Tag Archives | Permaculture Community

Permaculture Design Course Rocklyn Ashram

Are you looking to live a more sustainable life?

Become less dependent on big business and supermarkets?

Design a resilient system in the face of growing uncertainties?

Retrofit your house, your community and your life?

Meet like-minded people?

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 15 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 one and a half 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.

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. Su 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.

The accommodation

Accommodation is camping in the grounds of the ashram. You will need to BYO tent and gear. Alternatively you can choose to stay in a gender segregated triple share dorm room or a private room. Please note, these last two options incur additional fees.

 

 

Field Trips

You will visit a wide array of permaculture demonstration sites during the PDC, ranging from urban to rural and large scale to small scale properties. Some were built with permaculture principles in mind, such as Melliodora, the home of David Holmgren and his partner Su Dennett. And some have been retrofitted over a time, such a Tree Elbow, home of permaculture activists, Artist as Family.

House and Garden Tours

It’s great to sit and learn about the ethics and principles of permaculture but it’s on the field trips that it all comes to life. We feel very spoilt that we will have the opportunity to show you around the homes and gardens of the most exciting permaculture properties in the Central Victoria region.

 

Tutors

You will learn from the co-originator of permaculture, David Holmgren, experienced permaculture educator, Beck Lowe, and a team of excellent permaculture practitioners and tutors. Their depth of practical and theoretical knowledge will make this a very special PDC. There will 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 and writings 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.

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Stephen emails David: a collaboration

What follows is an email conversation between David Holmgren and Stephen, a reader and practitioner of RetroSuburbia.

Stephen 10/10/20:

Dear David,

Due to your experience in both considering possible future scenarios and devising frameworks to adapt to them, I would like to ask you a few questions if you have the time to answer them.

To provide some background, I feel as if I am in a similar position today to where you were at the beginning of the rise of Neoliberalism in the late 1970s where leaders around the world decided to press the accelerator in response to the growing awareness of ecological limits.

David:

Thank you for your thoughtful and important questioning about the retrosuburbia strategy in an increasingly uncertain future. I trust that in replying at some length to your questions, you will be happy for us to repost these in some form online.

Stephen: 

Today, it is clear that the federal and state governments in Australia are pressing forward with major gas and coal developments despite a general awareness that we are fast moving towards dangerous climate change (and other ecological limits) and a lesser awareness that we may not even have an adequate supply of energy in the future to deal with these crises.

David:

I agree that the more interventionist (Keynesian) economic responses to restart the national and global economy mostly seem extremely dysfunctional in the face of such pervasive evidence of ecological limits. As the stark contrast between the issues and the action become clearer to more people, this tends to drive some people to radical political action, others to adaptive behaviour (including retrosuburbia) and still more to depression or denial. I have always been sceptical about whether some combination of these is likely to change the course of history. However in my essay Crash on Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future (2013), I postulated that radical self-reliance associated with retrosuburbia by some significant minority of the population could trigger changes more effectively than mobilising mass movements demanding structural change. 

As always, I remain circumspect and sceptical, rather than certain, in considering how much agency we have to avoid more severe economic and social chaos in response the multiple Limits-to-Growth factors. Because I have had to live with these evolving, but more or less consistent, understandings most of my adult life, I don’t get so caught up in the sense of emergency that characterises both radical political reaction and survivalist responses. While I respect those using the Climate Emergency framing to galvanise action with the implied hope of avoiding catastrophe, it bad for health and not really possible to maintain emergency level alertness and action for a lifetime. All crises become normal as they extend over time, something that is no longer necessary to point out to people in Melbourne enduring the longest continuous Covid lockdown.

The limits of any rapid renewable tech rollout to both avert dangerous climate change and maintain some more efficient version of globalised consumer capitalism for the masses of currently rich countries, let alone the rest of the world, is one of the messages that gets lost amongst most people desperately hoping for “the right” policies. Carbon Civilisation and the Energy Descent Future by Samuel Alexander and Joshua Floyd is my current recommended quick read for those still needing to decide whether to maintain faith in the various versions of ‘Green New Deals’ discussed in the media and promoted in Australia by The Greens (but not yet by either of the major parties even though the case for Australia succeeding with some version of this big renewable tech future is stronger than almost any other country).

Stephen:

It seems even more clear on a scientific level that the effects of climate change could make human survival unlikely. The language that scientists are using is becoming more alarming and I am becoming more convinced that we may not avert this catastrophe due to the absolute recklessness of our political leaders.

