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Owen Hablutzel: “Water and Transformation in Dryland Systems – Resilience Science & Keyline Application” (IPC10 Presentation – Video)

Owen’s talk here is quite fascinating. While most in permaculture will recognise the importance of mainframe design, Owen’s talk goes a step further, and dips headlong into mainframe concepts as well. If you’re one of those right-side brain type people who just loves thinking a little above and beyond and immersing yourself into a bit of creative theory, you’ll find this talk from Owen hard to pause. If it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, don’t panic, as Owen brings the theoretical aspects back onto the ground throughout, to show how it plays out (and boy does it play out) on a tangible property he’s been working on in the U.S. of A. — in this case the large broad acre Whirlwind Farm. In essence, Owen’s talk is about restorative, resilience farming: how we can think about it, and achieve it.


  1. Take in the wonderment of this transformation, I stand by the ‘principal’ that when we take one step toward empowering nature, Nature takes 10 steps toward empowering recovery. There is multiple alchemy/synergy at play here, key line collects water, with water comes seed, organic matter, and the neighbours topsoils. Simple Keyline harvests what would otherwise be lost in the flood event, soil is not only hydrated, but compaction and salinity are reduced, conditions go from dry, compacted, anaerobic to hydrated aerobic and microbes activate again. As below, so above, life returns, frogs, predators, birds and people…
    ‘we now have the technologies, science and experience to use agriculture as a way to recover degraded soils rather than a way of creating deserts’ we just can’t do it with chemicals, we need to work with nature…still extremely fragile, remember to NEVER use herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, etc regards: Paul Taylor

  2. Very enlightening! I can’t wait to learn from the other presentations from this conference and potentially contribute to them in the future by changing my current resilient steady state to a new (hopefully better) one.

  3. Thanks,

    I really enjoyed the deeper points here about the stages of the forest up to when a fire come through and how we can even see this same kind of pattern happening in the world. Perhaps with all the people now protesting it’s like a fire has been lite and a pruge is going to happen, let us all be ready to help create a system that will care for all life after the fire has cleared out the old dead wood!

  4. This is a very interesting talk. Some of this stuff is pretty scary if you have some background knowledge of the mathematics behind this.
    Just consider this. When we burn fossil fuels we generate energy in the form of heat which can be converted to electricity or mechanical energy to drive our vehicles. This energy comes about because the energy in a carbon dioxide molecule is less than the energy in one separate atom of carbon and two separate atoms of oxygen. This is great except that the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere is increasing and the climate is changing. Now if we want to remove this excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere without dissolving it in the oceans, we have to split the CO2 molecule back into separate atoms so the carbon can be buried and this will require at least the same amount of energy to be paid back. So if we wanted to take the atmosphere back to where it was, say before the invention of the steam engine, we would have to pay back 150 or so years worth of fossil fuel energy.
    As Owen shows chaotic systems such as climate can flip into entirely different states when they reach a tipping point. If there is hysteresis in the system then much more than 150 years of energy may need to be put back. I hope this doesn’t happen.
    The only source of energy of this magnitude is solar power and the only process able to carry out the payback on this scale is photosynthesis. Also water is needed for photosynthesis to occur. But can the human race get its act together on this scale?

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