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Permaculture Design Course @ Rocklyn Ashram

Permaculture Design Course

Friday 10 – Saturday 25 Feb 2017

Rocklyn Ashram

Are you looking to:

  • create a more sustainable lifestyle?
  • meet like-minded people?
  • retrofit your house, your community and your life?
  • become less dependent on big business and supermarkets?
  • design a resilient system in the face of growing uncertainties?


The course

A PDC can be a life changing experience. Join us in the unique environment of the Rocklyn Ashram and be taught by a mix of experienced and enthusiastic permaculture tutors including David Holmgren.

This is a fully residential, fully catered course running over 14 days with a short break in the middle. This is a completely immersive experience.

The course will be structured around Holmgren’s 12 permaculture principles (detailed in Permaculture: principles and pathways beyond sustainability) and goes beyond land-based design, bringing permaculture to all aspects of human living.

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The venue

The course will take place at the Rocklyn Ashram, nestled in the Wombat Forest near Daylesford in Central Victoria. Only a two-hour drive from Melbourne, you will feel like you are in another world. Beautiful and quiet, this special space creates an ideal learning environment.

Taking part in the ashram’s daily yoga program can further enhance your learning and enrich your experience. The ashram environment exemplifies and provides an experience of living by permaculture ethics. The serene and spiritual focus of the ashram complements the mindfulness of permaculture practice and reminds us to balance our activity and think with reflection.

Accommodation is gender segregated triple share, or BYO camping equipment.

At times the ashram program and the intensity of the course can seem challenging, however almost all of the participants comment that the benefits continue long after the course ends.

 

The food

Delicious, wholesome and ethical meals will be prepared by Su Dennett and the ashram’s kitchen volunteers. She will make sure that what you eat meets permaculture standards. Items will be sourced from local organic and bio-dynamic growers in a living example of using and maintaining sustainable food supply networks. You will be served vegetarian meals together with the ashram residents.

 

Tutors

You will learn from the co-founder of permaculture, David Holmgren, and a team of excellent permaculture practitioners and educators. Their depth of practical and theoretical knowledge will make this a very special PDC. There will be also be opportunities to socialise with the presenters outside of session times.

 

Prerequisites?

There are no prerequisites for this course, but it is recommended you read the Essence of Permaculture if you have not yet done so. All other titles by David Holmgren are highly recommended for those who have read Essence already. Please have a look through our online store or visit your local library.

 

Course content

This course will equip you with the foundations of permaculture. You will learn permaculture ethics, principles and design, and their application across the domains, so that you can integrate them into all aspects of your life.

Topics include: permaculture ethics and principles; ecology and natural cycles; weather and climates; soils; permaculture food growing; energy literacy; reading the landscape; appropriate technology; built environment; design processes and practices; animals in permaculture; health and spiritual wellbeing; urban retrofitting; finance and economics; and community strategies.

The classroom experience will be complemented by field trips to working permaculture systems including one of the best documented demonstration sites, Melliodora.

You will work on a design project of part of the ashram during the course. You will be guided by experienced tutors and learn the fundamentals of permaculture to design the world you want.

 

How to enrol

The course size is limited to 26 students so you will need to book early. Cost including full board is $2400, but all you need is the $500 deposit to secure your place now.

If you choose the camping option you will receive $150 cash back upon arrival at the Ashram.

Please note: We do not take deposits from outside Australia. If you are applying from outside Australia, we only accept the full amount via direct bank transfer.

Please read the Ashram Lifestyle Information page before enrolling. Choose your payment below and complete the enrolment form.

 

Payment and extra charges

Please see the How Do I Pay? page for more details.

 

Item Fee (AUD$) Due
Non-refundable deposit – Australian participant $500 Upon enrolment
Remaining course fee – Australian participant – earlybird $1700 Friday 2nd December 2016
Remaining course fee – Australian participant – full fee $1900
Course fee – Australian / Overseas participant – earlybird $2200 Upon enrolment, before Friday 2nd December 2016
Course fee – Australian / Overseas participant – full fee $2400 Upon enrolment
Overseas payment / Payment via paypal – bank charge $35 With payment – per transaction
Private accommodation at the Ashram Variable With payment – prior booking is essential

 

Is there concession price?

