Tag Archives | Bushfire

RetroSuburbia Bushfire Resilience Extract

This is an extract from my book RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future, a 550 page richly illustrated manual that has become a best seller since its publication in February 2018. The production and availability of this extract as a free and sharable download is part of our response the Australian bushfire crisis of summer 2019/20.

RetroSuburbia includes 34 chapters across three fields of retrofitting action: the built, biological and behavioural. ‘Bushfire resilient design’ and ‘Household disaster planning’ are two distinct chapters in RetroSuburbia which exemplify strategies of permaculture-inspired adaption to challenging futures that simultaneously address climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

Those who are considering relocation in the light of this bushfire season will find the RetroSuburbian Real Estate Checklist a useful tool to help balance current concerns about bushfire with the myriad other factors to consider in those difficult decisions.

Bushfire resilient home, landscape and community design has been a part of permaculture from its origins in the 1970s on the urban fringe property that Bill Mollison saved from the great Hobart fires of 1967. My own focus on bushfire intensified following the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 including the documentation of a bushfire resistant building in The Flywire House (1991/2009) and design and development of Melliodora, our 1 hectare property on the edge of Hepburn Springs where we have had a ‘stay and actively defend’ bushfire plan since 1988. Following Black Saturday (2009), my teaching and advocacy lead to writing Bushfire resilient landscapes and communities, a 52-page report to our own bushfire vulnerable community and Hepburn Shire council.

In February 2019 we had the first direct bushfire threat to Melliodora in thirty years leading to Reflections on fire. That experience had us tweaking our plans for this summer, which has been so devastating in other fire-vulnerable regions where climate change drought has been more intense.

A new essay Bushfire Resilient Land and Climate Care draws on the truths of the polarised debate between those identifying climate change as the root cause and those recognising weak or absent land management as the direct cause. It paints a vision of a resilient and re-energised Australia that could grow from small beginnings in fire-impacted and vulnerable communities at the urban/bushland interface.

As always, crisis is an opportunity for personal, household, community and national reflection to Creatively use and respond to change

Dr David Holmgren
Co-originator of Permaculture
January 2020

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Bushfire Resilient Land and Climate Care

Anglehook State Forest Victoria  Winter 1983 in the aftermath of the Ash Wednesday bushfires. Photo: David Holmgren

In this thoughtfully written document, David Holmgren, co-originator of the permaculture concept outlines that while devastating, the recent Australian bushfires provide an opportunity to come to terms with both the legacies of colonisation and the unfolding climate emergency in ways that empower bottom up householder and community level resilience.

Here is the Executive Summary to give you a taster:

Fire is an intrinsic part of the Australian landscape. It has become more destructive since European colonisation, and over recent decades, we have experienced even greater destruction due to accelerating climate change and changes in land use. Australia could, and should, be leading the world in transitioning to a renewable energy base to reduce the root cause of the crisis.

Australian landscapes were once subject to the oldest continual land management practices through indigenous cultural burning practices; stopping these practices has left us with denser, fire-vulnerable forests. Traditional landuses of grazing and forestry that contributed to prevention and control of bushfires have declined across large areas of the country and been replaced by residential, recreational and conservation uses in recent decades that increase our vulnerability to bushfire.

Australia arguably has the best fire-fighting capacity in the world. However fuel reduction burning is currently the default land management tool in reducing fire danger. This is effective in some cases, but not in catastrophic bushfires. The season for safe fuel reduction burning is contracting. Further, burning can lead to lower-nutrient, drier soils with more fire-prone vegetation.

A strategic focus on the urban/bushland interface and rural residential areas where bushfires create the greatest economic and social havoc demands a much broader suit of land management practices than increasing already problematic fuel reduction burning:

  • A return to indigenous cultural burning practices where canopy and soil organic matter are left intact
  • Greater use of grazing animals combined with farming systems that use native pasture species, fire-retardant shelterbelts and silvopasture systems to build soil water- and nutrient-holding capacity
  • Managing fuels with chippers, slashers and groomers as well as livestock trampling.
  • A greater focus on fuel reduction through decomposition; research is needed on the role of microbes in speeding decomposition, and the effects of lost soil calcium.
  • Rehydration of landscapes, using Natural Sequence Farming and Keyline techniques, especially along water courses receiving urban storm water.
  • Protecting and managing dense areas of fire-retardant ‘novel ecosystems’ near towns and urban fringes, including non-native species such as willow.
  • The ecologically sensitive thinning of forests utilising the resultant biomass can also reduce our fossil fuel dependence through:
    – Carbon neutral Combined Heat and Power systems to generate dispatchable power at multiple scales, especially local scale.
    – As biochar – a soil amendment providing longterm carbon sequestration and improving soil water- and nutrient-holding capacity and microbial activity.

