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A History from the Future

We are thrilled to be sharing with you an excerpt from David Holmgren’s A History from the Future – a prelude to his upcoming book RetroSuburbia.


A HISTORY FROM THE FUTURE: a prosperous way down

future-scenarios-logoLong time central Victorian resident and co-originator of the globally influential permaculture concept, David Holmgren draws on his Future Scenarios work to paint a picture of how simple household and community level strategies can build resilience to the hard emerging realities of economic contraction, peak oil and climate change.

Holmgren has spent decades modelling how low impact resilient ways of living and land use provide a happier and healthier alternative to dependent consumerism. In this story, based on an original presentation from the Local Lives Global Matters conference in Castlemaine 2015, he shows how these informed lifestyle choices and biological solutions become the basis for surfing the downslope of the emerging energy descent future.


A LOCAL STORY FROM 2086

Prelude: The World at Energy Peak 2000-2015

At the turn of the 21st century the evidence for energy descent driven by peak oil and climate change was already strong. The quasi religious belief in continuous economic growth had a strong hold on collective psychology in central Victoria as much as anywhere in the world. The global financial system began to unravel in 2008 at the same time that global production of conventional oil peaked. For a minority it was increasingly obvious that the policies put in place ensured that the collapse was even more severe when it did come. It was like the powers that be had pushed the accelerator hard to the floor in one of those supercharged sports cars of the time, to attempt to jump across the widening chasm that humanity was facing.

The collapse of global financial growth unfolded differently in different places but here the story had many upsides that were partly due to luck and partly a result of visionaries and innovators who helped create a better future. These are the bare bones of how we got from what a few people still consider was the golden age to what we call the Earth Steward culture.

Photo Erica Zabowski

Choose from a vast array of nothing, or perhaps a different path. Photo Erica Zabowski

First Energy Descent Crisis 2017-2026

In 2017 the Australian property bubble burst. For our communities, this marked the start of the First Energy Descent Crisis (of the 21st century). Ballarat Bank was the first financial institution to fail and a government forced take over by the Commonwealth Bank saw the Community Bank network hived off as local lending co-ops backed by local government hoping to restart economic activity in regional towns that were increasingly on their own as State and Federal governments focused on dealing with hardship and social unrest in the cities.

The crisis was world wide, so dramatically reduced global Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the peak of global oil (what they called Total Liquids at the time) the same year was very much in line with the 1972 Limits To Growth report default scenario showing industrial output peaking about that time. More recent studies suggest that net energy available to support humanity peaked closer to the turn of the millennium but it’s all a moot point because it seems that economic growth had been a net drain on human welfare for decades before that.

As capital investment in oil fell off a cliff, and production from existing fields declined at nearly 10% there was a second oil price shock, a US currency collapse and a short war between the USA and China in 2022. Australia got punished in the trade embargo imposed by China. The economic crisis in China had already caused nearly 100 million of the recently urbanised workers to return to the villages, and reimposition of a command economy to continue the shift to renewable energy and revitalise agriculture. Consequently China was able to cope without Australian coal and gas and there was so much scrap steel in the world that the iron ore exports had come to a standstill.

While oil and food remained costly (at least relative to falling wages) most manufactured goods were dirt-cheap. Solar panels from China (somehow getting around the trade embargo) accelerated the trend for retail customers going off grid which, combined with collapse of commercial demand for electricity, led to a “Death Spiral” in the power grid with rising prices and increasing blackouts (and surges due to excess wind and solar inputs).

A newly elected Federal Labor government renationalised the power grid, along with price controls, rationing an Australia ID card allowing rationed access to subsidised supermarkets that had been experiencing shortages of fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy.

In Victoria, a Liberal government implemented policies to encourage people to be more self-reliant. Permaculture education was adopted as a framework for integrating aspects of self-reliance including home food production, owner building, water harvesting and waste management.

Rationing of fuel led to hitch-hiking, ride sharing and in rural areas a rush to convert vehicles to wood gas. Bicycles became the default personal transport around town in Castlemanine but in Daylesford and Hepburn, electric bikes and vehicles powered by the Hepburn Wind charging stations installed for tourists before the property bubble burst maintained mobility for locals.

Kanagawa Chuo Kotsu Charcoal Bus

Charcoal powered public transport from Japan. Photo: ‘Lover of Romance’

Conversion of vehicles to wood gas by a range of bush mechanics and ex-hot rodders had mixed success. The market value of higher powered larger vehicles and trucks rose as a result of the first wave of conversions. The Castlemaine Obtainium Engineering Institute was established to test and improve local designs and prototypes. One of the motivations was a competitive spirit with the electric car networks centred in Daylesford and Ballarat.

Use of Bitcoin (a virtual currency), local currencies, precious metals and barter all increased to support exchange in the rapidly growing informal and grey economies. Bitcoin then failed in mysterious circumstances after being targeted for funding terrorism.

