sad, delicate, considerate, angry, political, emotive…

A huge thank you to Jessica Wilkinson + Stuart Cooke for judging the Prize, and to Jessica for coming along to Sunday’s Words in Winter event where the winners were announced.

Without further ado, this year’s winners are:

Winner
Shari Kocher – Ode to Earth

Runners up
Michael Farrell – Nature is a Misreading
JP Quinton – The Dingo Poem

Honourable mentions
Connor Weightman – Plastic Free July
Dennis Garvey – Three Teared Wedding Cake

Thank you to Juanita Broderick for taking these photos from the Prize presentation and sharing them with us:

Jessica Wilkinson + David Holmgren

Shari Kocher reads her winning poem while David looks on

Shari and David sharing a laugh

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Holmgren announced as MSSI associate

David Holmgren has just been named an associate of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute.

MSSI facilitates interdisciplinary sustainability research across faculties and centres at the University of Melbourne, and promotes research in a way that maximises engagement and impact. MSSI emphasises the contribution of the social sciences and humanities to understanding and addressing sustainability and resilience challenges.

David is thrilled with his appointment and looks forward to continuing his working relationship with the MSSI. This is an acknowledgement of the importance of David’s work around sustainability and re-imagining the urban and suburban landscapes.

While the book RetroSuburbia has been successful in engaging those interested in making changes at the household level, David’s MSSI appointment will further his engagement with policy makers and academics interested in working towards a more regenerative future.

David is particularly looking forward to continuing his relationship with Dr Samuel Alexander and Prof. Brendan Gleeson, who have advocated and promoted voluntary simplicity, and sustainable urban planning, respectively.

Other current associates include:

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New Melliodora Tour Dates – 2018/2019

You have a small block of land and you’d like to learn how you can live more sustainably.
You live on a farm with chickens and an orchard and you’re interested in seeing how you can integrate permaculture principles.
You live in an inner-city apartment and you’re keen to see how you can live more in line with your values.

Whatever stage of life you are at, there is no better insight into the ins and outs of how permaculture works on a season to season, day to day basis than to take part in the whole day guided tour of Melliodora.

Situated in the Victorian central highlands, Melliodora is one of the best examples of a cool-temperate climate permaculture property that produces an abundance of food and other yields from a beautiful living environment.

The one hectare property has been transformed from the blackberry covered wasteland in 1985, into a model of small-scale intensive permaculture. David Holmgren and his partner Su Dennett will show you how their passive solar house, mixed food gardens, orchards, dams and livestock, as well as creek revegetation, have been developed and maintained over the last 30 years. The Melliodora garden farming model is most relevant to large town blocks and small rural allotments, but you don’t have to have a large block to gain a huge amount from the tour. All visitors will discover ways that they can apply the underlying principles and strategies to their own lives.

The 2018/2019 Melliodora tour dates are as follows: Sunday September 2, Sunday November 4, Sunday December 2, Sunday January 13, Sunday February 3, Sunday March 17, Sunday April7 and Sunday May 5. The tour begins at 10 am. In the morning you will be shown around the house. We will break for lunch between 12.30 and 2pm. In the afternoon the tour will take you to the garden farm, and the day concludes at 4.30pm.

The whole day tour includes the Melliodora eBook CD: a detailed record of how the house and garden you see on the tour were designed and established, explaining the logic behind design decisions, detailed plans, plant species selection and how it all works together. It is a refresher of the tour, a valuable reference for your own project, and an ideal way to introduce family and friends to permaculture.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience first-hand how permaculture design can help restore and improve land, and provide for residents’ needs and enjoyment.

Things you need to know:

  • Tours can be booked via the Events page.
  • Children are welcome. Parents must take responsibility for them and their actions.
  • Visitors are on the property at their own risk.
  • Please park in our driveway to avoid inconvenience to neighbours.
  • Books and other publications are available for sale on tour days at discount prices. You might like to look at the Publications page of our website to see more information about some of the publications that will be available for sale on the day.
  • Melliodora is a private home so please respect our privacy. Group or private visits can be arranged by appointment.