Based on your research, is this an alarmist position to take or are we headed into such severe territory?

David:

I incorporated the risks of both unstoppable climate tipping points and near-term collapse in oil production in my 2009 Future Scenarios work, leading to the more severe Earth Steward and Lifeboat scenarios. But in my ‘Crash on Demand’ essay I “called it” that we were heading into the Brown Tech near-term scenario, which could unfold over the next few decades. I see more and more evidence that the subtle complexities I gather under the term “Brown Tech” are our present and near future (next few decades). I still assume that any deep transformation of the Earth leading to human extinction would take centuries, independent of whether it could be averted by human action or not.

There is nothing wrong be being alarmist when the stakes are so high and the uncertainties about the dynamics of climate change so complex, let alone the other intersecting Limits-to-Growth factors.

Stephen:

Would the RetroSuburbia framework still be a mitigation strategy in the face of this continued fossil fuel development or is it a serious adaptive strategy even in the most severe scenario that we could be facing? Or is it a way to buy time before the seemingly inevitable takes place that scientists are now warning us about?

David:

The pandemic has highlighted how much of the economy is unnecessary or extravagant ways to meet the psychosocial needs of the population, and these needs could easily be met without the need to commute and consume. I believe there is still a fair chance that the pandemic will be the trigger for the global economy contracting enough to reduces GHG emissions faster than any likely combination of climate policies worldwide. The most likely way for this to happen is that the unprecedented creation of money by central banks will fail to convince the global connected networks of market traders and investors (probably less than 0.1% of the global population) that the values being created in the stock, real estate and financial markets are worth enough to avoid a rush for the exits that more money creation fails to stop. 

However, I thought the scale of money creation following the GFC would have been enough to do the job. Instead of crashing the system, it led to the greatest transfer of wealth in history (possibly being eclipsed by the latest larger round of money creation) and triggered the right populist politics most dramatically associated with Trump in the USA. Amongst other impacts, it managed to further accelerate dysfunctional growth in energy and resource consumption and consequently in GHG emissions. So, as with hopes around the peaking of conventional oil around the same time, hoping for a crash to save us may be as naive as hoping for Elon Musk to do so. So much for my attempts to predict the future – even if I am a little chuffed at my timing of 2020 for “The Second Great Depression” in my ‘Aussie St’ story. 

To address the core of your question, I think widespread ad-hoc adoption of RetroSuburbia across the low-density residential landscapes of Australia and other similar countries could be a significant contribution to a “convergence and contraction” strategy, where affluent countries radically reduce their consumption and resulting GHG emissions and so provide leadership and modelling for change in more problematic higher-density residential habitats in both rich and poor countries. 

I doubt whether the direct mitigation effect would be as great as what countries like Australia could do through a diversity of regenerative agriculture and forestry systems to sequester carbon (or the less proven, but great prospects for Marine Permaculture to do the same in the coastal, if not oceanic, domains). The problem is that so few Australians have the connections, skills or access to land to participate in these processes, other than indirectly as the consumers of the products of land- and sea-based regenerative systems. Short of some sort of harsh return to the countryside, most people are going to contribute and adapt to future scenarios in our current residential habitats. 

I see retrosuburbia as an integrated mitigation/adaptive strategy that is accessible and realistic for viral adoption and adaption by the majority. It will help in other indirect ways through:

  • undermining the financial and other drivers of GDP growth, thus it could extend the growth-contracting effects of the pandemic, while generating social and biophysical assets for cushioning the later stages of energy descent.
  • acting as a benign nursery in which to raise the next generation with the skills to face harsher realities, which may require greater degrees of urban to rural migration to manage the land for collective sustenance and essential ecological services. 

As an example of the sorts of actions we will need to take to defend and strengthen retrosuburbia, my ‘Bushfire Resilient Land and Climate Care’ essay outlined how the community-based management of forests fringing our residential landscapes could be an emblematic and practical way to address the divide in our communities about the causes of the bushfire crisis and what can be done, which satisfies truths on both side of the divide.