The Internet began functioning again after major breakdowns during the conflict between the US and China. But Facebook and Amazon were bankrupt, cyberspace was littered with defunct and unmaintained sites and Internet marketing was plagued by cyber crime and draconian government regulations. Local computer networks using wireless technology, as well as a revival of two-way radio, started building back to basics communication pathways.


A History from the Future eBookletTo read the full story, purchase the eBook here or get the download for FREE when you sign up to our mailing list for updates to David Holmgren’s upcoming book RetroSuburbia, due for release in March 2017.

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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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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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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.

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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 from our shop 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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Prologue to Chinese Edition of Principles(探索樸門)

0122-Permaculture-cover-1We are proud to announce that the release of the Chinese language edition of Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren is imminent. To give you a sneak preview, here is the prologue to the edition prepared by David.

First in Chinese, and then in English to follow. 《探索樸門:超越永續的原則與道路》here we come. Any enquiries, please mail 大地旅人慧儀 <huii@earthpassengers.org>. The copies are available here.

 

作者中文版序
《探索樸門:超越永續的原則與道路》英文版發行已12年,期間世界也經歷了劇烈改變。在許多環保、經濟與社會的指標上,地方社群與全球體系正面臨危機,甚至瓦解。在本書「能源衰退期」必將來臨的前提下,那些導致今日工業化、現代化及全球化失敗的原則,無疑須由新思維取而代之。
樸門永續設計正是以創意回應能源耗竭的前鋒,因為自有證據開始顯示能源必將耗竭至今,此一設計系統的倫理與設計原則,已歷經了數十年的精進與測試。它無法協助拯救我們所知的舊世界,但能激發並提供眾多創意,以順應正在成形的新世界。
樸門始於澳洲,在當地及其它富裕已久的英語系國家歷史也最為悠久,其實其來有自,因為這些國家(仍屬少數)有較多時間瞭解「成長應否設限」此一難題,並開始發展及採用有別於傳統的土地用途與生活方式,以安然度過一個能源必竭的未來。
臺灣、香港及新加坡等華語系地區曾經歷快速的經濟成長,而在目睹急遽工業化、都市化與消費文化最好與最壞的一面後,自然會意識到成長應否設限的問題,並率先提出替代選擇。中國最近的爆炸性成長也提供了新契機,使如何面對成長的見解得以萌芽散播。這些體系無法永續,且其成長可能多由泡沫經濟所帶動,但也讓替代方法在泡沫破滅後有機會迅速普及。
對已經開始尋找生態設計創意的朋友而言,不論是身處最偏遠的鄉村或最新穎的市鎮,都可運用樸門永續設計的道德與設計原則輔助思考,並針對各種不同的情況,根據「首要原則」探索、評估、調整並開發策略與技術,以走出能源耗竭的困境。這些設計創意必將融合現代生態設計,以及化石燃料問世前帶動著家國的傳統智慧與生活方式。
人口密集雖然是一嚴峻挑戰,但仍然有助於樸門永續設計在華語系國家的快速拓展與演進。
首先,近數十年在政治、經濟與社會上的劇烈變化,使當地人民非常能夠適應環境,也願意接納新想法。這些新想法(如樸門)有許多源自西方,但僅少數會鼓勵人們重拾過去讓土地使用與生活方式得以永續的傳統智慧。
最近的富裕及都市化,尤其在中國,意味著仍有許多地方的居民知道如何以低衝擊的方式栽種食物、順應自然、建造居所並惜物愛物,而非汰舊買新,也繼續從事許多其它在化石燃料迅速遍及全球之前,那些較有益於自給自足和社群生活的活動。
相較於澳洲等富裕多年的國家,這是一大優勢,因為這些技能在當地大多早已失傳。樸門永續設計的倫理和設計原則能夠幫助我們的,不是如何倒退至過去,而是如何從傳統與現代去蕪存菁,在未來的能源耗竭中走出富足之路。
我相信這本書以中文發行,會讓許多人走進樸門,而為此我想感謝大地旅人環境工作室創辦人同時也是台灣樸門永續設計學會理事長的江慧儀女士決定將此書譯成中文,以及洪葛蘭設計服務的田中於過程中鼎力協助。
大衛.洪葛蘭
2014 年5 月

