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Brown Tech Future? [Permaculture
Posted on January 20, 2014 @ 03:26:00 AM by Paul Meagher

If you've been following this blog you know my recent preoccupation has been with Permaculture owing to the fact that I'm working on getting my design certificate in the field. David Holmgren is one of the co-founders of Permaculture along with Bill Mollison. David was a student of Bill's and in 1978 they published the first permaculture book, "Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements", with Bill as the lead author. Bill is generally acknowledged as the leader of the Permaculture field/movement, but David is also very influential in defining its principles, philosophy, and concerns.

David has been influential in his work on defining future scenarios that humanity might be headed towards. These future scenarios are labelled as Brown Tech, Green Tech, Earth Stewards, and Lifeboats. You might be able to get a quick sense of these scenarios by examining the axis on this diagram:


In December, 2013, David updated his work on future scenarios by publishing a provocative article Crash on Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future in which he integrates his recent thinking on financial systems and current trends to warn us that the Brown Tech scenario is looking increasingly likely. This article is generating quite a bit of buzz in the Permaculture world and one of the responses worth examining is Nichole Foss's Crash on Demand? A Response to David Holmgren. There are other leaders in the Permaculture movement such as Rob Hopkins who disagree with the conclusions and suggested strategies so the article does not represent a Permaculture consensus about the future, but all agree it is a line of inquiry that needs to be explored and debated.

In this blog I want to highlight just a couple of aspects of David's article that I found interesting and useful.

One of the most useful aspects of his article was a diagram that represents each future scenario as nested scenarios that take place at different scales. So Brown Tech is how our federal governments appear to be trending, Green Tech is how our state and provincial governments are trending, Earth Stewarts is how our county and municipal governments are trending, and Life Boats is how we are trending in our households. This to me is a very insightful and integrative way to look at how the future is unfolding and is one major takeaway for me from reading the article.

Another takeaway is the main thesis of the article - that we may be headed towards a brown tech future. If this is true, we can ask ourselves what investments we might make to prepare for such a future where climate becomes more unstable while green house gas emissions stay relatively high. In general the concept of "investing" is quite difficult to pin down in the context of a future that might involve radical change so keep that in mind. In his article, David makes the suggestion that climate-controlled green houses located near major hubs might be required to maintain food supplies. On our Canadian Investment site, you can invest in such a project with Salad Greenhouse Inc. A brown tech future will also increase demand for disaster resistant buildings. On our Texas Investment site, you can invest in disaster resistant high and low end housing. These are the types of investments we need to make when the future appears to be a brown tech one requiring adaptation rather than a green tech one in which we are better able to control or reduce green house gas emissions.

In general Permaculturists are optimistic about the future and have a can-do attitude about strategies we can adopt to create more permanency and sustainability in the world. The reality in many parts of the world, however, is not that optimistic and if permaculture is to retain relevancy it has to figure out how to address the current and future fallout to be expected from a brown tech future. One person who is attempting to address that fallout is Permaculture pioneer Rosemary Morrow.




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