In my ‘History from the Future’ story (2016) I attempted to show how the positives of the retrosuburbia strategy might play out in our central Victoria bioregion over more than half a century into the future. As you may note from the story (which is a hybrid of my Green and Brown Tech scenarios), the conditions in Melbourne are more dire. Presumably efforts at retrosuburbia have partially failed to avoid the adverse impacts of social and economic breakdown, until the success of retrosuburbia and other solutions in regional and rural Victoria lead to restorative action in Melbourne. While the world avoids the worst climate scenarios in this story, the relocalisation of the economy to reduce both the advantages and adverse impacts of globalised forces only really takes place as a result of the second crisis of 2060s. It is interesting to note that the short war between the USA and China in 2022, contributing to the dire economic conditions in Australia, looks more plausible than when I wrote the story. One of the aims of this story is to show that while climate change and resource depletion might be the primary drivers of future scenarios, their expression is likely to be through economic, ideological, political and military outcomes while environmental factors are likely to remain in the background.

While we are talking fiction as a way to understand emerging futures, 470 is a great read with a very realistic near term climate change future. It is interesting that in both my short story and Linda Woodrow’s novel, the places with more resilience tend to be rural and small town rather than large cities. I think that while retrosuburbia in some form is the best option for many people making personal and collective plans for the future, I think smaller towns provide more of a sweet point for implementation of those strategies than our largest cities, even if the dynamic of the Brown Tech scenario suggests government and other services could contract from rural and even regional centres, to maintain those in the city.

Stephen:

I wanted to ask you specifically because I like your analytical style of thinking and how it transcends multiple disciplines. Plus I can clearly see that you have given this a lot of thought in the RetroSuburbia book (bought one two years ago, a fantastic book, well done).

David:

I think the pandemic has highlighted for many people the paucity of their household situation, especially for those living alone in apartments without connection to nature, partners or kin. The household consolidation strategy that we highlighted in RetroSuburbia as the most likely way in which ordinary folk would adapt to harder times, has been unfolding in the US for decades, but anecdotal evidence here suggests an enormous acceleration due to the pandemic. For my initial reflections on the relevance of the retrosuburbia strategy in the context of the pandemic see The Class Divide in a Time of Pandemic; a permaculture perspective. For a rare foray into highlighting sensible policy responses to the Limits-to-Growth crisis see RetroSuburbia, Energy Descent, Degrowth and TEQs and my more recent rabble-rousing RetroSuburbia Roadmap.

Stephen:

Thanks for your time and if you get the chance to answer, I would be really interested in what you think about this.

David:

Hopefully these thoughts and linked writings will help with your own plans to grasp the opportunities of rapid changing context, contribute to minimising the damage in the local and wider world, and find the wisdom to recognise what we cannot change and deal with the resulting grief.

Sincerely

David Holmgren


On 15
th Oct 2020 at 3:09pm Stephen replied with the following points and further references 

In response to David’s comment on the framing of climate change as an emergency Stephen replied: 

It’s a very useful way to think of the Climate Emergency framing; a way to galvanise action but not a state of mind that can be maintained over the long term. Having read Kris De Decker’s article on what a 100% renewable Europe or US region would look like, it looks very clear that infrastructure would need to be oversized to overcome the intermittency of renewables which would greatly increase the cost and possibly negate the environmental benefits (as compared to fossil fuel energy systems) of renewable energy. 

Ironically, Australia is actually one of the few countries that could pull this off given our low population density, wealth and high amount of wind and sun energy available though I completely agree that demand reduction should be the first priority; once demand is really reduced, more benign and localised energy sources become far easier to implement. Also enjoyed the Crash On Demand essay, given that the financial system is heading that way anyway, it’s an idea that could allow us to choose the timing of what is an inevitable financial collapse to shift onto a better path, especially if community and household infrastructure can be developed to cushion the landing or so to speak.

In response to David’s comment about “alarmism” Stephen replied:

I had a read of the Future Scenarios website, very interesting especially that the Brown Tech scenario is unfolding. I particularly liked the explanation of nesting which is a useful way to look at why responses across different power hierarchies have ranged from Lifeboat to Brown Tech where even the same political parties in Australia have somewhat been different or where different political parties have had the same response (e.g: Green Tech response in South Australia, Brown Tech response federally or that Northern Territory and Queensland state Labor governments have adopted Brown Tech policies in line with the Brown Tech policies of their opposition party at a federal level).

 

In response to David’s “prediction” of the Second Great Depression in the 2020s Stephen replied:

When the pandemic and consequent lockdowns hit Australia, I had to remember the mention of a 2020s “Second Great Depression” in the RetroSuburbia book (first read it in 2018). Was a little amazed at the coincidence of timing with your predictions. As for other future predictions, I am understanding that it is very hard to make predictions when there is a dynamic interplay between the financial sector, energy use and extraction and what is happening to the greater biosphere. 