Most of these strategies are more labour-intensive than industrial-scale clearing or fuel-reduction burning so are less appealing to government decision makers but have potential to reform and reenergise community-based activity with government support.

While all these strategies have their proponents and opponents, thinning our forests to reduce fire risk and provide carbon neutral, dispatchable, renewable energy to accelerate the shift to a 100% renewable power grid is by far the most controversial. This idea is seen by most conservationists as inviting another massive degradation of our forests in the pursuit of business as usual. Building confidence that we can manage forests for our own safety and immediate needs while we protect our biodiversity drawdown carbon and kick the fossil fuel habit is a cultural challenge that requires leadership by environmentalists who understand how the legal fiction of “terra nullius” has distorted the conservation paradigm.

Whatever the hope for adaptive top down responses, households and communities need to become more self- and collectively-reliant as the capacity of centralised systems to manage escalating crises through command and control strategies declines. Community involvement is critical in managing local landscapes for reduced fire threat, especially in the urban/bushland interface. Flow-on benefits include community engagement, empowerment and resilience, and reduced costs to taxpayers. We need a reform of local laws to allow for small-scale community actions to be undertaken with minimal red tape.

At a household level, a well thought-out and practiced fire plan, and retrofits to buildings and outdoor spaces, allows for staying and defending a property as part of a resilient lifestyle that reduces the load on authorities managing mass evacuations.

This vision could bridge an increasingly polarised debate: empowering those on the libertarian right to manage land for the better; offering the green left a viable alternative for local power generation, bypassing international corporations and providing the ‘sensible centre’ a common sense way forwardto allow us to finally be at home in this land.

You can read the rest of the piece here.

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RetroSuburbia Bushfire Resilience Extract

This is an extract from my book RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future, a 550 page richly illustrated manual that has become a best seller since its publication in February 2018. The production and availability of this extract as a free and sharable download is part of our response the Australian bushfire crisis of summer 2019/20.

RetroSuburbia includes 34 chapters across three fields of retrofitting action: the built, biological and behavioural. ‘Bushfire resilient design’ and ‘Household disaster planning’ are two distinct chapters in RetroSuburbia which exemplify strategies of permaculture-inspired adaption to challenging futures that simultaneously address climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

Those who are considering relocation in the light of this bushfire season will find the RetroSuburbian Real Estate Checklist a useful tool to help balance current concerns about bushfire with the myriad other factors to consider in those difficult decisions.

Bushfire resilient home, landscape and community design has been a part of permaculture from its origins in the 1970s on the urban fringe property that Bill Mollison saved from the great Hobart fires of 1967. My own focus on bushfire intensified following the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 including the documentation of a bushfire resistant building in The Flywire House (1991/2009) and design and development of Melliodora, our 1 hectare property on the edge of Hepburn Springs where we have had a ‘stay and actively defend’ bushfire plan since 1988. Following Black Saturday (2009), my teaching and advocacy lead to writing Bushfire resilient landscapes and communities, a 52-page report to our own bushfire vulnerable community and Hepburn Shire council.

In February 2019 we had the first direct bushfire threat to Melliodora in thirty years leading to Reflections on fire. That experience had us tweaking our plans for this summer, which has been so devastating in other fire-vulnerable regions where climate change drought has been more intense.

A new essay Bushfire Resilient Land and Climate Care draws on the truths of the polarised debate between those identifying climate change as the root cause and those recognising weak or absent land management as the direct cause. It paints a vision of a resilient and re-energised Australia that could grow from small beginnings in fire-impacted and vulnerable communities at the urban/bushland interface.

As always, crisis is an opportunity for personal, household, community and national reflection to Creatively use and respond to change

Dr David Holmgren
Co-originator of Permaculture
January 2020

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Bushfire resilient landscapes

This is a video recording of David Holmgren presentation on bushfire resilient landscapes, buildings, homes and communities in a forum held in April 2015 in Hewett. The forum was initiated by Transition Gawler (TG) to support and educate residents on fire prevention and mitigation through a new set of design principles.

Time: 7pm Friday 24 April 2015
Place: Hewett Community Centre, 24 Kingfisher Dv, Hewett (near Gawler)

The other three parts of the forum are available below.
Part 1 – Introduction to Forum/Transition Gawler
vimeo.com/esmedia/fire1

Part 2 – Helen Hennessy – CFS – overview of Sampson Flat Fire
vimeo.com/esmedia/fire2

Part 3 – Tony Fox – Natural Resources AMLR Gawler Office – Sampson Flat Fire Recovery
vimeo.com/esmedia/fire3

On the subject, you may be interested in the following case studies David Holmgren has done.

