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Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 8 months ago

David Holmgren









(with links)



David Holmgren (born 1955) is an ecologist, ecological design engineer and writer. He is perhaps most well known as co-originator of the permaculture concept with Bill Mollison. David Holmgren is a controversial figure. Through the spread of permaculture around the world, his environmental theory has exerted a global influence.


Holmgren was born in Western Australia. He studied at the College of Advanced Education in Hobart, Tasmania, where in 1972 he met Bill Mollison, who was then a lecturer at the University of Tasmania. The two found they shared a strong interest in the relationship between human and natural systems. Their wide-ranging conversations and gardening experiences encouraged Holmgren to write the manuscript that was to be published in 1978 as Permaculture One.

'I wrote the manuscript, which was based partly on our constant discussions and on our practical working together in the garden and on our visits to other sites in Tasmania... I used this manuscript as my primary reference for my thesis, which I submitted and was passed in 1976.' (Mulligan and Hill, 2001:203)

The book was a mixture of insights relating to agriculture, landscape architecture and ecology. The relationships between these disciplines were elaborated into a novel design system termed permaculture. Although the title clearly owes something to Russell Smith's Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture (1977), Holmgren's chief theoretical inspiration was the energy dynamics of American ecologist Howard T. Odum (Environment, Power and Society, 1971). The same book was promoted by David M. Scienceman as a platform for a scientific political party.


According to Holmgren,

'The word permaculture was coined by Bill Mollison and myself in the mid-1970s to describe an "integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man". A more current definition of permaculture, which reflects the expansion of focus implicit in Permaculture One, is "Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs". People, their buildings and the ways they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent (sustainable) agriculture has evolved into one of permanent (sustainable) culture.' (Holmgren, 2002a: xix)


Permaculture One was far more successful than anticipated, as it seemed to meet a need of the emerging environmentalist counterculture looking for something positive and substantial to align with. It was published in five languages, but is now out of print and of mainly historical value, having been superseded and refined in later works.


While Bill Mollison travelled the world teaching and promoting permaculture, Holmgren was more circumspect about the potential of permaculture to live up to the promises sometimes made about it. He concentrated his efforts on testing and refining his brainchild, first on his mother's property in southern New South Wales (Permaculture in the Bush, 1985; 1993), then at his own property in central Victoria, Australia, which he developed with his partner, Su Dennett (Melliodora, Hepburn Permaculture Gardens - Ten Years of Sustainable Living, 1996a; Payne, 2003).


Starting in 1993, Holmgren has taught permaculture design courses at his Hepburn home, and has also acted through his company Holmgren Design Services as consultant for a large number of projects, examples of which can be found in the report Trees on Treeless Plains: Revegetation Manual for the Volcanic Landscapes of Central Victoria (1994).

A recent major project has been the Fryers Forest eco-village, which aims to create a model of sustainable housing and financially viable sustainable forest management, on a site near Castlemaine, Victoria (Holmgren, 1996b).






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