Tag Archives | RetroSuburbia

2018 Stormwater Victoria Conference

David has been asked to present a keynote address at the Stormwater Victoria Conference in June 2018. The theme for the conference is Water Sensitive Communities: Inevitable or Pipe Dream?

 

Here is David’s abstract:

RetroSuburbia:
A Bottom Up Alternative Pathway to Water Sensitive Communities

Attitudes to, and designs for, dealing with stormwater are changing from a plumbing drainage model to one aimed to store, slow, spread, filter and sink water. While the pace of residential and other urban development has provided opportunities for the installation of innovative infrastructure reflecting the water sensitive paradigm, the bursting of the Australian property bubble could radically reduce the opportunities for greenfields projects and capacities of governments to fund new infrastructure development. The future of water sensitive design thus lies in retrofitting.

RetroSuburbia is a rubric for retrofitting the built, biological and behavioural aspects of Australian suburban life using permaculture designs and patterns. This will build resilience to energy descent futures that will flow from climate change, energy crises and economic contraction and are not currently being addressed by government planning. These permaculture design responses, focused at the household and community level, could achieve the goal of water sensitive communities as one of a myriad of positive outcomes.

RetroSuburbia starts in the backyard but moves into the street and the public space to create a whole-of-landscape commons by incremental retrofit.

RetroSuburbia contributes to water sensitive communities through householder-driven retrofits to detain and reuse water, primarily for garden and urban farming. While water storage and its timely reuse is an obvious aspect, increasing the water- and nutrient-holding capacity of soils is the potential game changer. Organic practices, mineral rebalancing, biochar, perennial plant systems, swales, wicking beds and aquaponics are some of the elements of intensive permaculture systems that can increase the capacity of suburban landscapes to detain, filter and reuse water from roof and other hard surface runoff.

Retrofitting to create a closed loop system reinforces that there is no “away” to send unwanted contaminants and toxins to.


The Stormwater Victoria Conference is open to the public. Here is the blurb from their website:

Like much of the world Victoria faces the following challenges: population growth and aging, changes in lifestyle and values, climate change and climatic variability and challenging economic conditions.

Our use of water underpins our economy, recreation, health and surrounding environment.  It is important that Indigenous values are appropriately recognised.

A water sensitive community uses water in a way that is productive and sustainable, while acknowledging the need for the environment to be resilient to changes and liveable for all in it.

The theory of Water Sensitive Cities is well documented and understood.  The three pillars of Water Sensitive Cities as articulated in Wong and Brown (2009) are:

  • Cities as Water Supply Catchments
  • Cities providing Ecosystem Services
  • Cities comprising of Water Sensitive Communities.

Alternate water sources, reliability, environmental risk, cost and the difference between decentralised and centralised systems are commonly considered in projects.  The benefits and creation of beneficial microclimates, carbon sinks, habitat and biodiversity are emerging themes.

Communities are complex and often comprise of disparate and diverse groups with differing socio, economic and environmental needs.  This Conference wishes to explore whether Water Sensitive Communities are still a pipe dream or whether definitive steps have been made in implementing and demonstrating why it is inevitable that we all live in a water sensitive community.

0

The Melbourne Model

The Age recently published an article entitled, Melbourne’s liveability choice: soar like Manhattan or sprawl like LA

The article quoted Infrastructure Australia’s three scenarios for Melbourne in 2046.

The LA model:

More than one million extra people – or 40 per cent of projected population growth to 2046 – will live on the city’s edge in 2046, under a planning scenario that sees unfettered low-density development.

Melburnians will rely more heavily on cars to get to work, with only 3 per cent of jobs accessible within 30 minutes by trains, trams or buses.

The New York City model:

A compact, higher-density vision for Melbourne will concentrate jobs and housing within 15 kilometres of the city centre, and will drive up public transport use.

The London model:

A medium-density model that spreads the population growth more evenly and puts jobs closer to where people live.

Here is David Holmgren’s public response to Infrastructure Australia’s chief executive Philip Davies:

The Melbourne Model

For the last 50 years, the debate about suburban sprawl vs high rise has been repeated ad infinitum with very little questioning of the assumptions behind the debate. Adam Carey & Timna Jack’s article in The Age 22 Feb, 2018 is a current example of the restatement of these outdated options in the context of the supercharged apartment construction frenzy that is taking over inner Melbourne.

The article references Infrastructure Australia’s latest report including a third model for Melbourne’s future; medium density London instead of high density New York or sprawling traffic bound Los Angeles. This deft pitch assumes that we must put up more buildings to accommodate the projected 2.8 million extra people who will make Melbourne home by 2046.

The entrenched interests of Australia’s largest industry, property development and construction, myopia and lack of rigor in the academia and politics and a mostly disempowered public have combined to see the debate intensify but never consider any real alternatives, including my RetroSuburbia strategy which aims to create the Melbourne Model of urban renewal.

RetroSuburbia involves making full use and creatively repurposing what we have already built over the last 40 years, the longest running property bubble in human history, before we build and develop over more water and carbon absorbing land that we need to feed ourselves into the future. In this maddening frenzied rush, we condemn our children to live disconnected from nature that we depend on for our daily life and well being.

RetroSuburbia is based on the lived reality of a growing number of ordinary Australians who have been influenced by the permaculture concept, a vital emerging global movement, first taken root in the suburbs of Melbourne 40 years ago. The impact of permaculture, and UK spin off, The Transition Towns movement is at the progressive edge of communities building resilience in a climate changed world. Locally, Permablitz activism that continues to empower young people to hack their habitats for the better, has also spread around the world from Melbourne.

