Transition Whatcom

Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability

This Blog Post is in regards to the Class I will be teaching through the Whatcom Folk School, beginning June 6th.  More info about the class here.


Primary Text for class:
The Essence of Permaculture E-Book by David Holmgren
This book is a short summary of the main points from the book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability
Download here for free:

There will be other reading material for class discussion, which I plan to print out for students, plus optional additional reading suggestions.  I recommend the website Peruse through all of the icons on this site, and you’ll get an overview of our class series.

For our first class, on June 6th, the "assigned" reading for class discussion is as follows:

1) Pages 1-8 of the The Essence of Permaculture, and
2) David Holmgren’s essay, Do We Need Principles? (from Collected Writings 78-06) – attached here: Do%20We%20Need%20Principles%20%28from%20Collected%20Writings%2078-0....



Additional optional/suggested reading (not required):
3) The Five Axioms of Sustainability, by Richard Heinberg

4) Arithmetic, Population, and Energy by Albert Bartlett
The all-time most popular content at Global Public Media. It should be required listening for every activist, environmentalist, planner, politician, scientist, theologian, philosopher, and thinker. The retired Professor of Physics from the University of Colorado in Boulder examines the arithmetic of steady growth, continued over modest periods of time, in a finite environment. These concepts are applied to populations and to fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal.  The link below gives you the choice of transcript, audio, or video.  I prefer the audio and transcript over the video.

5) Introduction to the book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren.  Reading this book for the class is not required, although I hope to inspire students to become interested enough that they will adopt this book as a key tool as a  21st Century thinking companion, The public library has a copy, and it can be purchased at Village Books.

Outline for our first class on June 6th:

Introduction/Overview of the Series
What Is Sustainability?
What Is Permaculture?
What Does “Pathways Beyond Sustainability” Mean?
David Holmgren Video: “Do We Need Principles?”

Rob Hopkins Review of Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (Excerpts)

“…It is no exaggeration to call this the most important book published in the last 15 years…Permaculture, according to Holmgren, is the clearest and best laid out vision of how we might practically, as a race, avoid the potentially disastrous effects of energy descent…

So what does this book mean to me personally, as someone who teaches permaculture and attempts to live within its principles? I only ever saw Bill Mollison once, speaking to a couple of hundred people in Stroud in 1992. He spoke for 2 hours with no notes, no slides, no overheads, and it was the biggest kick up the backside I ever had in my life and one from which I am still being propelled forwards today. Four years later I had the privilege of organising a public talk given by David Holmgren in Bristol, and again, it was a defining moment for me. Not so much of a kick up the backside this time, more of an audience with someone who had got to where I wanted to be and was saying “you can do it too, it’s easy, and it is the most worthwhile thing you could do.” This book has the same effect on me again.

…Reading the book is like eating a rich (organic) chocolate cake, you need to take it in small slices, and go off and lie down for a while to digest it. If you had too much of it in one go you would probably feel a bit dizzy and have to lie down anyway, you have to pace yourself. There is so much in it that I expect to have to read it a few times more to really get to grips with some of the concepts he puts forward.

…Holmgren is saying that permaculture encompasses all the elements of sustainability, and also goes beyond that, and not only offers a model for us permaculturists, but offers a way ahead for the whole sustainability movement. What he is setting out here isn’t just a few cosy ideas for those of us who already think permaculture is a good idea, it is the clearest template yet laid out of how the sustainability movement as a whole needs to think.

If you are looking for a guide on designing herb spirals or how to make a mulch garden, this is not the book for you. If you want a clear, deep and passionate guide to how we, as a race, might adapt to the rapidly approaching reality of energy descent in such a way that we not only survive but thrive, you must read this. “Watch it unfold” – indeed. “

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Comment by Heather K on June 10, 2011 at 1:43pm

Great class David!  Will the future readings for class #3 and beyond be posted on this main blog, or on you events page? 

I'll look forward to receiving hard paper copies to bring home with me to read, as we've limited computer access.

Comment by Heather K on June 6, 2011 at 9:56am

Video Links- “Permaculture & Peak Oil: Beyond Sustainability”-David Holmgren 2007-     26"


Permaculture Principles”- 6" David Holmren-     or


Earth Gardens & Permi Videos & Resources-


The Permaculture Playlist on the Transition Whatcom channel is here:   (Thanks David)

(Corrected Video links above from my earlier post)

Comment by Heather K on May 25, 2011 at 8:15pm
David, If any of the readings match pages/chapters in Holmgrens main book “ "Permaculture- Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability" it would be helpful to know the pages, to save time/paper on printing things. ( I read easier with paper & ink than I do online.)

Suggestion, you might want to post your blog link in the TW class Events description page....As it only shows up in a comment you sent to me. (Sorry I miss-posted this on the events page earlier).

Comment by Heather K on May 23, 2011 at 4:23pm

Thanks David, this his helpful!  First step- Registar for class. Second step-read The Essence of Permaculture  Pages 1-8  , and read David Holmgren’s essay, Do We Need Principles? (from Collected Writings 78-06) – attached here: Do%20We%20Need%20Principles%20%28from%20Collected%20Writings%2078-0.... 


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