RetroSuburbia: the downshifter's guide to a resilient future 

Since its inception in the late seventies, Permaculture has become a reference for Architects, growers, Town Planners, policy makers and small scale farmers the world over. To coin a new term such as Permaculture and have it penetrate across disciplines is unusual in one lifetime. So we should pay attention when David Holmgren, the co-originator of Permaculture, publishes a distillation of his knowledge and insight.

RetroSuburbia is an ambitious endeavour! An assessment of the current state of the world sets the scene, but Holmgren then weaves together current thinking on New Economics, Agroecology, Transition and Permaculture to create a tapestry that is credible, achievable and above all full of hope – practical hope.

To call RetroSuburbia a book is an understatement.  It is an anthem, a beautifully crafted manual dripping with illustrations, photographs and real life examples together with the forensic analysis that we have come to expect from Holmgren.

Although it uses mainly Australian examples, its 592 pages show how you can downshift and retrofit your homes, gardens and communities to be more self-organised, sustainable and resilient in an uncertain future and is applicable to everyone wherever they live.

Peter Harper, early member of the Centre of Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, and originator of the term Radical Technology - a forerunner of Permaculture has written a review of the book here. Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement has also penned a great review of the book here.

RetroSuburbia is divided into three main sections: the Built, the Biological and the Behavioural along with the introductory section ‘Setting the scene’.

Outline of RetroSuburbia

Setting The Scene 

The first section explores the big-picture issues, concepts and thinking tools that David thinks are useful in creative household level responses to the challenges of the coming years and decades.

Key challenges and retrosuburban responses outlines the connections between the personal and global challenges of the near future and how suburbia might a good place to survive and thrive in challenging futures. It also introduces some of the thinking tools, such as permaculture and pattern languages, to help retrofit suburbia one household at a time.

Built Field: Patterns of Human Habitats

The Built Field covers the recurring patterns and design solutions relevant to retrofitting detached houses and the other physical systems that support suburban households. This is an obvious starting point for many who want to make their place a better long-term prospect.

Retrofitting is less costly than new construction, allowing permaculture downshifters to focus on food production, water systems, home-based livelihoods and community resilience rather than sinking all their efforts into state of the art eco-housing.

Biological Field: Patterns of life and growth

The possibilities for retrofitting the Biological Field are many and varied. Every residential block has soil with a history of use and/or abuse, established plantings, some of which may produce food, and a wider ecological context of sunshine, water, wind, vegetation and wildlife that influence the site.

This section introduces recurring patterns and proven design solutions for abundant garden farming in suburbia. It doesn’t tell you how to raise seedlings or graft a tree but it will help you select and design the best growing systems for vegetables and fruit trees, along with guidelines on what to grow to make best use of what space you have without moving to a rural property.

Behaviour Field: Patterns of decisions and actions

The Behavioural Field includes everything about how we live in the Built and Biological Fields, from our most unconscious actions through to complex collective organisation that extends from the household out into the wider community and economy.

In every chapter David has tried to provide a strategic overview, practical tips and encouragement to collaborate in bringing retrosuburbia to life – and making it the new normal in your household, street and neighbourhood. Even when we can’t change the building, the season or the people we live with, we can always change how we see and experience life for the better.

Technical Spec:

592 pages
210mm x 275mm x 41mm
90 watercolour illustrations by artist Brenna Quinlan
400 full colour photos
Foreword by Costa Georgiadis (Gardening Australia)
34 chapters, spanning 3 fields – the Built, Behavioural and Biological
Includes case studies: real-life examples of households creating change and building resilience
Designed by Richard Telford
Published by Melliodora Publishing, Australia

Retrosuburbia Resources for Permaculture Teachers CLICK HERE

Retrosuburbia review CLICK HERE