I spent Saturday night under a 100 year old pear tree with David Holmgren, Su Dennett, and a spirited gathering of Victorian permaculturalists, for their annual summer solstice party. Fun and uplifting times. David and Su’s property Melliodora is a genuine permaculture paradise – and an inspiring example of what can be done. My household’s urban homestead doesn’t compare, but over the years we have been making efforts to practise permaculture in our little patch (one tenth of an acre) in suburbia, Melbourne. I’ve posted a few photos of our place below.
To begin: dig up the lawn, enrich soil… grow food.
Add chicken coop and space to roam. Our two chooks, Lightning and Cloud 9, are great layers (and composters), and the muscovy duck (the Red Baroness) just flew into our backyard about five months ago and hasn’t left. She is free to fly away but chooses to stay. What an honour!
In an age when most governments around the world are doing little that is positive and much that is grossly irresponsible and harmful, it follows that the responsibility for societal change lies first and foremost with households and communities coming together to build the new world from the grassroots up. We must begin from where we are, in the world as we know it. Obviously there are deep structural obstacles in the way of social movements like permaculture, transition towns, degrowth, etc. and existing property systems in particular make it very hard or impossible for many people to access land and secure housing needed for these types of permaculture projects. I do not deny that, and in fact our work at the Simplicity Institute is focussed on exploring ways of restructuring society and systems in ways to encourage and support a degrowth transition to a ‘simpler way‘ permaculture society. These photos therefore are not held out as representing the solution to all problems, but as an honest attempt by my household to live as sanely as we can in an insane world. And I feel that retrofitting the suburbs along these lines is part of the revolution we need to see in coming years and decades on the path to low-impact, resilient society.
There is much to be done. Let us live without dead thyme.
About Samuel Alexander
Samuel Alexander – is a lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs and research fellow at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI), University of Melbourne. He also co-directs the Simplicity Institute.