David Holmgren is best known as the co-originator with Bill Mollison of the permaculture concept following the publication of Permaculture One in 1978. Since then he has developed three properties, consulted and supervised in urban and rural projects and presented lectures, workshops and courses at a wide variety of events and venues in Australia and around the world. His writings over those three decades span a diversity of subjects and issues but always illuminating another aspect of permaculture thinking.
At home (Melliodora in Hepburn, Central Victoria), David is the vegetable gardener, silviculturalist and builder. Within the international and growing permaculture movement, David is respected for his commitment to presenting permaculture ideas through practical projects and teaching by personal example, that a sustainable lifestyle is a realistic, attractive and powerful alternative to dependent consumerism.
As well as constant involvement in the practical side of permaculture, David is passionate about the philosophical and conceptual foundations for sustainability, the focus of his seminal book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. This book has been significant influences on the development of Transition Initiatives around the world. More recently his Future Scenarios work has seen him recognised as a significant thinker about the “Energy Descent future.” After a decade of significant international travel, David is no longer flying but continues to do some international presentations by skype and pre-recorded video including receipt of the recent award by Italian environmental organisation.
Retrosuburbia: A Bottom Up Alternative Pathway to Water Sensitive Communities
Attitudes to, and designs for, dealing with stormwater are changing from a plumbing drainage model to one aimed to store, slow, spread, filter and sink water. While the pace of residential and other urban development has provided opportunities for the installation of innovative infrastructure reflecting the water sensitive paradigm, the bursting of the Australian property bubble could radically reduce the opportunities for greenfields projects and capacities of governments to fund new infrastructure development. The future of water sensitive design thus lies in retrofitting.
Retrosuburbia is a rubric for retrofitting the built, biological and behavioural aspects of Australian suburban life using permaculture designs and patterns. This will build resilience to energy descent futures that will flow from climate change, energy crises and economic contraction and are not currently being addressed by government planning. These permaculture design responses, focused at the household and community level, could achieve the goal of water sensitive communities as one of a myriad of positive outcomes.
Retrosuburbia starts in the backyard but moves into the street and the public space to create a whole-of-landscape commons by incremental retrofit.
Retrosuburbia contributes to water sensitive communities through householder-driven retrofits to detain and reuse water, primarily for garden and urban farming. While water storage and its timely reuse is an obvious aspect, increasing the water- and nutrient-holding capacity of soils is the potential game changer. Organic practices, mineral rebalancing, biochar, perennial plant systems, swales, wicking beds and aquaponics are some of the elements of intensive permaculture systems that can increase the capacity of suburban landscapes to detain, filter and reuse water from roof and other hard surface runoff.
Retrofitting to create a closed loop system reinforces that there is no “away” to send unwanted contaminants and toxins to.