Yes, we do offer a concession rate on a needs basis via an application process. Please fill in this form before Friday November 18 to be eligible.

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Still have questions? Please read through our FAQ page.

7

Honouring Bill Mollison

In memory of Bill Mollison, David helped his son Oliver plant dozens of trees at Oliver’s place, near Fryers Forest. They were mostly food producing and included carob and pistachio trees. #plantedforbill

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Oliver also styled and snapped this photo of his father paying homage to Bill and the photo that David took of him on a plant and seed collecting trip in northern Tasmania in 1975.

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If you haven’t already heard Charlie Mgee’s beautiful tribute to Bill, you can listen to it here:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN_Texj9CD4]

Radio National’s Blueprint for Living had a segment called ‘Farewell to the father of the global permaculture movement’ devoted to Bill Mollison and featured David talking about Bill and more broadly about permaculture.

Samuel Alexander wrote a piece for The Conversation about Bill entitled ‘A revolution disguised as organic gardening’.

Declan Kennedy’s tribute, I am mourning my friend Bill Mollison is also well worth a read.

0

Out to lunch

su-and-david-reading

Apologies if our phones and emails go unanswered. Apologies if we miss appointments, lunch dates and birthday parties. We are too busy reading the latest addition to the Melliodora Publishing family:

The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A guide to spending less while enjoying everything more

By Annie Raser-Rowland with Adam Grubb, authors of the hugely popular Weed Forager’s Handbook

The Art of Frugal Hedonism

About the book

A lot of stuff we spend money on actually makes life less enjoyable in the long run. And a lot of cheap and free stuff is very enjoyable indeed. So why choose the stuff that requires us to work all the time and get stressed about bank balances? The stuff that leads to looking in the mirror and seeing your dear face grown all puffy from too many pad Thai takeaways eaten mid-commute, because finding the energy to cook at the end of the day often feels impossible. To gazing at your house full of random possessions that seemed wonderful when you bought them but now seem to demand more care, organising, and storage space than you have the capacity for. To finding yourself at the gym, or maybe on the therapist’s couch, suspecting that you wouldn’t need to be there if you just had the time to sleep in more, or to go out dancing, like you’d love to.

“This is not a good scene!” declares the Frugal Hedonist, and opts for ditching some pricier habits and lifestyle expectations in favour of less stress. They focus their spending where it provides maximum bang per buck, and become connoisseurs of free pleasures. Then they kick back and reap the rewards.

What the heck are we talking about already? Let’s get example-y.

A Frugal Hedonist might often catch up with friends by taking a long walk together and raving about the week’s thoughts, rather than by buying drinks at a bar. They’ve noticed that the passing scenery adds just as much to the conversation as assessing the merits of the latest craft beer. They probably also go to bars now and again, but the simple act of frequently choosing the walk, means that over time layers of saved money and improved butt-tone add up to make the Frugal Hedonist enjoy other aspects of life more. Like being able to afford an extra week of unpaid holiday time over the summer, or wearing tight pants. And their friends associate them as much with the sound of birdsong or having seen a cloud in the shape of a gorilla doing push-ups, as with waking up with a blurry head and an empty wallet.

We could go on. But there’s a book that does that. It’s called… The Art of Frugal Hedonism.

“The freest and most contented people pretty much follow the advice in The Art of Frugal Hedonism.” ~ Clive Hamilton, author of Growth Fetish and co-author of Affluenza.

The Art of Frugal Hedonism is an absolute joy. It is good-natured not pious, humane not self-righteous and a guide to ethical living that makes the impossible possible. I am happy to make this my bible.” ~ Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap

“An invaluable harvest of tips oozing with hedonistic wit and wonder. Packed with ideas about why and how we are to live with less to ensure we have a hell of a lot more.” ~ Meg Ulman, co-author of The Art of Free Travel

“In an age that is obsessed with consumer trinkets and oblivious to waste, the philosophy of frugal hedonism provides a welcome and necessary antidote. The simplicity of this message is profound. Be frugal and be free.” ~ Samuel Alexander, co-director of the Simplicity Institute

Who is it for?