The world has changed radically in the 12 years since the publication of Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability in English. By many environmental, economic and social measures, local communities and global systems are in crisis and even collapse. The premise of this book that “the energy descent” future will inevitably require new ways of thinking to replace the now failing principles that have guided industralisation, modernity and globalisation.
Permaculture is at the forefront of this creative response to energy descent because it is based on ethics and design principles that have evolved and been tested over the decades since the evidence for the energy descent future first became clear. Permaculture will not help save the world as we know it, but it can inspire and inform a multitude of creative responses to the world that is emerging.
It is not surprising that permaculture has its origin and longest history in Australia and other long affluent English speaking countries where there has been more time for (a still small minority) to understand the “limits to growth” dilemma and begin developing and adopting the alternative ways of landuse and living that will be viable in the energy descent future.
In the Chinese speaking world, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore have naturally been the places where awareness of the “limits to growth” and the alternatives have been first to emerge after rapid economic growth created the best and worst outcomes of rapid industrialisation, urbanisation and consumer culture. The very recent nature of explosive growth in mainland China provides new opportunities for the emergence and spread of post growth ideas. The unsustainability of these systems and the likelihood that much of the growth has been driven by bubble economics, provides opportunities for alternative responses to spread rapidly once the bubble bursts.
For those already on the path of searching for creative ecological design solutions to the dilemmas of energy descent, permaculture ethics and design principles are thinking tools that help find, evaluate, refine and create from “first principles” the strategies and techniques that are appropriate to each and every situation from the most remote provences to the newest cities. Those design solutions will be some hybrid between modern ecological design and traditional wisdom and ways of living that sustained people and nations before the fossil fuel powered era.
While population density is a serious challenge, there are some advantages for the rapid spread and evolution of permaculture in the Chinese speaking world.
Firstly the radical political, economic and social changes of recent decades have made people very adaptable and able to consider new ideas. Many of those new ideas (like permaculture) come from the western world but few encourage people to rediscover the wisdom of traditional systems of sustainable landuse and ways of living.
The very recent nature of affluence and urbanisation, especially in mainland China means there are many places where people still have a working knowledge of low impact ways of growing food, working with nature, building houses, repairing old possessions rather than buying new ones, and the many other activities associated with more self-reliant and communitarian ways of living that existed before the fossil fuel powered global boom.
This is a great strength compared with many long affluent countries such as Australia where many of these skills have been lost generations ago. Rather than a retreat to the past, permaculture ethics and design principles help us sort the “wheat from the chaff” of both tradition and modernity for a prosperous way down in the energy descent future.
I trust that the publication of this book in Chinese will lead many people to permaculture and for that I want thank the publishers Hui-I Chiang (江慧儀) of Earth Passengers (大地旅人環境教育工作室)  and Taiwan Permaculture Institute (台灣樸門永續設計學會) for translation as well as Rick Tanaka at Holmgren Design for facilitation of the process.

David Holmgren
May 2013

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Ideal gift to welcome in the New Year

2014 Permaculture Calendar CoverIf you haven’t already seen the Permaculture Calendar you can’t appreciate the amount of information and the motivational content in it. Each month a permaculture principle is highlighted. The calendar offers the chance to remember all the twelve by the end of 2014! This calendar is not one to throw out at the end of the year; add it to your library, in particular the permaculture section, as it will (they all will) be invaluable when revising the principles …. the more simple aids we have the better. Used in conjunction with David Holmgren’s Permaculture Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability, and Richard Telford’s Permaculture Principles website you can develop such a facility with the principles that they automatically come to mind when confronted with a problem and truly become extremely useful thinking tools.

We’re just mentioning this because you may like to use this time of the year to tell your friends and rellies that you care for them with a useful AND ethical gift (produced in Australia, 100% post consumer recycled paper, using vegetable based inks, and 10% of net returns donated to Permafund)  that won’t break the bank, and supports the small home business that produced it. A more ‘sustainable’ gift is hard to find!

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Melliodora videocast: a Permaculture classic by J. Russell Smith

tumblr_lpxhdn3tkW1qee2jbIn its first instalment for the regular Permaculture Classics videocast series from Melliodora, David Holmgren talks about  J.Russell Smith’s Tree Crops: a permanent agriculture.

You may not have realised, but this 1929 classic book was a major influence on the development of the Permaculture concept in the 1970’s. It is a very hard to find a copy of this book, but  it is worth your effort. Or there are a number of websites from which you can download the entire book.


Brought to you from the MelliodoraHepburn ‘Tube channel.

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Thoughts on “Permaculture: A Rhymer’s Manual”

Permaculture: A Rhymer's Manual - music albumDavid Holmgren was very much looking forward to attending CERES in Melbourne for the launch of the Permaculture: A Rhymer’s Manual album  (he loves the music, and loud), but, due to an accident he couldn’t be there.

So, he put his thoughts together about the album, to share in this abridged video clip. We assume it won’t be long before David is back on his feet and dancing to Charlie Mgee’s fabulous songs and music, that the permaculture principles have inspired.


You can download the full presentation showed at the launch here.

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“It’s a wonderful, readable book”

Permaculture Pioneers: stories from the new frontier

Permaculture Pioneers: Stories From the New Frontier

A review of Permaculture Pioneers by Diane Reynolds appeared on Green Energy Times.

This collection of 25 stories of those involved, in different ways, in the “extraordinary design system for sustainability known as permaculture” covers a range of perspectives – old/young, male/female, from very different backgrounds and locations.

Continue Reading →

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