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The 2018 Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize

We are thrilled to announce the launch of the 2018 Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize. The specifics are as follows:

Major prize: AUD$1000

All entries must be received by 11.59 pm EST, Friday July 20 2018.
The shortlist and winner will be announced during the Daylesford Words in Winter festival, August 17 – 26, 2018.
The judges for the 2018 competition are Jessica Wilkinson and Stuart Cooke.

Entry terms and conditions

1. Entrants must be citizens of Australia or New Zealand or have permanent resident status in Australia or New Zealand.
2. Poems must be unpublished (including online) and not under consideration by other publishers.
3. Poems that have won or are under consideration in other competitions are not eligible.
4. Poems must have an environmental theme.
5. All poems must be written in English.
6. The winning poems will be published on www.holmgren.com.au
7. An entry fee of $10 will be charged and is payable via bank transfer, PayPal, cash or cheque. A receipt will be sent as confirmation once the money has been received.
8. The name of the poet must not appear on the manuscript (including the header or footer) since all poems will be considered anonymously.
9. Poems must be no more than 80 lines.
10. Multiple entries are permitted, though a $10 fee applies to each poem.
11. Please ensure you are satisfied with your poem before submitting. Poems that are withdrawn and subsequently resubmitted will incur a second fee.
12. The competition closes 11.59 pm EST, Friday July 20, 2018.
13. Selection will be made by the judges. The judges’ decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into.


About the judges

Jessica Wilkinson is the founding editor of Rabbit: a journal for nonfiction poetry. She has published two poetic biographies, marionette: a biography of miss marion davies (Vagabond 2012) and Suite for Percy Grainger (Vagabond 2014). She is currently writing up a third, on choreographer George Balanchine. She co-edited with Bonny Cassidy the Contemporary Australian Feminist Poetry (Hunter Publishers, 2016). She is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at RMIT University, Melbourne.

Stuart Cooke is a poet, critic and translator who lives on the Gold Coast, where he lectures in creative writing and literary studies at Griffith University. His books include the poetry collections Opera (2016) and Edge Music (2011), a critical work, Speaking the Earth’s Languages: a theory for Australian-Chilean postcolonial poetics (2013), and a translation of an Aboriginal song cycle from the West Kimberley, George Dyuŋgayan’s Bulu Line (2014). He is the winner of the Gwen Harwood, Dorothy Porter and New Shoots Poetry Prizes, and has held residential fellowships at Omi International Arts Centre (USA), Hawthornden Castle (UK) and the Centre for Art and Nature at Farrera (Spain), among others.


About Venievenie

In her late 50’s Venie Holmgren began to write poetry and her first published anthology, The Sun Collection for the Planet in 1989, became a poetry ‘best seller’. At the same time, she applied her environmental activist skills and commitment to the campaign to save native forests near her home on the far south coast of NSW, where she was arrested twice for obstructing log trucks. After 16 years of solo self-reliant living she moved to the local town of Pambula where she penned her travel memoir, several more books of poetry and travelled widely as a performance poet. In 2010 Venie moved to Hepburn where she wrote her last poetry collection, The Tea-house Poems. In January 2016, Venie ‘caught the bus’ at the age of 93 .

You can read more of Venie’s life here:
www.theguardian.com/books/australia-books-blog/2015/mar/25/in-praise-of-venie-holmgren-at-92-still-an-activist-adventurer-and-a-poet


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Charles Massy Canberra launch speech

Photo: Oliver Holmgren

Charles Massy (Call of the Reed Warbler) launched RetroSuburbia in Canberra last week at the 2018 ACT Permaculture Festival. Here is his wonderfully received launch speech:

It is both a pleasure & an honour to help launch David Holmgren’s new book here in Canberra: a book by a person I regard as one of the deepest thinkers in the fields of regenerative agriculture, the environment and future pathways for society a nd urban Australia.And I know that this book also comprises a communal effort – not just representing a lifetime of David’s work and thinking but also of Su’s & Oliver’s and that of trusted friends, and indeed an entire national and global Permaculture community. In addition, a book like this comprises a team effort – and key players I know will be mentioned by David.