Those questioning the policies favouring population growth with alternative ideas continue to be ignored, or at best, overlooked. But even if we accept the projected population growth as inevitable, the current options to accommodate these numbers all involve constantly putting up more buildings without redressing the results of doing so for the last 50 years. Over that time the orthodoxy accepted by the majority of planners, academics and even environmentalists is that higher population density is the key to improved urban amenity, viable public transport, infrastructure efficiency (read water based sewerage), lower environmental impact and even resilience to climate change and other future stresses.

This orthodoxy is built on many flawed assumptions including;

  • Economic growth is an unquestioned good that will, in any case, continue into the future more or less perpetually.
  • The elimination of soil, plant and animal life in favour of more building is collateral damage that can be compensated for by token symbols of our ongoing metabolic and psycho-social dependence on nature.
  • The daily movement of the majority of residents beyond walking or even cycling distances is an essential element of urban life.
  • The just-in-time movement and on-demand availability of food and all the other essentials of life to this constantly moving population is necessary and sustainable into the future.
  • The provision of our needs within the household and community non-monetary economies is an unnecessary remnant of the past that can replaced by new forms of consumerism in the monetary economy.
  • That more residential construction ranging from high rise redevelopment to infilling the backyards of suburbia is an efficient and effective to achieve the higher population density in existing urban areas.

The Melbourne Model avoids these flawed assumptions, instead focusing on how we can turn the problem of suburbia in the solution of RetroSuburbia.

Apparently 30% of new apartments are speculation chips kept in mint condition rather than homes for anyone. There are roughly 8 million vacant beds in Australian homes. There are endless rooms, garages, sheds and other space full of stuff no one has time to use. The storage industry holding the stuff we can’t fit in our houses continues to grow.

Even the more widely accepted assumption that we need a major increase in public transport infrastructure echoed by the Infrastructure Australia report never considers the way information technology already allows RetroSuburban home based livelihoods and lifestyles to bypass the need to commute. The potential of garden and urban farming to more efficiently displace so much of the resource burning centralised food supply system is beginning to be articulated by advocates and activists but the 20th century land use planning paradigm that hold sway over our public policies assumes it is sustainable to feed mega cities with just-in-time logistics controlled by corporate monopolies.

In my essay Retrofitting the Suburbs published by the Simplicity Institute, I show how policies, affluence and other factors driving more construction in our residential streets lead to a decrease rather than an increase in population density. When we multiply the declining residents by the declining hours of occupancy, as all activity is sucked out of the home and community and into the monetary economy, we find that our cities are mostly crowded by cars carrying one person constantly rushing between buildings that are poorly used.

For the sake of corporate profits and government tax take, we are continually blindsided to commute each day to work, school, childcare, gym, cafe and mall while our homes lie vacant and unused.

So why should we even consider the creaking cities at the heart of empire as models for Melbourne when our own lineage of Permaculture, Transition Towns, Permablitz and RetroSuburbia are already influencing the progressive edge of urban and community renewal around the world, including New York, Los Angeles and London.

The Melbourne model would give us the potential to survive and thrive challenging futures without submitting to the sterile alternatives of the current urban development debate.

3

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

0

The Great Local Lunch

Hosted by Costa Georgiadis, over 200 growers and gleaners will serve it up to revolutionise our food system, at the National Sustainable Living Festival.

The Great Local Lunch connects farmers and local producers to food lovers, urban growers and the sustainable food industry.

The Lunch begins with urban growers and gleaners being encouraged to register their harvest. Using a ‘crowd farming’ model, produce is grown or gleaned from gardens and local farms across Melbourne.

The harvest occurs during the month of February in the lead up to the event. Growers are encouraged to harvest their produce and deliver to assigned drop off points.

The produce is transported to the Great Local Lunch chefs – who do not know the type and quantities of produce they will receive. After receiving the produce, the chefs design a four-course menu and set about cooking up for over 200 guests.

David Holmgren will feature as a guest speaker addressing the issues of food growing and eating in suburbia into the future.

Please note this is a ticketed event. More info here.

0

RetroSuburbia Book Launch

We can’t wait!! Please join us for this momentous event. RetroSuburbia – four years in the making, is to be launched at the National Sustainable Living Festival in February 2018.

Gardening Australia’s Costa Georgiadis will launch the book and will also be in-conversation with David and facilitate a Q&A from the audience.

We are hugely lucky that Formidable Vegetable Sound System will be playing tunes on the day.

Books will be available for purchase and signing.

Find out more here: The National Sustainable Living Festival.

0

RetroSuburbia crowd support campaign

To offset the cost of printing David’s forthcoming book in Australia, we are excited to announce that we have just launched a crowd support campaign.

RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future will be self-published by David’s micro-publishing house, Melliodora Publishing, which has published David’s previous books plus a handful of other titles including the best selling The Art of Frugal Hedonism.

To print the book offshore would save $23,000, but no matter how enticing the monetary cost, David is completely committed to local printing, supporting sustainable forestry in Australia, and a truly viable paper chain. The paper stock, ink and the printing must be in accordance with the content.

There are a number of different support levels, as well as the option to pre-order the book to be launched by Costa Georgiadis on February 10 2018 at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne.

Thank you for your support, and for sharing the link among your networks!

https://www.retrosuburbia.com/crowd-support/

0