Reflections from Retrovillages of the Yarra Valley – with David Holmgren and Maya Ward

It was a rather spontaneous creation from Maya Ward who took advantage of David and Su staying at her place to invite them to an ‘open discussion’ discussing some “hot topics’ relating to climate change and the recent elections.

The evening started with a impressive spread from the pot luck  shared mea and some enchanting (and humorous) opera from James Ong.   It was quite a cozy scene with Maya Ward, David Holmgren, Sue Dennet and Graeme George taking the main stage.  Maya did a great job presenting questions that many in the room where probably mulling over the last couple of weeks. Namely, around the failure of our community and political system to make the necessary changes to turn around what seems to be the inevitable destruction of life on this planet.

 “Pointless to try and change the majority”

I think this was a key message for all of us working towards a sustainable human presence on Earth. David explained that based on research into cultural change, you actually only need 20% of the community to make the necessary changes to sway the remaining 80% to follow suit.

To challenge the 80% David believes is a futile endeavor due to the embedded economic realities that exist in our society. There is simply too much money and power at stake for those “pulling the strings” of our society.

 So how do we have 20% of the community make the necessary changes to turn things around?  For David and Su it seems the answers are all already here and they have been practicing these over the past 40 years…Permaculture!   If anyone should be frustrated by the lack of action from the majority surely it would be David and Su are.   However their experience living and breathing Permaculture really showed in how they both relate to the lack of any real action by the community or politicians.  David’s broad systems thinking approach allows perspective and space to reflect on what is a complex unraveling of human consciousness and behavior.

The power and fragility of Economic Machine

Whilst the “powers that shouldn’t be” do have an overwhelming grip on our society, David acknowledged how vulnerable this grip is at present.  With the economy extremely overheated and following an obscene exponential growth pattern,  the entire economic system is on the edge of complete collapse.  From David’s perspective the sooner the collapse occurs the better for all the stakeholders dependent inhabitable biosphere.

David reminded us that most of our manufacturing and resources are being wasted on superfluous goods and occupations that generate no real value to our society.   David challenged the dominant sustainability approach that acknowledges the man induced climate crisis yet failing to dismiss the economic growth model. He pointed out that if climate change is going to cause so much suffering for all living beings in the near future, wouldn’t we want to stop the economic drivers that are forcing us towards this end? Wouldn’t the most effective disruption to the ongoing destruction be an economic crash? Therefore shouldn’t we be doing what we can do bring this to ahead as soon as possible?  David didn’t directly call for us to bring down the system but he left the sense that is what we need to do!

Grass roots, local action

Whether we like it or not, big changes in our environment are here and bigger ones coming still.  We will be forced to change through extreme climate chaos or through an inevitable economic crash (or both)

To make a change, those of us who are open minded, educated and willing to make the changes needed to continue to cut the strings of our consumerist lifestyles. The real power is in the hands of the downshifters and the people who chose to live with less ‘stuff’ and wasted privileges.  We need to “be the change we want to see” and ENJOY this journey along the way.

 David described the gathering on the night akin to meeting with his Tribe, and it is the strength of community that will inspire others to make the changes necessary to turn things around.