Principles & Pathways reviewed and updated for eBook

An extract of David Holmgren’s prologue from the newly released eBook edition of Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability


The world has changed radically since Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability (PP&PBS) was first published in 2002. By many environmental, economic and social measures, local communities and global systems are now in crisis and even collapse. The premise of the book was that the ‘energy descent’ future would inevitably require new ways of thinking to replace the failing principles that guided industrialisation, modernity and globalisation.

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In reflecting on the book, I remain happy with the eclectic mix of abstract theory, grounded examples and personal anecdotes that riled academic and editorial sensibilities. While some ideas and points remain speculative, many others have since become clearer through the course of a growing body of practice and more than a decade of turbulent world history that we have lived through. For example, for the well-informed, Peak Oil has moved from speculative concept to historical reality that underpins the explosive growth in renewable energy, economic contraction and geopolitical realignment. Similarly, the environmentally heretical positive view of species naturalisation that I articulated in the book, is now supported by a rapidly growing body of peer reviewed science within the new field of study of ‘novel ecosystems’.

The delay in producing an eBook version of the text (not having a publisher driven by financial logic) has been fortuitous because it has allowed a comprehensive review of the text to improve grammar, use of terms, and an update and the addition of references. Most importantly the capacities of a digital edition enabled live links to updated web addresses and direct cross referencing to precise points in the text rather than general chapter references. This allows the reader, including those who have read the printed book, to explore in more depth the non-linear nature of systems thinking that accounts for at least some of the difficulty of this work. The fully searchable text allows the reader to easily find a point that this labyrinthian character tends to hide.

Readers of existing translations can be assured that the changes made are of a minor in nature compared to the great difficulty in translation generally and especially for this work. We trust that the painstaking translation work, by those with an understanding of and commitment to the concepts, has captured the text for the better but we hope the text of this digital edition will make any future translations a little easier.

As ever I remain one of permaculture’s strongest internal critics in insisting that for permaculture concepts and teaching to remain relevant, it must be grounded in practical action that regenerates nature and improves the lives of ordinary and especially impoverished people. In addition, it must remain open to influence from parallel and complementary concepts, movements and ideas that are contributing to a gentler and more benign energy descent future in which nature’s wealth is regenerated and humanity finds its place in that natural order.

David Holmgren
Melliodora  April 2015


shop_PPPBS-eBook_800sPermaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability eBook is now available as an ePub for AUD$20.

The ePub file download can be opened and read on most modern smart phones, tablets and desktop computers using appropriate software, like iBooks for Apple users.

489 pages in standard display size on an iPad2

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2 Responses to Principles & Pathways reviewed and updated for eBook

  1. Alastair Leith October 18, 2017 at 5:21 pm #

    Having spoken to quite a few of David’s disciples about the energy decent around 2002 and listened to David himself hold forth on the subject it is clear to me that the orthodox view amongst the permie “energy descent” crew was that renewables could in no way substitute for the magnitude of energy being provided by fossil fuels at this time. And so we would necessarily enter time of energy descent where the price of energy (and fossil derived inputs like ammonia based fertilizers) would spike due to reducing of supply for an even growing demand. It’s now clear that energy prices themselves have peaked and will enter a decent, not global energy supply which will likely become ubiquitous and much more a distributed and local supply within a couple of decades.

    So it’s pretty cute to read that forecast of doom noting and energy base societal collapse (often accompanied by a staring at feet by the disciples) reworked by David into the ascent of renewables as being underpinned by an acknowledgement of Peak Oil by policy makers and/or markets.

    Hardly, it’s sustainability and climate that got renewables started and now in a position to displace fossils on economic grounds alone. Not the pinch on coal, gas and oil. Unconventional gas is what has displaced coal from the electricity markets in the USA for example not wind and solar, though they will in turn do so on cost. All the fossil reserves need to stay in the ground, not due to an energy decent but due to us already sleepwalking into catastrophic climate change. I do acknowledge that mainstream agricultural systems are moving slowly towards more of permaculture’s defining principles (which is a good thing!) but not so much due to Peak Oil I’d humbly suggest.

    Ag sector emissions are 54% of national GHG emissions (see the Beyond Zero Emissions Land Use Report) once land clearing, re-clearing, savanna burning and enteric fermentation from ruminant livestock are taken into account (and using GWP20 accounting). Would be great to hear more advocacy on emissions associated with livestock from the Permaculture leaders in Australia and USA. The HM/MCIG flavored propaganda coming from Savory advocates and regenerative ag people claiming only livestock can save the world from CC by sequestering carbon is a fallacy in complete denial of the science of climate change which needs to be challenged, both from outside the progressive movements in agriculture and the many names they go by and within these movements themselves.

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