Wednesday, February 05, 2014


Do we need to break the system to save the climate? Permaculture co-founder David Holmgren says "yes", in rare radio interview. Then Nicole Foss replies. Plus Alex's climate music.

Last week on Radio Ecoshock we looked at a growing group of activists, authors and scientists who say only a serious economic crash could save us from climate doom. Now we'll talk with the man who started this flurry, the co-founder of the permaculture movement, Australian David Holmgren.

I'll follow that up with reaction from Canadian finance and alternatives expert Nicole Foss. If you care about the future, this is radio you won't want to miss.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (54 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)


Despite the hopes and warnings of the last generation, humanity is heading for the darker path of more fossil fuel development. Today's politicians are all about new pipelines, fracking, tankers, super coal mines and super coal ports, and of course endless oil.

It didn't have to be that way. We had other choices, but now the co-founder of the Permaculture movement says "Welcome to the Brown Tech Future". That train to climate disaster must be derailed for us to survive, he says, in a provocative essay called "Crash on Demand".

When it comes to David Holmgren you've either heard of him in an almost reverent way, or you haven't a clue. Along with Bill Mollison, David started the permaculture movement back in the 1970's. He's experimented with it ever since, from ecovillages and food forests to retrofitting suburbia. David is not a huge self-promoter. Outside of Australia, he's known mainly by people seeking alternatives to the system of endless growth, and pitiless pillage of the land. Find his web site here.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with David Holmgren (25 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

So what are we talking about? The co-founder of Permaculture is saying we can't prevent a horrible collapse of the climate unless the current industrial-economic engine crashes. The only previous example of massive greenhouse gas reductions was when the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990's. That's what it takes, Homlgren says.

This essay is part of a longer train of writings by Holmgren. He began with the book "Permaculture One" published in 1978, when David was 23, at the College of Advanced Education in Hobart, Tasmania. After experimenting with permaculture, from his own consulting firm, Holmgren updated the vision with the 2002 book "Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability". That's still the best book on the subject, and fundamental to the permaculture movement world-wide.

In 2007, David published a long essay, which became a book, "Future Scenarios". Based mainly on the expectation of peak oil, that work has the four descent senariois: Brown Tech, Green Tech, Earth Steward, and Lifeboats.

Future Scenarios, combining Peak Oil and Climate Change, was developed into a web site which fully explains his views. It's a good place for anyone to start. Future Scenarios is also available as a book from Chelsea Green.

You can buy the book "Future Scenarios" here. Or read it free online at this web site.

The next link in Holmgren's deep work came in 2009, with an analysis of the fatal marriage of the financial system to the fossil fuel energy industry.

Download David's 2009 essay, which is part of this train of thought, and this Radio Ecoshock interview, "Money vs Fossil Energy: The battle for control of the world" from this web page.

Now we have "Crash on Demand, Welcome to the Brown Tech Future".

Find "Crash on Demand" at this web site, or download it as a .pdf here.

In our interview, David says he suggested the four scenarios as short-term futures, possibly covering decades. Now he finds humanity has chosen one of the paths, the most deadly for the climate and ourselves, the "Brown Tech Future". In it we find desperate measures like the Tar Sands, Oil Shale, and fracking.

Meanwhile, Holmgren explains these four scenarios can exist at the same time, nestled within one another. For example, while the Brown Tech future dominates the world financial system, more and more people are opting out either as Earth Stewards, or building personal and local "lifeboat" economies (like permaculture).

The founder of Transition Towns, Rob Hopkins, is critical of this new Holmgren stance. Rob thinks we can work through the existing system. For example, he wants to make sure local governments continue, so we have the organization needed to change in stages.


But is Holmgren really calling on us to actively cause a crash of the world financial system? He says the great weakness of the world economy is it is built on faith - our belief it is real and keeps on going. If enough of the world's billion-or-so Middle Class stop believing, and remove their money and their working lives from the system, it will crash. It wouldn't take much of a trigger to destabilize such a fragile system. Perhaps if just 5 percent of people opted out, it may go down, Holmgren postulates.

People close to David say he is not really calling for us to destabilize the current economy, other than to change away from it - toward the things he has been advocating for decades: form local economies, and change to "permaculture" - a permanent culture. It's hard to nail David down on what he really means. I'm told he will be publishing a boil-down and clarification on his site in the next week or two. Look for that.

