RetroSuburbia is a fascinating and sometimes confronting book about preparing for an expected ‘energy descent future’. Author David Holmgren believes that collectively as individuals we can foster increased resilience in a rapidly changing world – especially through connecting with like-minded people in our community.
Earth care, people care and fair share-permaculture principles and ethics underpin RetroSuburbia and are as relevant now as when the permaculture concept was first coined by David and co-creator Bill Mollison in the 1970s. Before moving forward we need to step back and consider the way we live, and ways of doing so more thoughtfully, frugally and with passion by our sides. RetroSuburbia gives us the practical tools to do this, no matter our personality type, age or circumstances.
This momentous and highly anticipated 592 page, 1.8kg book, is not only designed for readers to dip in and out of, but also as a cover to cover holistic and practical bible for living smartly in cool climate and arid urban Australia. RetroSuburbia contains 90 watercolour illustrations and over 400 full colour photos.
There are interesting case studies throughout, giving us shining examples for inspiration and to take some of the guess work out of making changes. Additionally, RetroSuburbia provides a variety of references for further information on subjects covered, such as the companion website: retrosuburbia.com. Essentially, this book is a starting point for all things savvy self-sufficiency, which engenders a momentum far beyond its not-so-humble words.
David sets the scene conceptually, with 3 distinct areas of action: Built, Biological and Behavioural.
In the Built Field, David looks at different options for living now and into an energy descent future, including Family Castle (secure home base), Communal Living (to work together), Mobile Minimalisation (to maintain flexibility), and Adapt in Situ (age with grace). RetroSuburbia is focused on Family Castle or household retrofits as David believes it will be the most common response to an energy descent future.
The Biological Field takes readers on a journey through the myriad of backyard retro-fitting options out there, primarily using resources and expertise readily available in the local community. David covers subjects such as: assessing a garden and its soil fertility/growing potential; different ways of growing food in urban settings including bio-intensively, using permaculture principles, or both; seed saving and backyard nursery; animal husbandry; foraging and hunting, and more. David emphasises that there is no one way of doing things, nor that every backyard or urban environment is the same. What matters is doing what’s best for you and not getting overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the possibilities!
The Behavioural Field is where David equips readers with practical ways of making their retro-suburban dreams a reality, as well as doing what they can in their lives and immediate households to take action. Some subjects covered include: creating your own livelihood; financial planning and security; sustaining and sustainable diet; and rearing self-reliant and resilient children.
RetroSuburbia February 2018