Speaking on retrofitting our suburbs for a resilient future, he gave a positive spin on the way communities could use permaculture strategies to deal with energy descent. He painted a picture of communities working together to meet the joint challenges of climate change and scarce fossil fuels, rather than a “Mad Max” world of complete chaos.
His talk focussed on the evolution of “Aussie Street”, a typical Australian 1950s suburban street. It starts out housing large families with chook runs and vegetable gardens and slowly changes to what we have today – low population density with two or three people in each house and working families outsourcing their lives and too busy to maintain their back yards.
Projecting into the future, the families, dealing with a depression caused by a collapse in the financial system and high fossil fuel prices, survive and even thrive by taking in other family members or lodgers, setting up urban farms in their back yards, and by running small scale home-based businesses that serve their local area. Overall they spend a much higher proportion of their time at home and the households are highly productive. In addition their greenhouse gas production is significantly reduced, not by design, but just as a consequence of their changed lifestyles.
Holmgren believes the power to get things done lies in the hands of ordinary people. Waiting for governments or someone “higher up” to come up with a solution to the challenges that face us is a waste of time. He encouraged us to implement permaculture strategies in our own lives now, and to experiment to find out what works well. This will then provide a working model for others to emulate while also developing a constituency that, hopefully, people at the top will notice.
- Holmgren’s paper on retrofitting the suburbs
- Video of Holmgren speaking about retrofitting the suburbs
Some of the sources he referenced were: