Permaculture ideas and observations by David Holmgren

Essence of Permaculture


Summary of permaculture concept and principles taken from Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainablity 2002.

February 2012

Retrofitting the Suburbs for Sustainability

David Holmgren gave a Lunchbox/Soapbox talk at the The Wheeler Centre in February 2012, exploring the profound improvements that the application of permaculture principles and strategies could deliver for the sustainability and livability of today’s suburbs.

Through the microcosm of four adjacent houses in ‘Aussie Street’, Holmgren demonstrates how suburbs can and will respond to the converging economic, energy and climate crises, and discovers how you can stimulate positive household and community resilience in the face of these pressures.

Watch the video and add your comments.

November 2011

The upcoming transition away from a fossil- fuel based society: David Holmgren talks strategy

Luke Miller Callahan, from the GroAction Network, interviewed David Holmgren in November 2011 and asked him “How do we move away from a fossil-fuel based society?” Luke says “For all you suburbia nay-sayers out there, this discussion will be especially interesting to you.”
[vimeo 32106050 w=600 h=376]

April 2011

Weeds or Wild Nature: A Permaculture Perspective

David Holmgren presented this report as part of a series of seminars on “Contentious Perspectives on Weeds” at the 45th Annual General Meeting of the Weed Society of Victoria in April 2011. It was subsequently published in Plant Protection Quarterly, Volume 26, Issue 3, 2011, p.92-97, along with other proceedings from the seminar.

David’s message about nature’s resilience is a counter balance to the orthodox picture from the biological sciences of endless ecological collapse in the face of human impact. He brings these perspectives into the 21st century where fundamental challenges to civilisation are changing the ground rules for how we work with nature.

“Land design and management informed by permaculture principles tends to regard naturalized species of plants as assets that should be managed to stabilize water and soil, build biomass, fix nutrients, ameliorate microclimate and provide habitat, fodder, fuel and food in the early stages of system development. While naturalized species may be given a lower value in permaculture design than species regarded as indigenous to the site and region, the typical designation of naturalized species as ‘invasive species’ or ‘environmental weeds’ is typically rejected as anti-ecological thinking.”

Download PDF (127 KB)

May 2011

Bushfire resilient landscapes and communities

David Holmgren gives a public talk on creating bushfire resilient communities and landscapes, organised by Pat Rayner of Permaculture Blue Mountains. Thanks to Gary Caganoff for the videos.

Part I


Part II


Part III


Part IV


May 2011

Home Occupancy, by Michael Green, interview with David Holmgren

This article by Michael Green, explains why big households are better than big houses. Michael interviewed David Holmgren, and Ed McKinley of the Groupwork Institute of Australia for this article. This article is also on The Age Domain site.

April 2011

National Permaculture Day

This short video is of the National Permaculture Day celebrations in Daylesford on 30 April, hosted by the Daylesford Community Food Gardeners (DCFG) and the Hepburn Relocalisation Network (HRN), with the help of SHARE (Sustainable Hepburn Association), Daylesford CFA, Hepburn Council and local residents. David Holmgren speaks about “The Local.”

January 2011

Press Release: Urgent need to recreate flood resilient rivers and floodplains

This press release is a response to the recent floods and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of streamside vegetation management strategies that are currently in use and that are recommended by David Holmgren and others.

Download PDF (556 KB)

January 2011

Bee keeping for the energy descent future

This article is a reflection on “the prospects for apiculture (bee keeping) as a sustainable and resilient livelihood in the future” and considers the current state of apiculture and future possibilities from a number of different angles.

Download PDF (205 KB)

September 2010

Aphorisms for Permaculture activists, APC10

In the final plenary of APC10, David Holmgren drew on lessons from over three decades of permaculture thinking and activism to distill pointers for using ethics and design principles to surf the energy descent future (without being dumped by king waves). An upbeat presentation that enscapsulated how the next generation of permaculture activists can confidently and creatively face the cascading crises that are unfolding all around the world. PDFs of the presentation and text are downloadable below.

Download presentation PDF (8.35 MB)

Download text PDF (82 KB)


Money vs Fossil Energy: The battle for control of the world

“This essay provides a framework for understanding the ideological roots of the current global crisis that I believe is more useful than the now tired Left Right political spectrum. I use this framework to provide a commentary on current political machinations around Climate Chnage and Peak Oil. Building form the same energetic literacy that informs Permaculture and Future Scenarios, it challenges much of the strategic logic behind current mainstream climate change activism. Like the Future Scenarios work, this essay is intended to help environmental and social activists better avoid the obstacles to effective action in a chaotic age.” – David Holmgren

Now also available in Spanish, thanks to Holger Hieronimi of Tierramor. Published on the Tierramor website here, and downloadable below.

