Crash on Demand: David Holmgren Publishes New Simplicity Institute Report

David Holmgren, co-orginator of the permaculture concept, has just published a new Simplicity Institute Report, entitled ‘Crash on Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future’. Fascinating, deep, and provocative, the introduction is posted below and the full report is available here. 

Crash On Demand

Welcome to the Brown Tech Future

                                                        David Holmgren


This essay updates my Future Scenarios (2007) work but also builds on the essay Oil vs Money; Battle for Control of the World (2009), as a running commentary on the rapid changes in the big picture context for permaculture activism, especially in the Australian context.  It assumes understanding of these previous works and, of course permaculture.  ‘Preaching to the choir’ it may be, but hopefully it contributes new perspectives to keep permaculture activists ahead of the game.

Permaculture teaching and activism have always aimed to work with those already interested in changing their lives, land and communities for the better, rather than proselytising the disinterested majority.  Over many decades, idealistic youth have responded positively to the ‘can-do’ personal empowerment of permaculture design, but it has also attracted more experienced citizens disillusioned with top down mainstream environmentalism’s failure to stop the juggernaut of consumer capitalism.  Similarly, disillusioned social and political activists are just starting to recognise permaculture as a potentially effective pathway for societal change as 20th century style mass movements seem to have lost their potency.

My argument is essentially that radical, but achievable, behaviour change from dependent consumers to responsible self reliant producers, (by some relatively small minority of the global middle class) has a chance of stopping the juggernaut of consumer capitalism from driving the world over the climate change cliff.  It maybe a slim chance, but a better bet than current herculean efforts to get the elites to pull the right policy levers (whether by sweet promises of green tech profits or alternatively threats from mass movements shouting for less consumption).

My argument suggests this could happen by reducing consumption and capital enough to trigger a crash of the fragile global financial system.  This provocative idea is intended to increase understanding while taking the risk that the argument could turn people away from permaculture as positive environmentalism, and brand me a lunatic, if not a terrorist.  That risk is an analogy for the massive risks that humanity now faces, where all options have unintended consequences and that normal, apparently sensible, behaviour is just as likely to lead to disaster as the most apparently mad schemes. Even mainstream ‘responsible’ proposals for saving us from climate chaos could also crash the financial system.  In times of tumultuous change, small events may trigger big changes we can’t control; a key understanding from the permaculture principle Creatively Use and Respond to Change.

The full report is available here.

Crash on Demand was originally published on David Holmgren’s website, Holmgren Design.

One Response to “Crash on Demand: David Holmgren Publishes New Simplicity Institute Report”

  1. SJ says:

    On the positive front, the Tesla electric car experience is looking like creating a tipping point to electric vehichles within ten years. Similar to the shift from horse and buggy to motor cars.
    On the negative side, that still leaves us hopelessy addicted to material excess and exposed to diminishing natural world that supports us. John F Schumacher says it so well in his essay, The Triumph of Triviality, that I wont try to articulate the fact that we have become too shallow to deal with what is going on, in detail. I only wonder, if we as a species cannot raise our conciousness adequatelty to control ouselves, are we worth saving. I will close with a quote from John Muir penned in the eighteen hundred.
    “But more than aught else mankind requires burning, as being in great part wicked, and if that transmundane furnace can be so applied and regulated as to smelt and purify us into conformity with the rest of the terrestrial creation, then the tophetization of the erratic genius Homo were a consummation devoutly to be prayed for. But, glad to leave these ecclesiastical fires and blunders, I joyfully return to the immortal truth and immortal beauty of Nature. ”
    and this
    “This star, our own good earth, made many a successful journey around the heavens ere man was made, and whole kingdoms of creatures enjoyed existence and returned to dust ere man appeared to claim them. After human beings have also played their part in Creation’s plan, they too may disappear without any general burning or extraordinary commotion whatever. “

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