Tag Archives | Climate Change

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.


A History from the Future eBookletTo read the full story, purchase the eBook here or get the download for FREE when you sign up to our mailing list for updates to David Holmgren’s upcoming book RetroSuburbia, due for release in March 2017.

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Great debate, the video

My essay “Crash On Demand” was the primary influence in framing this year’s Great debate at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne,  so we felt that I had to make time to be there (in the middle of our Rocklyn Ashram residential PDC  plus peak fruit and honey harvest).

With an audience of over 250 it was an opportunity to explain the logic of bottom up permaculture activism in response to the energy descent future and hear some of the other perspectives presented. The dichotomy of the unwieldy title, the dreaded C word and the “vote” gave me the gripes, but it was good fun and an opportunity to catch up with Nicole Foss after our joint public speaking tour last winter.

Here’s yours truly kicking off the debate.

For those people who want to see the whole debate (nearly 2hr long, but you should), here is the entire Great Debate (Nicole Foss, about 35 min mark. About 1.20 min mark begins the summing up, voting and Q and A).

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To collapse or not to collapse

greatdebateEvery year in the month of February, Melbourne hosts the Sustainable Living Festival. The 16th annual festival offers a large choice of events of interest. We highly recommend you attend if you are in the zone. Find out more about the festival on its website.

Since its inception four years ago, the Great Debate has quickly become one of the most popular events of the month long festival. In the debate an invited panel of prominent thinkers and leaders swap their opinions on various aspects of sustainability. In 2011, in an inaugural debate, David Suzuki, Ian Lowe, Christine Milne, Clive Hamilton and others debated whether “environmentalism is falling”. Last year, the panel including Bob Brown, Jon Dee, Fiona Sharkie and David Spratt, discussed whether “fear is stronger than optimism in creating rapid social change”.

This year’s debate promises to be a cracker as well. The panel including Nicole Foss, George Marshall, George Monbiot and the author of  ‘Crash on Demand‘ the essay that inspired this year’s debate topic, David Holmgren, will exchange their views whether or not to collapse. A Great Debate not to be missed.

The Crash on Demand is available here, and to see some of the discussions it has caused so far, see here.

More on the Events page.

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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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Crash on Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future

Slide16In Crash on Demand, David Holmgren not only updates Future Scenarios (2007) work but also builds on his essay Money vs Fossil Energy: The battle for control of the world (2009), as a running commentary on the rapid changes in the big picture context for permaculture activism, especially in the Australian context.  It assumes understanding of these previous works and, of course permaculture.  ‘Preaching to the choir’ it may be, but hopefully it contributes new perspectives to keep permaculture activists ahead of the game.

Permaculture teaching and activism have always aimed to work with those already interested in changing their lives, land and communities for the better, rather than proselytising the disinterested majority.  Over many decades, idealistic youth have responded positively to the ‘can-do’, personal empowerment of permaculture design, but it has also attracted more experienced citizens disillusioned with top down mainstream environmentalism’s failure to stop the juggernaut of consumer capitalism.  Similarly, disillusioned social and political activists are just starting to recognise permaculture as a potentially effective pathway for societal change as 20th century style mass movements seem to have lost their potency.

David’s argument is essentially that radical, but achievable, behaviour change from dependent consumers to responsible self-reliant producers (by some relatively small minority of the global middle class) has a chance of stopping the juggernaut of consumer capitalism from driving the world over the climate change cliff.  It maybe a slim chance, but a better bet than current herculean efforts to get the elites to pull the right policy levers; whether by sweet promises of green tech profits or alternatively threats from mass movements shouting for less consumption.

Crash on demand (2Mg pdf)

A Spanish translation (by Silvia Di Blasio, Daniel Mendez and Hernán Del Vecchio): Colapso por Encargo.

In Turkish (translated by Suat Ertüzün): Kahverengi Teknoloji Çağı’na Hoş Geldiniz.

See the discussion this essay has created.

See also the intervies and a summary.


Future Scenarios: How communities can adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change
Also available:

Future Scenarios: How communities can adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change – the book

In it David outlines four scenarios that bring to life the likely cultural, political, agricultural, and economic implications of peak oil and climate change, and the generations-long era of “energy descent” that faces us.

