Tag Archives | Talk

Keith Roby Memorial Lecture

Last month while David was in Perth for the Australasian Permaculture Convergence he gave The Keith Roby Memorial Lecture in Community Science, a free public lecture funded by the Keith Roby Trust, established in memory of Dr Roby.

Keith Roby was a foundation member of Murdoch University and a pioneer in the area of “Community Science”, the phrase he coined to reflect the ideal of science and technology directed towards human fulfillment, social well-being and satisfying the fundamental needs of humankind. He believed science could make a significant contribution towards resolving major contemporary issues such as the dilemmas surrounding the environment; energy; resources and genetic engineering.

With a deep commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and research, he initiated research and founded courses in the areas of science, technology, society and energy studies.

Each year a distinguished speaker is invited to deliver a lecture that builds on Dr Keith Roby’s life’s work. This year, David Holmgren was asked to give the memorial lecture. The topic of David’s presentation was Permaculture: four decades of education, design and action for a sustainable future. In his talk David discussed the evolution of permaculture from environmental design, to the social and psychological design of the “inner landscape”, and addressed the question about the relationship between permaculture and spirituality. Thanks to Oliver for the following photos:

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You can listen to a podcast of the event here:

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/289097016″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”200″ iframe=”true” /]

 

And you can read the full transcript here.

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Honouring Bill Mollison

In memory of Bill Mollison, David helped his son Oliver plant dozens of trees at Oliver’s place, near Fryers Forest. They were mostly food producing and included carob and pistachio trees. #plantedforbill

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Oliver also styled and snapped this photo of his father paying homage to Bill and the photo that David took of him on a plant and seed collecting trip in northern Tasmania in 1975.

billmemorialtreeplaning-1_lbm

If you haven’t already heard Charlie Mgee’s beautiful tribute to Bill, you can listen to it here:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN_Texj9CD4]

Radio National’s Blueprint for Living had a segment called ‘Farewell to the father of the global permaculture movement’ devoted to Bill Mollison and featured David talking about Bill and more broadly about permaculture.

Samuel Alexander wrote a piece for The Conversation about Bill entitled ‘A revolution disguised as organic gardening’.

Declan Kennedy’s tribute, I am mourning my friend Bill Mollison is also well worth a read.

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A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity

In 2015 a small community formed an emerging ecovillage in Gippsland, Victoria, and challenged themselves to explore a radically simpler way of life based on material sufficiency, frugality, permaculture, alternative technology and local economy. Made by Jordan Osmond and Samuel Alexander, A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity is a documentary that tells the story of this community’s living experiment, in the hope of sparking a broader conversation about the challenges and opportunities of living in an age of limits.

The documentary also presents new and exclusive interviews with leading activists and educators in the world’s most promising social movements, including David Holmgren (permaculture), Helena Norberg-Hodge (localisation), Ted Trainer (the simpler way), Nicole Foss (energy and finance), Bill Metcalf (intentional communities) and Graham Turner (limits to growth).

FILM PREMIER DETAILS

Friday, June 3, 2016 from 6:15 PM to 9:30 PM.
Victorian Trades Hall Council (New Council Chambers) – 54 Victoria Street, Carlton, VIC 3053.

Doors open at 6.15pm, with time to mingle before Samuel Alexander introduces the film at 6.45pm. The screening begins at 7pm. After the film at 8.30pm, the filmmakers will welcome comments and questions about the issues raised, and a panel, including David Holmgren, will also answer questions. The evening will wrap up around 9.30pm.

There will be nibbles and drinks prior to the screening. Please bring your own cup/mug to minimise the use of recyclables.

You can pre-order tickets here.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEYREEnymnk]

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Land Cultures: shared knowledges

Bruce Pascoe and David Holmgren to meet and share knowledges

Award-winning Australian writer, editor and anthologist Bruce Pascoe is leading a movement of researchers that is rewriting Aboriginal history in Australia.

On Thursday April 7 2016 Pascoe will visit Daylesford for a series of free events including Land Cultures: Aboriginal economies and permaculture futures at the Daylesford Town Hall at 7.30pm – Bruce Pascoe in conversation with David Holmgren.

LandCultures_jpeg_lThe evening event will commence with a Dja Dja Wurrung smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country. A Hepburn Shire Council representative will present a progress report on the Shire’s recognition and reconciliation projects. Pascoe’s keynote address will be followed by a response from David Holmgren, before opening the discussion to the floor. Supper will be provided by Hepburn Relocalisation Network (for a gold coin donation).