The flywire house: a case study in design against bushfire

Melliodora: a case study in cool climate permaculture

or come and see for yourself an example of bushfire resilient landscape by taking part in the whole day tour at Melliodora.

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How to create a resilient community

Back in 2009, the Black Saturday bushfire season rekindled a major focus of David’s permaculture design work, with a discussion paper for the local community, the reprinting of Flywire House and a series of presentations in the bushfire affected regions with Joan Webster, renowned bushfire educator and author who coined the strategy “stay and defend or leave early” to communicate the complexities of rational responses to bushfire threat. Those events were organised by permaculture colleague and Black Saturday  survivor Daryl Taylor.  Local bushfire forums organised by Hepburn Relocalisation Network followed with David, Joan and Daryl as speakers. In 2011 David and Daryl joined forces running workshops and further presentations on bushfire resilient landscapes and communities in NSW fire prone communities. In May 2013 Daryl hosted a two day  event,  Regenerating People..Place..Prosperity…Preparedness that brought together an incredible range of scientists, educators and activists all involved in various aspects. One of the highlights for both David and Su was the presentation  by another  local, bushfire scientist Kevin Tolhurst

This forthcoming HRN forum on Friday 17th October  brings together these three dynamic central Victorians to deepen local understanding of Firestorm Physics, Household Fire Planning and Personal Resilience ahead of the rapidly approaching bushfire season.

Both of Joan Webster’s books the Essential Bushfire Safety tips (3rd edition) and the Complete Bushfire Safety book are available from our online shop.

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More great books in stock

We love good books at Melliodora, and through our online shop, we would love to share some of the good books we find. You know, we choose what we distribute from our online shop carefully, share what we like and what we think deserves to be distributed. In other words, the items for sale you see at our shop carry our seal of approval. You may have noticed that we have recently added three new titles. You can find more about each item in the shop, but we would like to give you a bit of sales pitch.

Before getting into that, we would like to point why it is a good idea to order books from us.

Sure you may find the same titles sold much cheaply at Amazon and other big online distributors. But do they give back fair share to the authors and publishers? Remember “fair share”? If you want to give as much to those who deserve their share, please choose where you purchase books. At HD we do our best to keep our prices competitive, whilst managing our business ethically, so that authors and publishers are rewarded fairly.

the-weed-forager-s-handbookEnough rantings. First up, we have this elegantly produced The Weed Forager’s Handbook by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland. Adam is no stranger in the permaculture scene, having founded the Energy Bulletin (which has morphed since into Resilience.org), the Permablitz movement (with Dan Palmer) and Very Edible Gardens. His partner in crime, Annie, is an experienced gardener and dissatisfied foodie, with a background in art. Together, they have put together a beautiful and informative handbook.

200px-Elizabeth_Blachrie_Blackwell

Elizabeth Blachrie Blackwell

We especially like the look and feel of the book, maybe partly due to its extensive used of those beautifully detailed old botanical illustrations. (The front cover picture, shown here, is Herbarium Blackweellianum by Elizabeth Blachrie Blackwell from 1757).

David Holmgren says this about this pocket size handbook.

This handbook is the essential text for both novice and experienced wild food foragers. The guidelines, excellent ID photos and choice of most useful and common species will give the novice confidence, while the facts and recipes will extend all but the most advanced weed aficionados. For the gardener tired of joyless weeding Adam and Annie open our eyes to the fact that the problem can indeed be the solution.

And the Gardening Australia presenter, Costa Georgiadis.

….. if you eat, then this book is a must-have companion.

See more about them on the Eat that weed website.

Permaculture4inMENNext up we have the Permaculture Handbook: Garden farming for town and country by Peter Bane. Being a long-time permaculture writer, publisher of the Permaculture Activist magazine, teacher and practitioner, Peter may need no introduction. In this book, he crystallises the concept of “garden farming”, and by applying pattern language, developed by Christopher Alexander et al., he adds a new page to permaculture design methods. Based on his own experience and his extensive observation, the nitty gritty of garden farming in suburbs and peri-urban landscapes are convincingly explained.

Here’s what David Holmgren has to say about this book.

