A new year
begins , here is a review of David Holmgren New Book
Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, that has
been reviewed by Wendy Smyer Yu in the current issue of Hopedance
Magazine #42 Jan/Feb 2004,
To order the book and support the Permaculture Community, the Book can be ordered from Permaculture Activist PO Box 1209 , Black Mountain, NC 28711 cost $28, with $4 shipping. Go to the Activists Magazine www.permacultureactivists.org
to see the whole range of Permaculture Books carried
wes roe www.
Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability
Holmgren Design Services
16 Fourteenth Street
Hepburn, Victoria 3461
Review by Wendy Smyer Yu of Davis CA
These days, in the midst of petroleum wars and blackouts, its amazingly taboo for mainstream media to discuss our energy addiction as such, or to suggest that Americans are energy abusers heading toward some sort of O.D./crash/potential rehab. Gather with permaculturists, however, and it seems thats the stuff of daily conversation, the impetus behind the movement. David Holmgren, in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, sets out to provide design principles to understand the roots of our energy crisis and to fashion a new culture that can hopefully ride the rough waters ahead.
Holmgren delineates twelve principles that characterize permaculture design and that will help us transition through the energy descent that will occur as petroleum supplies diminish. These twelve principles are meant to provide guidelines and applications to all aspects of design and encourage alternative ways of thinking about long term costs and long term benefits. For example, the way we view energy decline is culturally loaded, so that we consider growth as positive and stability or decline as negative factors that we devote more energy to boosting. Starting from the premise that a capitalist worldview, which perceives continued growth as the only indication of success, is counter to ecological principles, Holmgren says, We have trouble visualizing decline as positive, but this simply reflects the dominance of our prior culture of growth. Permaculture is a whole-hearted adaptation to the ecological realities of decline which are as natural and creative as those of growth.
A superficial (chronologically speaking) consideration of energy descent focuses on a fear-filled future - replete with looting, rioting, starvation, mass migration, and war, but a serious look at permaculture and implementation of its principles can offer a positive perspective about human life after energy gluttony. Understanding humanitys energy usage in biological/ecological terms it is apparent that we have followed natures patterns remarkably well. A system characterized by excessive energy is filled with diversity, rapid change, and instability. When energy surplus is consumed the system either crashes or, creatively, it uses that energy to settle into a low energy stability that stores limited energy more efficiently.
The first principle considered by Holmgren prepares the ground for the subsequent principles, showing the foundation of permaculture. Of the principle Observe and Interact, Holmgren writes, Good design depends on a free and harmonious relationship to nature and people
[o]bservation and interaction involve a two-way process between subject and object, the designer and the system. The key to designing for a low-energy future, he suggests, is the need to recognize patterns and relations, something difficult in our society which honors reductionist thinking and prefers mediated or secondary information.
What makes this book truly heartening, and relevant today, is that the focus on global change grows forth from a very grounded locus of action, namely with individuals, households, and communities which seek to increase self-reliance. Holmgren writes, Learning to think wholistically requires an overriding, or reversal, of much of the cultural heritage of the last few hundred years. With little experience of whole-system thinking and such cultural impediments, we need to focus our efforts on simple and accessible whole systems before we try to amend large and complex ones. The self is the most accessible and potentially comprehensible whole system. Permaculture is, at heart, a personal movement - one that insists we refrain from judging personal change as something less than any sort of mass movement not grounded in fundamental personal responsibility. A future for humanity beyond just sustaining things as they are and that actively embraces the creativity of change in descent requires that we offer our utmost commitment in our own lives on outward into larger spheres of influence. David Holmgrens new book clarifies and simplifies the tools and principles on which to base that commitment for great good.