Holmgren Talks in Sydney
Had the opportunity to hear David talk at a meeting of Permaculture North Monday night, Nov 7.
This is a very brief and very minimal report on some of the topics he covered in nearly 2 hours.
His topic was Permaculture: Solution for the Energy Descent Future which he gave at Vancouver in Sept 05. He said he just returned from 6 months travelling to east and west Europe, Japan and North America and had surely burnt more than his fair share of fossil fuels in that time.
He defined permaculture as a process for reclaiming our place in nature and a design system for sustainable living and land use and a grass-roots international movement of practitioners, designers and organisations with related networks.
He said the text, Permaculture One co-written in 1978 with Bill Mollison had as its antecedents the oil shock of the early 70s with a subsequent “explosive interest” with people seeking energy efficient homes and the rise of the “alternative” movement.
This he defined as a “first wave” but the mainstream focus moved on when the energy crisis passed, with oil $10 a barrel in the 80s rising slightly and slowly in the 90s.
We are now in a third wave of interest in energy, with climate change and peak oil arriving almost together.
We are now seeing environmental and social crisis with climate change, land degradation, and resource depletion. Socially we are seeing family and community breakdown, addictive behaviours (which he defined as more than pharmacological, but also excessive television, shopping and commuting).
Economic and political issues are unprecedented national and household debt, a robber-baron capitalism with criminal economies such as arms and drugs forming a substantial part of the global economy.
A response to this has been the neo-fascist solutions proposed by govts (including Oz). Terrorism and refugees are “shadow problems” “because the real problems cant be spoken about” “It is not possible to have real discourse about real issues”.
And infrastructure decline. The last 30 years have seen so many unsustainable buildings constructed globally and we will face the challenge of maintaining these in a high-energy cost environment.
Why doesn't the crisis hit home?
Affluent populations have not been affected. There are about 1billion middle class people living globally, about 100 million in India.
We have been able to avoid the energy problem for the last 30 years.
Some of this is because we have been able to use technology to fix some systems – some river systems are cleaner now than 30 years ago. Community volunteerism (Landcare??) has also assisted.
We have also “exported” our problems. Heavy industry has moved from the US to Mexico, from Oz to SE Asia.
There is also a capital transfer, in 1983 capital moved from rich to poor countries, now it is poor to rich.
I LOVED THIS POINT:
We have become distracted with comfort and consumption. We have “new toys” in an increasing number and with increasing complexity.
Suddenly now though it is OK to talk about Peak Oil.
The market has pushed the price up and this needs a validation.
The US peaked in 1970, but most countries have now peaked within the last few years.
The peak of high quality oil appears to have been 2003. We are now using heavy oil that is expensive to refine and expensive to extract.
He talked about Hubbert and his prescience, and how this “most eminent petroleum geologist in the world” was ridiculed when he spoke about peak oil in 1957.
The issue of precision re peak oil is clouded by shonky data from OPEC.
Holmgren sees four “energy future” scenarios:
“The techno-explosion” with huge reinvestment in nuclear fusion, gene technology, nano technology and exploration of other planets.
The “green tech stability”, already promoted by progressive govts (Germany) and proposed by groups like the ACF (Aust conservation foundation). This involves a conservative use of resources
“Earth Stewardship” where over time we again become dependent on the earth and nature. This is a continuous change scenario.
And the fourth is “Atlantis” which he said we all knew what this meant.
Permaculture, he said, was about earth stewardship, about creative energy descent. Each generation has less energy available. Energy audits will be in ascendancy as “Energy is the currency that drives all human systems”
It is in the last 30 years that so many of our values and truths and beliefs have emerged:
“Greed is good”
“Growth” “Get going or get out of the way”
These world views will be turned on their head and we may return to earlier values of co-operation and non-competition.
The Party's Over ......” by Richard Heinberg
“Fueling the future conference” http://www.fuelingthefuture.org
Association for the study of Peak Oil and Gas. http://www.peakoil.net
He will be conducting a lecture tour around Oz in 2006.
The History you were NEVER taught in school:
Oil War 1: 1914- Britain thwarts German Berlin to Basra pipeline.
Oil War 2: 1939 Germany, Italy, Japan seek to solve their oil deficiency.
Oil War 3: Cold War: US v USSR: Clash over oil sales to Europe