I never thought that governments and investors would be foolish enough to chase lower grades of fossil fuel energy on credit nor to throw billions of dollars at the real estate market to keep pushing land values out of reach for first time buyers but the last two decades have left me with the feeling that anything can happen if the wealthiest people want to try and keep this system going. Whilst I still know the possibility in my bones that this can’t keep up, I have conceded that this may continue on for longer than I thought would be possible and have adjusted household planning to reflect this reality. 

In response to David’s comments about bridging the ideological divides in our communities Stephen replied:

Thanks for the clarification. It is imperative to keep skills alive and ready to be upscaled when it becomes absolutely clear to the majority that these skills are vital. I think this is a really big strength of the RetroSuburbia vision. Through my personal experience, I have also found that many of the elements of RetroSuburbia are appealing regardless of a person’s political leanings. As an example, installing rainwater tanks, wicking beds and solar panels are something that I have found to be popular amongst people across the political divide. 

In response to David’s comments about ecological and energetic drivers of future scenarios not be recognised Stephen replied:

Absolutely. It is sometimes hard to imagine what climate change and resource depletion will actually look like, the likely scenario being as you described an economic, political and military expression. This is eerily reminiscent of what has happened in Syria where climate change induced drought led to civil unrest which was fuelled by geopolitics. 

In response to David’s recent writings about the pandemic Stephen replied:

To build on the move from the household to the community (and even beyond) in terms of a better future, there are two things that I think may help to bridge the gap between the household and governmental level. Adam Brock’s book, Change Here Now is permaculture inspired and seems to look at pattern-based solutions for community transformation. I am also interested to see what happens with the 2020 Glasgow agreement (not to be confused with the UN climate talks) which can be found at https://glasgowagreement.net/. It is a coming together of 55 environmental organisations that are drafting an agreement to take action on the climate situation in the full knowledge that governments, the UN and big business can no longer be relied upon to deal with this crisis. 

Although, this focuses on climate change rather than the other crises that we are facing, it could be a very interesting dynamic in your future scenarios if the realisation hits home for activist organisations that asking governments and big business to change is no longer a viable strategy and that a new strategy is required.

Finally in response to David’s comments about personal plans and grief about the world Stephen replied:

Thanks again for your really thoughtful response and having read all of the linked writings, it has definitely provided some clarity around what to do next (at a personal and community level) and to have the wisdom to practice grief for the things that we have lost and are unlikely to recover. It has been very enlightening to converse over such big picture issues and the RetroSuburbian vision.

Yours Sincerely,

Stephen 

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RetroSuburbia Online Book Launch

Yep, it’s true: permaculture co-originator David Holmgren is launching an online version of his bestselling book, RetroSuburbia: The Downshifter’s Guide To a Resilient Future.

About the launch

RetroSuburbia: The Downshifter’s Guide To a Resilient Future is a book for this moment in history.

Permaculture co-originator, David Holmgren and the team at Melliodora Publishing have decided, amidst the crisis of COVID-19 and its ensuing economic fallout, to release their 2018 bestseller as an online ‘Pay-What-You-Can’ resource accessible to people worldwide who are looking for grassroots solutions to the challenges of this unique time.

Register now and head to: www.retrosuburbia.com at 7pm (Melbourne Time) on Wed 8th April to join the live-stream book launch and to access the book online.

The launch party will be broadcast live (via the RetroSuburbia YouTube and Facebook pages) and hosted by ABC Gardening Australia’s Costa Georgiadis with live music from world-renowned permaculture electro-funk-swing band, Formidable Vegetable.

SCHEDULE (AEST):

7:00pm: Prelude from Formidable Vegetable’s Charlie Mgee

7:05pm: Intro & welcome from Costa

7:10pm: David Holmgren followed by Q&A (from YouTube comments)

7:40pm: Music from Formidable Vegetable

A BIT MORE ABOUT THE BOOK

A hefty tome of almost 600 full-colour pages filled with hundreds of photos and Brenna Quinlan’s beautiful illustrations, RetroSuburbia is part manual and part manifesto. The book shows how the suburbs can be transformed to become productive and resilient in a world of economic instability and energy-descent. It focuses on what can be done right now by an individual at the household level.