Come and join the discussion and understand how the foods of Australia pre-1788 may become the foods of a climate-altered 21st century economy that acknowledge and celebrate the past. You can join the Facebook event here.

Other free events on the day include:

2pm tour of Dja Dja Wurrung tools at the Daylesford Museum.
3pm reading by Bruce of his young adult fiction at the Daylesford Library.
4pm planting of murnongs (yam daisies) at the Daylesford Library community garden.

All events are presented by the Hepburn Relocalisation Network with the generous assistance and funding of the Hepburn Shire Council.

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Bruce Pascoe has a Bunurong and Tasmanian heritage. In his latest book, Dark Emu: black seeds, Pascoe shows that the Aboriginal history we were taught in school — that indigenous Australians were chancey hunter-gatherer nomads — is a fiction. Using point of contact journals by European explorers, Pascoe demonstrates the extent of the ecologically sensitive agricultural practices that existed in Australia pre-1788, and shows that Aboriginal Australians were possibly the world’s first bread makers, preceding the Egyptians by at least 18,000 years.

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Permaculture activism in the Brown Tech Future

Keynote Address to 12th Australasian Permaculture Convergence

Penguin Tasmania  March 2015

Outline

Over the last 8 years David Holmgren’s Future Scenarios work has provided a framework through which permaculture, transition and kindred activists have better understood, navigated and even taken advantage of the chaotic changes unfolding in our world driven by peaking resources, environmental tipping points, economic contraction and geopolitical instability.

His more recent (2013) essay Crash On Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future triggered a global debate in the peak oil blogosphere and more locally (eg Great Debate at the Melbourne Sustainable Living Festival) about local adaption vs grand global plans.

In this keynote David Holmgren builds on the lessons of 40 years of permaculture and kindred activism to articulate how the bottom up permaculture strategies that focus at the personal, household, enterprise and community level can be effective where mass movements to demand top down change are repeatedly derailed or simply reinvent the problems in new forms ( the solution becomes the problem).

At a time when environmental activists are feeling increasingly embattled and desperate, the opportunities for permaculture have never been greater. Are we ready to use whatever agency remains at the personal, household and community level to turn the problems into solutions?

PDF of text

Permaculture design system and activism

Permaculture is a design system for sustainable land use and living.

It articulates and applies the design principles of nature in new ways appropriate to the energy descent era of industrial civilisation. These design principles are embedded in an ethical framework derived from the commonalities of indigenous and traditional cultures of place.

Permaculture activism uses global understanding to inform local action at the personal, household and community scale to create models capable of viral proliferation.

Permies seeks to create the world we do want by direct constructive action rather than stopping the world we don’t want by restrictive action. Permaculture’s popularity especially with environmentally aware youth over three generations can be partly attributed to a “good cop/bad cop” synergy with more conventional oppositional activism. Thus those who have done their time in direct action in the forest (or shale gas blockades) are often supported by those who spend their positive energy on the permablitz front line.

Similarly for more mature people, being the change we want to see in the world is far more empowering, than using all our capacity and credentials to push for policy change from the top down.

Pushback from conventional activism

While the support for permaculture and positive environmentalism in general has grown stronger in recent years, there is also a pushback from those committed to the top down and oppositional strategies. The argument is that composting your garden may be good for you but it does little to help bring about the necessary structural changes in society that, it is argued, can only come through big processes such as

  1. corporate capitalism making big bucks doing good,
  2. top down policy reforms driven fearless political leaders or
  3. mass movements threatening revolution to force change at the top.

Those committed to these pathways argue theirs is the best. Often the pathway of changing the world by changing ourselves is ignored or denigrated as self obsessed navel gazing.

In the permaculture movement the value of this DIY approach is taken for granted but permies often have difficulty in articulating to others why this approach is at least as important as the other three in shaping a more positive future for ourselves, humanity and nature.

I want to go one step further to articulate why the DIY and DIO (doing it ourselves) approaches of permaculture are the most efficient, resilient and empowering ways to focus our own limited power in the world.

Activism that is good for our bodies and our minds is fun and empowering, and makes us more self reliant, and resilient in the face of uncertain futures, is a much easier sell than activism that involves self sacrifice for some larger collective good. In this sense permaculture shares some common ground with green corporate capitalism’s focus on rewards as a motivation even if the rewards are primarily non monetary.

