Backyard answer to energy crisis

Dandelion Salad

by Fran Molloy
March 19, 2008

A return to 1950s suburbia may be the answer to our needs in a low-energy future, writes Fran Molloy.

With crude oil now more than $US110 a barrel and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries announcing this month that it will not succumb to demands for raised production quotas, dark predictions of an imminent descent into a global energy crisis appear to be coming true.

But the permaculture co-founder David Holmgren, who has been warning of such events for decades, believes the energy crisis heralds the beginning of a low-energy future – a future that may involve a return to 1950s suburbia.

Thirty years ago Holmgren was a university student who came up with the concept of permaculture, a blindingly simple idea: why not design our living spaces so that human needs for food, water and shelter imitated natural self-sustaining ecosystems?

Bill Mollison, a university lecturer who had worked as a wildlife biologist and helped to start the Tasmanian Organic Gardening and Farming Society, was Holmgren’s mentor and co-creator of the idea.

“It’s technically possible that the traditional older suburbs could actually produce all of the food needed to sustain the people living there,” he says.