Co-originator of the Permaculture Concept

The origins of permaculture in Tasmania 40 years ago were informed by the seminal 1972 Limits To Growth report, the sequential energy crises and the creative ideas in many fields that represented the first modern wave of environmental innovation.

Since the turn of the millennium I have found myself increasing as both a historian and a futurist linking these activities at the margins of industrial civilization to larger scale geopolitical and economic cycles. I see the inevitable transition to a renewable energy future as a context that will shape the success or otherwise of permaculture and related concepts. If that transition follows the trajectories of fossil fuelled transitions of the last 250 years, permaculture will most likely remain an ethical or lifestyle choice in an materially abundant world. If, on the other hand the renewable future is one of energy descent as I have described, then permaculture, in principle, if not name will become normalised adaptive human behaviour for rediscovering our place in nature.   This necessary transformation is as much an inner process as it is external. Seeing energy descent as an opportunity rather than a problem might be the largest and most significant contribution of permaculture thinking to a prosperous way down for humanity.

David joined us via remote video link.


David Holmgren is best known as the co-originator of the permaculture concept. He and his partner Su Dennett live at “Melliodora” in Hepburn, Victoria, one of the best known permaculture demonstration sites in Australia. As well as constant involvement in the practical side of permaculture, David is passionate about the philosophical and conceptual foundations for sustainability that are highlighted in his book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. His more recent work Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt To Peak Oil and Climate Change outlines energy descent futures that could emerge over the next few decades.

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