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.

Holmgren was born in the state of Western Australia to political parents who were very active in the movement against Australia's involvement in the Vietnam war. Political activism against injustice provided a background to his own life's work with Permaculture as positive environmental activism. After graduating from High School in 1972 he spent a year hitch hiking around Australia which exposed him to the first wave of "Back To The Land" rural resettlement. In 1974 he moved to Tasmania to study Environmental Design at the innovative school set up by Hobart architect Barry McNeil, the College of Advanced Education in Hobart. Towards the end of his first year of studies he met Bill Mollison, who was then a senior tutor (in the psychology faculty 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 co author the manuscript that was to be published in 1978 as Permaculture One.


12 Principles of Permaculture Design

Holmgren is most widely cited in the world of Permaculture for his authorship of 12 principles. While many permaculture authors have established many priciples of action such as Bill Mollison who has over 40 listed in the Permaculture Design Manual and Ben Falk who has developed and additional 50, Holmgren's 12 are the easiest to comprehend while still providing a very deep understanding of Permaculture in both theory and practice.

Holmgren's 12 Principle of Permaculture Design Are

  1. Observe and interact: By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.


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