Archive | Ideas

Samuel Alexander interviews David Holmgren

Get yourself comfortable and settle in for a thorough look at David Holmgren’s latest thinking on the prospects for our future. In this interview Samuel Alexander of the Simplicity Collective poses written questions which David addresses over an epic 90 minutes.

For the last few months (and before) David has been absorbed in writing a new book, so there may be hints of some of the book’s contents in the interview. David’s thinking is informed by his daily work in the garden, even while keeping the water up to the food production system, the complex ideas are forming, being reorganised and constantly critiqued. The book is about retrofitting society for a quite different world. It elaborates and extends David’s 2015 Aussie Street Presentation, and Retrofitting The Suburbs essay .

The Aussie St story that traces four adjacent suburban houses and their inhabitants from the “1950s Golden Age of Suburbia” to the “Second Great Depression of 2020” has been particularly powerful at engaging with Australians who live in or grew up in suburbia. The new book will build on this and take  a wider perspective.

David will be launching “RetroSuburbia; a downshifters guide to a resilient future” in the new year with a website to match Retrosuburbia.com so watch out for the website going live, a book launch close to you, and associated workshops all over Melbourne.

 

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the war on Monsanto

The seeds of life are not what they once were
Mother Nature and God don’t own them anymore

So belts out the veteran singer songwriter Neil Young with Promise of the Real on their title track from his latest album, The Monsanto years. What is the old protest rocker raging about? Monsanto and the war on weeds.

What are the weeds? According to the National Invasive Species Council of the USA weeds are “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” Spearheaded by good intentioned nativists, the war is declared all over the world, on weeds. But are we as qualified as mother nature or god to decide what plants should grow, while others are declared noxious and exterminated?

Assuming that we have a moral authority to pick and choose the arrangement of nature, can we the humans really ‘eradicate’ the invasive aliens? What with? Gallons of glyphosate? Is killing the plants with glyphosate more harmful than  any harm ‘weeds’ do to us? And who makes glyphosate? According to the article Andrew Cockburn wrote for Harper’s magazine, “last year, the federal government (of the US) spent more than $2 billion to fight the alien invasion, up to half of which was budgeted for glyphosate and other poisons.”

shop_beyond_the_war_800sIntriguing stuff. All these questions were recently discussed on Australia’s ABC radio’s Late Night Live program. Taking part in discussion was Andrew Cockburn and David Holmgren.

Environmentalists used to fight against chain saws, bulldozers and poisons. Now they’re fighting ‘invasive’ species of plants and animals – with the help of chain saws, bulldozers and poisons. Who benefits? Mainly the company that was once their sworn enemy – Monsanto.

You can hear the program on ABC‘s website. Cockburn’s poignant piece on Harper’s magazine.

Holmgren’s articles and other writings on weeds are found here, especially recommended for reading are foreword to Beyond the WAR on invasive species by Tao Orion and Weeds or wild nature.

Neil Young also has made a mini doco on the story of Michael White vs Monsanto, Seeding Fear.

 

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IPCUK opening addresses

David Holmgren and Jonathon Porritt addressed the opening session of the International Permaculture Conference [IPCUK] in London on Tues [8 September 2015].

The following notes were taken by Ian Lillington, who coincidentally worked under Porritt at Friends of the Earth in London in 1990.

Co-originator Holmgren talked about the ‘waves’ of permaculture’s growth – he reckons we are in the middle of the fourth wave; and former Friends of the Earth chief, Porritt, acknowledged that permaculture’s principles were an influence on both his thinking and his spirit, as he advocates for a mindset that is not dominated by greed and over-consumption.

Permaculturists from at least 78 nations were in the unique structure called ‘The Light’ in central London for two days, representing the 135+ countries globally where permaculture is happening.

David’s voice and ‘big-picture thinking’ is familiar to most of us, but it was news to hear Porritt focus on food security and setting limits to population [as well as consumption]. Porritt said that conventional statements about ‘doubling the food we produce by x’ makes no sense unless we address food waste. Around 30-45% of food at the farm does not turn up on the plate, and more is wasted once it is scraped off the plate uneaten. And also to address meat consumption – much demand for new agricultural land is geared to using the land as feed for meat production [eg soy in Latin America].

