Interview with David Holmgren in ABC Australia’s Organic Gardener Magazine.
David Holmgren is the co-founder, with Bill Mollison, of the permaculture concept. Their first book, Permaculture One, helped kick-start what has become a worldwide movement based on designing food production and human settlements that work with nature, rather than against it. Today, the visionary gardner/designer continues to write, teach and walk the talk of a sustainable life on his property in Central Victoria.
OG: What effect has permaculture had in promoting ethical food production?
DH: Permaculture has been powerful both as a concept and a movement. It has influenced a lot of people to see the importance of becoming a responsible producer and to become more self-reliant. It has also allowed like-minded people to connect, and to push those boundaries and experiment - to focus on doing something positive rather than being paralysed by negatives.
OG: Can anyone apply its principles to their own home and garden?
DH: Yes, anyone can use it! The principles of permaculture have universal relevance and can be applied to any situation. It’s about having a systems view about your household - food, water, power - thinking about where they come from and where the waste goes. It’s about how to be more efficient.
OG: What are your top three tips for achieving sustainability?
- Reduce consumption.
- Get out of debt and/or reduce monetary income: you generally find that the higher the income level, the higher the consumption level.
- Produce something of value to yourself and the planet: try to make the shift from being a consumer to being a producer - such as growing your own vegies.
OG: What are the benefits of growing your own food?
DH: The connection to nature and the cycle of the seasons in a very real way is the major benefit. Growing your own food is a deep, ancestral connection to life and the land - and life seems shallow and superficial without it. I also believe that growing your own food is arguably the most significant and beneficial thing the average person can do in contributing to a more sustainable world and reducing our eco-footprint.
OG: What is the best gardening advice you have ever been given?
DH: I heard Peter Cundall speak at one of the first organic field days in Tasmania, in the 70s, and he was talking about building and maintaining the fertility and balance of the soil rather than just focusing on the plant itself. If you shift the focus to the soil, it will underpin everything else.
OG: How important is the role of organics and permaculture in leading to a more sustainable future?
DH: They are important because they are bringing the issue of food and how we produce it to the centre-stage. Corporations do things to minimise costs and will do so just within the letter of the law, whereas with organics, ethics are part of the commercial process. There are big stresses and changes underway for our planet, and that will not leave our country untouched. But it is through crises that we come to appreciate the really important things. I see this as an opportunity for transformative personal and cultural growth.