 

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Yolanda aftermath and relief under way (with update Dec 3)

You have no doubt heard about the destruction of a part of the Philippines by the super typhoon Yolanda, and like us here, are wondering what one can do to help.

While it is hotly debated whether the fierce storm was one of the symptoms of climate change or not, some permaculture colleagues and activists in the Philippines and around the region are responding quickly to this disaster with permaculture initiatives. We are sure there are many more initiatives, but here is some info of ones we have heard about.  They obviously need help from us all, and there are many ways one can help.

Renante Areola in Manila reported

We are okay in Manila just signal #1 here. It’s an absolute disaster and together with other permies we organized our own team.

the Permaculture Aid Yolanda team Sabina Arokiam, Pi Villaraza, Nyoman Wen and Lydia Lim talking to David Holmgren on Skype.

the Permaculture Aid Yolanda team Sabina Arokiam, Pi Villaraza, Nyoman Wen and Lydia Lim talking to David Holmgren on Skype.

Nyoman Steffen Wen told us that a group of permaculture relief aid workers has started converging on MAIA Earth VIllage in Palawan, Philippines, which is going to be its base. Steve Cran is organising a reconnaissance team, to canvas affected areas and report back on conditions out there, and begin to identify possible project areas. By Christmas, the team will be ready to roll out trained teams of permaculture aid workers in areas that have been identified as in need, and willing to receive the type of aid it can offer. They are looking for help in the following specific areas.

* funding
* volunteers able to commit to 3 months field work
* logistical assistance (committed online volunteers, researchers, etc)
* publicity
* contacts with other aid networks and organisations
* corporate sponsorship for food, materials, flights, equipment, etc

You can follow the permaculture aid team here.

If you think you can help, please get in touch with them at permaculture.aid.yolanda@gmail.com.

While Bert Peeters says

I have been assisting tribal communities in North Palawan for which relief and rehab means rebuilding houses, boats and looking at sound survival solutions like rainwater collectors, compost toilets and the like.
Devastation is worse in the east and we are still trying to get in at a substantial level so we can really make a permaculture move. For the time being it is still assessing and networking while others are in the relief field.


(Dec 3.)
The Permaculture Aid Yoland team are sending out an SOS.

The funds we have are running out quickly as we encounter more and more needs in these remote villages. We require our recon guide for another week (US$700), and a vehicle as well (US$600/week). We are sleeping in tents in whatever space is available, so have avoided accommodation costs wherever possible, but could use funds for food for the recon team (approx $50/day for 7 people).

Contact Hepburn Relocalisation Network for bank details for donation.

 

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Why I haven’t been flying (much)

David Holmgren is not showing his flying skill, only reading the  landscape (at the 2013 Food Forest PDC)

David Holmgren is not showing his flying skill, only reading the landscape (at the 2013 Food Forest PDC)

Over three decades I have received many requests to travel across Australia and across the world to speak at a conference,  teach a course or participate in some worthy event related to permaculture. My reluctance to travel long distances for short stays has meant I have had to turned down many of these invitations. In more recent years the reactions of invitees has moved from incredulity to understanding, and even admiration, as a small but growing list of public figures  are choosing not to travel by air to highlight the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Continue Reading →

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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)


Future Scenarios: How communities can adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change
Also available:

Future Scenarios: How communities can adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change – the book

In it David outlines four scenarios that bring to life the likely cultural, political, agricultural, and economic implications of peak oil and climate change, and the generations-long era of “energy descent” that faces us.

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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 Change 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

Download English PDF (360 KB)

A Spanish translation by Holger Hieronimi of Tierramor.
Dinero contra energía fósil: La batalla por el control del mundo

Also in Italian, translated by Antonio Gallo.
Soldi contro Energia Fossile: la battaglia per il controllo del mondo


Future Scenarios: How communities can adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change
Also available:

Future Scenarios: How communities can adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change – the book

In it David outlines four scenarios that bring to life the likely cultural, political, agricultural, and economic implications of peak oil and climate change, and the generations-long era of “energy descent” that faces us.

See also Crash on Demand, the 2013 update.

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