Tag Archives | Writings

Reverence for the bunya bunya

One of the critiques of permaculture is that, in attempting to be a theory of everything, it has failed to contribute real progress on any of the manifold fronts it addresses. Had Mollison and I spent our lives planting, managing and selecting oaks and bunya bunyas, we might have made a greater contribution to a benign energy descent future. On the other hand, we have inspired many others, a few of whom have contributed significantly to the still very slow expansion of knowledge of, breeding, and use of tree crops. Peter Brew was one of those few, a keen observer, independent thinker and energetic practitioner whose potential to contribute to a better energy descent future for humanity through tree crops, was cut short by personal misfortune exacerbated by an affluent but ignorant society unable to recognise, let alone reward, his genius. When Oliver and I harvest the first nuts from the Spring Creek Community Forest grove, I will start a new nursery bed to contribute to the hybrid vigour of the future bunya bunya groves of southern Australia to honour Peter’s contribution to an abundant future.

You can download the article Reverence for the bunya bunya (full text).

 

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Food for thought, security and sovereignty

This is a longer version of the article David Holmgren contributed to the inaugural issue of the Pip magazine.

Food insecurity also shows up in affluent countries in many surprising ways.  In Australia declining backyard food production since the 1960s and the loss of community, reduced the opportunities for barter and social insurance from non-monetary exchange. In the decades since, increasing apartment living and smaller backyards has reduced the capacity for household food production. Multiple generations of wage, and even welfare dependence, has left many Australians without even the “skills of poverty”, including food gardening and home preserving.  In recent decades high debt levels have seen all household members commuting to work or school, leaving little time for food gardening, animal rearing and preserving.  The decline in home cooking and storage of food at home have increased dependence on 24/7 commercial food outlets which themselves have become monopolised and transport dependent.  The constant drive for greater efficiency and profits by food corporations has seen “Just In Time” logistics replace warehousing and storage in shops. Interruptions to supply chains from natural or economic disasters set up instant dependence of large populations on emergency relief on an unprecedented scale. Even without Peak Oil and Climate Change, the prospects of large numbers of people being food insecure in Australia increases inexorably due to the dysfunctions of multi-generational affluence. I wonder why people feel so comfortable relying on Coles as their personal food cupboard.

You can download here full text of Permaculture for food security and sovereignty.

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Food Security and Sovereignty

PIP-Cover-issue-1LR-e1395804611513 “It’s been ten years since Australia had its own permaculture magazine and since then we have had to rely on overseas publications to learn about permaculture and hear what other like-minded people are doing ” laments the founding editor of a new permaculture magazine, called Pip magazine. Nothing wrong with permaculture periodicals overseas, but when we consider that permaculture ‘originated’ in Australia and being tauted as one of the biggest exports of ideas from this country, it is a poor state of affairs nonetheless.

Despair no more Australians as Pip magazine will hit the market very soon. Pip is a brainchild of journalist, editor and photographer Robyn Rosenfeldt, a Melbourne native now a resident of far south east NSW. She and the team no doubt have exerted not an insignificant amount of passion, but as she notes, publishing was made possible by the generosity of the community through crowd-funding.

Pip magazine is not just another gardening magazine, just like permaculture is not just about gardening. Permaculture is a design system that can be applied to all aspects of life to enable us to live more sustainably. It starts in the home and garden and is about creating systems that are self-reliant. But it extends right out to broad acre farming, to community development and beyond.

The first issue has stories on how to grow your own shiitake mushrooms, create a food forest, herbal first aid, natural dyes and creating a clothes swap in your own community, as well as a piece on food security and sovereignty contributed by David Holmgren.

Below we publish a short excerpt from his piece. Please get hold of the magazine, available at good newsagents and retail outlets, to get the whole story, and better still, subscribe to it here. The Pip mag is also available digitally across all devices. The second issue is due out in September.

The inaugural issue is available for purchase at our online shop.

Food insecurity also shows up in affluent countries. In Australia, declining backyard food growing and home cooking since the 1960s  has increased dependence on 24/7 food outlets which are car transport dependent and increasingly monopolised.  The loss of community has reduced the ‘social insurance’ from non-monetary exchange of surpluses.  Interruptions to supply chains from natural or economic disasters set up instant dependence of large populations on emergency relief on unprecedented scale. Even without Peak Oil and Climate Change, the prospects of large numbers of people being food insecure in Australia increases inexorably due to the dysfunction of multi-generational affluence. I wonder why people feel so comfortable relying on the supermarket as their personal food cupboard.

Gunther Food Energy

Graphics from the “Relocalising Our Food using Permaculture Theory and Practice at Sustainable and Fair Food” presentation (Feb 2014), based on Folke Günter, 2001.

Applying permaculture principles to food production changes the way we produce food and how much we store, preserve, transport, distribute, prepare and consume.  Beyond the dinner table, permaculture design reorganises the supply chain to ensure all wastes including human waste are recycled to food producing land. These closed loop cycles are easier and more energy efficient when organised at the household and local scale.  Growing at home increases food security in many overlapping and self-reinforcing ways.

