Collaboratively Realising Permaculture’s Potential
David Holmgren’s Journey with Permaculture Design Process – Part One (e53)
I'm thrilled in this episode to share the first part of a two-part interview in which David Holmgren shares his journey with permaculture design process over the decades.
Scroll down to access the full transcript of this conversation, with huge thanks to David for sharing the historical photographs which really bring the story to life.
Note that in collaboration with David I had also previously created a downloadable PDF showing the timeline of David's design process journey that might provide a helpful supporting reference.
Finally, be sure to check out the brand new Reading Landscape with David Holmgren documentary project website which is so closely related to this episode.
The Full Interview Transcript (Edited for flow and readability)
Dan Palmer (DP):Welcome to the next episode of the Making Permaculture Stronger podcast. I'm super excited today. I've travelled about half an hour up the road and I'm sitting at a permaculture demonstration property and home called Melliodora. Sitting next to me is David Holmgren.
David Holmgren (DH): Good to welcome you here.
DP: I'm very excited to be here with this microphone between us and to have this opportunity to have you share the story of your journey with permaculture design process over the decades.
David and Dan co-teaching in 2018
DH: Yeah, and that's something we've worked on together in courses: our personal journeys with that. Certainly through those courses, working together has elicited and uncovered different aspects of me understanding my own journey.
DH: Thinking about design process through the lens of childhood experiences, I was always a constructor/builder, making cubbies, constructing things and yet never had any family role models for that. My father wasn't particularly practical with tools, and yet I was always in whatever workshop there was in our suburban home as a young child. So making things, imagining things which don't exist, and then bringing them to life was definitely part of my childhood experience.
I don't know, particularly, why in my last years of high school I had some vague notion that I might enrol in West Australian University in architecture. But I left to travel around Australia instead because I was hitchhiking mad in 1973. And in that process, I came across a lot of different ideas to do with the counter culture and alternative ways of living.
Studying Environmental Design in Tasmania
Most significantly, I came across a course in Tasmania in Hobart called Environmental Design and I met some of the enrolled students. I'd realised by that stage that I was not cut out to do any sort of conventional university course. I was too radical and free in my thinking and wasn't wanting to be constrained within any discipline or accounting for things through exam processes.
DP: What age were you?
DH: I was 18 at that time, and this course in Environmental Design really attracted me. Undergraduate students, who were doing the generalist degree in environmental design, were sometimes working on projects with postgraduate students who were specialising in architecture, landscape architecture or urban planning at the post graduate level.
Mt Nelson campus where Environmental Design School was part of the Tas College of Advanced Education 1970-80
There was no fixed curriculum. There was no fixed timetable. Half the staff budget was for visiting lecturers and outside professionals. There was a self assessment process at the end of each seme...
Rosemary Morrow Reflecting on Four Decades of International Permaculture Work (e52)
Such a deep honour to have my dear friend and very first ever podcast guest Rosemary ('Rowe') Morrow from the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute back on the show (after being my very first ever guest!) sharing her permaculture journey over four decades this week.
Some of the topics you'll hear in this truly wonderful chat are Rowe's:
new in-progress bookthoughts on the adequacies and inadequacies of permaculture issue with most permaculture being taught to middle class westernerswork in refugee camps and other largely invisible margins which are rapidly growingthoughts on designing yourself into your place vs designing yourself out of overseas places you workchapter on a permaculture approach to the oceansthoughts on decolonisation and re-indigenisingthoughts on the essence of permaculture
Please note after our chat Rowe asked if I would please share this link about supporting a permaculture project addressing the Humanitarian Crisis after the burning of the Moria Camp on the island of Lesbos.
Rowe also mentioned Milkwood's Permaculture Living Skills course which you can check out here.
Photo from a project in Lesvos Rowe was part of
Holistic Decision Making shop talk with Javan Bernakevitch and Dan Palmer (e51)
Continuing our recent focus, this episode shares a lively chat with my friend and fellow decision-making innovator Javan Bernakevitch. For several years we've been catching up regularly to talk shop and explore what's alive for us with respect to our shared interest in values-based or holistic decision making. This time we hit record to explore the difference between procedures with steps and processes with principles. How clear are you on the difference? Take a listen to find out!