So, as with energy problems, the answer is to reduce the need for more, not to obsessively produce more.

There needs to be sensible conversation about soil, nutrients, water, etc as part of the debate about food security and also  waste and the meat obsession must not be ignored.

Porritt has been central to the Organic Food movement and has been part of GM debates. Looking back, he realizes that debate hardly touched on the relationship between humans and the earth – especially the reciprocities involved. In contrast, the heartland of p’c is different. It’s a set of design principles underpinnning the way humans produce our food.

P’c and the like allow us to be part of the intellectual and spiritual process that is going on – Porritt places a strong emphasis on the spiritual through which he has worked and learned to stop his deep apocalyptic fear, and come back to the story of hope.  It is not just doable, it is being done; now – and can and will be done more.

But future food will come with new challenges. We think all good food should come from a beautiful relationship between land and food, but to reduce pressure on limited land, without massive animal cruelty, we need to use science. There are exploding areas of work, eg – will there be artificial meat? Probably it will be a major part of protein intake of the future world.  And protein from algae – also big growth area, eg Brazil, GM modified algae to produce alternative to palm oil.

We will get new dilemmas coming at us all the time.

So, conferences like this are very important to make us dig deeper and draw on the wealth of resources that are available to us and connect to web-based stuff like www.foodtank.com – whose analysis of the world of permaculture reported more than a million people certified in p’c of some sort and 4,000 enduring p’c projects or centres in around 140m countries. Also recommended ‘Living with the Land ‘ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTv3M-gu05k

In summary, Porritt talks of travelling the world and advocating for sane sustainability. He has seen two types of excellence – 1 – he calls Enclaves – refuges – places where people withdrawal from the horror of the modern age. Sometimes we need to retreat to an enclave and p’c has played an important part in creating some of these. And 2 – Different but connected – Outposts – people on the front line – engaged in places of difficulty and danger – grappling with daily issues of food insecurity. Outposts are made of people joining with local communities and addressing social justice as well as food production.

Porritt says it’s an exciting world – he sees a scene of creative chaos – and we have a big role to play through the p’c movement.

In the mix of action and dreaming, there is a balance and the permaculture movement provides some of that opportunity to find the right place to be to act for a better world.

 

 

 

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Beyond the WAR on invasive species

5976Beyond the WAR on invasive species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration is a new book by Tao Orion published by Chelsea Green.

Beyond the WAR on Invasive Species offers a much-needed alternative perspective on invasive species and the best practices for their management based on a holistic, permaculture-inspired framework. Utilizing the latest research and thinking on the changing nature of ecological systems, Beyond the WAR on Invasive Species closely examines the factors that are largely missing from the common conceptions of invasive species, including how the colliding effects of climate change, habitat destruction, and changes in land use and management contribute to their proliferation.

The choices we make on a daily basis—the ways we procure food, shelter, water, medicine, and transportation—are the major drivers of contemporary changes in ecosystem structure and function; therefore, deep and long-lasting ecological restoration outcomes will come not just from eliminating invasive species, but through conscientious redesign of these production systems.

 

Here’s what David Holmgren reckons how this war began and now entrenches us, deep in the environmental conscience.

This new science of “Invasion ecology” informed the education of a cadre of natural resource management professionals, supported by taxpayer funds. These resources mobilised armies of volunteers in aʻwar on weedsʼ. But labour and even machine intensive methods of weed control were soon sidelined in favour of herbicides that environmentalists and ecologists accepted as a necessary evil in the vain hope of winning the war against an endless array of newly naturalizing species.
For the chemical corporations this new and rapidly expanding market began to rival the use of herbicides by farmers, with almost unlimited growth potential, so long as the taxpayer remained convinced that the war on weeds constituted looking after the environment. In Australia the visionary grassroots Landcare movement, started by farmers in the early 1980s, was reduced to being the vehicle for implementing this war on weeds.