The context here is that this book heralds the next important phase of Permaculture thinking: from a movement that became the first major global export from Australia of a new modern approach to both regenerative agriculture and urban living and design.

* * *

RetroSuburbia I believe is one of the most important and practical books to emerge in decades in this field – for it epitomises David Holmgren’s personal life and precept: ‘to think global but act local.’ The book also captures the design ethos, as expressed by the wonderful ecological literature advocate David Orr in his book ‘The Nature of Design’: that ‘Ecological design is the careful meshing of human purposes with the larger patterns and flows of the natural world, and the study of these patterns & flows to inform human nature.’

* * *

So, what is the context in which we live, act and launch this book? Well, it has to be that we have undoubtedly moved into the Anthropocene epoch, where humanity has grossly disturbed the inter-related, self-organizing set of 8 Earth systems – of which climate disruption is but one (albeit a major one).
This disruption is manifested most immediately in accelerating land degradation, dysfunctional cities & suburbs characterised by less & less of the natural world and few places for children to experience nature and community; of increasingly dysfunctional societies; of the highly probable likelihood of the crazy Australian property bubble and debt-load bursting and thus of a major recession; of rising costs & pending shortages of not just energy but also healthy food & other basic needs; of worsening natural disasters; of social disconnection & isolation and loss of personal control; of deteriorating physical & mental health; and where, under the growth-fetish of an economic irrationalist, industrial system, we are delivered food that is bereft of diverse nutrients that we were co-evolved for – and food contaminated by elements destructive of our immune systems. And over all this hangs the inevitability of ‘Energy Descent’: what David, in the wake of his great influence Howard Odum, describes as ‘the erratic but on-going decline in the material & energy base available to support humanity.’

In other words, as David says on page 33 of RetroSuburbia, ‘The reality is that most people live in a private domain supported by public infrastructure managed by remote authorities that largely respond to dysfunctional aspirations & needs.’
So – that is the context – but here [holds book] is the paeon of hope: a deeply thought-through philosophy, but also with a sophisticated & interconnected plethora of solutions & practical examples & principles on how to turn around this dystopia: of how to once again regenerate Earth & meaningful, sustainable society & community.

* * *

Believe it or not, David, as a long-haired youth in the 1970s, was already thinking about these issues even then – growing up not just in a post-1960s counter-culture period – of rebellion against the Vietnam War and consumerism and greed – but also post Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ & post the travesty of the drowning of Lake Pedder. And he grew up in a counter-culture household in W.A., with parents as semi-outsiders – his mother from a fine Jewish tradition, and father Swedish – & a household committed to social justice & political activism & the experience of little things, like David being ridiculed at school for having home-made bread sandwiches that were filled with home grown, healthy food. David told me recently: ‘Yes, we were a bit counter-culture, but I was comfortable with, and proud of being a bit of an outsider – & of the questioning of orthodoxy of every kind.’ Sound familiar?

The rest we know as history: David shedding his skin & hitch-hiking around Australia as a youth; settling in Tassie to do an environmental design course but discovering cultural elements of self-sufficiency; renting with Bill & Philamena Mollison & the exciting exploration of ideas & future possibilities; David’s environmental design thesis becoming the basis of Permaculture One – which erupted onto the scene in 1978. I remember buying a copy with its interesting cover on its release (interesting covers being a common theme here) – & it strongly influenced my own attempts to try & develop at least part household self-sufficiency then on our farm. Permaculture One also joined similar books on my shelf at the time – books that I am sure influenced David: such as EF Shumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’; the Meadows ‘Limits to Growth’; and other books by leading thinkers of the time like Kenneth Boulding, Barry Commoner & Paul Ehrlich.
After ‘Permaculture One’ David of course left it to Bill Mollison to promulgate the Permaculture ideas globally, while he sailed his own self-development course – gaining practical skills, hunting, gardening, reading, thinking, meeting the love of his life Su and forming a family. By 1985 they had purchased Melliodora, having formed Holmgren Design Services in 1983, and teaching intensively from 1993. That is, David by the 90s had returned once more to his Permaculture vision and passion. Moreover, in the meantime David, Su, Oliver & helpers were walking the talk at Melliodora – living by their precepts & principles.
The fruit of all this in 2002 was the important publication of ‘Permaculture: Pathways & Principles’- involving the articulation of 12 key Permaculture Design principles & Structures.

