THE END OF SUBURBIA
Or the Beginning of Widespread Permaculture?
David Holmgren describes how critical permacultue design could be for planning life after fossil fuels.
Article first published in 'Permaculture Magazine' No. 46
Our uncertain energy future has been pictured in various scenarios that range from an absurdly optimistic ‘techno-fantasy’ (e.g., unlimited nuclear cold fusion with no unfore-seen negative impacts) to an ‘Atlantis-like’ fate in which our culture ‘goes under’
(See diagram ‘Energy Futures’ on next page).
More realistic perhaps are the inter-mediate third and fourth scenarios. In ‘green-tech stability’ we essentially maintain our current level of energy usage by progressively moving to renewable sources such as wind, solar, tidal power, etc., as fossil fuel reserves are used up. Permaculture defines a fourth scenario that I call ‘Earth Stewardship’, a ‘creative descent’ in which we progressively reduce our energy demands to return eventually to living within the natural energy and production budget of the land we occupy. Elements of all these scenarios can be found in the wide-ranging viewpoints and arguments of today’s ‘sustainability’ debates.
In the ‘creative descent’ scenario, which I consider to represent the only truly sustainable future, human society creatively descends the energy demand slope essentially as a ‘mirror image’ of the creative energy ascent that occurred between the onset of the industrial revolution and the present day. The actual sustainable plateau is a long way down from current energy demands, but also a long way ahead in time. If we begin our journey now, there is time to use our familiarity with continuous change and creative innovation to avoid bringing on ‘Atlantis’.