Read in full, David Holmgren’s foreword to the book, here(PDF).

 

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Bushfire resilient landscapes

[vimeo 126038341 w=500 h=281]

This is a video record of  David Holmgren presentation on bushfire resilient landscapes buildings homes and communities in a forum held in April 2015 in Hewett. The forum was initiated by Transition Gawler (TG) to support and educate residents on fire prevention and mitigation through a new set of design principles.

Time: 7pm Friday 24 April 2015
Place: Hewett Community Centre, 24 Kingfisher Dv, Hewett (near Gawler)

The other three parts of the forum are available below.
Part 1 – Introduction to Forum/Transition Gawler
vimeo.com/esmedia/fire1

Part 2 – Helen Hennessy – CFS – overview of Sampson Flat Fire
vimeo.com/esmedia/fire2

Part 3 – Tony Fox – Natural Resources AMLR Gawler Office – Sampson Flat Fire Recovery
vimeo.com/esmedia/fire3

 

—–<<further info>>—

On the subject, you may be interested in the following case studies David Holmgren has done.

The flywire house: a case study in design against bushfire

Melliodora: a case study in cool climate permaculture

or come and see for yourself an example of bushfire resilient landscape by taking part in the whole day tour at Melliodora.

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Global Chorus

Global Chorus is an interesting hybrid of book and daily reader, on the environmental theme. The book contains the responses from 365 eminent concerned people across the globe to this question:

Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?

global-chorus-coverThe contributors come from all walks of life, not just the usual suspects; environmental, religious, social, political, business leaders and activists, professors and researchers, but also farmers, chefs, carpenters, factory workers, architects, artists, athletes, and musicians.

Among some of the more widely-known choir members are Gary Snyder, Rob Hopkins, David Suzuki, Satish Kumar, Paul Hawken, Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking, Edward O. Wilson,  Helena Noberg-Hodge, Jamie Oliver, Maya Angelou, Les Stroud, Bruce Cockburn, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Mikhail Gorbachev, Justin Trudeau, Elizabeth May, Temple Grandin, Farley Mowat, John Ralston Saul, and the Dalai Lama.

As a Canadian publication, to raise funds for The Jane Goodall Institute, The David Suzuki Foundation and The Canadian Red Cross, perhaps, it seems people from Australia or NZ are under represented, with the noticable exception of the pair who conceived permaculture some four decades earlier, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison.

It is set out as a daily reader, filled with words of wisdom and food for daily thought. We have no idea though how the specific date is assigned to the contributor, Rob Hopkins (Feb 13) and Mollison (Feb 17), though David Holmgren (Sept 23) likes to note at the equinox how people all around the world are joined by the experience of equal daylight and night.

Compiled for your reading as a set of 365 pieces, Global Chorus presents to you a different person’s point of view for each day of your year.

More about Global Chorus.

Here is Holmgren’s contribution (Sep 23).

Organised international responses (between nation states) to the current global environmental and social crises are unlikely to be effective or in time, and are more likely to worsen the crises because they will all be designed to maintain growth of the corporation dominated global economy and protect the power of nation states.

Despite the pain and suffering from the ongoing, and likely permanent, contraction of many economies, the explosion of informal household and community economies have the potential to ameliorate the worst impacts of the crises by rebuilding lost local resilience.

I believe the diversity of integrated design strategies and techniques associated with concepts such as permaculture will be most effective at building household and community economies as the global economy unravels. The diversity of these strategies and techniques promises that at least some will provide pathways for longer term survival of humanity while the adverse impacts of some strategies will tend to be more local and limited allowing natural systems (especially at the global scale) to stabilise.

Because the future will be more local than global, the critical path is the ongoing development and refinement of effective local designs, while the internet and other aspects of the failing global systems still have huge potential to allow the viral spread of the most effective and widely applicable designs.