By this time the Permaculture movement (in the footsteps of one of its antecedants – Yeomans Keyline approach) had become the first major global export from Australia of a new modern approach to both regenerative agriculture and to urban living and design. This more public re-emergence, in my view, established David as one of the leading thinkers in regenerative agriculture and urban living – & not just in the global Permaculture movement, but increasingly involving how such design & practical living principles can be applied to urban communities.

* * *

And so, to this next major book – RETROSUBURBIA.

In my opinion this is a world-leading manifesto for the restructuring of modern, urbanized society – and in both the developed & developing world. Please let me explain why.
In my recent book on regenerative agriculture I talk about ecological literacy & the need to understand 5 key landscape functions – of which the 5th (& most important in many ways) is the Human/Social. David calls this the ‘Behavioural Field’- because, as he says, ‘we CAN change how we see & experience life for the better.’

RetroSuburbia is the vital missing link in this whole regenerative story – as suburbia is where the majority of people live. So what David is spelling out in this book is a major & desperately needed revolution – what I call in regenerative agriculture an ‘underground insurgency’.
Paul Hawken in his book ‘Blessed Unrest’ said this: ‘Healing the wounds of the earth & its people does not require saintliness or a political party, only gumption & persistence. It is not a liberal or conservative act; it is a sacred act.’
This book – a seemingly innocuous tome with a delightfully unique cover – is actually a revolutionary manifesto – because, as David says, it shows how we can undertake the re-ruralisation of suburbia; how to bring agrarian & social abundance back to suburbia. That is – RetroSuburbia gives us a philosophical & practical series of tool-kits on how to change our suburbs, country towns, cities & ourselves – to live, as Hawken says, as if it were a sacred act.

* * *

David Holmgren began his journey with design, & it is design that is the weft & warp of this book. From page 53 in the book David broaches the important context of work/life balance & its 4 quadrants – which opens-up the philosophical questions of ‘how’ & ‘why’. So it is through good design that we can have better built biological & behavioural fields – to integrate rather than segregate. One of the important influences in David’s thinking was Christopher Alexander – originator of the concept of ‘Pattern Language’. In ‘The Timeless Way of Building’ in 1979, Alexander wrote: ‘The fact is, a person is so far formed by his surroundings, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings.’ And as David says on page 29: ‘I have framed the whole book in terms of patterns for resilient downshifting’- using ‘The Permaculture principle of Design from patterns to details.’ This of course is a systems overview also.

* * *

So – this book is like good wine – it has taken decades to build and then mature: derived from healthy earth, & dozens of subtle and not so subtle flavours, influences, nutrients & free radicals – and chock-full of wonderful case-studies & inspirational designs; of examples of housing, retrofitting buildings, gardens, social living etc.

In this ground-breaking wonderful book, the labour of David and others & their collated experience reveals the promise that, with vision & the courage to dare to be different – to take the road less travelled – that we can have suburbs, communities & lives that allow us, as David says, ‘to create the world we want by living it now.’

This undoubtedly is a major book for our times, and it gives me great pleasure to be involved in its launch here. And because, as David concludes in the last paragraph of the book: ‘The innate human capacity to Creatively use & respond to change suggests the working together necessary to create a prosperous way down is at least a plausible energy descent pathway. “And in any case” he concludes, “giving it our best shot promises a life well lived.”

This the Holmgren family have done, and they & the book are exemplars for the rest of us. Thank you.

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