Green guru warns of tough times in suburbia

• Permaculture co-founder David Holmgren.

A PERMACULTURE pioneer who believes Australia is heading for another “Great Depression” in the next decade will be in Fremantle next month for a workshop on how to prepare suburbs for the tough times ahead.

Freo-born David Holmgren is credited with co-creating the permaculture movement with Bill Mollison in the 1970s, and his first publication Permaculture One was one of the first efforts to codify that agricultural system.

Economic clouds

In recent years as climate change concerns have intensified and economic clouds appear over the horizon, he’s focused his efforts on making suburbs more resilient, particularly through small-scale food production and behavioural change.

Last year he released his latest book Retrosuburbia: The Downshifter’s Guide to a Resilient Future, which he describes as a manual and a “manifesto to help people in the suburbs and residential landscapes adapt to challenging futures.

“Australians have been living in a dream world of cheap energy, low interest rates and benign climates, but there are ominous signs of a weather change on multiple fronts,” Dr Holmgren says.

Retrosuburbia describes how to retrofit a house, garden and household to make them more sustainable, with community co-operation a key element.

“I anticipate a strengthening of neighbourhood sharing, and in turn revitalised local livelihoods without the need to commute,” Dr Holmgren says.

His Retrofitting Suburbia conference, being held at the Fremantle Town Hall on August 3, is being sponsored by the Living Smart program and Ecoburbia, whose co-founder Shani Graham appears in the foreward of Holmgren’s book.

Ms Graham said it was an encounter with the permaculture guru that prompted her to become more active in sustainability education and ultimately to organise the successful Hulbert Street Sustainability Fiestas with her partner Tim Darby.

She says while it’s easy to get a bit down about the state of the environment, there are positive stories all around Fremantle and she’s hoping to give the movement a little push-along with Holmgren’s help.

“We hope to get people talking about one or two things they can do in their lives,” Ms Graham says.

“They are only limited by their imagination.”

Tickets to the August 3 conference, which is from 9am–4pm, are $25 ($15 conc) plus booking fee from Eventbrite.


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