Firstly it is relatively easy to produce perishable vegetables, fruit and small livestock products using organic methods that recycle household and local wastes. These foods might not be staples but they reduce the food bill, diversify the diet and improve everyone’s health, both in the production and the consumption.

Secondly, home-grown food gives a sense of pride and sufficiency, builds skills and confidence to scale up if necessary, generates surplus for preserving that increase household food storages while gifting and barter further increase your credit with others.  All these processes help reboot the household and community economies that were once the background to the monetary economy. History shows us that whenever the monetary economy takes a dive, the household and community economics grow rapidly.

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Crash on Demand: interviews and a summary

Requests for David Holmgren to do interviews keep coming in following the publication of his latest essay “Crash on Demand”. He has done a couple so far, in an attempt to answer some of the questions raised by the fellow travellers. Click on the links below to listen to what he has to say.

Agricultural Innovations with Frank Aragona part 1: Crash on Demand) (Sept 29, 2014) and part2: Pathways to intentional communities (Oct 6, 2014)

With David Holmgren on his essay ‘Crash on Demand’ with Stefan Geyer (21st century permaculture) originally broadcast on Feb 2, 2014 on London’s Shoreditch radio.

Crash on Demand with Alex Smith (Ecoshock Radio), also features Nicole Foss.

In the follow up email exchanges, Alex Smith from Ecoshock Radio raised a further question which was not covered in his interview.

Is David saying that the system will crash anyway and by scaling up permaculture activities will fasten the inevitable, or is he really calling for non-violent efforts to crash the economic system,  to save the planet, or is not calling for that? To answer that, he has compiled what could be termed as a concise summary of “Crash on Demand”. You can download the text here. We recommend you to read the whole essay first, though.

Crash on Demand, a concise version

See also the following video filmed for Pip Australian permaculture magazine, “How you can change the world with permaculture”. It shows David presenting a more positive take on what is essentially the same message as “Crash On Demand”.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVS45dbNL-E&w=560&h=315]

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Crash on Demand, the discussion so far

Since the publication, David Holmgren’s essay “Crash on Demand” has generated a heated debate among the sustainability communities around the world. We try to keep up with the discussion in the cyber world as much as possible (but if we missed any other articles and blogposts, please let us know).  Below, we compile the list of articles and posts we have come across (so far) all worth reading, including most of the comments (last updated on May 15, 2015).

υγεία (mediterranean food) Permaculture, also on the grokking eagle.
Silvia Di Blasio (Mainstream Permaculture) Teaching permaculture: what is permaculture for.

David Pllard (how to save the world) How our narratives inform our hopes for change also on Resilience.org.

Mary Logan (A prosperous way down) Fitting into nature–or not (see comments).

The Overthinker The best way to address climate chane is NOT to talk about it.

Norris Thomlinson (Farmer Scrub’s blog) Demand Crash! – a response to Holmgren’s “Crash on Demand”.

Chris McLeod Let’s talk about collapse.

Silvia Di Blasio (Living As If Others Really Mattered) Emphasizing the wrong “E”, Follow up on COD, and why it is worth continuing the discussion.

Dimitry Orlov (ClubOrlov) David Holmgren’s Crash on Demand also on Resilience.org.

John Michael Greer (The Archdruid Report) A bargain with the Archdruid also on Resilience.org.

Kevin O’Conner (C-Realm) Dirty Pool: A Response to Guy McPherson.

Joanne Poyourow (on Transition US) Economic descent, hopefully with skillful means also on Resilience.org. and Collapse? Maybe not also on Resilience.org.

Erik Lindberg (Transition Milwaukee) Agency on Demand? Holmgren, Hopkins and the historical problem of agency also on Resilience.org.

Rob Hopkins (Transition Culture) Holmgren’s “Crash on Demand”: be careful what you wish for also on Resilience.org.
His more recent piece Reflections on being a “cultural optimist” and a month of scaling up also  on Resilience.org.

Jason Heppenstall (22 billion energy slaves) Stabbing the beast also on Resilience.org.

David MacLeod (Integral Permaculture) Crash on Demand: David Holmgren updates his future scenarios also on Resilience.org.
His later piece What is David Holmgren really telling us also on Resilience.org.
His latest post David Holmgren: “I haven’t really changed my message” also on Resilience.org.

Nicole Foss (the Automatic Earth) Crash on Demand? A response to David Holmgren.

RCollapseniks.005

Albert Bates (the Great Change) Charting Collapseniks also on Resilience.org.
his update “recharting collapseniks.

 

 

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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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Vale Errol Mutch

Errol

Errol Mutch explaining the worm composting system at Edendale Farm August 2003.

I never knew Errol very well but from my first meeting in the early 1990s when he was  the manager at Edendale City Farm in Eltham. I was impressed by the man, and what he and Cheryl had done to transform Edendale from an derelict animal pound to a great example of progressive environmental education. From that first time I was shown around the farm (as a consultant to the shire council) to hearing him sprouk to groups of school children or the public at field days, I recognised Errol as having that rare combination of  decades of farming experience with a passion for biodynamics and permaculture that I was more used to seeing in young environmentalists from urban backgrounds.

