Our nearest neighbour was a mile away. I grew up near Mildura, on 115 acres of Mallee scrub. My school friends were mostly the children of wheat, grape and orange farmers so no-one had a lot of money. My father brought home early copies of ‘Grass Roots’ magazine when I was young, so I grew up with that as a strong influence, reading about people who were moving to the country to live their dream of sustainable, frugal, off-grid living. And the inevitable stories of people returning to the relative ease of suburban living once they realised how difficult it is to live with little income, no town water or services and not a lot in the way of community sympathy for their style of living. “Bloody hippies, the lot of ’em!!”
Living in Melbourne throughout my 20’s gave me a wonderful opportunity to meet lots of really diverse people from around the world and to broaden my world view. I studied Environmental Science at Deakin Uni whilst working as a nanny and for a revegetation group called TreeProject, based in the city.
I moved to Geelong in 2002, shortly before my first child was born and settled in East Geelong, where I still live, with my four children, a collection of chickens, a duck, a dog, a couple of cats and lots of bees. It seemed a very natural thing to plant lots of fruit trees and vegetables, to home-educate my children and to continually learn new skills so I could provide more of what we need. I am constantly surprised that people think this is an odd way to live.
I love the way we live. I love making useful and beautiful things from stuff no-one wants. I love making connections with people and swapping skills and produce. And that is really the essence of David Holmgren’s Retrosuburbia book. To me, this book just makes so much sense.
The premise behind Retrosuburbia is that the world will reach a point in the not-too-distant future, where oil and coal supplies will become too expensive or too difficult to extract. A post-peak oil world. In order to live well in that world, we need to re-learn some of those old skills of self-reliance, to build resilient, active communities and to minimise our reliance on the goods and services provided by those finite resources. David argues the case that suburban areas are actually the sweet spot for achieving a sustainable lifestyle. It is not necessary, after all, to sell up everything and move to the country in order to live self-sufficiently.
Kerrie Kruger, Monica Winston and I are running this workshop to get people thinking and talking about what this post-peak oil world might look like for them and to consider the ways they can work towards a sustainable lifestyle in that environment. I have to add here, that even if you don’t agree with David’s projections around a post-peak oil future, there are still innumerable benefits to be had from implementing some of the changes he is suggesting (saving money, rich relationships, and pride in skills gained to name a few)
We really hope participants will be inspired by our own stories and by David’s enormous bank of knowledge and experience. We hope that people will be inspired to go out and learn some new skills, like food-growing and foraging, re-purposing stuff, making things with their hands and to engage with others in their neighbourhood to share and swap those skills and produce, to step out of the confines of our their fences and start building resilient communities. This is what Transition Streets is all about. This free workshop will be held at the Waurn Ponds Library, this Wednesday May 1st 6 – 7.30pm. You can book in here: https://www.grlc.vic.gov.au/whats-on/retrosuburbia-getting-started
We hope to see you there. Humans in Geelong also hope to see everyone at the #climatestrike on Friday 9.30am outside Geelong City Hall. Spread the word! #fridaysforfuture
Story: Meg Blair. Photos: Front cover of David Holmgren’s Book, Retrosuburbia supplied, Kerrie Kruger supplied and Monica Winston on the left with Meg Blair taken by Kerrie Kruger.