If our experiments in DIY self-reliance are successful, others without as much innovator tenacity can copy what we do without having to make so many mistakes. The issue of whether our solutions are scalable beyond the non monetary household and community economies to the monetary economy, let alone corporate capitalism is less important than whether our solution can replicate virally to achieve scale in numbers

Big solutions to big problems often recreate the problem in a new form. Small scale solutions have the advantage of being site and situation specific and being more amenable to incremental organic adaptation with less risk that failures causes higher order systemic failures. For example local raw milk Community Supported Agriculture system have some real (very low) risk of causing illness but large scale corporate supply systems of industrial milk have created problems where large numbers of people spread across countries become sick before corrective responses can be enacted.

In addition there is strong evidence many successful small business get started in the household and community economies of gift, exchange and reciprocity before growing into the monetary economy. In the future, two processes suggest this might be the main mechanism by which we grow a new monetary economy. Credit crunches from deflationary economics eliminate bank finance for small business so the bootstraps DIY approach is the only option. Secondly the capacity of governments to enforce regulatory barriers that currently stymie home producers going commercial, will be unsustainable.

What we do in our own households, with our family and informal community networks is simple and small scale so that it largely can occur

  1. without the permission of the banks who -through their lending – determine what does and what does not happen in the credit driven monetary economy,
  2. and without the knowledge of the corporate competitors who stand to lose market share,
  3. and mostly under the radar of the government regulators whose function is to secure the market for bank financed corporate investment.

The potential for mass adoption is the test that most political activists want to see before they will accept any value from DIY approaches. Can we persuade everyone to grow their own vegetables? What if everyone had a wood stove? Is there enough land in the city to grow all the food? How will it help us close down a brown coal power station?

Mainstream political action focuses on persuading the majority because the majority is always the biggest game in town. This focus on majorities is strategically useless for smaller order players like environmental and social activists. Apart from the need to counter the massive propaganda might of the strongest lobby groups, it ignores an important trend in affluent, notionally democratic nations at least since the thatcherite/reganite revolution of the early 1980’s . A simple or even large majority is not enough to persuade elite power structures to roll over and implement policies that directly threaten their own power (eg Iraq war 2003).

On the other hand the DIY approach has some important advantages as a political change pathway. Firstly the DIY approach that reflects permaculture ethics and design principles behaves as a systemic strike of labour, skill and capital against the debt financing by banks, globalized production controlled by corporations and central government taxation dependent on constantly rising GDP. I have argued in Crash On Demand, that a 50% reduction in consumption, work and investment by 10% of the global middle class could be enough to severely undermine the power of these global systems (that are already teetering due to the massive global unpayable debt burdens)

Whatever the effects on centralized systems, the experience of building the parallel systems from the bottom up will expose the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats through a rapid learning cycle. In the process we can better articulate a larger scale public policy agenda that would allow the next level of adoption and adaption as well as clarifying the design characteristics necessary for any truly useful larger scale government or corporate driven solutions.

The response of the centralized power structures to such a systemic strike might be to introduce draconic regulations and politically demonise those pursuing DIY enlightened self interest. We should expect more of this but there are limits to how effective such responses might be. Firstly the diffuse, even invisible nature of many of these personal and household strategies makes them inherently difficult to control. Recent attempts to control raw milk in Victoria are likely to be as ineffective as drug prohibition – every man and his dog now admits has failed despite massive resources and efforts on the part of the state. Secondly demonizing raw milk consumers and gardeners is somewhat harder than doing the same to so-called radical Islamists.

The alternative more hopeful response of centralized power might be to engage in political discourse to encourage the striking minority to come back into the fold. “We need your consumption and your creativity, what would you like to be paid to be part of the Team (Australia)” Being relatively autonomous gives us much more political leverage than being part of a mass movement of completely dependent consumers and indebted workers.

In the Brown Tech future that I believe we are increasingly locked into – nationally and globally – I think there will still be some opportunities for constructive dialogue with those trying to bring about top down change either with/through government or corporations; but we should expect that some of these opportunities will almost inevitably turn the solution back into the problem. In the face of unfolding environmental, geological, economic and geopolitical crises, the ability to ‘speak truth to power’ in defense of dispossessed people and voiceless nature will become more symbolic that effective in achieving resilience let alone justice.

