Permaculture, Collected Writings and Julian Assange

This website and all its posts are devoted to my permaculture life and work committed to creating the world we want. It is solution- and good news-focused. But my life’s work has always been informed by a rational understanding of the intensely political world we live in. Longer-term readers may have noticed that in recent years some of my writing has focused more explicitly on exploring the underlying nature of the problems we face to show why permaculture is a real strategy for addressing more than just personal well-being with a low ecological footprint.

For instance in ‘Money vs Fossil Energy: The battle for control of the world’ (2010, dedicated to the memory of my brother Gerard Holmgren) I used the ecological systems thinking that underpins permaculture to provide new insights and understandings of the titanic changes occurring as industrial civilisation collides with the limits to growth. ‘The Household Level Counts’ (2013) was a brief and early articulation of why permaculture design, activism and living should be taken seriously as a social and political change strategy. This underpins my focus on the household level in RetroSuburbia. ‘Crash on Demand: welcome to the Brown Tech future’ (2013) built on my Future Scenarios work ( and represented a further step into the role of positive provocateur in the debate about what constitutes effective environmental activism in a world of climate chaos and repressive governance.

These and other writings are currently being reviewed in preparation for the digital publication of the third volume of my Collected Writings that will include essays, reviews, obituaries and presentations from 2007 to 2018. As a package with the previous editions, it will mark 40 years of writings since 1978, the year Permaculture One was published. Inevitably, this retrospective consideration brings up the claim that permaculture may well be Australia’s greatest intellectual export – driven by the warrior energy of Bill Mollison. People who know me, or my writing, will know my scepticism of the warrior energy and its limitations in creating the world we want. However that scepticism does not take away from my appreciation and respect for what has been achieved by warriors devoted to true and noble “causes” (as my political activist mother called movements for social justice and ecological sustainability).

Reuters File Photo

Which brings me to Julian Assange, languishing in a unique form of detention in London and now under imminent threat of ejection into the fire of US imprisonment or worse. His treatment by national governments has been appalling, especially the US and the UK, but also Sweden (previously a symbol of fairness and good governance), Ecuador (plucky protector now succumbing to pressure), and Australia (meekly standing by while our fellow Australian is tried and found guilty by politicians and the pack of media hacks who resent Assange for showing up their own failures to shine a light into the backrooms of power). Assange, the technical brains, publicist and warrior behind Wikileaks could, for all I know, share some of Mollison’s personality flaws, but even if the worst of the claims about his personality are true, none of them take away from Assange being the most globally important independent journalist and publisher using the power of the internet to challenge the rapid rise in authoritarian power and propagandised media. That Assange is being treated as the sacrificial pawn in the chess game being played out in Washington around the fabricated Russia hysteria highlights the power of people creatively working outside of centralised systems.

By promoting Mollison and Assange as equally great Australians who have contributed to a better world, I may alienate some people for whom Mollison is a hero but regard Assange with suspicion or even as a “traitor” deserving whatever happens to him. This is a risk I am willing to take, especially as Mollison’s contribution is now a secure legacy whereas Assange’s is still unfolding but under mortal threat.

We should do all in our power to bring Julian Assange home to recover from his ordeal of these years – with no expectations about what he might contribute in the future. His sacrifice for shining the spotlight on the power behind the mask of representative democracy, and providing the inspiration for younger people to use the tools and capacities they have at hand to create the world they want now, has already been too great.


8 Responses to Permaculture, Collected Writings and Julian Assange

  1. Ben Hopkins August 31, 2018 at 6:09 pm #

    Good thinking David!

    Although IMO Bill M. deserves a bit more credit than you give him, for all of his teaching and for his masterwork, the Design Manual..

    Also you should know that some of us here in the USA are NOT hysterical about Russia but are nevertheless very much displeased to have a President who is clearly beholden to Vladimir Putin and cronies–probably because Trump owes them vast sums of money.

  2. Boyd Attewell September 3, 2018 at 3:49 pm #

    Hi David. I think we need to be so very careful about alignment with Assange. Wikileaks have aspired to be non-partisan with varying degrees of success, but Assange is definitely a political operator. He worked very hard to damage the 2016 Clinton campaign and he actively worked with Trump (see The Intercept is highly reputable by the way.
    I don’t think we can or should separate the endeavour from the personality, so, as laudable as the ideals of Wikileaks have been, Assange’s personal flaws, his dealings with women, his disturbing political beliefs, all need to be taken into account when we judge him to be hero or not.
    If we are looking for an Australian to stand alongside the likes of Mollison and who has worked against authoritarian power, I think we can do much better than selecting Assange.