The development of Edendale as a public environmental education facility was of course shaped by all the usual factors of funding priorities, politics, bureaucracy and fashions but it also showed the care and attention of Errol and Cheryl’s stewardship that we usually associate with a well loved and cared-for private property. The animal systems in particular were exemplary in not only their good management but also in the significant contribution to maintenance of working strains of heritage rare breeds.

It was a tragedy of the times that this work was never recognised for its significant contribution to biodiversity conservation as defined by the UN Convention on Biodiversity. More than lack of recognition the progressive common sense environmentalism that Errol has demonstrated was undermined and dismantled by bureaucrats reflecting the “nativist” version of biodiversity that was so strong at Nillumbik shire council at the time.

To quote from a letter of support that I wrote in November 2004,

…..the best examples of the pragmatic and productive approach to sustainable land use, such as Edendale are subject to constant erosion by a nativist orthodoxy which dominates all levels of policy making and environmental education (not only at Nillumbik)  It seems ironic that the “state of the art” cost effective land and water management at Edendale with multiple environmental and social value outcomes is to be downgraded while much more expensive indigenous revegetation programs with questionable and unproven water quality and other environmental benefits are retained and reinforced.  The proposed removal of pigs from Edendale and downgrading of the poultry breeding systems without reference to independent evaluation by those with expertise in city farms is analogous to planting oak or pine trees in the shire’s best wildflower reserve without consulting experts in remnant indigenous biodiversity management. 
 
Edendale is one of the last places in Australia where a functional strain of  the Australorp poultry breed is being maintained. This is an Australian contribution to domesticated animal biodiversity and incidentally most of the original breeding and maintenance of the Australorp was in Nillumbik (at Research). Under the UN Convention on Biodiversity this flock constitute “threatened in-situ domesticated biodiversity”. Therefore Australian governments have a legally binding responsibility to conserve this flock.  While these responsibilities are not well known (your environmental staff may not be aware of this) it is an opportunity for Nillumbik to apply for funding to support the excellent biodiversity conservation work at Edendale.

I remember Errol as one of those rare “salt of the earth” natural environmentalists, who charted his own path in working with nature though the difficult decades when such ideas were rare and ignored, to then find a collegiate network of like minded people through the biodynamic, organic and permaculture networks, and finally to become a wise elder inspiring children and adults to find their own path in working with nature.

 

(Errol passed away peacefully Oct. 9, 2013 Aged 71 years.)

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Permaculture Pocket Knives

Back in February 2012, at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne, I was challenged by a colleague about wearing a pocket knife, which he pointed out was illegal (without a genuine reason). This was news to me and intensified my feelings of alienation as a country person visiting the centre of a large city. What was the world coming to? But it also stimulated thought about what my genuine reasons for carrying a pocket knife in public might be and how that question was intimately connected to permaculture.  In April 2012 I penned an essay, Permaculture Pocket Knives, to explore the issue but it sat unpublished until now.  I offer it here  as providing an insight into permaculture as a social sub-culture that stands in contrast to many of the dysfunctional normalities that characterise modern living in an affluent society. (Permaculture pocketknives)

Forge

Weapons manufacture at Melliodora???
Oliver Holmgren testing a knife blade for straightness he had forged from an antique truck spring. Photo 2005, Oliver aged 19

 

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Monet’s Garden at Melliodora

An invitation to be a “pop up speaker” at the NGV’s Monet’s Garden Exhibition gave me an opportunity to address this vexed role of aesthetics in  permaculture, in a very special context.  I was speaking in the largest exhibition space surrounded by Monet’s magnificent water lillies. This post splices my speaking notes with a selection of photos from Melliodora that illustrate the points of the talk. I began my talk by saying “I feel like the devils advocate invited into the Vatican of aesthetics”

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Household economy counts (full text)

AppleMarkAndy Scerri’s critique of Patrick Jones’ articulation of self-reliance, localism, and gift economies (Arena #115) is a familiar argument that has been used over the last thirty years to dismiss permaculture and related environmental activism by more traditional political activists.

The harsh reality is that neither pathway has significantly impeded the headlong rush of industrial modernity towards the ‘limits to growth’ cliff so accurately modelled 40 years ago by Meadows et al. I am more than ready to acknowledge that ‘our’ collective efforts at positive environmentalism during and since the 1970s have so far failed to catalyse the necessary changes in society, but Andy Scerri’s assertion that composting your private garden counts for nothing, reflects an ignorance of several structural and systemic factors driving and constraining social change.

First, if the changes or innovations required do not confer some advantage to the innovators and early adopters then there is little incentive for others to follow their lead.

Second, unless the necessary changes or innovations can be independently adopted by individuals, households and local communities without the resources, support and approval from central authority, then it can always be blocked by established interests that stand to lose by its widespread adoption.

Third, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for higher order organisations and governments to mandate a reality that doesn’t already exist as working models. Progressive and integrated adoption and refinement of the myriad of strategies and techniques associated with permaculture, enacted at the household and local level, addresses all three systemic issues.

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