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Model – A permaculture design for an energy descent future

Posted in Visions by Ferne Edwards on March 23rd, 2007

David Holmgren, co-orignator of the permaculture concept, presented his plan to achieve urban sustainability in an energy descent future at the Cities Feeding People: Grow it Where You Live Conference in Melbourne, 22 March. 

Permaculture, as explained on Holmgren’s website, is a design approach that mimic’s "the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for
provision of local needs". Holmgren outlined our society’s possible futures as techno-explosion, green-tech sustainability, earth stewardship and collapse. With pressing drivers of peak oil and global warming, Holmgren identified our best solution as earth stewardship.

To deal with the associated energy descent, strategies proposed included relocalising our food production and consumption to where people live, dietary change, organic production methods, polyculture and increasing average household size for better economy of scale and efficient resource use.

Holmgren also illustrated how Melbourne has the potential to grow food within its city limits by measuring currently un-used (or under-used) spaces and a variety of methods such as allotment and rooftop gardens, greenhouses, home food processing, worm farms, compost toilets, rabbits for meat production, stormwater harvesting and even wild harvesting in the city. More detailed information about Holmgren’s urban sustainability plan is available on his website.

Internationally, similar strategies for sustainable urban agriculture are illustrated on a city-scale by Havana, Cuba and are disucussed within the broader localisation movement. These methods towards urban food sustainability also build on current Melbourne sustainability movements, such as farmers markets, community gardens and the co-housing movement amongst others. Also, CABE in the UK has also acknowledged the potentiality of un-used land in London.

Do you agree with Holmgren’s  suggestions? Are you currently involved in some of the activities mentioned? How effective do you feel they are towards achieving urban sustainability? What other factors do you feel need to be considered? Comments welcome.

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