  • For people who want to reshape their spending for maximum pleasure and minimum pain.
  • For people who are already challenging cultural consumption assumptions, but would love a little backup now and again.
  • For anyone who gets a kick out of reading humorous writing (laced with a lot of nifty science) that inspires thoughts about the braver and better things in life.

You can read sample chapters and buy your copy here.

1

Bill Mollison passes

With the passing of Bill Mollison, aged 88, in Tasmania on Saturday comes the end of an era for many thousands of people around the world whose lives were transformed by the teaching and writing of one of Australia’s most influential ecological pioneers. My two year student/mentor relationship with Bill from late 1974 was certainly the defining relationship that set the course for the rest of my life. This piece (published in the 2011 Permaculture Diary) recalled that pivotal moment when I first met Bill and effectively selected him as ‘the teacher’. Bill’s brilliance was in gathering together the ecological insights, principles, strategies and techniques that could be applied to create the world we do want rather than fighting against the world we reject. His personal life was as tumultuous as his public persona, at times tragic but always full of the passion and contradiction that the term ‘ecological warrior’ represents. His legacy lives on in all those who were transformed by his teaching. This tribute by leading British permaculture teacher, Graham Bell, provides an excellent overview of his life including his confronting character.

https://www.permaculture.co.uk/news/14747967337497/bruce-charles-bill-mollison-1928-2016

David Holmgren

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Bill Mollison on a plant and seed collecting trip in northern Tasmania 1975. Photo by David Holmgren

 

2

Putting the cult in permaculture

We have been implementing some big changes around here. So tired are we of the dominant culture, we have decided to build a giant, beautiful stone wall to separate us from the outside world. Yup, we’ve decided to put the cult into permaculture once and for all.

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We have hired a gang of young thugs to help protect our perma-paradise.

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We have bribed a team of experts from the land of milk(wood) and honey to come and help grow food that will sustain us and nurture our soils.

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And to ensure diversity we have friends from afar growing food from our seed stock. Here is Cyrano with a prolific Syrian cucumber. Look closely and you will see that apparently it only needs itself to continue growing!

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We have spent thousands of hours hosting focus groups so we could come up with the perfect design for our new range of summer hats. We call it perma-couture.

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Here is a photo taken with a spy camera of our top secret lab as we grow more prototypes of even weirder and more human-like hats that will eventually be grafted onto the wearers’ foreheads, for this ever-warming climate.

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We have invested thousands of dollars constructing technically complex and elaborate towers to help us protect our boundaries.

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We have taken advantage of the most advanced technology known to humanity to develop a fierce beast that will gobble all intruders, and their foliage.

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To help spread word of our cult’s principles and ethics, we have collected a team of co-conspirators to work on David’s forthcoming book.

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We have joined forces with undercover agent Mgee and his formidable task-force as they help spread our message through the means of subterfugal music, to help convert the young and the illiterate.

Grow Do It - Formidable Vegetable Sound SystemThey are launching their exciting new album Grow Do It this coming Friday at 7pm at the Daylesford Town Hall, if you’d like to come along. You can buy tickets here (or on the door), and the new album here.

 

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If you like what we are about and would like to be part of our collective, please come along on Friday night and join us. If you pass the dance initiation, you’re in. We’re fussy, but not that fussy.

3

Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize winner announced

Congratulations to all the entrants of the inaugural Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize. Thank you to all the poets who took the time to submit an entry. Venie would have loved to have sat with us here in the office and to have read the poems as they came in from all across the country, 115 of them.

Without further ado, we would like to announce the winner of the 2016 Prize:

Lynn Sunderland from Trentham, Vic., for her poem
How to Write an Environmental Poem

 

Highly commended were:

Elizabeth Gleeson for the poem Hygrocybe at the Market

and

Frances Paterson for Sonnet to Three Gumnuts

 

Thank you to judges Richard Perry and Bronwyn Blaiclock for undertaking the difficult challenge of selecting a single winner. At the Words in Winter prize presentation, Richard read out a statement on behalf of the judges, which you can read here.

