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The Holistic Life: Sustainability Through Permaculture

The Holistic Life: Sustainability Through Permaculture
Ian Lillington, 2007, 144 pages full colour
Reviewed by Graham Bell

Ian Lillington heard about permaculture working on an inner-city farm in Liverpool in 1982. He got involved in local and international permaculture networks, applying its principles and practices to house and garden design and community development. Now living down under in Castlemaine, Central Victoria, Ian is active in a town where re-localisation is well underway, employed as project manager with The Sustainability Group helping the development of small-scale housing clusters and sustainability initiatives in schools.

I first met Ian when he attended a design course in Coldstream some seventeen years ago. I’ve always been fascinated by the old doctrine of signatures and planetary aspects (read Culpepper’s Herbal for best examples). Ian is one of those I would call a ‘Mercurial’ talent. Not in any negative sense. He has shown over the long term commitment and ability to flit from place to place and person to person gathering useful information work and understanding. Bee-like he has then built that harvest into an attractive accessible text in this book.

Ian, Jo and their three boys have lived permaculture at first hand, working through the dilemmas of how to feed, clothe and house a family while building a passive solar house, and planting a food forest.

The text is not specific for the UK (nor would it make sense if it were). Ian’s own words of ‘espousing the cause’ whilst they may ring true for many is not really the way I see the value of Permaculture these days. I don’t think I campaign any longer myself, and I’m not sure if it’s the right way to get this wealth of ideas accepted in the mainstream. Enthusiasm is, however, commendable.

The Holistic Life is in three main parts: one that sets out the twin problems of climate change and peak oil, with a vision for a sustainable planet and methods we can all use to get there. The second goes step by step through the necessaries of life: reliable water, local food, community strategies, good building design, transport, appropriate technology, and community gardens.

The third section is a colourful introduction to the Holmgren 12 principles from David’s 2002 book Permaculture: Principles, also available from Permanent Publications. Ian edited long term ally David’s book and has the Holmgren stamp of approval on his own work.

David Holmgren says: “This book is a great place to start for anyone wanting to live more sustainably. Ian highlights how our own behaviour is a central issue in permaculture design with concrete examples of how living permaculture reconstructs our world.”