David Holmgren

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David Holmgren (born 1955) is an Australian environmental designer, ecological educator and writer. He is best known as one of the co-originators of the permaculture concept with Bill Mollison.

Life and work[edit]

In 1974 Holmgren moved to Tasmania to study at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education, Dept. of Environmental Design. In the alternative education environment there he chose to study landscape design, ecology and agriculture and, during a close association with Bill Mollison, developed the Permaculture concept.[1]

He initially concentrated his efforts on testing and refining his theories, first on his mother's property in southern New South Wales (Permaculture in the Bush, 1985; 1993), then at his own property, Melliodora, Hepburn Permaculture Gardens,[2] at Hepburn Springs, Victoria, which he developed with his partner, Su Dennett.[3]

He is regularly involved in teaching Permaculture design and principles organised by VEG, Milkwood, Food Forest, Castelmaine Community House, CERES and Good Life.

Fryers Forest Ecovillage[edit]

Fryers Forest Ecovillage, near Castlemaine, in Central Victoria, Australia is perhaps his most significant design and test of his Permaculture principles.[4] [5]


Recognition for Holmgren's contribution as an environmental designer, educator and activist has been slow to develop after the initial enthusiasm generated by the publication of Permaculture One when he was 23. The inclusion in Ecological Pioneers (of Australia)[6] was the first substantial recognition by academic authors. The inclusion of a three part series on Melliodora in a best of ten years of Gardening Australia, the most popular Australian TV gardening program and a person profile on the Australian broadcast network program Landline (ABC TV rural program) has been the most significant recognition by mainstream media. In 2012, following the publication of PP&PBS in Italian, the environmental organisation Fondazione Parchi Monumentali Bardini e Peyron recognised Holmgren's contribution with award Il Monito del Giardin.

In 2014, Holmgren was inducted into the Green Lifestyle Awards Hall of Fame for his pioneering and ongoing work with Permaculture since he co-founded the concept more than three decades ago. He is in the good company of Bob Brown, the inaugural inductee in 2012 and Olivia Newton-John in 2013.


The publication in December 2002 of a new major work on permaculture, saw a deeper and more accessible systematisation of the principles of permaculture refined by Holmgren over more than 25 years of practice. The book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability (2002a), is dedicated to Howard T. Odum, who died two months before its publication, and it owes much to Odum's vision of a world in energy transition.[7]

Principles and Pathways offers twelve key permaculture design principles, each explained in separate chapters. It is regarded as a major landmark in permaculture literature, especially as the seminal work, Bill Mollison's Permaculture: A Designer's Manual (1988) was published fifteen years previously and has never been revised.[8]

Holmgren's interest in recombinant ecosystems or 'weedscapes' is partly inspired by a 1979 visit to New Zealand and interactions with New Zealand ecologist Haikai Tane (1995).[9]

In 1997 the article "Weeds or Wild Nature?" was published in the Permaculture International Journal.[10]

In 2007 Adam Grubb, founding editor of Energy Bulletin.net (now Resilience.org) published Holmgren's extended essay Future Scenarios; mapping the cultural implications of Peak Oil and Climate Change that established Holmgren as a significant futurist articulating and clarifying the Energy Descent concept.[11]

Although Permaculture One was published by a mainstream publisher (Corgi) most of Holmgren's work has been self-published allowing experimentation with subject material such as case studies (Permaculture in bush, Trees on the treeless planes and Melliodora) book formats (Melliodora A3 landscape) and eBook formats (Melliodora, Collected Writings) before their more widespread uptake and Web publishing (Future Scenarios). This DIY approach reflects permaculture principles that encourage experimentation and self-reliance.

The Essence of Permaculture, a summary of PP&PBS is the most translated work by Holmgren (available in 10 languages 2015) while PP&PBS is available in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Czech, Japanese, French, Korean and Chinese. Future Scenarios is available in Japanese.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Holmgren, David (1978). Permaculture One. Linc, Tasmania: Melbourne : Transworld Publishers. p. 128. ISBN 0552980757. 
  2. ^ http://holmgren.com.au/melliodora/ Melliodora, Hepburn Permaculture Gardens, at Hepburn Springs, (http://www.holmgren.com.au)
  3. ^ Melliodora, Hepburn Permaculture Gardens – Ten Years of Sustainable Living, 1996a; Payne, 2003
  4. ^ "David Holmgren". The (En)Rich List. Post Growth Institute. Retrieved April 28, 2015. 
  5. ^ Greg Foyster (May 10, 2012). "The people of Fryers Forest". Simple Lives. Retrieved April 28, 2015. 
  6. ^ Mulligan & Hill 2001
  7. ^ A prosperous way down, Odum and Odum, 2001
  8. ^ http://transitionwhatcom.ning.com/profiles/blogs/principles-and-pathways-class
  9. ^ Mulligan, Dr. Martin, RMIT University (2001). "Thinking like an Ecosystem: Australian Innovations in Land and Resource Management". In Professor Stuart Hill. Ecological Pioneers: A Social History of Australian Ecological Thought and Action. Cambridge University Press. p. 205. ISBN 0521009561. Retrieved October 2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  10. ^ Holmgren, David (2011). "Weeds or Wild Nature: A Permaculture Perspective". Plant Protection Quarterly. 26 (3): 92–97. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  11. ^ http://holmgren.com.au/product/future-scenarios/

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]