We were fortunate that Lynn was able to come along to the event and read her poem.

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We are thrilled to present to you, in its entirety, Lynn Sunderland’s award winning poem:

How to Write an Environmental Poem

We begin with a framework strong enough

To hold in its hands this planet’s poem:

A scaffolding blunt as the flint hearted mountains

And supple as green boughs twisted toward water

That it may bear in its sinews and its soul

The very weight of your dreaming

 

And your poem must sing with a cadence sweet as birdsong

Yet cruel as the iron ring of axe blade against heartwood

For its voice must be as true and as complicated

As the keening cry of gulls above a grey sweep of ocean

Or the numbing drum of rain, hour upon hour

And every time it draws breath

We must hear the silences, too,

Of those who cannot speak

 

And it may rhyme grandly

Like the broad and stately sail of a whale’s tail

Or whimsically as greenies in beanies

Or sadly as the breath of death itself

 

But within the footfall of its rhyme

There will always be a dissonance

Plaintive as river water weeping over pebbles

Raw as the rattle of a wintry drift of hail

Or pure as wind chimes

Netting the North wind’s lonely voice

 

It must sing with a rhythm all its own

A song as old as the steady drip of glaciers

As slow as the rasp of the tide’s mouth

On a million, million grains of sand

As dependable as the lurch and heft of the sun

 

And it must be sensual in its seasons

Licked by the wet tongues of calving beasts

Rolled in the honeyed hum

Of a hundred drowsing bees

Sated by a sickly surfeit of summer’s indolent heat

 

And this poem must have height and depth to colour it in:

Be bold in your dreaming, and build it

Grand as the icy glitter of a starlit night

Broad as a prairie blown to gold in autumn

Triumphant in its song, even when

Wracked by ocean currents cold enough

And deep enough to drown a continent

 

And yet you must not fail to nourish

Even the most insignificant of its sorrows

The unnamed extinctions gone to dust

The drift of time

The silence of bones

The infinitely lost promise

Of a single seedling

 

Its metaphors, of course,

Must be extravagant and reckless

And here you have much to work with …

The churn of storm clouds sketching their threat

Like smoke through milk in a winter sky

The ashen pallor of a bushfire’s wake

Or the way a forest leans together at the last,

Mourners at the funeral pyre

Of a whole planet stumbling into oblivion,

Its oil soaked wings folded mutely in surrender

 

Write your poem, then,

In ink red as the fox’s bloodied paws

With a gaze unblinking as an owl’s nightblack eye

 

And when it is made

Wheel it out into the light of this day’s dawn

And set it where the first fingers of morning

Might touch and probe and wonder…

 

But beware

 

For your contraption of caesura and sonnet

Your artifice of syllable and sound

Will in the end be nothing

 

To the tragedy and beauty of a single moment

 

On this planet, Earth.

 

 

——————

 

 

4

The Future of Local Food Conference

FoLFConf

What does it take to create a local food system that is healthy, affordable and sustainable for Australia?

Our local food industry is being neglected while Australia’s national food and agriculture debate focuses on boosting production and increasing exports. Other countries, such as the US and Canada, that have explicitly prioritised local food, are now reaping economic benefits.

Local government in Australia has begun to analyse the benefits of a larger local food industry. For example, Mornington Peninsula Shire found in preliminary modelling that expanding its local food industry by 5% would bring in A$15 million and create nearly 200 jobs.

The Municipal Association of Victoria two-day conference, The Future of Local Food, will explore how to best design food systems to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Among its varied speakers, the conference will feature David Holmgren, whose presentation, ‘Vision of the Bioregional Food System adapted to Energy Descent Futures’ will highlight the need to consider futures different from Business-As-Usual. Holmgren will discuss how local government areas (urban and rural) might fit into an emerging bioregional economy if and when the global one declines.

