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From pandemic to war through a geo-ecological lens (with David Holmgren)

This week we spent a few hours with co-originator of the permaculture concept, David Holmgren, at his home Melliodora in southern Djaara peoples’ country. Our conversation ranged from the personal to the geopolitical, dark green ecology to bright green billionaires, pandemic constriction to war construction, the role of energy in shaping culture to the gaming of the progressive liberal media.

Thank you Su and David for welcoming us into your home, and thank you Miles for once again sharing your two-camera craft and expertise.

We welcome your comments (below), and your support (here). A hearty thanks to those who contributed financially in the past weeks to make this video possible.


Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren

Future Scenarios by David Holmgren

Crash on Demand: welcome to the Brown Tech Future by David Holmgren

History from the future: a prosperous way down by David Holmgren

RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future by David Holmgren

Shades of Green (Lifestyle) Awards Reflection

Lewis Mumford Wikipedia page

Sébastien Marot

Robert Newman’s History of Oil


  1. Lisa says:

    That was great. Thankyou to everyone involved.

    1. Thanks for saying, Lisa.

    2. Kathryn Pegiel says:

      Thank you for this video. It was very educational. It would be great to hear more in-depth analysis from David.
      Thanks Kathryn

      1. Thanks Kathyrn, we’ll see what we can spin.

  2. Joel Gray says:

    Very insightful, absolutely fascinating analysis, especially of the first world war. Are there further articles detailing the energy/war history?
    It is heartening to see us all gravitating towards David and Vandana, Yunkaporta. Of course there are yourselves and also I would add Manda Scott’s Accidental Gods pod cast and Chris Smaj of A Small Farm Future. For insight and support.
    Thank you for your courage and commitment and work.

    1. Thanks so much Joel, and thanks for sharing links for us to dive into. We so appreciate that.

      RE: energy/war history – Patrick referred to F. William Engdahl’s ‘A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order,’ for his doctoral work in 2013. Engdahl’s website offers this useful intro to his more extensive book:

      And Robert Newman’s brilliant History of Oil is essential viewing too:

      1. Richard says:

        Hi! I look forward to working through this video over my next few work commutes (whenever they are – ugh this year). Just wondering – is Patrick’s thesis available for reading?

          1. Elise says:

            Thanks so much! I had wondered about how Ukraine might be linked to resources/energy.

            I very much look forward to the documentary you mentioned you are working on!
            Thanks again for your work.

          2. Richard says:

            woop.. thanks for the link. Ended up home with a sniffle, so was able to absorb this great video in one go. Many thanks for your continuing mahi. I’ve always wanted to hear David’s position on a wider range of topics, so this was really interesting to me. I’m still convinced I’ve spotted David in a wide shot of a meeting in the film Patu that I worked on preserving recently, but I may be totally wrong. Maybe next time you see him you can ask if he was in NZ at the time of the 1981 protests?

      2. Oak says:

        Both these links are a marvellous counter balance to the standard British education story that is rolled out unquestioned. Thank you.

        1. Aren’t they, Oak. A pleasure.

      3. Hristina says:

        Thoroughly enjoyed listening to the conversation, despite our big ‘sigh’ at the end. Always a privilege to listen to such great wisdom. Thank you for all of your efforts at producing such great videos. Love to all.

        1. Thanks Hristina, we’re grateful for your thanks and for your sighs.

  3. Katherine says:

    Wonderful and fascinating interview. These crises we are facing are so full of complexity – it’s great to hear such an in-depth and nuanced understanding of these events from such a wonderful thinker.

    1. Thanks Katherine, we will hopefully do more such interviews with David. His insights and (as you say) nuance is such a gift in these times.

  4. Oliver says:

    Thank you so much for this video, the energy perspective on the wars of the 20th century blew my mind. Loved hearing David talk about these things. I was wondering what either David or Patrick & Meg thought of the author Vaclav Smil, bill gates seems to like him a lot. I haven’t read any but he seems to big a big picture thinker about energy.