Of all the permaculture books from Australia, America and around the world, this one most completely fills the big space between my own articulation of permaculture theory in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2002) and my earlier intimate documentation of our own efforts towards garden farming in Melliodora: a case study in cool climate permaculture (1995). This book is likely to become the classic design manual for those with the energy and enthusiasm to become the garden farmers of the future.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8zdvj4wxqg&w=560&h=315]

fartThen, the Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, who the New York Times once described as “one of the unlikely rock stars of the American food scene”. In this book, Katz covers everything from the benefits of fermentation to human health to practical how-tos. The examples of fermented food and drinks are extensive, from alcohol, pickles, yoghurt, sourdough bread, porridge, amazake, tempeh, salami, natto and many more, which makes this book, the most comprehensive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation ever published.

With full-color illustrations and extended resources, this book provides essential wisdom for cooks, homesteaders, farmers, gleaners, foragers, and food lovers of all kinds who want to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for arguably the oldest form of food preservation, and part of the roots of culture itself.

We at Melliodora thought we had incorporated a fair amount of fermented food in our diet, but browsing the Art of Fermentation, we realised we have only touched the tip of iceberg. We must say, the kitchen without a copy of this, is not a kitchen.

6969And the last but not least. Long out of stock title by Joan Webster, Essential Bushfire Safety Tips is back in stock. It is the third edition, revised after the devastating Black Saturday bushfires which claimed so many lives and properties in Victoria in 2009. If you happen to be living in a bushfire prone area like most of us in Australia, and in vast areas of the US and Russia, then this book is the essential resource to prepare for fire. We need to devise our own fire plans, as fire authories are limited in what they can do, especially their ability  to defend you, your house and property from fire, a threat that seems to be increasing in ferocity and frequency as a consequence of global climate ‘weirding’. Even for those who live in urban areas, it is important to understand bushfire so they can decode media reports, and participate in the public discussions and policy formulations.

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Bushfire from a permaculture perspective

Screen shot 2013-10-18 at 7.34.41 PMBushfire rages in NSW and a state of emergency is declared.

Are these fires unprecedented? Possibly so this early in the season.

Do these fires reflect human induced climate change so far? Almost certainly.

Were the weather conditions particularly bad? Not so far, compared with Black Saturday in Vic.

Would a massively expanded burning program have prevented house loss?  Maybe, but with costs and side effects; including more accidental fire damage to property

Does the number of houses burnt reflect ferocity of the fires? Not particularly.

What does it reflect? The terrible landscape position of most housing on ridge tops above steep slopes and the extremely high flammability of Blue Mountains vegetation growing in a high rainfall, but very infertile, region.

Is there anything that can be done by the householder from a permaculture perspective?

Lots. Most importantly, unattended houses were between 3 and 8 time more likely to burn than attended (Blanchi & Leonard Bushfire CRC) In other words,  residents who stay and defend, have a high chance of saving a house (and a very high chance of survival even if the house burns because almost all houses burn after the fire front has passed).

The picture above (from ABC website) is one of the many houses burnt during the recent fire showing the relatively unscarred native vegetation around the remains after a very hot house (rather than bush) fire.  Bushfires do not in general demolish houses. Instead they create an ember storm that accumulates around the house and most importantly enters the roof space leading to ignition and intense fire in undefended houses (mostly after the fire front has passed).


Here are some of the resources on our website for building up bushfire resilience for both your house and community at large.
From our online shop, the following publications have ample information on the subject.

The Flywire House:A case study in design against bushfire (1983)

Melliodora: A case study in cool climate permaculture

The Complete Bushfire Safety Book by Joan Webster

The Essential Bushfire Safety Tips by Joan Webster

The following resources may also be of your interest.

Bushfire Resilient Communities and Landscapes (report 2009)

Bushfire Resilient Communities and Landscapes (presentation in the Blue Mountains 2011)

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Bushfire resilient landscapes and communities (presentation in Blue Mountains)

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

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfcQnYilSFs]

Part II

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jP5_XlJuvKk]

Part III

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=junef8CiAts]

Part IV

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCjJcePJbSE]

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Bushfire resilient communities and landscapes presentation

Sustainable Living Festival – February 2010

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.


The Flywire House: A case study in design against bushfire

 

Also available:

The Flywire House: A case study in design against bushfire

Originally published in 1991, this classic book has been reprinted and is still compatible with latest understandings, providing a unique case study approach. A new foreword reviews the material in the context of the devastating 2009 ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires in Victoria, Australia.

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Bushfire Resilient Communities and Landscapes

A 52 page discussion paper focused on David’s home community of Daylesford and Hepburn where it is already influencing community and local government action.

It covers a wide range of issues relevant to bushfire vulnerable communities in Australia and abroad including psychological and social preparedness through to management of fire prone landscapes. All of these issues are addressed in the context of the wider climate/energy/economic crisis and illustrate permaculture thinking beyond, but including, the garden.

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