Systems ecology and indigenous wisdom both suggest that in a world of limited resources, the ethics of “care of the earth”, “care of people” and “fair share” will prove more advantageous to local survival than those based on greed and fear, that have been so powerful during a century of unprecedented abundance. To put it crudely, hungry dogs hunt cooperatively and share the results, but given an abundance of food, they fight each other for the spoils.

I have great hope that the diverse local cultures that emerge from the ruins of industrial modernity will be based on these ethics and informed by design principles found in nature. The uncertainty is how much more pain and despoiling are yet to unfold before fear and greed prove maladapted to a world of limits.

 

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Permaction in the brown tech future (video)

Earlier this year, permaculture activists from Australia and New Zealand converged to a tiny town in Tasmania for the 12th get together. There, as one of the key note speakers, and a co-founder of the concept nearly four decades ago in Tasmania, David Holmgren delivered this speech. We posted the text of the speech earlier and now you can watch him on the video (thanks to Adam Hogg for creating and Eric Smith for posting it).

Permaculture activism in the brown tech future (presented at Penguin, March 2015)

There are other videos from the APC12 on the official website including Stuart Hill (emeritus professor and foundation chair of Social Ecology at University of Western Sydney) discussing permaculture’s achievements and challenges.

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One of the best permaculture docos

The explosion of docos about sustainability in recent years includes a fair number that focus on permaculture and I have been interviewed in quite a few. The request to preview Inhabit and offer comment was just one of my “responsibilities” as co-originator of the permaculture concept. In the end I got to view Inhabit with 200 other permaculture activists at the 12th Australasian permaculture convergence in Penguin, Tasmania in March 2015. There was a standing ovation after the viewing.

INHABIT - Collage

I was impressed by the articulate explanations of permaculture by a few people I knew, many I had never met and some I had never heard of. The scope and balance of the examples chosen to illustrate the diversity of permaculture is excellent. The film gives me a great sense of the evolution of permaculture in the USA over recent decades.

Of course the art and beauty of this film will make it attractive to audiences used to polished media productions, but it is the substance underlying the beauty and passion that attracts me. The film can’t convey enough about the ideas and projects presented, for me to personally endorse every element in it as representing the best of permaculture, but I can endorse Inhabit as one of the best permaculture docos of the last thirty years.

Here’s the official blurb for the film.

Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the health and well-being of our planet? This is the premise behind permaculture: a design process based on the replication of patterns found in nature. Inhabit explores the many environmental issues facing us today and examines solutions that are being applied using the ecological design lens of permaculture. Focused mostly on the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the United States, Inhabit provides an intimate look at permaculture peoples and practices ranging from rural, suburban, and urban landscapes.

INHABIT: A Permaculture Perspective made by Costa Boutsikaris and Emmett Brenna is now available.

INHABIT Banner Thin

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Principles & Pathways reviewed and updated for eBook

An extract of David Holmgren’s prologue from the newly released eBook edition of Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability


The world has changed radically since Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability (PP&PBS) was first published in 2002. By many environmental, economic and social measures, local communities and global systems are now in crisis and even collapse. The premise of the book was that the ‘energy descent’ future would inevitably require new ways of thinking to replace the failing principles that guided industrialisation, modernity and globalisation.

PPPBS-eBook-Banner

In reflecting on the book, I remain happy with the eclectic mix of abstract theory, grounded examples and personal anecdotes that riled academic and editorial sensibilities. While some ideas and points remain speculative, many others have since become clearer through the course of a growing body of practice and more than a decade of turbulent world history that we have lived through. For example, for the well-informed, Peak Oil has moved from speculative concept to historical reality that underpins the explosive growth in renewable energy, economic contraction and geopolitical realignment. Similarly, the environmentally heretical positive view of species naturalisation that I articulated in the book, is now supported by a rapidly growing body of peer reviewed science within the new field of study of ‘novel ecosystems’.