    1. Hello Oliver, thanks for bringing our attention to Vaclav Smil. We watched his, Energy Systems: Transition & Innovation’ 2019 talk on your recommendation (

      Like so many European thinkers of his age there’s always the absence of Indigenous thinking and lifeways (ie an unquestioning belief in empire civilisations), and an underlying belief that somehow ‘the system’ will organically keep innovating and adapting (progressing), which we part ways from.

      While he is obviously a degrowth thinker, and doesn’t share Bill Gates’ saviour-entrepreneurism, Smil (like Gates) lacks the mythic in his analysis, which (for us) renders him a little two-dimensional.

      Nonetheless, there is obviously a wealth of critical thinking and curiosity, esp relating to his context for energetic-ecological shapings of human culture (which certainly borders the mythological, if you’re that way inclined), for which he appears to be highly useful and rare (at least from the Euro-dimension).

      Thanks again for bringing our attention to Smil’s thinking!
      Cheers, Patrick and Meg

      1. Oliver says:

        Thanks for the reply, got a lot out of your response 😊

  5. Jessica says:

    Thank you so much for making this video, so much incredible insight so many of us need right now, please do a part 2!

    1. Thanks for your kind words and support, Jessica! We always love our conversations with David.

  6. Di says:

    What a fantastic interview and discussion. Certainly puts what is happening in the world into perspective.

    1. Thanks Di! We are glad you enjoyed it.

  7. Adam says:

    Thank-you to everyone involved. David’s wisdom spanning farming and philosophy intrigues. An autobiographical work would be awesome! Or, at least video that captures how David has come to such applied and worldly wisdom.

    1. We feel so grateful to have David and Su as elders in our community. David has written many autobiographical pieces. His writings are available on his website here. You might also like to read his chapter in the book Permaculture Pioneers: stories from the new frontier.

  8. Patrick H says:

    I read an interesting new book featuring an interview with Waleed Aly recently in which he advocated for more humility as a fundamental need for the sake of a better human future.

    He made the point that one should not enter an argument unless there is a chance you might lose the argument, which means therefore that you have learnt something. I thought this was a tantalising idea.

    This video, which I watched from beginning to end, was characterised by a lack of humility. There was no sense that the speakers believed that there was a possibility that any of the views put were possibly simply wrong.

    Worse still, there was at times when the discussion turned to Ukraine, a tendency for the views put to be by way of a justification for Putin’s war crimes. Elsewhere, the consistently lucid Noam Chomsky has been unequivocal in condemning the invasion of Ukraine as a war crime, on a par with the invasion of Poland by Germany and the invasion of Iraq by the United States.

    1. It’s so interesting you mention Waleed Aly, Patrick. This so-called journalist has refused to even play with the idea that an unvaccinated person who can articulate with nuance and clarity why they are refusing the jabs, deserves a right to be heard. It’s not about right and wrong, it’s about nuance, diversity and openness to debate. No one is ever really right, but it’s the degree in which people are intentionally deceiving or coercing their audience that really matters. Sounds like you’ve already bought into Aly’s gentle and popular false-balance reportage and won’t have the ears to listen to an alternative analysis, but in case you wish to do as Aly suggests and listen to an opposing argument openly, please check out this video:

      1. Patrick H says:

        I’m not totally clear on the connection? The only association seems to be that Waleed Aly is the interviewer.

        When we reach a point where we are referring to “false-balance reportage” I get very nervous. All the worst despots in history have called out the media as the root of all problems, when in fact the media are the only hope a nation has.

        Call me ‘old school’ as I still read ‘books’, but I read a quote from Goebells just this morning in ‘Democracy Rules’ by Jan-Werner Muller: “It will always remain one of the best jokes of democracy that it provided its mortal enemies itself with the means through which it was annihilated”. In other words, the insistence that freedom under democracy is an absolute right is perilous and lacks nuance and understanding of its complex and tenuous nature.