11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Rekindled my interest in Permaculture, Sep 15 2003
This book has rekindled my interest in Permaculture.
The author, David Holmgren, is the co-creator, with Bill Mollison of the
term "permaculture", and the co-author of the original permaculture
book, _Permaculture One_. Now, some 25 years after that seminal
book, Holmgren has written a timely and comprehensive synthesis that
brings permaculture principles together in an exiting new way.
The book highlights our place at a unique moment in history: at the peak
of the global oil production curve; at the beginning of the end of cheap
fossil energy. This is, for me, the book's most compelling motif: it
positions permaculture as a strategy for a future of inevitable "energy
descent". Although Holmgren hints that this energy descent may take any
number of horrific pathways, he appears to have chosen the term
"descent" as a hopeful alternative to collapse, crash, or dieoff.
Holmgren insightfully points out that is not just our reserves of fossil
fuel that we've been burning through. Since the Reagan/Thatcher years,
he claims, global capitalism has been on a frenzy of job cutting and
"just-in-time" inventory reduction. This amounts to a destruction of
the embedded intelligence and a severe draw-down of the capital stocks
of our institutions: a severe loss of embedded energy. Furthermore, he
worries that due to privatization and short-term bottom-line thinking,
maintenance on our built-environment and physical infrastructure has been
neglected: another huge loss of embedded energy.
On a hopeful note, Holmgren compares this situation to a forest fire: as
the conflagration of global capitalism burns through its huge pulse of
embedded energy, the time will be ripe for pioneers to take root and
produce a flush of new growth. It is a moment of high potential for
systemic change, and Holmgren's book hopes to provide "Principles and
Pathways" to seed and guide that change.
The subtitle of this book includes the phrase "Beyond Sustainability".
It is a well-established insight of permaculture that sustainability is
not enough: in a world that is already degraded, we need to achieve an
excess yield beyond sustainability that we can feed back into the great
work of restoration. Holmgren's contribution to this area is to point
out is that it is hard to even give meaning to the term "sustainability"
while we are in the midst of a dramatic energy descent with constantly
declining energy availability. We must, of course, aim for a soft
landing and a smooth transition to a sustainable future but our
immediate problem is to safely negotiate the descent itself.
All this is in addition, of course, to Holmgren's wise and fresh take on the more traditional
subject matter of permaculture design. This book is a must-read, equal
in stature to Mollison's _Permaculture: a Practical Guide for a