  3. Anne Morris October 31, 2018 at 7:24 pm #

    That’s a good way of thinking David.
    You don’t have to think someone is a saint to recognise the powerful and positive contributions they have made to advancing society.
    Sometimes the prickly and problematic people are the best people who push us forward. We must thank them and recognise their contribution.
    This isnt a case of hero-worship. It’s simply recognising the substantial ways people, even difficult people can make to advancing progress in society.
    The Australian government is meekly standing by while our fellow Australian is tried and found guilty by politicians and the pack of media hacks who resent Assange for showing up their own failures to shine a light into the backrooms of power. You are right.
    His treatment by national governments IS appalling, especially the Australian Government, but also the UK and US.

    • Lidi March 5, 2019 at 5:49 pm #

      Totally agree with you and David. If Australia lets anything happen to Julian Assange we are all in big trouble. If one can not speak the truth you have nothing. Julian can not help himself he is obsessed with revealing the truth no matter what. When governments are corrupt who else will uncover the truth. In all the tens of thousands of cases that JA went to court over they never lost a single case.
      His is a credible source and must be protected at all costs.

  4. Lars Karlsson December 29, 2018 at 11:13 am #

    As far as I know, Sweden’s only involvement was a request to question him over a serious rape allegation, in what way does this count as ‘appalling treatment’ by Sweden?

    It also seems to me the UK has been reasonable. He chose to hide in London and the UK police have not harmed him at all. I imagine if he had hidden in many other countries, the police there would have removed him a long time ago.

    I’m a Swedish permaculture amateur, not a politician. I am simply interested how you came to your conclusions?

  5. David Brown March 19, 2019 at 3:09 pm #

    It is absurd that anyone should be arrested and imprisoned awaiting forcible removal to another country to be questioned by police, on an accusation which might have no validity. In the case of someone like Assange this increases the likelihood of false accusations contrived against him for political reasons. Why do the police not go to where the accused is to do their interviews (as the Swedish police finally did, and then dropped the charges against Assange)?
    Sweden’s action has been outrageously dirty, together with the UK and the USA. The easiest thing was for Sweden to officially promise that Assange would be taken there SOLELY FOR THE PURPOSES OF THE WARRANT and that Sweden would not allow any extraneous purpose, such as extradition to the USA.
    Assange should have been brought back to Australia to be tried under our law.
    I did not get any secret info from Assange. I got it from Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd and other media, but Murdoch will not be touched. He is too big and powerful. The worst country in the whole saga is pathetic Australia. Even UK PM Blair (who adored GWBush) insisted that captured UK citizens must be handed over to the UK for trial and punishment, not sent to Guantánamo Bay. By doing nothing to protect our citizens, PM Howard reinforced our status as a US colony. The Australia’s inaction re Assange carries on the same shameful tradition.

    However, I wonder about the wisdom of publishing such thoughts in a permaculture website. It’s a tricky issue.

    • Lidi May 12, 2019 at 1:52 pm #

      I see David expressing his thoughts here as showing support for Julian Assange to do all we can do as a Permaculture community to protect one of our fellow Australians. Even if JA is not a permie he still has rights. JA has risked his own freedom to give us the freedom of info and share in the wisdom of a corrupt Govt and Defence force crimes. We need to bring JA hone healthy, safe and sound. If we as a community if possible can help JA it would be worth it! As a nation by allowing the USA and the UK to persecute JA makes us all negligent of protecting his human rights.

  6. Mark Robinowitz January 23, 2020 at 7:18 am #

    Thank you for saying this.

    My view is we are unlikely to have large scale permaculture everywhere without converting the global war machines to peaceful purposes.

    One need not agree with everything Assange has done in order to recognize the severe human rights abuses that Britain, America and Sweden have done to him.

    Most importantly, Assange isn’t the issue — war crimes is the issue.

    And the idea that being opposed to the Clintons is somehow traitorous is ridiculous. Trump is the consequence of decades of denial and division in the USA. I don’t support either.

    The most encouraging thing I have seen in four decades of concern about the military industrial intelligence complex was the call last year for a South Africa style Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the USA. Specifically, members of the Kennedy and Martin Luther King families, along with associates of JFK, MLK and RFK, issued this call.

    JFK, MLK and RFK called for converting the war machines toward peaceful purposes. What would the world be today if those shifts had been allowed to happen? What can we all learn from our collective wrong turn as a civilization toward endless war? Australia has played a supporting role (through the “five eyes” network).

    If we are going to mitigate climate chaos, fossil energy depletion, overconsumption, overpopulation, overshoot, we will need unprecedented global cooperation. Militarism is a core part of our predicament.

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