On the other hand, the urgency in building the parallel systems on the conceptual and geographic fringes (edges and margins principle) will grow and the interest from those wanting to participate with their hands and hearts will increase to a flood. The ability to replicate workable alternatives to the strictures of contracting but monopolistic centralized systems will be a challenge for permaculture activists.

At the moment, turning the tide of the majority to our way would be more of a destructive tsunami than a surfable wave. If we can prove to ourselves that we can enjoy life living more healthy and resilient lives, less dependent on centralized systems while massively reducing our ecological footprint in the process, then we provide a pattern than others can copy. At the same time we contribute the diversity of solutions that can model whatever utility and hope remains for system-wide reform and redesign. And if that fails at least we lived the solution and have a multiplicity of lifeboats that give the best chance of saving the useful bits and even the essence of wisdom from a failing civilization for the emergence of the next.

Zooming back from the over-the-horizon big picture to the here and now, I would like to suggest ways in which we can make the DIY and DIO strategies achieve their great potential for positive change.

DIY suggests a learning process with less than perfect results, but if we want others to copy us then the work of reviewing, debugging and refining our solutions is essential. The fact that permaculture has generated a lot of half baked outcomes by people who are “jacks of all trades but masters of none”, is to some extent an inevitable outcome of the experimental and generalist integrated nature of permaculture solutions. However to establish any credibility – let alone have others copy us – requires food gardens that are abundant, compost toilets that smell sweet and lifestyles that are attractive to at least a motivated minority. We don’t need to dumb permaculture down for the masses but it does need to work at least on the terms of those who are interested.

We need to admit and correct our mistakes, and avoid the error of suggesting a given permaculture technique, species or even strategy is applicable everywhere. (It is the principles and ethics that are universal)

Most of all in celebrating our being jacks and jills of all trades, we should aim – at least in maturity – to also become masters and mistresses of one. One trade that can allow us to be truly useful members of relocalising communities where many may not recognize permaculture understandings – let alone p c ideology – as having any value. Energy descent futures, especially of the Brown Tech variation will not necessarily see permaculture as widely appreciated.

While this first issue [specify the issue]is about the reality and perception of effective solutions that have the power to spread, the second is about the degree to which apparently practical and effective permaculture designs are leading to substantial decoupling from the globalized economies that are now degrading humanity’s future.

In the same way that it is not clear that renewable technologies can proliferate without abundant fossil fuels and debt financing, it is not clear that when we live our permaculture lifestyle we are not just participating in global degradation through more indirect pathways.

I believe the holistic nature of permaculture can allow us to progressively integrate our personal, household, enterprise and communal systems. These systems can more and more support and stimulate, first the non monetary economies, and secondly businesses controlled by natural persons, as we progressively disengage from support for and dependency on businesses run by non natural persons (corporations) that are structurally immune to ethical influence. How to do this with one arm tied behind our back and hopping on one leg is a balancing act to say the least. (eg coming to Tassie on the Ferry)

We need to demonstrate that the DIY and DIO strategies of permaculture are workable, enjoyable and empowering but most of all that they can spread, if not like wildfire, then like a cool burn (or a compost culture) that regenerates the understory of our brittle and flammable communities.

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Fair, real and local food

About one hundred people gathered on the steps of the Victorian parliament house on 19 Feb 2015 to rally for fair, real and local food. Organised by Regrarians, the rally attendants heard from Lisa Heenan (Regrarians), Costa Georgiadis (Gardening Australia), Cyndi O’Meara (Changing Habits), Joel Salatin (Polyface Farms), Tammi Jonas (Jonai Farms), Reg Matthews (Miranda Dale dairy), Lorraine Pratley (Australian Raw Milk Movement) as well as David Holmgren and Su Dennett from Melliodora.

For those people who  missed the great day of action in Melbourne, here’s a video recording of the whole rally.

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

David Holmgren edit

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyBPTrr82Jo&w=560&h=315]

Su Dennett edit

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9I2vWLl5By0&w=560&h=315]

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Great debate, the video

My essay “Crash On Demand” was the primary influence in framing this year’s Great debate at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne,  so we felt that I had to make time to be there (in the middle of our Rocklyn Ashram residential PDC  plus peak fruit and honey harvest).

With an audience of over 250 it was an opportunity to explain the logic of bottom up permaculture activism in response to the energy descent future and hear some of the other perspectives presented. The dichotomy of the unwieldy title, the dreaded C word and the “vote” gave me the gripes, but it was good fun and an opportunity to catch up with Nicole Foss after our joint public speaking tour last winter.