RetroSuburbia is a source of inspiration, introducing concepts and outlining patterns and practical solutions. It empowers people to make positive changes in their lives. As with David’s previous work, it is thought provoking and provocative.

If you are already on the path of downshifting and living simply, exploring RetroSuburbia will be a confirmation and celebration that you are on the right track and guide you on the next steps forward. If you are just beginning this journey, it provides a guide to the diversity of options and helps work out priorities for action. For people concerned about making ends meet in more challenging times, RetroSuburbia provides a new lens for creatively sidestepping the obstacles.

WHY RELEASE AN ONLINE VERSION OF THE BOOK NOW?

David explains:

As the COVID-19 pandemic first exploded across our globalised world, I found myself unsure of priorities in this time of pivotal change, even though I had been tracking information about Wuhan since January. Not because I didn’t know that a global pandemic of this scale was on the cards, or that it could overwhelm the most technologically advanced and powerful nations on the planet. Not because it could be the acceleration of what I coined “the energy descent future” two decades ago (in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability). And not because we are not well prepared compared with most to weather the storm.

It was more the realisation of this being a grand turning point that will test a lifetime’s work in articulating and demonstrating a way of living connected to place and the seasons with minimal ecological footprint, conserving precious non-renewable resources, and regenerating natural capital that can sustain future generations after the pulse of fossil fuelled civilisation has faded.

Even more intensely, it was the understanding that such turning points are opportunities to leverage change in positive directions and avoid the worst consequences of delay and indecision.

You can read the rest of David’s statement here.

 

Register for the free online book launch now!

 

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The Problem is the Solution: how permaculture-designed household isolation can lead to RetroSuburbia

As the COVID-19 pandemic first exploded across our globalised world, I found myself unsure of priorities in this time of pivotal change, even though I had been tracking information about Wuhan since January. Not because I didn’t know that a global pandemic of this scale was on the cards, or that it could overwhelm the most technologically advanced and powerful nations on the planet. Not because it could be the acceleration of what I coined “the energy descent future” two decades ago (in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability). And not because we are not well prepared compared with most to weather the storm.

It was more the realisation of this being a grand turning point that will test a lifetime’s work in articulating and demonstrating a way of living connected to place and the seasons with minimal ecological footprint, conserving precious non-renewable resources, and regenerating natural capital that can sustain future generations after the pulse of fossil fuelled civilisation has faded. 

Even more intensely, it was the understanding that such turning points are opportunities to leverage change in positive directions and avoid the worst consequences of delay and indecision. 

On the other hand, after running the last booked tour of Melliodora – tours that we have been doing since 1990 – part of me (at 65) wanted to “retire” and watch it all unfold, confident that we had passed our insights, skills and passion onto new generations of permaculture practitioners, designers, teachers and activists. Confident that this has empowered them to create a better world now with whatever we can salvage from the obsolete one, while cherishing nature’s gifts that are still at hand. 

Of course for most people attempting to grapple with the daily shift of news, advice and orders at the start of a command economy (where the government rather than the market runs the show), my perspective probably seems like apocalyptic nonsense. Pandemics have happened before and society has coped and recovered. Surely modern communications and medicine will mean the impacts will be less and the recovery swifter. It will be interesting to see if these advantages we have over our forebears can compensate for the litany of disabilities and vulnerabilities created by decades of debt-fuelled and globalised consumer capitalism. 

COVID-19, an invisible agent that barely qualifies as a lifeform, is bringing the most powerful civilisation the world has ever seen to a grinding halt. In three months it may have led to 10 to 20 times greater reduction in greenhouse gas emissions than all the science, talk and technology have done in more than three decades.

A home-based lifestyle of self-reliance, minimal and slow travel does not provide protection against getting a virus as infectious as COVID-19, but it provides a base for social distancing and isolation that is stimulating and healthy rather than a place of detention. This psychological health-giving factor may be more important in these times than the actual level of self-sufficiency achieved in the household economy. 

Nevertheless, a veggie garden, chooks and fruit trees supplying a larder of home preserves and bulk-purchased food gives a sense of security lacking for most people dependent on 24/7 supermarkets crowded with scared shoppers. A vibrant and busy household economy, where young and old contribute, provides focus and meaning rather than boredom and pent up frustrations. An ability to connect with nature and animals provides balance to the 24/7 news cycle and social media.