You can find out more about the conference here.

0

Jack Monaghan 1924 – 2016

Jack1Jack died not long after the winter solstice following a short illness and two bouts of hospitalisation. He was 92.

Su Dennett and I and our son Oliver have been neighbours to Jack and Lois Monaghan for 30 years.

During the early 1950’s housing shortage, Jack’s grandfather subdivided his 15-acre paddock on the edge of Hepburn. Jack and Lois became owner-builders of a modest fibro house on the double block.

When we started building at Mellliodora, Jack and Lois’s only child Dianne (my age) had left home, and Jack was in his last year of self employment as the local panel beater, spray painter and smash repairer, walking the 500m to work each day to his workshop opposite the house where he grew up. Jack always dated the years of his retirement by Oliver’s age who was born the same year. Oliver was the baby on the building site with me until we moved into the house in 1988.

I remember Jack and Lois as third generation locals with the perfectly maintained house, car and property and a strong culture of self-reliance who were friendly and welcoming of newcomers. However I admitted to a local friend my own age, who was also from one of the old Hepburn families, that I had borrowed a soldering iron from Jack. His comment was that you should never borrow anything from Jack Monaghan because you could never return it in good enough condition. This fitted with my own suspicions, having seen Jack’s spotless workshop, perfectly mown lawns and his 1964 Valiant station wagon that was still in showroom mint condition. Actually at some stage he had resprayed it but the job he did was of course perfect. I was aware that Jack could be a fussy and opinionated character and I resisted the temptation to ask favours. We respected their modest traditional self-reliance and they respected our hard work in owner building and tackling two and half acres of blackberries.

As Oliver assumed ownership of the building site, he gained early experience as one of the blokes building, maintaining and fixing stuff. It was inevitable that after we moved in, on his second birthday, Oliver would wander further, attracted by the little old man next door who was always busy in his workshop. We apologised for our annoying son but to our amazement (and Lois’s) Jack enjoyed Oliver’s questions and attention. The perfectionist with one daughter and no grandchildren was taken by a boy who paid attention and accepted the rules of the workshop.

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Jack was almost the age of my father who died when I was 19, but unlike my father, he was highly skilled in woodwork, metalwork, mechanics as well as being a competent gardener (like my father). I respected Jack for his skills and great knowledge of the local area and its history. His stories helped us gain a real sense of place with roots in the past. His Super 8 movie of the sawmill that once stood on our land was the template for Greg Holland’s drawing in the Melliodora book we published in 1995.

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Despite having the same first name as my father, Jack was never a father figure for me and I tended to avoided discussion of political issues given our different outlooks. But for Oliver, who never knew his paternal grandfather and hardly ever saw his maternal grandfather, Jack was his adopted grandfather. For me this was a gift not because it took the kid off my hands, but because it connected Oliver to place and community in a way that I could never provide. It also meant that Oliver osmotically absorbed some of Jack’s metalworking and mechanical skills, so it seemed no accident that by his early teens Oliver was a better welder than me and went on to develop respectable sheet metal and panel beating skills. In the last few years Jack was teaching the next generation of neighbours’ boys how to shoot an air gun!

In traditional rural culture, talking too much is poorly regarded but Jack was a social character and a great talker, like my father, me and Oliver. He would often end a visit with the comment that he had been ear-bashing us for too long. Even if we were very busy, our discussions were almost always interesting and informative.

Jack was also always interested in my knowledge and skills and would often say that you are never too old to learn something new. He had a great interest in how to do things better, as well as the latest technology. In the 1960s he installed water filters in his mains supply to protect the hot water system from sedimentation. Around the same time he was experimenting with using the then new silicon mastic for many purposes and used engine oil additives to extend the life of his vehicle and small engines. He may have lived so long without succumbing to the lung cancer that took most spray painters of his generation as he always wore masks and other safety gear that most blokes of his era thought were unnecessary inconveniences. Jack’s food habits were traditional but he never smoked and hardly drank alcohol.

