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Introducing 470

Science fiction influenced my thinking as a youth, especially stories that featured ecological limits (eg Dune and The Dispossessed). In the early 1970s, the modelling of the Club of Rome “Limits to Growth” report provided a context for the conception of permaculture – an ecological, creative and humane response to the Limits to Growth facing the whole of humanity.

In turn, permaculture and “back-to-the-land” self-reliant simplicity of those years inspired new generations of writers including Jackie French in Australia and Starhawk in the USA to write stories about futures of ecological consequence. More recently, a proliferation of books focused on climate change has created a new genre “Cli-Fi” that use climate science as context for stories about the future.

Linda Woodrow’s 470 is certainly Cli-Fi: great storytelling in the context of the near-term consequences of climate change driven natural disasters. But it is much more. Beyond the meticulous background research that all good writers of fiction do to make their stories real, Linda Woodrow also draws on decades of living close to the land where her story is set. That life applying and writing about permaculture has provided a broad and deep reservoir of experience to draw on in crafting this gripping story of persistence, empowerment and joy in the face of fear, loss and despair.

From the portrayal of geography transformed by natural forces to heroic and dogged persistence of volunteer natural disaster workers, the drama of personal relationships, fleeting and long enduring, and the details of providing the essentials of food, shelter and health care constrained by non-negotiable realities, Woodrow both entertains and informs the reader. Far from didactic, let alone judgemental, the portrayal of characters connected by blood and circumstance in 470 is sensitive to human frailties, contradictions and vulnerabilities. She gives hope that adversity can nurture profound and enduring personal growth and the slow emergence of self-governing communities at the household, neighbourhood and bioregional scale. While permaculture is barely mentioned in the book, its influence is everywhere in the story from homestead-scale organic food production, to ecological building, appropriate technology, botanical medicine, tree crops for a changing climate, design against natural disaster and intentional community decision making.

Beyond these recognisable permaculture related themes, 470 provides a glimpse of how environmental and countercultural thinking over the last 50 years has found expression, suppression, migration and re-emergence in Australian society by showing the flowering of those influences over three generations of a family lineage.

These were reasons enough for me, and our team at Melliodora Publishing, to jump at the opportunity to publish 470 as contributing to our mission to publish books “that fill a gap in the permaculture-related literature and support individuals in their personal permaculture journey”.

My own dabbling in fiction began more than a decade ago with my “Aussie Street” presentations portraying the transformation of suburbia from the “Golden Age of Growth” to retrosuburbia in the Second Great Depression of the 2020s. This became written word for the first time as a chapter in our bestselling RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future, and the basis for our next publication, Our Street, a picture book by Beck Lowe and permaculture illustrator Brenna Quinlan.

Consequently, this jump into publishing a novel is more evolutionary than revolutionary but also involves new challenges in the very competitive market for fiction. The work by Richard Telford in conceiving and Maria Penna in crafting a beautiful and striking cover true to the author’s work is an important contribution to gaining wider attention in the crowded bookshelves, whether in store or online. We trust our regular readers from permaculture and kindred networks will grasp opportunities to gift and promote 470 to their families, friends and workmates as a way to start empowering discussions, instead of having ineffective and debilitating arguments about the minutiae of climate science or the motivations behind its detractors. While it is clearly too late to avoid “dangerous climate change” by progressive policies, it’s never too late for all of us to retrofit our behaviour to be more resilient in the face of the coming changes, and begin to build new household and community economies in the shadow of the old one that is doomed no matter how much money governments print.

For teenagers and young adults searching for meaningful and brave action in the face of societal dysfunction, 470 provides a broad pallet of possibilities. For families raising young children, 470 shows how raising the next generation requires us to be bold and brave in finding a pathway through the vortex of change we face. For older people with resources to reorganise for the non-negotiable changes of aging, 470 shows it is possible to do so in ways that help the next generations to face the future.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has shown everyone that our affluent technological society can be brought to a standstill by forces of nature so small they hardly qualify as living, while the bushfire summer showed us that despite our technology, humanity remains at the mercy of the weather that Mother Nature delivers each day and each season.

Imagination is essential to avoiding existential threats and creating the best of possible worlds. Linda Woodrow’s deep well of imagination helps us in this essential task.

 

David Holmgren, Melliodora Publishing
Hepburn, Victoria

 

Watch the launch now!

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David reviews Heartwood by Rowan Reid

Heartwood: the art and science of growing trees for conservation and profit

by Rowan Reid

Heartwood by Rowan Reid is a heartfelt story by one of the pioneers of blending forestry and farming in this country over the last 30 years. His story is told through chapters focused on tree species planted on his farm at Bambra in the Otway Ranges of Victoria. While this is a personal story focused at Bambra, Reid draws on his decades of experience teaching forestry at Melbourne University, facilitating farmer initiated tree growing through the Master Tree Growers courses and his local Otway Agroforestry Network. In Call of the Reed Warbler Charles Massy says that “Rowan Reid has dedicated much of his life to addressing the key area of increasing the knowledge, resources and confidence for farmers engaging in agroforestry. Along the way he has helped redefine the very concept of farm forestry”.
This beautifully produced book records the trees and the learnings that mark that life.

Each story is complemented by brief but informative science and practice pieces that provide the reader with knowledge to help shape their own tree growing journey. For those applying permaculture ethics and principles to growing trees for timber, Heartwood is one of the most inspiring and informative books about the subject, even if the only reference to permaculture is a passing one.