Furthermore, behaviours such as self-provisioning, buying in bulk and minimal travel not only reduce ecological footprint and stimulate household and community economies, they also “flatten the curve” of infection, thus giving the health system the best chance of responding to those in need and reducing the numbers of people desperately dependent on government aid and assistance.

Far from being a survivalist withdrawal from society, permaculture designed self- and collective-reliance at the household level is our best option for a bottom-up response to the multiple crises generated by globalised capitalism. Nearly two decades ago I began to shift my strategic focus to articulating opportunities for in-situ adaption and retrofitting of the built, biological and behavioural fields of the household economy. This culminated in the publication of our bestselling (11,000 copies sold) manual, RetroSuburbia, in February 2018. 

In the years before publication, I fretted that the wobbles in the financial system would lead to a crash before the ideas got out there to catalyse the diverse threads of action in permaculture and related networks. Although the mainstream media has largely ignored the quiet revolution spreading in our suburbs, regional towns and villages, local governments have been supportive of our message with events around the country in which my “Aussie St” permaculture soap opera shows how we survive and thrive in the “second great depression”. 

While this pandemic will pass, or just become a recurring part of the disease burden of humanity, the arcane magic of central banks to bail out the banks and corporations is unlikely to work as well as it did in the GFC. If there is a role for money printing, it should be to create a Universal Basic Income to allow everyone to survive the pandemic while flattening the curve of impact on the whole society. The Morrison government stimulus package might be an opportunity for people to restart the economy by choosing what they want, rather than the government assuming that a consumer economy dominated by Moles, Bullies and Cunnings is what Australians need. 

While public policies might help or hinder the bottom-up rebuild of household and community self- and collective-reliance, the speed of the global pandemic’s impact is jolting people into action faster than the collapse of faith in endlessly rising house and share prices, superannuation payments and “fiat” currencies based on money printing.

Being home, off work and school, brings people face to face with opportunities to kickstart or revive their household economy. Even the toilet paper shortage created by panic buying will make lots of people realise the alternatives ranging from plant leaves to telephone books or, if people so choose, the soft touch of “family cloth.” 

So what am I doing about it apart from being what my parents called “an armchair academic”? Having prepared our three semi-autonomous households at Melliodora for isolation to do our bit to “flatten the curve” and powering up our online work with colleagues, writing this piece has helped work out what I can and should do. 

We are about to spend most of our savings on printing another 6000 copies of RetroSuburbia with Focus Print in Melbourne, in an act of faith that this book is the best resource we have to offer people cooped up at home wondering how to avoid going crazy, become productive and kickstart their household economy.

Oh yeah, how many people are going to buy an $85 book in Australia where all the compost turning, cider brewing, chook wrangling permies already have a copy? Well maybe the time is right for RetroSuburbia to “immunise” the whole country… 

Consequently we are taking a leap and releasing a digital version of RetroSuburbia available for whatever people can afford. Hopefully, most will pay something reasonable in return for the 592 page fully illustrated information-dense text, to compensate for the loss of sales of the real book and keep supporting our RetroSuburbia Rollout.

This is a risky move for us, and our business partners who are dependent on physical sales of the book. So what if a digital version of RetroSuburbia goes viral, transforms Australia for the better, and we are left with a few tonnes of retro toilet paper? It will be worth it – and maybe enough people will appreciate the content to want the real thing in their hands and some might choose to gift multiple copies to those they love and care for and others whom they know will benefit. We are even hoping that some benefactors might sponsor people from permaculture and kindred networks idle from their reluctant work in the so-called ‘real economy’ to follow their passion to catalyse vibrant local communities after we pass through the eye of the storm. 

I know many of you already living permaculture and retrosuburban lives are now busy helping others by sharing (at a distance) your skills, knowledge and perspectives on life. The pandemic provides a unique opportunity to leverage positive changes that decades of sustainability discourse have failed to achieve. While changes at the public policy level may have to wait until the current crisis subsides, the bottom-up household and community level changes need to be enacted now, leading to resilient and capable households that are the essential foundation for stronger neighbourhood connections and re-localised economies. 

Within the next week we will have the digital RetroSuburbia available on a “pay what you feel” basis.

