Holmgren offers a critique of the bloated financial services sector and the top echelons of most sectors, discussing the class divide from the perspective of sustainable permaculture.
The Problem is the Solution: how permaculture-designed household isolation can lead to RetroSuburbia
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. This represents a moment of opportunity, but there remain roadblocks in the way.
This is an extract from my book RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future, a 550 page richly illustrated manual that has become a best seller since its publication in February 2018. The production and availability of this extract as a free and sharable download is part of our response the Australian bushfire crisis of summer 2019/20.
From the research for Permaculture One in the 1970s in the house Bill Mollison saved from the great 1967 fires, to the research for the Flywire House project in the aftermath of Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 to the publication of Bushfire Resilient Landscapes and Communities in the aftermath of Black Saturday (2009), permaculture responses to the risks of bushfire have been a central theme of my life’s work. Although I have many friends who have faced and fought these and other great fires of the last 60 years, my direct fire fighting experience has been limited to 5 fires of more modest proportions.
As I have been working alone in the garden over these last few days I have been thinking about Vries Gravestein as an elder of the Australian permaculture movement at the same time that the nation is reflecting on the passing of another big man, Gough Whitlam. While comparisons between the two might be trite, in my garden solitude the emotions about the passing of influential elders did blend.
Beyond the family I have met and worked with so many of Vries’ students, most notably John Champagne who has played such a critical role in embedding permaculture in this bio-regional community and in maintaining the bonds of the national permaculture family.
In April 2012 I penned an essay, Permaculture Pocket Knives, to explore the issue but it sat unpublished until now.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.
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”
Andy 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.
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.
David Holmgren gave a Lunchbox/Soapbox talk at the The Wheeler Centre in February 2012, exploring the profound improvements that the application of permaculture principles and strategies could deliver for the sustainability and liveability of today’s suburbs.
This short video is of the National Permaculture Day celebrations in Daylesford on 30 April, hosted by the Daylesford Community Food Gardeners (DCFG) and the Hepburn Relocalisation Network (HRN), with the help of SHARE (Sustainable Hepburn Association), Daylesford CFA, Hepburn Council and local residents. David Holmgren speaks about “The Local.” Available to watch on Vimeo.
From a permaculture perspective, bees can be beneficially added to any system, improving pollination of crops, yielding storable sugars, pollen, beeswax, and other minor yields, all without detracting from any other yield or use in the system. The full text of this article discusses the use case and usage of apiculture in a permaculture setting
First published as an (edited) opinion piece in Water Volume 32, No. 8 in December 2005, ‘Garden Agriculture: A revolution in efficient water use’ by David Holmgren discusses food futures in a post-fossil-fuel society. Full text available for download.
This brief piece was written in September 2003 as a contribution to a book (in French) by Christophe Elain, “Un petit coin pour soulager la planète: Toilettes sèches et histoires d’eau”, published 2005 by Goutte de Sable. Full text available for download.
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We received nearly 200 entries to the Venie Prize this year – thank you to all the poets who took the time to compose their heartfelt and mindfelt reflections. This year the two judges were Carissa Lee and John Charles Ryan. As John said after reading the poems, ‘Thanks again for the opportunity to judge
In 2019 David Holmgren sat very still for a long time, something difficult to do for the indefatigable 60-something year old. While David sat, Eugene von Nagy sketched and painted a portrait of David that has just been made a finalist for The Lester Prize, the third largest portrait prize in Australia, after the Moran and Archibald.