Reid’s journey as a forester amongst farmers, from youthful vision, applying science and trial and error, to teaching and collaborating across communities and landscapes is a remarkable one of achievement and lessons learnt. His major theme is that conservation and production are compatible and complementary rather than contradictory.

Like my own early co-authorship of Permaculture One (1978), Reid’s co-authorship of Agroforestry in Australia (1985) saw him driven to put into practice ideas outlined in that book. Even though integration of conservation and production values was taken for granted by the permaculture, agroforestry and landcare pioneers, this vision was corrupted by a number factors. Reid’s stories illustrated how the war over native forests as well as government sponsored Landcare programmes both contributed to the segregation of trees for nature from those for profit. Reid’s stalwart stand against this dysfunction and lost potential for transformation of our broadscale farm landscapes by more widespread tree planting for multiple values is clear through the book, but this is not the primary message of all his stories. They all show that the rewards to those with the passion and persistence in tree growing have been economic, environmental and emotional, despite the continuing dysfunction in this country’s relationship to forests and forestry.

My own passion for sustainable forestry over the decades since Permaculture One has been diluted by my jack-of-all-trades spread across the vast territory that is permaculture. Apart from his focus as more of a master-of-one, Rowan Reid has also used the resources and opportunities of his position as a teacher in one of the few Australian university forestry schools to leverage his vision and trials with scientific evidence that has been mostly lacking for those of us who have worked outside of the system. Although we have known of each other’s work from early days, our paths have rarely crossed. I found myself in heartfelt and at time furious agreement with most of Rowan’s stories and lessons, especially his examples of sustainable management of regrowth native forest by innovative land holders. His learnings in choosing native and exotic species at Bambra reinforced my own experience and observations, especially with Coast Redwood. I also had many a-ha moments as Rowan explains how trees grow and the effects of different management, much of it based on recent science by his colleagues and students.

Some permaculture folk might begrudge Reid’s failure to acknowledge permaculture as a broader conceptual framework for what he has demonstrated, but I know that Reid’s innovative work may have had less influence by being associated with permaculture through the dark decades of the 80s, 90s and 2000s. Hopefully those days are passing with both Reid and myself being included in Massy’s influential book about ecological land use in this country.

The only point of strong difference for me was his reinforcing of the nativist orthodoxy that naturalising willows are bad for the environment. Sometime I imaging having a long discussion with Rowan, and our mutual friend and long time closet permie Jason Alexandra about willows. The science about naturalising species is certainly open to on-going debate and many of Rowan’s stories illustrate how scientific evidence has been a constant factor in refining and redirecting his practice and teaching. But Heartwood is also a beautiful illustration of how passion, intuition, happenstance and art have been important factors in Rowan Reid’s life’s work with trees.

David Holmgren
permaculture co-originator

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You can buy Heartwood from our online store.

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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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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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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.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9phFHhg6Vfk?rel=0]
You can download the full presentation showed at the launch here.

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Permaculture: A Rhymer’s Manual – David doesn’t cringe

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}“He gave me the best response ever… He got on the blower and said ‘It’s great. I listened to the whole thing…and I didn’t cringe once.'”
Apparently that is how David Holmgren responded upon listening to the album, inspired by and named after the concept he jointly developed some three decades ago, according to the recent ABC radio piece.
You can sample some of the Charlie Mgee‘s Formidable Vegetable Sounds System’s debut album “Permaculture: a Rhymer’s Manual” played live at the launch in Melbourne in April.
PRMLaunchPosterWEB
David will be there not only to give a test drive to his newly acquired dancing shoes to serious ukelele music, but also  to say a few words about what could well be the first ever permaculture “concept” album.
When: 6pm Saturday April 6.

Where: CERES Environmental Park
Cost: (recommended donation $15) BYO drinks and snacks

The album is now available through the HD shop.

Here’s a footage of Formidable Vegetable Sound System in full flight at the Eclipse 2012 Festival in Cairns.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BDdizZsABQ?rel=0]

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Permaculture Pioneers: Stories from the New Frontier

The latest publication from Melliodora Publishing

Permaculture Pioneers Cover
Permaculture Pioneers: Stories from the New Frontier, edited by Caroline Smith and Kerry Dawborn, with an afterword by Professor Stuart B Hill, is a collection of stories about personal journeys into permaculture of some of our most important Australian pioneers. This book explores social and inner change for sustainability and charts a history of the first three decades of permaculture.

We are receiving fantastic feedback about the book and launches around the country have been a great success. All who have attended have enjoyed celebrating the launch of the book and hearing the words of editors Kerry Dawborn and Caroline Smith and many of the authors.

Read a review by Kirsten Bradley of Milkwood here.

Permaculture PioneersContributing authors:
David Holmgren * Terry White * Robyn Francis * Max Lindegger * Vries Gravestein * Jeff Nugent * Geoff Lawton * Russ Grayson * Fiona Campbell * Annemarie Brookman * Graham Brookman * Rosemary Morrow * Martha Hills * Janet Millington * Robin Clayfield * Alanna Moore * Naomi Coleman * Virginia Solomon * Ross Mars * Jill Finnane * Ian Lillington * Jane Scott * Josh Byrne * Tony Jansen * Morag Gamble

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