He often talked about the skills of the old timers such as his grandfather who could spend all day slowly scything the paddock (while puffing on his pipe) but admitted he himself had never got the hang of scything. Jack was the quintessential modern man, enthusiastic about technology and progress, although the digital revolution was a step too far. He always understated his problem solving skills by saying he wasn’t smart enough to understand computers.

Over the years our households maintained a gift economy of lemons, eggs, old newspapers, bottles, odd gas torch metal brazing repairs, pruning help etc. In more recent years as Jack’s capacity gradually waned, we and our volunteers managed to do a little more to help Jack keep going with the vegetable garden and especially pruning the fruit trees. For many young permaculture travellers who stayed at Melliodora, Jack and Lois provided another model of self-reliance and modesty in consumption to inform their own journeys.

When my mother joined us at Melliodora for her twilight years, Jack would often walk down the hill to have a chat with her. Like us, my mother marvelled at Jack’s incredible flexibility and dexterity despite his complaints to me that his steady hand for welding and other fine skills were gone, (and that the hill was getting steeper).

Apart from his place in our hearts, Jack’s great care in looking after things lives on in a photo I asked him to pose for over the open bonnet of his gleaming 64 Valiant. I used that picture to illustrate the permaculture design principle of No Waste. Our Permaculture Principles Teaching Kit that is used by people around the world includes that picture as one of a set of 12.

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Jack’s attention to detail and care with maintenance lives on in another way. Su and I are both of the same mind in looking after things to avoid waste that comes from lack of maintenance but we often find ourselves chided by Oliver for not being careful enough. One day people might say, ‘Oh don’t borrow anything from Oliver Holmgren; you could never return it in good enough condition.’ They probably already have.

During his adult life Jack saw the culture of waste and carelessness grow from small beginnings to the raging consumption of his later years. All that time he doggedly maintained a frugal care of the material world. As the era of abundance and waste reaches it twilight years, some of Jack’s skills and mentality will again be part of the puzzle in how the next generations survive and thrive the challenges of the 21st century.

David Holmgren
Melliodora
Winter Solstice 2016

3

Winter solstice update

Hello freezing cold weather. It’s 7˚C at the moment but the sun is shining and we’re happy to be busy outside.

Today Mitch pruned the feijoas, while also contemplating pruning his bushman’s beard.

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Looks like he’s decided to keep it, to keep his face warm while he works outside. Good idea!

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He then chipped his prunings and fed them back to the feijoas for arvo tea.

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We were visited last week by Daniel BeeShepherd who cycled over from Castlemaine. (Did you notice that he even has a jar of honey in his drink-bottle holder?)

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Here is another great photo of Daniel. As he says: “I’m very keen on human-powered transport and don’t own a car. I usually get around using a pushbike and trailer, including when I service the bees. Permaculture has been a big influencing factor for me and I try to incorporate its principles into every aspect of my life.”

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We have been falling in love with fungi, as we do every year at this time. Here is a spore print of a field blewit (Lepista spp.) we found down towards the gully.

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We have been preparing for Kirsten, Nick and Ashar to come and live here.

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And we have been taking advantage of the colder weather to go through old things and unearthed this photo of Su from the late 80s. What a glamorous permie babe!

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We are helping organise a course at Fryers Forest. If you’d like to learn more about natural building and low impact construction, please come along. Bookings essential.

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Richard Telford took the following photo of David, Terry White, Ian Lillington and Carol McDonough at the Permaculture Australia AGM in Castlemaine over the weekend.

The award is not for the best hat, but the United Nations Association of Australia World Environment Day Award given to Castlemaine for being the Community of the Year in 2008. Carol accepted it on behalf of the town in 2008 and has been looking after it ever since. On the weekend she handed it on and presented it to Terry as the most worthy person to be custodian of it. As part of his acceptance speech, Terry gave a talk about the origins of the permaculture journal and permaculture association that he started in Maryborough in 1978, that were the precursor of Permaculture Australia, the only national permaculture body in Australia.

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That’s it from us for now. Just a reminder that there are just over three weeks before submissions close for the Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize.

Happy Hibernal Solstice to you all!

1

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.


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