Find more episodes on Holistic Decision Making hereLearn more about Javan's excellent work here and watch his Facing Fire film hereFind out more about my online courses in Holistic Decision Making hereCheck this link in a week or so to learn more about the David Holmgren Reading Landscape Documentary projectCheck out the site of April-Sampson Kelly (whose voice makes an all-too-brief appearance) hereBecome a patron of Making Permaculture Stronger here to access powerful permaculture design resources and enable the creation of more content like this
I hope you enjoy our holistic decision making shop talk, bless all you fathers out there (it is father's day in my part of the world), and catch you in the next episode.
Holistic Context for a Permaculture Design Business (Part 2 of 2)
This episode is the continuation and completion of the last episode where I started an interactive rolling review of a holistic context for a permaculture design business.
Here we follow through and finish the first pass of Porvenir Design's Holistic Context with owner-directors Scott Gallant and Sam Kenworthy.
To tie in with our current focus, by the way, I have created an online course on Holistic Decision Making starting September 4th, 2020. This course will educate and resource participants to develop their own holistic contexts and start making decisions aligned with that context.
There is also the opportunity to attend a PDC with Porvenir Design in either 2020 or 2021.
If you are interested in this topic you might also want to listen to my introduction to Holistic Decision Making in episode 40 and my recent interview with Allan Savory. You can also catch up on my prior conversation with Scott on the practical and professional realities of a more living design process in episode 41 and episode 42.
Some quotes from this episode
Whether you grow the business or shrink the business, that’s a decision, not a quality of life statement. - Dan
The entire job (of enabling actions) is to make the quality of life statements true. You know, what do we need to be doing or producing to make them true. One point I’ll make is whenever I do this I’ll make it very clear which enabling actions are attached to which quality of life statements. Even though sometimes one enabling action will serve more than one quality of life statement. I find that really helpful particularly later on when you’re auditing and you’re realising, oh right now this quality of life statement is the least true, so what are we going to do about it? That’s our focus for the next six weeks is to make that more true and then move on to the one that now is least true. Let’s go straight to the enabling actions in service of that and find out what’s wrong there, what’s happening there, what we can change. - Dan
When I first got into this I dove really deep into it and really read Savory’s book very closely, workshops and all that. And where I got to with the ‘resource base’ is that he construes it in terms of how things need to be 10, 20, 100, 200 years into the future, socially, on the land. As I tried to work with that, what I found that it directly connected to enabling actions. That’s their job for me. So you’ve got your purpose - where you’re heading, you’ve got the quality of life statements - the core things you need to feel are true along the way if you are getting quality out of being involved and want to stay involved, and then you’ve got the enabling actions - things you need to be doing day by day, week by week, in order to keep those quality of life statements true, which if they’re true, that enables you to actually deliver on your statement of purpose. The future resource base does look into the future, and it’s says, what are the resources that you need to be in place in order to do these enabling actions. What are the enabling actions, what resources are they dependant on, and how do those need to…I think of them as variables. If the key future resource base variable diminishes over time, a classic one in any business is the goodwill of your customers, if that’s going downhill over time at some point you don’t have a business anymore. So it’s one of the core resources you depend on into the future to continue operating. - Dan
This is where we put relationships with suppliers. They are in a certain state. And if the quality of our relationship with the people who supply the timber we make our veg beds out of or even the screws and bolts that we bolt them together with or whatever...
Articulating and Evolving a Holistic Context with Scott and Sam’s Permaculture Design Business: (Part 1 of 2)
This interview will show you what working on a holistic context looks like and how you could do this for yourself, your family, or your permaculture project or enterprise. Scott Gallant and Sam Kenworthy from Porvenir Design in Central America have recently created a holistic context for their business. In this episode I review it with them and support them to evolve it further. Here you'll get a better feel for applying what we learned from Allan Savory in the previous episode on Permaculture and Holistic Management. The whole Holistic Context idea comes from Allan.
If you are interested in this topic you might want to listen to my introduction to Holistic Decision Making in episode 40. You can also catch up on my prior conversation with Scott on the practical and professional realities of a more living design process in episode 41 and episode 42.
In conjunction with this episode, I have also created an online course on Holistic Decision Making starting September 4th, 2020. This course will educate and resource participants to develop their own holistic contexts and start making decisions aligned with that context.