Download English PDF (360 KB)

Download Spanish PDF (282 KB)


Future Scenarios presentation

One of David Holmgren’s most requested presentations, based on the ideas from the Future Scenarios website and book. David runs half day and full day Future Scenarios workshops for councils, community groups and others, by request.

Future Scenarios explores David Holmgren’s futurism and scenario planning work for an era of peak oil and climate change.

Download PDF (7.4 MB)


Eroded gully revegetation, Spring Creek Gully

David Holmgren explaining a low cost technique for revegetating eroded gullies without heavy machinery or chemicals. The technique turns thick, fire-prone blackberry cover into useful fire-resistant trees on what was a landscape completed denuded in the gold era. Working bee action in the background. Thanks to Dan Palmer of Very Edible Gardens (VEG) for this video.


Bushfire resilient communities and landscapes, Sustainable Living Festival

Climate change and peak oil demand we change our behaviour, organise our households and reshape our communities and landscapes for greater self reliance and resilience. The threat of bushfire provides the immediate context for application of these changes that will be more effective and empowering than top down centralised responses to disaster management. With this presentation David Holmgren shows how the permaculture strategies of self reliance and resilience make our communities and landscapes safer and more productive.

Part I

Part II

See also the Bushfire Resilient Communities and Landscapes discussion paper.

JULY 2009

All about Permaculture, interview on Farm Radio

Listen to this interview with David Holmgren via the Farm Radio website.


Interview with David Holmgren on Treehugger

Read this interview with David Holmgren, by Paula Alvarado, Buenos Aires, October 2007.


Peak Oil & Permaculture tour of Australia

Richard Heinberg

Peak Oil: The Challenge, the Possible Responses
(45 minute presentation)

David Holmgren

Permaculture: Solutions For Energy Descent
(45 minute presentation)

For more info see the Peak Oil and Permaculture tour page.

June 2006

Permaculture: Solutions for the energy descent future

A keynote address by David Holmgren to the Urban Sustainable Living Expo Warrnambool Victoia 4th June 2006. This replaces an earlier presentation “Global Energy Peak Threat Or Opportunity” to launch the 8th Australian Permaculture Convergence Melbourne April 2005.
Explains peak oil and permaculture strategies for the energy descent future. An empowering and inclusive understanding of permaculture as a multi-faceted design response to energy crisis.

Presentation (6.7MB PDF without audio).

December 2005

Garden Agriculture: A revolution in efficient water use

This piece was first published as an opinion piece in Water, Vol 32, No 8 December 2005, the Journal of the Australian Water Association and is now available below.

Download PDF (53KB)

January 2005

Firewood: Sustainable and appropriate energy source

This letter was published in Renew Magazine Issue 90, January 2005, published by the Alternative Technology Association (Melbourne, Australia).

Download PDF (85KB)

January 2005

Retrofitting the suburbs for sustainability

Adapted from public lecture given at the Aldinga Arts Eco-village in Adelaide in January 2005.

Download PDF (237KB)

June 2004

Permaculture in Japan: Foreign import or indigenous design?

This article gives David’s impressions and photos of sustainable solutions in Japan following a four week teaching trip in June 2004.

Download PDF (1.63MB)

July 2003

What is sustainability?

Plenary Session addressing Students of Sustainability Conference, Flinders University Adelaide 14th July 2003.

Download PDF (76KB)

Compost toilets and Permaculture design principles

This brief piece was written in September 2003 as a contribution to a book (in French) by Christophe Elain, “Un petit coin pour soulager la planète: Toilettes sèches et histoires d’eau”, published 2005 by Goutte de Sable.

Download PDF (182KB)

Invasion Biology: Critique of a pseudoscience

Book review of important new book on the “weeds or wild nature” issue.

Download PDF (58KB)

Do we need nature?

Entry in Shell Economist Future Thinking writing competition 2003.

Download PDF (102KB)

Weeds or wild nature?

Originally published in the Permaculture International Journal in 1997, Issue 61, provides an indication of the ideas which are further developed in other writings in Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability and which is the subject of the new book being researched.

View HTML Document

Download PDF (90KB)

Upper Spring Creek restoration project management report

Permaculture landcare recomendations to a mainstream government funded Landcare Group

Download PDF (3.0MB)

Permaculture: Integrating theory and practice

Written for the IPC7 Newsletter

Download PDF (83KB)

Biomass fuels from sustainable land use: A Permaculture perspective

Article in ‘Solar Progress’ Magazine, Nov 2003

Download PDF (112KB)