We hope the early adopters already on this path will become ambassadors to share these creative adaptions to our new world by:

  • Letting those you help know that your help is all part of living a better life now within the RetroSuburbia bigger picture. 
  • Sending people the link to my Aussie St presentation for a light-hearted narrative introduction to RetroSuburbia.
  • Using social media, talk-back radio or other means to tell people the good news.
  • Telling us about practical guides and other resources that you have found helpful on your journey that we can add to the chapter resources pages on retrosuburbia.com.
  • Checking out the case studies on retrosuburbia.com and considering if your place could add to the diversity we want to highlight – remember, we are all learning from each other.
  • Buying the book, ebooks or other great publications from our online stores as gifts.
  • Financially contributing so we can support permaculture activists to power up their existing work.

To everyone in the retrosuburbia community, thank you for your support, stay strong, stay safe, and let’s use this time to do great things as we collectively help to build the new world in the shadow of the old.

 

David Holmgren, Melliodora, March 31 2020

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Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary

Samuel Alexander, from the Simplicity Collective has just published a new book, Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary, co-authored with Professor Brendan Gleeson, with a foreword by David Holmgren.

The book addresses a central dilemma of the urban age: how do we make suburban landscapes sustainable in the face of planetary ecological crises? The authors argue that degrowth, a planned contraction of overgrown economies, is the most coherent paradigm for suburban renewal. They depart from the anti-suburban sentiment of much environmentalism to show that existing suburbia can be the centre-ground of transition to a new social dispensation based on the principle of enlightened material and energy restraint.

David’s foreword to the book begins thus:

Historians charting the trajectory of industrial civilisation will note the remarkable disconnect between the status accorded to “evidence based decision making” in our culture and the relentless pursuit of perpetual growth on a finite planet. While the contradiction has always been clear to the simplest of folks, the publication of the Limits to Growth report nearly half a century ago gave us the means to better understand the complex system dynamics that would characterise humanity’s overshoot of global limits.

Because these understandings coincided with the oil crises and resultant recessions, in affluent western countries there was some public discourse, and even early action, to consider the possibility of futures other than ones of continuous growth. On the fringes of society a flourishing counterculture gave birth to lifestyles and concepts (including permaculture) that have been the source of a continuous lineage of creative change. Some of these fringe ideas – such as the internet – have contributed to powerful creative action that has transformed society, whilst others – such as renewable energy and regenerative agriculture – provide pathways promising to manifest transformation now.

You can read the rest of the foreword here.

You can read a review of the book on Make Wealth History.

You can purchase the book here.

As a companion film, here is the latest offering from the talented folk at Happen Films:

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Transforming the Suburbs

Please join us for this exciting forum, Transforming the Suburbs, in which the panel speakers will explore the transformative role of Australian suburbs to activate the behavioural change, cooperative-based action and practical solutions required for rapid transition to a carbon-positive low energy future.

The speakers are:
David Holmgren – Permaculture co-originator
Costa Georgiadis – Gardening Australia, ABC TV
Dominique Hes – Melbourne University
Michael Ableman – Sole Food Street Farms, Canada
Kat Lavers – Permaculture practitioner

The event will be MC’d by Nick Ritar from Milkwood Permaculture.

This expert panel will creatively explore sustainable actions, key strategies and resilience-based concepts for future suburban responses to localised and global ecological challenges. The audience will be provided expert analysis and thought-provoking ideas on how suburbia will be a vital place to survive and thrive in challenging futures. Discussion will actively engage and inform event participants about multi-faceted transitional change ideas that positively contribute toward low-energy and carbon positive sustainable home and community living.

For anyone interested in permaculture, or a shift towards creatively adapting to a more sustainable way of living, this free event is not to be missed.

Cost: Free

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2018 Ashram Permaculture Design Course

Permaculture Design Course

Friday 23 February – Saturday 10 March 2018

2017 Ashram PDC

 

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 15 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.

 

https://permacultureprinciples.com/downloads/Principle_Wheel_with_type.jpg

 

The venue

The course will take place at the Rocklyn Ashram, nestled in the Wombat Forest near Daylesford in Central Victoria. Only a one and a half 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 camping in the grounds of the ashram. You will need to BYO tent and gear. Alternatively you can choose to stay in a gender segregated triple share dorm room or a private room. Please note, these last two options incur additional fees.

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. Su 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 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 and writings 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
  • community strategies

The classroom experience will be complemented by field trips to working permaculture farms, homes and gardens 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.