Scott Gallant and Sam Kenworthy
Setting a Focus for the conversation: The Task Cycle Framework
After hearing a little something of Sam's backstory, I started by introducing the Task Cycle Framework to clarify our focus for the episode. I learned about this framework from Carol Sanford and the Regenesis folk. Among other things, this framework invites you think through:
The taskThe purpose of the taskThe products that need to be produced to pursue that purposeThe processes that will generate those products
In this case, the task was reviewing Porvenir Design's Holistic Context as a podcast episode. As for the task's purpose, what came up for me (and resonated for Scott and Sam) was:
We are recording this interview to review your holistic context and potentially help you increase its depth, clarity and decision making power...…in a way that supports Porvenir design’s vitality, viability, and capacity to evolve…..so that you and your business are becoming an increasing potent agent of regeneration in Costa Rica and beyond.
The main product was a tight, focused podcast episode that adds value to Porvenir design and to our listeners in terms of resourcing them to do this kind of work for themselves. Then the process we used was, after some scene setting, slowly working our way through the Porvenir context, reflecting on each bit for as long as we need.
In addition to going through the task cycle, Dan brought a personal aim to the conversation of evoking reflection and sharing experience more than providing answers.
Porvenir Design's Holistic Context
Thanks to Scott and Sam for letting me reproduce the version of their context they have shared publicly in this blog post. A Holistic Context for an entity (such as a business) created for a specific reason comprises:
a statement of purposequality of life statementswhat Savory calls forms of production and Dan calls enabling actionsa future resource base
Porvenir Design's Statement of Purpose: Why was this entity created?
Porvenir Design exists to help clients achieve their goals within the context of tropical land planning and management and to provide meaningful livelihood for its employees.
Some snippets from our conversation about Porvenir Design's Statement of Purpose
On a meaningful livelihood..."One of the things I sometimes struggle with, with the holistic context,
Allan Savory on Holistic Management and Permaculture
In this very special episode, I enjoy an in-depth conversation with Allan Savory, originator of Holistic Management, President of the Savory Institute and Director of the Africa Centre for Holistic Management. While Allan is best known for his work on holistic planned grazing, I was especially excited to dive into the decision making framework at holistic management's core and its implications for permaculture.
This is our conversation at a glance.
How we start the process of managing holistically when commencing new projectsMoving from reductionist to holistic management is moving from a reactive to a proactive orientationThe process of defining what important isThe relationship between holistic management and permacultureAddressing complexity with a holistic frameworkBeyond thinking holistically to managing holisticallyThe challenge with making holistic management stickThe paradigm shifts required to manage complexityThe individual leadership to inspire and the institutional scale of holistic management we need for meaningful changeHolistic management and regenerative agriculture and businessHope for the future
Dan Palmer & Allan Savory - with thanks to the Savory Institute for creating this image.
Here's a link to a recent episode on how I've been practicing holistic decision making, here's an article I wrote about it (back in 2014), and below is the full transcript of our conversation (my questions italicised).
How we start the process of managing holistically when commencing new projects
Allan thanks so much for this conversation. I’d love to start with the deep relevance of managing holistically for permaculture designers, and in particular, how we start the process of managing holistically when commencing new projects. Where us permaculture designers regularly encounter clients who, as soon as we ask them what they'd like our help toward, bombard us with a long list of goals or objectives. "We want a pond and ducks and an orchard and a vegetable garden and a campsite and a meditation platform and and and." Could you please explain what it means to engage clients on a deeper level than the goals they present us with, how we might go about this in practice, and how important this is if we aspire to be managing holistically?
Sure, let’s see if I can help Dan. You could either start by explaining what the reductionist management of humans is and how essential it is to manage holistically. That is what is needed if Permaculture (or any agriculture) is to be regenerative. And that is essential if civilization is to survive now facing global desertification and climate change, in which agriculture is playing as large (maybe larger) role than coal and oil. That gets boring in today’s short attention span and people’s eyes glaze over.
So the best way if there has been no training in how to manage holistically is to simply do it.
Everyone just wants to be told what to do and how to do it – it is almost impossible I find to stop farmers just wanting to know what to do and to help them decide how to make those decisions, that they don’t want to hear about. Allan just tell me what to do! I don’t want to hear about reductionist management and how it is the single cause of almost all that ails us, including desertification and climate change!
So the best way if there has been no training in how to manage holistically is to simply do it. Think trying to explain how to ride a bike vs having a bike and just starting to ride it. The more you explain how to ride a bike, the more confusing it gets, but a person simply riding a bike gets it in a day.
So, assume I am advising or helping you Dan the farmer. I would simply say,
Customer ReviewsSee All
I love this podcast!! Extremely valuable points of view to legitimize and define permaculture. Keep it coming please! Such wonderful conversations.