David Holmgren quotes, David Holmgren sayings, David Holmgren words of wisdom, permaculture, co-creator, sustainable living

David Holmgren Quotes

This page is a series of David Holmgren quotes, notable statements, and various words of wisdom. David Holmgren is one of the co-creators of Permaculture. The page was created after we reviewed the video below to extract various quotes we thought we might use throughout the website. We created this page to share the content so others who may be interested can access and use it too.

We’re fans of David Holmgren’s work because One Community is creating a solution model that creates solution-creating models for The Highest Good of All. We think David Holmgren would be a fan of our work too.


“We could bring a lot of our learning from the last 500 years of continuous change to bear. There’s some skills we actually have culturally. The idea that, gee, every generation has to do something different to the last one. We’re used to that.” ~ David Holmgren

“The somewhat tragic thing is, that when economists look at an economy where there’s a rapidly growing energy sector that may be compensating for the fact that people are actually traveling less distance in their cars, there’s less money for the government to put into hospitals and a million other things that are going on, they say, ‘The economy’s growing,’ they don’t recognize that there’s a difference between net energy harvesting parts of the economy and the parts of that economy that’s actually consuming that wealth. For them, it’s just all economic growth.” ~ David Holmgren

“Agriculture is actually the source of human culture.” ~ David Holmgren

“Rather than just reinventing “Oh we’ll just do what the grandparents did or the ancestors did,” can we use modern design thinking, ecological concepts, to maybe bring in some of those old ways, but tweak it to make it both more sustainable, lower impact on nature, but also more durable for the future.” ~ David Holmgren

“Permaculture is really a design system for both sustainable land use and sustainable living, and so it’s addressing both the production side of the conundrum and the consumption side and saying, why not bring those things back together?” ~ David Holmgren

“Small-scale systems actually make more sense than large-scale ones. You need a diversity rather than a monoculture. The systems need to be integrated rather than all segregated the way we [currently] do with town planning. You live over here, work over there, and you’ve got recreation over here, that at all scales, there were quite different design principles from what was usually in society.” ~ David Holmgren

“Permaculture is different everywhere, it’s only really the ethics of care of the earth, dare of people, and fair share and the design principles which are the universal parts of permaculture.” ~ David Holmgren

“Once you start dealing with nature, and start dealing with the fine-grained character of local resources, local situations, then the design solutions are all different.” ~ David Holmgren

“Think about the cost of something as a sort of reasonably rough way of valuating environmental impact. If you are using a lot of resources to support some lovely permaculture project in terms of purchased things through the global economy, then that is probably causing quite substantial environmental impact. If on the other hand, you find those materials at a rubbish heap, or you get them second hand at some clearing sale or you’re involved in a reuse process of something that already exists, then a few things are happening, you are reducing waste and other impacts and you are feeding less economic signal back into the system to say, ‘yes, produce more of that.’” ~ David Holmgren

“The wealth, the real net energy that’s available in an affluent society by throwing away the idea that says, “I must have a new shirt,” when I could go to the op shop and get a second-hand one, is an enormously empowering process, and it’s economically advantageous to do so.” ~ David Holmgren

“We think, oh yeah, but there’s a lot of people in the world, there’s a lot of need for resources, most of it’s the need of the economy producing and consuming. As soon as you stop doing that, we’ve got so much stuff.” ~ David Holmgren

“For most people, there’s both a necessity and an advantage in looking at [sustainability] where they live already” ~ David Holmgren

“It’s possible to incrementally adjust what is happening there, in suburbia, and provide a lot of people’s needs by growing food, by modifying the house to make it less dependent on energy, by harvesting some of the water, and by using some of the space that exists in our relatively large houses to start doing more in the household economy – doing things for ourselves rather than depending on money.” ~ David Holmgren

“At the moment, a lot of suburbia is a sort of social dead zone because their dormitory suburbs where people leave and go to work. If people are more working from home, if there’s more activity happening at home, then that builds the capacity for community, as well as things like less crime because there’s more casual surveillance on the street because there’s more people around.” ~ David Holmgren