Here’s yours truly kicking off the debate.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roO5FJZNmBM&w=560&h=315]

For those people who want to see the whole debate (nearly 2hr long, but you should), here is the entire Great Debate (Nicole Foss, about 35 min mark. About 1.20 min mark begins the summing up, voting and Q and A).

[vimeo 119722889 w=500 h=281]

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Feb is sustainability month

February is a great time to be in Melbourne. The weather is warm and the whole city is abuzz with “sustainability” events. Albeit only for a month, it is still warming to see a whole lot of people embracing the concept of sustainability.

greatdebatebannerNaturally the man who once chose the subtitle of his book to read “principles and pathways beyond sustainability” is in demand at such a time. As we reported here earlier David Holmgren is taking the stage with some of the sharpest thinkers and keen doers to discuss whether to collapse or not to on Feb 13. More about the great debate here.

In the following week on Feb 19, he and Su Dennett from Melliodora go to Melbourne to take part in “#EatBuyGrow Rally + Event” organised by Regrarians. Both David and Su will be addressing the rally during the day and the evening event alongside Joel Salatin (‘World’s Most Innovative Farmer’ ), Costa Georgiadis (Gardening Australia), Cyndi O’Meara (Changing habits), Belinda Hagan (2013 Victorian Farmer of the Year), Tammi Jonas (Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance President) and many many others.

The day is aims to raise awareness of what producers are going through due to irrational government regulations which seem to want to sever ties with urban consumers. This is the rally bit, but the day is also for celebration of the regenerative food system of producers, chefs and consumers all maintaining vibrant connection with each other. So, why don’t you join us? More details here.

Then on Feb 28th, at the invitation of one of the residents, none other than Greg Foyster, David is going to present “Retrofitting the suburbs” at Murundaka Cohousing Communityhttps_proxy. It is a whole day event, Solar Saturday Lounge Party, to raise funds to install solar panels on the community building. David will take part along with Melliodora’s Su Dennett in the “Hypotheticals” panel discussion chaired by Rod Quantock in the afternoon. Why don’t you come down for a whole great fun filled day at Heidelberg Heights? More details here.

 

 

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Surviving earth in Canberra

SE movie poster A3 DHOne of the ways to make sense of long distance traveling is to maximise the purposes of the trip.  In a similar way that filling the car with passengers when one needs to drive somewhere gives maximum fuel efficiency, when David travels for a speaking engagement he hopes to appear more than once. So when it was announced that David Holmgren was to give a talk in Australia’s capital city, you might have wondered what would be his other engagements and programs while in the region?

Well, on the evening before the “Future scenarios and solutions” talk in Canberra, the renowned film director Peter Charles Downey is going to show his new film, Surviving earth, in which David is featured, so David will be taking part in a panel discussion following the screening, along with Prof. Ian Lowe, Julian Cribb, Prof. Stephen Bygrave, Peter Tait and the director, Peter Charles Downey himself. MC is Jenny Goldie from Sustainable Population Australia. 

Here’s the film trailer.

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

If you are in the zone, come and join him on Dec 7, at Finkel theatre, ANU.

More on our event page.

 

On the day after the talk on 9th Dec, David will be touring a great example of good local land care .

 

 

 

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Wild side of sustainability

?????????????????????During the coldest months of August people in the Central Highlands of Victoria celebrate a month long festival of words every year. Words in Winter is ” a celebration of words, stories and ideas in all their forms shared by locals and visiting presenters through readings, poetry, theatre, music, talks, workshops, visiting authors, and exhibitions.” Hepburn Relocalisation Network will stage Yarns on the wild side of sustainability on Sunday August 3rd. Local speakers will spin their yarns about their experience in the pursuit of more reasonable living. More details of the afternoon program are on our events page.

Taking the stage amongst local sustainability bunch to discuss the wildside is David Holmgren,  hot on the heels of his national tour with Nicole Foss. In Sci fi Hepburn David will discuss scenarios. Are they imaginary or real?

It is a free event, and should be a cracker afternoon at the Rex Arcade lounge.

Talking about the Rex on August 3rd, our resident nonagenarian poet Venie Holmgren will also be taking the stage in the morning. She will be performing her stuff  in “Poetry morning”. A must-see performance as well.

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