The delay in producing an eBook version of the text (not having a publisher driven by financial logic) has been fortuitous because it has allowed a comprehensive review of the text to improve grammar, use of terms, and an update and the addition of references. Most importantly the capacities of a digital edition enabled live links to updated web addresses and direct cross referencing to precise points in the text rather than general chapter references. This allows the reader, including those who have read the printed book, to explore in more depth the non-linear nature of systems thinking that accounts for at least some of the difficulty of this work. The fully searchable text allows the reader to easily find a point that this labyrinthian character tends to hide.

Readers of existing translations can be assured that the changes made are of a minor in nature compared to the great difficulty in translation generally and especially for this work. We trust that the painstaking translation work, by those with an understanding of and commitment to the concepts, has captured the text for the better but we hope the text of this digital edition will make any future translations a little easier.

As ever I remain one of permaculture’s strongest internal critics in insisting that for permaculture concepts and teaching to remain relevant, it must be grounded in practical action that regenerates nature and improves the lives of ordinary and especially impoverished people. In addition, it must remain open to influence from parallel and complementary concepts, movements and ideas that are contributing to a gentler and more benign energy descent future in which nature’s wealth is regenerated and humanity finds its place in that natural order.

David Holmgren
Melliodora  April 2015


shop_PPPBS-eBook_800sPermaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability eBook is now available as an ePub for AUD$20.

The ePub file download can be opened and read on most modern smart phones, tablets and desktop computers using appropriate software, like iBooks for Apple users.

489 pages in standard display size on an iPad2

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Permaculture activism in the Brown Tech Future

Keynote Address to 12th Australasian Permaculture Convergence

Penguin Tasmania  March 2015

Outline

Over the last 8 years David Holmgren’s Future Scenarios work has provided a framework through which permaculture, transition and kindred activists have better understood, navigated and even taken advantage of the chaotic changes unfolding in our world driven by peaking resources, environmental tipping points, economic contraction and geopolitical instability.

His more recent (2013) essay Crash On Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future triggered a global debate in the peak oil blogosphere and more locally (eg Great Debate at the Melbourne Sustainable Living Festival) about local adaption vs grand global plans.

In this keynote David Holmgren builds on the lessons of 40 years of permaculture and kindred activism to articulate how the bottom up permaculture strategies that focus at the personal, household, enterprise and community level can be effective where mass movements to demand top down change are repeatedly derailed or simply reinvent the problems in new forms ( the solution becomes the problem).

At a time when environmental activists are feeling increasingly embattled and desperate, the opportunities for permaculture have never been greater. Are we ready to use whatever agency remains at the personal, household and community level to turn the problems into solutions?

PDF of text

Permaculture design system and activism

Permaculture is a design system for sustainable land use and living.

It articulates and applies the design principles of nature in new ways appropriate to the energy descent era of industrial civilisation. These design principles are embedded in an ethical framework derived from the commonalities of indigenous and traditional cultures of place.

Permaculture activism uses global understanding to inform local action at the personal, household and community scale to create models capable of viral proliferation.

Permies seeks to create the world we do want by direct constructive action rather than stopping the world we don’t want by restrictive action. Permaculture’s popularity especially with environmentally aware youth over three generations can be partly attributed to a “good cop/bad cop” synergy with more conventional oppositional activism. Thus those who have done their time in direct action in the forest (or shale gas blockades) are often supported by those who spend their positive energy on the permablitz front line.

Similarly for more mature people, being the change we want to see in the world is far more empowering, than using all our capacity and credentials to push for policy change from the top down.

Pushback from conventional activism

While the support for permaculture and positive environmentalism in general has grown stronger in recent years, there is also a pushback from those committed to the top down and oppositional strategies. The argument is that composting your garden may be good for you but it does little to help bring about the necessary structural changes in society that, it is argued, can only come through big processes such as

  1. corporate capitalism making big bucks doing good,
  2. top down policy reforms driven fearless political leaders or
  3. mass movements threatening revolution to force change at the top.

Those committed to these pathways argue theirs is the best. Often the pathway of changing the world by changing ourselves is ignored or denigrated as self obsessed navel gazing.

In the permaculture movement the value of this DIY approach is taken for granted but permies often have difficulty in articulating to others why this approach is at least as important as the other three in shaping a more positive future for ourselves, humanity and nature.