“Having more activity at home might have increased stress of crowding but we have the opposite situation mostly where we’re suffering from under crowding at home, that there’s empty houses where people are not around, where there’s loneliness and lack of social interaction and a huge dependence on going out every day to work, to social engagement, which gives us a sense that our cities are crowded with people, but half the buildings are empty at any one point.” ~ David Holmgren

“This whole cycle of trying to earn more money to pay for the mortgage and all the costs of living, for a lot of people now, if they did a proper analysis they’d say, one of us should go back home and restart the household economy, work out how to live with less. Or both of us go part time, earn less money and put our remaining energy and time into productive activities that reduce our cost of living. And so that’s already the case, that people have been conned into the idea that work is actually maximizing their economic opportunities. For a lot of people it already isn’t doing that, it’s uneconomic activities that they are engaged in, when looked at as a household.” ~ David Holmgren

“A lot of people are now looking back to what used to be the really boring things of being at home, being a housewife, and saying, ‘no, this is actually autonomy, this is where I get to decide what I’m going to do at what part of the day.'” ~ David Holmgren

“Parents at home organizing some mutual childcare arrangement with two or three other families and creating a new normal of not just what happening that child care but in the whole way they are living can shape that with the next generation because this is almost the most important part. A lot of people are going, ‘what do I actually want for my children?'” ~ David Holmgren

“So there’s a lot of people from all sorts of reasons saying, “No I don’t want to be exposed and exposing my children to more and more things that I see as dysfunctional,” and the best way to do that is some degree of withdrawal and rebuilding a new normal, and the easiest place to build a new normal is at home, and then building that with others in the community.” ~ David Holmgren

“If we’re facing a world of less, it’s actually hard to get a mass movement shouting for less. There’s not many precedents in history for that. But if people can see that as the system becomes more dysfunctional they can just quietly start withdrawing and doing other things, and that they’ll be better off as a result, like some of the strategies suggested, then that’s an immediate gain for the early adopters. The people who have to try and sort of imagine this and go against the flow of society get the benefit of being the first in.” ~ David Holmgren

“There’s an advantage to early adopters which compensates for the very difficult psychosocial drag and obstacles in having to be pioneers. And that’s really important if we are moving into a world where we’re actually moving into voluntary frugality through some process or other, there’s got to be some gains in it to drive the process.” ~ David Holmgren

“More people doing things at that <smaller> scale in their own lives at the household and community scale provide more examples and small-scale mistakes. Because the mistakes are small-scale, they don’t have too much adverse effect, and they don’t totally kill off whatever that innovation or idea was, because lots and lots of people are doing it.” ~ David Holmgren

“Once there is a significant number of people adopting these strategies, and I’ve suggested between 5 and 20% of the population in affluent countries, or at a global level 5-20% of the global middle class, the effect of that would be enormous on the global economy. Because it would actually be a 5-10% contraction and the global economies absolutely depend on constant growth.” ~ David Holmgren

“If people go on what’s really a consumption strike, not against one manufacturer or one company, but just generally systemically, and are rebuilding the household economy, I’ve suggested that people could reduce their participation in that global corporate government dominated system and rebuild it in the household and the community non-monetary sector and in the sort of cash economy and exchange economy by at least 50%, without it being too hard to do. So if 20% of people did that, that would be a 10% contraction in the monetary economy, and gee would the governments and corporations notice that.” ~ David Holmgren

“A lot of current activism is, people are shouting loudly for certain changes but are totally dependent on the system. Therefore, all they’ve got is their voices. They don’t have anything in what they are doing that actually adversely affects the system. Because they continue to consume, they continue to work, they continue to have their money in the bank contributing to the same system. Whereas if people have withdrawn their capital out of the bank, their work out of the system, and their consumption out of the economy, and not eliminated those things completely, but as much as possible brought them down where that system actually can’t get those things. Then that is a position of some degree of economic autonomy. And THAT is a position of strength, even if it is only 5-10% of the population.” ~ David Holmgren

“If you go out into the world with the ideas and you’re going to work, as some American permaculture colleagues say, “in the belly of the beast,” it’s not only very hard, it’s inevitable that as you work in that situation, your own values will be compromised and changed by the system more than you will actually change it.” ~ David Holmgren