Meanwhile, in our radio interview, David points out he is far from alone in saying the system will crash, or need to do so. I've interviewed climate scientists, like Professor Tim Garrett from the University of Utah, who also calculate only a financial collapse could save us from unstoppable climate change. We talked about others in last week's interview with Albert Bates. But there are also a huge number of bloggers and financial experts who say a severe correction is coming.

Here is just one example, from a thousand, of a middle class person who wants to help the system down, without any mention of climate change or peak oil.

If you want to know more, here is a You tube video series with David Holmgren.

Also, find another recent (Feb. 2014) interview with David on the show "21st Centruy Permaculture" on Shoreditch Community Radio (serving East London).

Read a response to David's Crash on Demand article by Dmitri Orlov, author of "Five States of Collapse". If we want to avoid "the climate cooker" as he calls it, David Holmgren says citizens can help tip the financial system over, by withdrawing money and investments, while living outside the consumer economy. Orlov does the math, and says there aren't enough activist citizens to make any difference.

Part of the tumultuous reaction can be found in this article by KMO, host of the C-Realm Podcast (and check out the comments below the article)


Can we save ourselves from the worst of climate change by helping an unstable economic system to collapse? That's the idea put forward by permaculture founder David Holmgren in his paper "Crash on Demand".

Our next guest wrote a deep and provacative article about Holmgren, climate change, and a crash. She travels the world, from New Zealand to Europe, giving lectures - which are now available as a 4-hour DVD set.

Nicole has been a specialist in nuclear safety in the UK, and editor of the Peak Oil journal "The Oil Drum Canada". Now she is co-editor at one of the Net's more popular financial blogs,, where she writes as "Stoneleigh".

From her homestead in Ontario, Canada - we welcome Nicole Foss back to Radio Ecoshock.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Nicole Foss in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Read this essential essay about David Holmgren's "Crash on Demand" by Nicole Foss.

Nicole knows David Holmgren well. Later this year, in July, she will tour Australia with him, in a series of lectures. In our interview she explains very well the "Crash on Demand" paper and the four scenarios.

Foss raises a two-fold objection to David's idea of "Crash on Demand". First, she says the system is so corrupt and unbalanced it will fall over by itself; and second, when it does, some people will blame the permaculture movement, for wrecking the system.

In her essay, and our interview, Nicole points us to a European expert on systems analysis and large-scale economics. That's David Korowicz.

He's written a paper titled "Trade-Off, Financial System Supply-Chain Cross-Contagion: a study in global systemic collapse." How does Korowicz fit into our future? I hope to talk with him soon.

Essentially, Korowicz explains how a relatively simple trigger, whether it's a deadly virus hitting Asian factories, or a combination of extreme weather events, could bring down everything we take for granted, much faster than anyone thinks. It could cascade into a major economic slow-down in a matter of weeks.


In her response to Holmgren, and almost as an aside, Nicole Foss suggests maybe we should stop talking about climate change:

"The economic contraction that is coming is very likely to have a far more substantial impact on emissions than any deliberate policy or collective action. The combination of this contraction and constructive collective action could be very powerful indeed, but achieving the latter action is not best done on the grounds of climate change. The same actions that would best address climate change in the aggregate are also the prescription for dealing with financial crisis and peak oil – hold no debt, consume less, relocalize, increase community self-sufficiency, reduce dependency on centralized life-support systems.

The difference is that both financial crisis and peak oil are far more personal and immediate than climate change, and so are far bigger motivators of behavioural change. For this reason, addressing arguments in these terms is far more likely to be effective. In other words, the best way to address climate change is not to talk about it.

At first that seems outrageous. But you must read the full essay, and listen to this interview.

Essentially, Nicole worries that fear of climate change, once realized by the public, could drive us towards even worse outcomes. For example, we may demand immediate action to save us from the (drought, heat wave, floods, fires) - leading to geoengineering pollution that hides emissions and makes everything worse. Or we may demand/allow a new type of eco-fascism - command and control state regulating every part of our lives (perhaps combined with the new spy state). And, as now, we can count on a gang of billionaires to cook up schemes that don't work but enrich themselves.

Why risk all that, Foss argues, when people can move toward a more sustainable lifestyle driven simply by concerns about a collapsing economy and peak energy? I disagree of course, and will continue to communicate about climate change in the Radio Ecoshock show.