I want to go one step further to articulate why the DIY and DIO (doing it ourselves) approaches of permaculture are the most efficient, resilient and empowering ways to focus our own limited power in the world.

Activism that is good for our bodies and our minds is fun and empowering, and makes us more self reliant, and resilient in the face of uncertain futures, is a much easier sell than activism that involves self sacrifice for some larger collective good. In this sense permaculture shares some common ground with green corporate capitalism’s focus on rewards as a motivation even if the rewards are primarily non monetary.

If our experiments in DIY self-reliance are successful, others without as much innovator tenacity can copy what we do without having to make so many mistakes. The issue of whether our solutions are scalable beyond the non monetary household and community economies to the monetary economy, let alone corporate capitalism is less important than whether our solution can replicate virally to achieve scale in numbers

Big solutions to big problems often recreate the problem in a new form. Small scale solutions have the advantage of being site and situation specific and being more amenable to incremental organic adaptation with less risk that failures causes higher order systemic failures. For example local raw milk Community Supported Agriculture system have some real (very low) risk of causing illness but large scale corporate supply systems of industrial milk have created problems where large numbers of people spread across countries become sick before corrective responses can be enacted.

In addition there is strong evidence many successful small business get started in the household and community economies of gift, exchange and reciprocity before growing into the monetary economy. In the future, two processes suggest this might be the main mechanism by which we grow a new monetary economy. Credit crunches from deflationary economics eliminate bank finance for small business so the bootstraps DIY approach is the only option. Secondly the capacity of governments to enforce regulatory barriers that currently stymie home producers going commercial, will be unsustainable.

What we do in our own households, with our family and informal community networks is simple and small scale so that it largely can occur

  1. without the permission of the banks who -through their lending – determine what does and what does not happen in the credit driven monetary economy,
  2. and without the knowledge of the corporate competitors who stand to lose market share,
  3. and mostly under the radar of the government regulators whose function is to secure the market for bank financed corporate investment.

The potential for mass adoption is the test that most political activists want to see before they will accept any value from DIY approaches. Can we persuade everyone to grow their own vegetables? What if everyone had a wood stove? Is there enough land in the city to grow all the food? How will it help us close down a brown coal power station?

Mainstream political action focuses on persuading the majority because the majority is always the biggest game in town. This focus on majorities is strategically useless for smaller order players like environmental and social activists. Apart from the need to counter the massive propaganda might of the strongest lobby groups, it ignores an important trend in affluent, notionally democratic nations at least since the thatcherite/reganite revolution of the early 1980’s . A simple or even large majority is not enough to persuade elite power structures to roll over and implement policies that directly threaten their own power (eg Iraq war 2003).

On the other hand the DIY approach has some important advantages as a political change pathway. Firstly the DIY approach that reflects permaculture ethics and design principles behaves as a systemic strike of labour, skill and capital against the debt financing by banks, globalized production controlled by corporations and central government taxation dependent on constantly rising GDP. I have argued in Crash On Demand, that a 50% reduction in consumption, work and investment by 10% of the global middle class could be enough to severely undermine the power of these global systems (that are already teetering due to the massive global unpayable debt burdens)

Whatever the effects on centralized systems, the experience of building the parallel systems from the bottom up will expose the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats through a rapid learning cycle. In the process we can better articulate a larger scale public policy agenda that would allow the next level of adoption and adaption as well as clarifying the design characteristics necessary for any truly useful larger scale government or corporate driven solutions.

The response of the centralized power structures to such a systemic strike might be to introduce draconic regulations and politically demonise those pursuing DIY enlightened self interest. We should expect more of this but there are limits to how effective such responses might be. Firstly the diffuse, even invisible nature of many of these personal and household strategies makes them inherently difficult to control. Recent attempts to control raw milk in Victoria are likely to be as ineffective as drug prohibition – every man and his dog now admits has failed despite massive resources and efforts on the part of the state. Secondly demonizing raw milk consumers and gardeners is somewhat harder than doing the same to so-called radical Islamists.