“Trade and exchange need to happen between like-scaled entities.” ~ David Holmgren

“It’s important to build a household and community network of like-minded people, if you like, a subculture, which help maintain and reinforce the values.” ~ David Holmgren

“I think it’s very important to be engaged in things where we are a jack of all trades in our life, we do actually have some connection to growing food. If we’re not doing it ourselves, there’s a gardener who sort of partly feeds us. That we do know something about sort of how to fix basic things that we need, but that we recognize that we need to be a master of one. That might be more academic research, or it might be that we are actually a mechanic, or we are actually an urban market gardener growing food for people.” ~ David Holmgren

“The empowerment comes from being the jack of all trades, but the value to society, and that includes as an activist, is actually being as a master of one. Where we say, “ok, we’re going to focus on this part because we have particular skills, knowledge, capacities, and it’s right where we are or whatever that opportunity is to focus.” ~ David Holmgren

“It’s a matter of seeing the silver lining in the clouds and accepting also that the enormous privilege of having lived at the peak of global energy, at the same time that that’s a time of enormous disconnection, when people don’t know what is worth believing in or doing. ~ David Holmgren

“People said in the depression, “oh actually, that was a good time of community and social interaction,” because people supported each other.” ~ David Holmgren



These quotes are from A-Z Quotes:

“When we work with nature instead of trying to impose our will, the solution is often found within the problem.” ~ David Holmgren

“Traditional agriculture was labour intensive, industrial agriculture is energy intensive, and permaculture-designed systems are information and design intensive.” ~ David Holmgren

“The Earth is a living, breathing entity. Without ongoing care and nurturing, there will be consequences too big to ignore.” ~ David Holmgren

“The permaculture’s whole principle of having to work with nature, rather than fight against it, is not just an ethical restraint. It’s also about realizing you’re not the one in control. Nature is not only a nurturer but also a great destroyer.” ~ David Holmgren’

“It is not the project but the living process that will be the measure of our actions.” ~ David Holmgren

“Some ideas need to be continually reinvented and rediscovered, particularly an idea like the omnipotence of humans. It takes a long time to give up.” ~ David Holmgren

“If you understand it from an ecological or sustainability perspective, agriculture is the primary way we meet most of our needs, and it’s the greatest form of human intervention on our environment. It has intimately shaped our culture as powerfully as industrial modernity, but for ten thousand years rather than two hundred.” ~ David Holmgren

“I thought if something was a good idea, we should be able to apply it to ourselves as guinea pigs and do something with it, rather than just tell other people what they should do.” ~ David Holmgren

“Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs.” ~ David Holmgren

“A lot of people do get stuck on the idea that they can’t pour energy into something unless they own it. Given the current situation, property ownership is getting more and more unlikely. And it is not the essential part. If you’re able to roll with adaption, and build the skill base of being a really useful person, there are so many more opportunities. And that’s a skill for the future, because that’s what the world is going to be like.” ~ David Holmgren

“If you give up on trying to change larger structures and just go off on what some would say is a personal indulgence or being a survivalist, it can be seen as incredibly negative or pessimistic. But the other way to think of it is this: through manifesting the way we live and acting as if it’s normal, you’re defending yourself against depression and dysfunction, but you’re also providing a model that others can copy. And that is absolutely about bringing large-scale change.” ~ David Holmgren

“I’m under no illusion that the future will be a neat and tidy or desirable world. We will gain a lot of things through necessity and a lot of them through all sorts of fragile dysfunction – not because they’re bad ideas but because they will inevitably be adopted in a chaotic, reactive way.” ~ David Holmgren

“Although it is tempting to think of these natural landscapes as reflecting a stability in climactic and geologic forces, long periods of climactic and geophysical stability actually result in a rundown of the energy available to ecosystems and people. Geologically young regions with recent mountain building and volcanism tend to be much more biologically productive and have supported large populations of people despite their vulnerability to natural disasters. Geologically old regions (like most of Australia) tend to have low biological productivity and supported fewer people.” ~ David Holmgren


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