Humanity is up against a novel and horrific set of problems, (energy, economy, overpopulation, nuclear disaster,climate change). We need a wide range of proposals and thought before we find any way out. That means tolerance and respect among ourselves, for a diversity of speakers and opinions. People who are so sure they are right, and everyone who disagrees is wrong, to the point of calling others "traitors", "idiots" and the like - are just weakening the whole discussion, and our possibilities. It's sad to see intellectual tyrants ranting at low levels, but I suppose the stress of our unwinding makes this inevitable from some people.


I close out this program with my pathetic attempt to write new climate music. It's called "Burning Down the Future". If you missed it, download it here.

I've already received on email from a listener begging me to never sing again. As a compromise, I'll put my future songs at the end of the show, so you can turn it off!

I have several reasons for taking up "climate music" as a hobby.

First, there is a real need for it! I hope to inspire better artists to get active in climate change by writing better songs.

Second: it's apparent that just talking about these grave threats can never reach enough people, or bring action. The arts have always been needed to complement the rational mind.

Finally, I need the outlet to save my own brain from the stress of dealing with these stories. Sorry, you'll have to put up with more "music" from Alex in the future.

Perhaps better musicians will do a re-mix or perform one of my songs. (I was a pro-musician decades ago). I encourage anyone out there to take a shot at it and send me your results.

We are talking about whether humans will have a future, and what it will be. I encourage you to download this program from my web site, Listen again, and please, pass on the show, or the links, to everyone you know. This has to get out far and wide, while there is still time, if there is still time. I count on you to make this particular show sing on the Net, on social media, and through all personal contacts. You can use this "tiny url" in Tweets or Facebook posts:

At the very least, please "Like" the show Facebook page?

My special thanks to the non-profit station relaying Radio Ecoshock to you. Please support your local community station.

You make Radio Ecoshock possible through your financial support for this program, via my web site, or my show blog at Please come back to this blog, published Wednesdays, so you can follow up and grow with me.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening and caring about our world.


Alex Smith said...

Lewis Cleverdon sends this comment for the blog.

I don't follow your reasoning in this uncritical account of the Holgren-Foss passivist proposal.

You know as well as I both the 30 - 40yr timelag on warming and the major additional warming due to ending fossil fuel use meaning the loss of the fossil sulphate parasol, which would mean warming greatly intensifying after any such crash for at least 3 or 4 decades - and thereby massively accelerating the eight major feedbacks.

I think you're pretty well aware of the latter and of their acceleration under just 0.85 of AGW, though you may not yet have yet have seen an account of how there are over 80 'Direct Driver' couplings between them (e.g. Albedo Loss in the form of ASI decline putting warmer winds up to 1500kms inland and accelerating Permafrost Melt).

Supposing the H/F Passivist idea of 10% of population (35 million Americans, 9 million Germans, 25 million Russians, etc) withdrawing from the global economy was either
a/. remotely achievable, or,
b/. effective in terminating the global economy, any rational reading of the climate science surely points to the outcome of terminal self-propagating warming due to the feedbacks.

The H/F passivism is of course self-fuelling in attracting such an outcome, in that it plays directly to the rising wave of defeatism and apathy, which is of course the best news that those trying to maintain the present "Brinkmanship of Inaction" on climate could hope for. Without effective popular pressure for commensurate action on climate, which means massive recruitment, not desertions, the prospects of avoiding a terminally catastrophic outcome are diminished.

Which leaves me puzzled as to why you would give the H/F proposal the time of day ?

I enjoyed your piece debunking Malcolm Light's fantasies by the way - I've pointed out to Sam Carana and others at AMEG that a focus on unprecedented abrupt feedback impacts is far less effective than the simple case that Emissions Control alone is evidently not remotely commensurate with the problem, and that the issue of serial global crop failures is, by far, the proximate critical threat. I have to say that I've yet to see AMEG apply much strategic thinking to their efforts.

All the best,

Lewis Cleverdon

mkroberts said...

A small point, Alex. Nicole Foss now writes as "Nicole Foss" on The Automatic Earth, not "Stoneleigh". The latter moniker is still sometimes inserted in some parts but is not used to post articles.

Kofi White said...

Until we realize that nothing has ever been broken as proof of anything, well.

Wally Knitwits said...

Alex, good program my first time.

Am confused about the ending comments on sunspots, cmes, output etc.

