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Roman Eisenkoelbl
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Vienna Forests,Africa,India,Sunshine coast Queensland, Austria
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Posted by Roman Eisenkoelbl over 8 years ago

a weekend in Australia

One weekend this June I was fortunate enough to have the chance to participate in the Retrofit Mullumbimby Workshop with David Holmgren the co-originator of the Permaculture Design Science and also listen to his Aussie Street talk the day before in the Mullumbimby Civic Hall.

    David Homlgren's Aussie Street talk at the Civiv Hall in Mullumbimby

Davids Aussie Street talk deals with the Energy Descent Future ahead of us and asks the question of how will the typical suburban australien household deal with an energy descent future when less cheap oil will be available and climate change effects us. In a country were there are in total 8 Mio. empty bedrooms in massive houses. This type of questions were raised :

What will we eat? What will it cost?

What will we do with all the open spaces in a typical Australien suburban


What type of economic system will be present?

What will we do with coastal real estate that has lost its value as climate change

is in full effect ?

Can Permaculture renew suburbs after the property bubble collapses?

What type of opportunities are going to be there?

Many examples and possible solutions have been discussed reaching from a renewable solar-powered agriculture systems,Community Supported Agriculture , non monetary economics, re-localization , community networks and collaboration.

A few actions to kick-start the re-localization process have been mentioned:

 Get producing & support local producers

 Review needs & reduce consumption

 Share your place! Get in a boarder!

 Car pool

 Get out of debt

 Network for inspiration & information

During the talk several times for me the importance of collaboration and shift in personal behaviors have come up. The utmost importance of social connection and re-localization with a focus on resilience and productivity using Permaculture as a model for direct change.

A very clear and inspiring statement from one of Davids publications always keeps coming back to me:

…...the ways we observe & fail to see,the ways we think & fail to grasp,the ways we speak & fail to listen are all more important to the long term achievement of a sustainable society then any particular information about appropriate technology,plant and animal species or land management. While information & experience with these elements in the Permaculture toolkit are necessary they do not of themselves lead to sustainable systems.

The focus of collaboration,co-operation and personal transformation becomes very clear after David mentioned to the group:


How many competent backyard gardeners have we produced in the last 30years of Permaculture? How realistic is the future of all of us growing their own food in a Permaculture way on their own land?

This question come to my mind:

Do we all need to collaborate together and set up local food systems which are ethical and environmental sustainable?

The next day we meet at 9am at the Community Gardens of Mullumbimby a very inspiring place and project.

                                     A part of Community Gardens Mullumbimby

The workshop started with a short introduction of Davids 30 year long work at his own place Melliodora in Victoria. Its was really really inspiring to here directly from him and his partner Su about the successes and challenges of 30 years Permaculture Design,Education and Living.

                              David and Su sharing details about Melliodora

David Holmgren has been recommending for 30 years: to engage in a shift away from being a dependent consumer, and toward being a responsible self-reliant producer for your household and community, and to shift a significant portion of assets out of the mainstream economy and move them into building household and community resilience.(from Integral Permaculture.wordpress.com)

Melliodora is one of the only places with an in depth study and documentation of the effects and benefits of a Permaculture system operating for 30 years and is definitely one of the best managed and established Permaculture sites in the world . David documented very well all the yields , inputs and outputs of his specific site. At Melliodora David and Su have worked within the following areas which are of great importance for resilience:

 History and Connection to place

 Constraints of climate an wildlife

 Surveying the opportunities

 Earthworks

 Ecological building materials

 Passive solar design – cooling,heating,food storage

 Waterharvesting

 Nutrient cycling & soil building

 Garden agriculture – food security,health , conservation

 Tree crops – food,fodder and mulch

 Working with animals – yield & ecological services

 Harvesting wild abundance – mushrooms,bees,berries

 Local and seasonal food culture

 Low energy food preserving

 Immersing children in holistic living

 A focus on shared food

 Renewable energy from low to high tech

 Creative re use and manufacture

 Learning from novel ecosystems

 Food Forests for the future

 Community supported agriculture

 Volunteering and exchange

 Publishing and documentation

 Sharing the space and connecting to the world

 Communicating the message

 Measuring & monitoring your project

The following two question were raised during David presentation:

 Can we measure resilience?

 Does resilience also reduce environmental impact?

Together we were also looking at resilience indicators before we move on to the presentation of the Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP) for a Brown Tech future. The theme was planning positively for a world of less while we hope for the best but assume the worst. The Energy Descent Scenarios were clearly outline to us:



It was made clear to us that severe climate change and rapid collapse of our resource base could easily trigger a major crisis which most of us are not prepared for. We realized that a crisis also creates opportunities and breaks open a door for new possibilities. The knowledge of this possibilities that might come up connects us to the importance of preparedness to make best use of new opportunities. The valuable skills of practical self-reliance,collaboration and Permaculture Design will help us to make direct change in the following areas:

 Land and nature stewardship

 Buildings and infrastructure

 Tools and technology

 Education and culture

 Health and spiritual well being

 Finance and economics

 Land tenure and community governance

We also brainstormed together in groups useful strategies for specific energy descent scenarios.


Following the brainstorm,we discussed all together strategies to retrofit Mullumbimby and their aim of 100% sustainability in the near future.

A quick mindmap with input from Davidś years of experience and knowledge was created and will be a useful resource for the future work of the Mullumbimby action groups.



Afterwards we had a good lunch of local organic home made food before the action groups of Mullumbimby meet for their 2nd yearly meeting to share,connect and exchange. For me it was impressive to see how forward thinking and active the local community in Mullumbimby is and it gave me a lot of hope and inspiration for the future ahead.



 Thanks so much to David for his inspiring talks and wealth of knowledge,to all the activists involved in direct action in the Mullumbimby area and the organizers from Free Farm for their great work and dedication.It was really a great start into the weekend !

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Climate Zones
Roman Eisenkoelbl has permaculture experience in:
Warm Temperate
Sub tropical
Wet/Dry Tropical
Wet Tropical
Dry Tropical

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