4 David Holmgren’s Future Scenarios

This page explores the work of Permaculture’s cofounder David Holmgren and what he sees for the possible directions that civilization can take.
David Holmgren’s Permaculture site, Melliodora, in Hepburn Springs, Australia

Permaculture’s co-founder David Holmgren is a futurist, and has shared deep wisdom and insight about where we are headed as a civilization. He lives in Hepburn Springs, Victoria, Australia, about 99 km (61 miles) from Melbourne.  His well-known Permaculture site called Melliodora that is documented in this book Melliodora: Ten Years of Sustainable Living. He has published a number of books, including “Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability”, and “Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change”

Holmgren’s first book “Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability” introduces the concept of “Peak Oil” which is the time when the world uses half of the available fossil fuels on the planet, and the other half is more costly to extract, with a decreasing amount available each year. This causes us to seek the dirtier forms of fossil fuel extraction, which exacerbates climate change through increased CO2 emissions.

In “Future Scenarios”, Holmgren outlines the possible directions that we can go, given the world energy situation:

Techno Fantasy

“depends on new, large and concentrated energy sources that will allow the continual growth in material wealth and human power over environmental constraints, as well as population growth. This scenario is generally associated with space travel to colonize other planets.” – Excerpted from Future Scenarios website

Cleantech Stability

“depends on a seamless conversion from material growth based on depleting energy, to a steady state in consumption of resources and population (if not economic activity), all based on novel use of renewable energies and technologies that can maintain if not improve the quality of services available from current systems… Photovoltaic technology directly capturing solar energy is a suitable icon or symbol of this scenario.”

Energy Descent

“involves a reduction of economic activity, complexity and population in some way as fossil fuels are depleted. The increasing reliance on renewable resources of lower energy density will, over time, change the structure of society to reflect many of the basic design rules, if not details, of pre-industrial societies. This suggests a ruralization of settlement and economy, with less consumption of energy and resources and a progressive decline in human populations.”


“suggests a failure of the whole range of interlocked systems that maintain and support industrial society, as high quality fossil fuels are depleted and/or climate change radically damages the ecological support systems. This collapse would be fast and more or less continuous without the re-stabilizations possible in Energy Descent.”

At this point in David’s futurist outlook, he believes that the time for sustainability is over, and we need to look to being as resilient as we can, where we are. His new book due out in 2016 is “RetroSuburbia”, which imagines how suburban-scaled Permaculture systems will provide the foundation for survival into an unknown future.

Holmgren’s Future Scenario’s research


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Introduction to Permaculture Copyright © 2019 by Andrew Millison is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.