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2014 total: 0 days (0%)
2013 total: 0 days (0%)
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
Update 09 Feb 2014

Currently 7 sunspots facing earth

Unknown said...

The economical system does not need us. If we do not like it and want to retrieve, we will be retrieved and replaced.
I quitted my job, I have been replaced the day after. That is no problem for the system.
Holmgren is wrong. It is very hard to collapse a system that is still on its feet because there is a huge number of human working day and night to fix the problem that arouse day after day.

The system will not collapse at ounce in the sense that it will resist its own defeating to the end. This is why nicole floss is also wrong. It will change and adapt and will not behave in what she think is a rational way. Because what is rational to her is not the rationality of a system as a whole. Nature does not care about individuals, society as a whole is not afraid of massive die out and sacrifices. History is full of example.

But there is one real thruth: if 5% start not only to retrieve but to risk their life and grossly disobey, because they really do not care about their own future and the social moral that has been nailed down into their brain, then the system is completely fucked. This system only function because 99 % of people do not commit offenses and that 1 % can be jailed. 5 % cannot be jailed, they have to be killed, and that is not so easy.

Revolution and demise has always come from the same origin: once life becomes too shitty, nobody cares anylonger. Actually it is boiling right now in many part of the world.

Isn’t all the smart thinking a way to hide the necessary confrontation. As long as we do not feel like confronting, than we have to accept to be slaved and that the victors scrap our earrth to the rock.

Cam said...

Another great show Alex, thanks.

My donation via paypal on its way.


js290 said...

The first order effect on the Earth's climate has to be the Sun. The terrestrial measurements may just be effects of climate change, not causes. Ms. Foss has some really good and practical insights on how to deal with climate change.

otr214425 said...

Work from home theory is fast gaining popularity because of the freedom and flexibility that comes with it. Since one is not bound by fixed working hours, they can schedule their work at the time when they feel most productive and convenient to them. Women & Men benefit a lot from this concept of work since they can balance their home and work perfectly. People mostly find that in this situation, their productivity is higher and stress levels lower. Those who like isolation and a tranquil work environment also tend to prefer this way of working. Today, with the kind of communication networks available, millions of people worldwide are considering this option.

Women & Men who want to be independent but cannot afford to leave their responsibilities at home aside will benefit a lot from this concept of work. It makes it easier to maintain a healthy balance between home and work. The family doesn't get neglected and you can get your work done too. You can thus effectively juggle home responsibilities with your career. Working from home is definitely a viable option but it also needs a lot of hard work and discipline. You have to make a time schedule for yourself and stick to it. There will be a time frame of course for any job you take up and you have to fulfill that project within that time frame.

There are many things that can be done working from home. A few of them is listed below that will give you a general idea about the benefits of this concept.

This is the most common and highly preferred job that Women & Men like doing. Since in today's competitive world both the parents have to work they need a secure place to leave behind their children who will take care of them and parents can also relax without being worried all the time. In this job you don't require any degree or qualifications. You only have to know how to take care of children. Parents are happy to pay handsome salary and you can also earn a lot without putting too much of an effort.

For those who have a garden or an open space at your disposal and are also interested in gardening can go for this method of earning money. If given proper time and efforts nursery business can flourish very well and you will earn handsomely. But just as all jobs establishing it will be a bit difficult but the end results are outstanding.

Freelance can be in different wings. Either you can be a freelance reporter or a freelance photographer. You can also do designing or be in the advertising field doing project on your own. Being independent and working independently will depend on your field of work and the availability of its worth in the market. If you like doing jewellery designing you can do that at home totally independently. You can also work on freelancing as a marketing executive working from home. Wanna know more, email us on and we will send you information on how you can actually work as a marketing freelancer.

Internet related work
This is a very vast field and here sky is the limit. All you need is a computer and Internet facility. Whatever field you are into work at home is perfect match in the software field. You can match your time according to your convenience and complete whatever projects you get. To learn more about how to work from home, contact us today on workfromhome.otr214425@gmail.comand our team will get you started on some excellent work from home projects.

Diet food
Since now a days Women & Men are more conscious of the food that they eat hence they prefer to have homemade low cal food and if you can start supplying low cal food to various offices then it will be a very good source of income and not too much of efforts. You can hire a few ladies who will help you out and this can be a good business.

Thus think over this concept and go ahead.