 

Payment and extra charges

 

Item Fee (AUD$) Due
Non-refundable deposit – Australian participant $500 Upon enrolment
Remaining course fee – Australian participant – earlybird $1700 Friday 1st December 2017
Remaining course fee – Australian participant – full fee $1900 Friday 26th January 2018
Course fee – Australian / Overseas participant – earlybird $2200 Upon enrolment, before Friday 1st December 2017
Course fee – Australian / Overseas participant – full fee $2400 Upon enrolment, before Friday 26th January 2018
Payment fee via PayPal 3% With payment – per transaction
Gender segregated, triple share room $2475 $2275 earlybird price
Private accommodation at the Ashram $3450 $3250 earlybird price

 

Is there a concession price?

Applications for the concession rate have now closed.

* * *

Still have questions? Please read through our FAQ page.

Bookings now open!

If the 2018 Ashram PDC sounds like it’s for you, fantastic! Please secure your place by registering.

 

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Vale Toby Hemenway

Toby Hemenway, one of the most influential permaculture authors and teachers from North America, passed away earlier this week aged 64.

Toby discovered permaculture in 1990 after a career in genetics and developed a rural permaculture property in southern Oregon with his wife Kiel.

He was editor of Permaculture Activist magazine from 1999 to 2004 and his book Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture is credited as being the most successful book about permaculture in the world, having sold more than 250,000 copies.

His 2015 book The Permaculture City: Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban, and Town Resilience applies permaculture thinking and principles to organising everyday life.

In 2005, Su and I were hosted by Toby in Portland, Oregon during our 6-month teaching and study tour of North America. I remember him as earnest and modest as he maintained a passionate commitment to permaculture ideas as he made the transition from rural self-reliant living to applying permaculture in the city. His move back to urban living was emblematic of the learnings of our generation about the limits to rural self-sufficiency.

– David Holmgren, December 2016

Su + Toby in August 2005 on a walking tour of Portland urban permaculture

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APC12 recap

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Oliver and Richard were really energised by APC12 !

The 12th Australasian permaculture convergence held at  Penguin in early March was a milestone in the return of permaculture to its Tasmanian origins. 

With a few too many great distractions I missed 75% of the sessions but was lucky enough to see Kat Lavers Skyping from Melbourne with her caring for your worm-farm presentation (watch those hot days). My partner enjoyed a workshop with Hannah and Steve Cooper interpreting the Principles through art. A highlight for me was the cheerful display of edible foods from around the world on the venue walls. Burnie local, Bruce French presented the Food Plants International database with stories of his times overseas teaching people to eat their local food (fresh, free, and many times nutritionally superior) rather than the western food in the supermarket. Bruce likes ‘helping hungry people feed themselves’ and to do this he insists on at least 50% female representation in his overseas (aid) work (as it works). Another local from nearby Somerset, Con Rhee, gave a talk which I found very helpful, practically, about designing the solar system for your needs. Minimise your needs first, says Con, invest in what you need, and keep the embodied energy investment in the hardware to a minimum….with the added benefit that you will be more likely to understand the system and may even be able to fix it yourself if anything goes wrong. Our local Castlemaine team Ian Lillington & Marita Zeh posited a ‘permie diet’ (no grains)! Their wonderful examples of fermented foods had a huge crowd trying them out at the end of the talk (no problems getting these living organisms across the border). These sessions were just a few of the 50 odd on offer.

David Holmgren looking short with tall poppies of Tassie permaculture  Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstom

David Holmgren looking short with tall poppies of Tassie permaculture Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstom

One of the presenters, Rosemary Morrow, couldn’t get to the convergence which also meant that the follow up Permaculture Teacher Training Course with she and Hannah and Anton of Good Life Permaculture had to be postponed. The course has been rescheduled and the new dates are 19-25 April.

Rowe Morrow, one of the world’s most experienced permaculture trainers will help build on the energy generated by the convergence. Rowe’s past history in teaching and training some of the most effective permaculture activists around, combined with the organisation and facilitation skills of Good Life Permaculture hosts Hannah and Anton, promises a great course, rare and not to be missed if you’re starting up in permie teaching, invigorating for those already teaching. Highly recommended.

says David Holmgren.

Each of the key note speakers deserve their own posts, meanwhile read David Holmgren’s keynote speech here,

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Beautiful sunny Penguin and ~200 happy permies

I left Penguin with a huge appreciation for the creativity and energy alive and thriving in the aussie permie world and several month’s worth of top web links to explore.

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