The Foss and Holmgren Presentation

We went to the presentation by Nicole Foss and David Holmgren in Brisbane on Friday last week.

Very well attended, with a main lecture theatre pretty well packed – maybe 200 people.  There were eight people there from the Lockyer Valley whom I recognised and quite possibly more whom I didn’t recognise.  Pretty impressive, considering the massive disparity between the population of Brisbane and that of the Lockyer Valley.

Nicole Foss’s talk was absolutely riveting, starting with an overview of the history of money and the way that it has been expanded by the incorporation of debt/credit into the “money supply” and the risks that this poses.  She moved on to energy resource issues and linked this to the money supply (debt) through the cost of finding and producing the remaining “difficult” fossil energy sources, concluding that most of the hard to access fossil fuels will not be economic to produce.  The thread running through the presentation was the cyclical nature of the economy and the fact that massive levels of debt, coupled with the interconnectedness of the globalised economy and energy shortages/high energy prices, mean that sooner or later (and very likely sooner) there will be a depression cycle from which the global economy will not be able to recover.

Not all of it was as gloom-and-doomish as that may sound.  Foss gave examples of broad strategies for weathering the storm.

Of course this summary cannot possibly do justice to what was one of the most well delivered, highly informed, logical, well structured and thought provoking presentations that I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.  We came away with a lot of food for thought, and a resolve to review our sustainability planning.

She set the scene perfectly for David Holmgren to step in and elaborate the ways in which permaculture can contribute to creating a way through the economic (and social) breakdown that is coming.

What he started with were a series of bland generalisations, some of which touched on areas Foss had already covered, though some of what he said seemed strangely at odds with what she had presented.

The major part of his presentation though was an attempt to breathe life into his Aussie Street  scenario.  For those who haven’t seen it, this is a series of morphing diagrams tracing the evolution of households on four house blocks in an Australian suburban street.  It is long, barely entertaining, and the ratio of stimulating ideas to slightly cute waffle is very low.  We first saw it about eight years ago, and neither of us could decide whether there was actually any new material in Friday’s presentation.  As an illustration of the application of permaculture principles to suburban planning and lifestyle it can only be described as weak.  As a follow-up to the opportunity that Nicole Foss had set up for someone to highlight the role that permaculture can play in dealing with the coming disastrous wind-down of the economy and associated resource issues, Holmgren’s presentation was a massive lost opportunity.

We kept thinking, there’s got to be more.  A friend of ours said later, “I just wanted to throw things at him to wake him up to what he needed to be saying”.

But if you can get to the the Melbourne presentation on July 15, don’t miss it.  This is a chance to hear Nicole Foss give a truly remarkable overview of where we are headed and why.  If you are thinking of going to the Hobart presentation (Holmgren without Foss) on July 19, my advice is don’t bother.