The alternative more hopeful response of centralized power might be to engage in political discourse to encourage the striking minority to come back into the fold. “We need your consumption and your creativity, what would you like to be paid to be part of the Team (Australia)” Being relatively autonomous gives us much more political leverage than being part of a mass movement of completely dependent consumers and indebted workers.

In the Brown Tech future that I believe we are increasingly locked into – nationally and globally – I think there will still be some opportunities for constructive dialogue with those trying to bring about top down change either with/through government or corporations; but we should expect that some of these opportunities will almost inevitably turn the solution back into the problem. In the face of unfolding environmental, geological, economic and geopolitical crises, the ability to ‘speak truth to power’ in defense of dispossessed people and voiceless nature will become more symbolic that effective in achieving resilience let alone justice.

On the other hand, the urgency in building the parallel systems on the conceptual and geographic fringes (edges and margins principle) will grow and the interest from those wanting to participate with their hands and hearts will increase to a flood. The ability to replicate workable alternatives to the strictures of contracting but monopolistic centralized systems will be a challenge for permaculture activists.

At the moment, turning the tide of the majority to our way would be more of a destructive tsunami than a surfable wave. If we can prove to ourselves that we can enjoy life living more healthy and resilient lives, less dependent on centralized systems while massively reducing our ecological footprint in the process, then we provide a pattern than others can copy. At the same time we contribute the diversity of solutions that can model whatever utility and hope remains for system-wide reform and redesign. And if that fails at least we lived the solution and have a multiplicity of lifeboats that give the best chance of saving the useful bits and even the essence of wisdom from a failing civilization for the emergence of the next.

Zooming back from the over-the-horizon big picture to the here and now, I would like to suggest ways in which we can make the DIY and DIO strategies achieve their great potential for positive change.

DIY suggests a learning process with less than perfect results, but if we want others to copy us then the work of reviewing, debugging and refining our solutions is essential. The fact that permaculture has generated a lot of half baked outcomes by people who are “jacks of all trades but masters of none”, is to some extent an inevitable outcome of the experimental and generalist integrated nature of permaculture solutions. However to establish any credibility – let alone have others copy us – requires food gardens that are abundant, compost toilets that smell sweet and lifestyles that are attractive to at least a motivated minority. We don’t need to dumb permaculture down for the masses but it does need to work at least on the terms of those who are interested.

We need to admit and correct our mistakes, and avoid the error of suggesting a given permaculture technique, species or even strategy is applicable everywhere. (It is the principles and ethics that are universal)

Most of all in celebrating our being jacks and jills of all trades, we should aim – at least in maturity – to also become masters and mistresses of one. One trade that can allow us to be truly useful members of relocalising communities where many may not recognize permaculture understandings – let alone p c ideology – as having any value. Energy descent futures, especially of the Brown Tech variation will not necessarily see permaculture as widely appreciated.

While this first issue [specify the issue]is about the reality and perception of effective solutions that have the power to spread, the second is about the degree to which apparently practical and effective permaculture designs are leading to substantial decoupling from the globalized economies that are now degrading humanity’s future.

In the same way that it is not clear that renewable technologies can proliferate without abundant fossil fuels and debt financing, it is not clear that when we live our permaculture lifestyle we are not just participating in global degradation through more indirect pathways.

I believe the holistic nature of permaculture can allow us to progressively integrate our personal, household, enterprise and communal systems. These systems can more and more support and stimulate, first the non monetary economies, and secondly businesses controlled by natural persons, as we progressively disengage from support for and dependency on businesses run by non natural persons (corporations) that are structurally immune to ethical influence. How to do this with one arm tied behind our back and hopping on one leg is a balancing act to say the least. (eg coming to Tassie on the Ferry)

We need to demonstrate that the DIY and DIO strategies of permaculture are workable, enjoyable and empowering but most of all that they can spread, if not like wildfire, then like a cool burn (or a compost culture) that regenerates the understory of our brittle and flammable communities.

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