RetroSuburbia at the Seymour Library

There was a real buzz at the Seymour Library last Tuesday night, where 110 people packed the usually quiet space, to hear David Holmgren’s presentation “Food, Resilience and Retrofitting our Suburbs”.

The night began with banter between locals Peter Lockyer and Richard Telford focused on retrofitting projects of the built environment, including Abdallah House and three other properties, all within a kilometre of the library. The common thread was in considering the solar aspect, and modifying the existing resources and infrastructure of the sites to increase self-reliance.

David introduced ‘Aussie Street’, a compelling story from the ‘new suburbs’ of the 1950s and their evolution through the decades. People in the audience could relate to the made-up characters that live in the street, and the drama of their lives. Each of the four properties illustrated various realistic approaches to suburban living, and adaption to changing times.

As affluence and energy use dramatically increases from the 50s to the 90’s, so does the time away from home as the number of people living in the street decreases. When permaculture retrofitting is adopted at one household, time at home begins to increase and the home economy rebuilds. This spreads to impact neighbouring properties, allowing the small community to thrive during the 2020s great depression. The result being a future reminiscent of the 1950s, drawing upon the successes of the past with appropriate technologies and strategies from modern times. The story gives a sense of hope during the current uncertainty.

Question time raised lots of concerns about regulatory requirements, and how David’s vision of a suburban transformation could be realised. David acknowledged the importance of the rules and regulations required by council to curb unethical behaviour, particularly by corporations. But he also challenged the audience, along with the three councillors in attendance, to make incremental changes where they live – even if that means bending a few rules. Building relationships and trust with neighbours give residents the social license to enhance the properties where they live, and build community at the same time.

https://au.permacultureprinciples.com/product/retrosuburbia/?ref=6

Details of how this can be implemented is outlined in David’s new book RetroSuburbia: the downshifters guide to a resilient future.

David concluded by pointed out that Seymour, like many smaller rural townships, is well placed to make to become more self-reliant. Relatively small houses on large suburban blocks are ripe for retrofitting, which is much more challenging (but not impossible) on smaller blocks. The existing, often under-utilised, infrastructure are also great assets that can be transformed into hubs of activity if we spend more time where we live, rather than commuting long distances.

“A techno-optimistic future is unrealistic”, says David, “we face economic uncertainty that will change the way we live. We can create better, more rewarding lives for ourselves now, without hardship being forced upon us. Change now, and avoid the rush.”

Peter and Richard will be reflecting on the event on Earthchat, Seymour FM 103.9, on Friday the 18th of May from 10am. An extensive tour Abdallah House, one of the feature case studies in the book, is on the 20th of May from 9am-12. For bookings, visit the Holmgren website.

Visit RetroSuburbia.com for more about how we can transform our suburbs.

https://holmgren.com.au/event/abdallah-house-tour/

 

Seymour – future model for ecological renewal

Globally recognised ecological thinker, David Holmgren, has identified the Seymour township as a potential key model for regional community-based ecological renewal.

Holmgren, permaculture co-originator, believes Seymour has the ideal community and infrastructure mix to become a leading adapter of retrofitting the built environment, private open space, household form and lifestyle, to become more sustainable.

‘Seymour has the classic suburban pattern of small houses on larger blocks, many of them solar oriented, that has mostly been lost to infill and redevelopment in Melbourne’ says Holmgren.

‘This makes it ideal for owner and occupier initiated retrofits. Local case study Abdallah House, active community groups, local government centre on the train line, affordability and the river all contribute to Seymour’s potential. At the southern end of the Mitchell Shire, new suburban housing patterns present different opportunities and retrofit challenges more typical of outer suburban Melbourne.’

Photo: Mayor Rhonda Sanderson, Christine Cahusac, David Holmgren, Richard Telford, Peter Lockyer and Cynthia Lim. Photo: Oliver Holmgren.

Holmgren recently toured several Seymour initiatives, including Wine by Sam, to see the transformative retrofitting of the old dye works into a productive winery as well as the local-based company, Permaculture Principles that distributes Holmgren’s books worldwide. To keep up with demand, business co-owner Richard Telford recently employed Seymour resident Christine Cahusac, as operations manager.

‘The demand for David’s latest book, RetroSuburbia, has taken us by surprise,’ says Telford. ‘While the book is targeted at suburbanites in the south-east of Australia, there’s increasing interest overseas, which is keeping us busy.

’During his visit, Holmgren also met with Mitchell Shire Mayor, Rhonda Sanderson, to share ideas and discuss shire-wide possibilities. ‘‘One of the priorities of our council plan is caring for the environment, which includes practicing and advocating for a more sustainable way of living,’’ Cr Sanderson said.

Peter Lockyer and David Clarey interview David Holmgren and Richard Telford on EarthChat

BEAM president, and permaculture pioneer, Peter Lockyer was there with fellow Seymour FM radio host, Cynthia Lim to meet with David. Peter and David Clarey discussed RetroSuburbia and upcoming local events with David and Richard on EarthChat, which airs on Fridays at 11am on 103.9, followed by Cynthia’s food eXchange show.

Holmgren will return for a Mitchell Shire event at Seymour Library on Tuesday May 15 at 7pm, to present his highly engaging multi-media presentation, ‘Aussie Street’.

‘Aussie Street’ brings Holmgren’s RetroSuburbia ideas to life using 100+ photos and watercolour illustrations along with practical concepts from his exciting new book.

Come along to be part of Holmgren’s insightful, thought-provoking vision for a resilient and sustainable future, right here in Seymour. Light refreshments provided.

For event details, click on the image of the flyer here. Bookings for David’s talk are essential and can be made by calling 5783 3555, emailing tanya.begley@mitchellshire.vic.gov.au or by registering your interest on the shires facebook event page.

Running as a follow-up to this event is an extended tour of the Telford / Yoshimoto featured home, Abdallah House in Seymour on the 20th of May from 9-12. Bookings required, cost is $25 (under 12 free).

 

Drop in Market Place & Battery Storage Workshop

Hosted by Totally Renewable Beechworth & Indigo Shire Council

April 21 at Beechworth 1-4pm

See here for more information: Final Marketplace Battery Storage Workshop Flyer (002

Trawool Pumped Hydro Electric Storage Update.

19 September. Bob Brown attended a “Climate Change Innovation Market Place Event” in Shepparton. The State Government through DELWP was introducing a new source of funding called the Climate Change Innovation Grants, offering $50 to $300K for co-operative projects that reduced greenhouse emissions and adapted to climate change.

September. Nathan Epp of Goulburn Valley Water made a presentation about the Trawool and Strathbogie schemes to the Intelligent Water Network. IWN is a consortium of VicWater, 18 Victorian water authorities and DELWP to investigate new technologies and innovations to meet common challenges. As a result Michael Wheelahan of DELWP and Andrea Pogue of Goulburn Murray Water were appointed to pursue the projects on behalf of IWN.

26 October. John and Jeff  attended an invitation only Roundtable at Shepparton organised by Peter Hansford of DELWP. They made a 5-minute description of the Trawool project to 250 business people, engineers, etc. expressing our need for a partner. Several organisations have since expressed interest, mainly offering their services.

Peter, John, Bob and Jeff and Euroa reps. have had meetings with Michael and Andrea in which it was decided to apply for funding from the Climate Change Fund. Bob, Jeff, Shirley and Andrea attended a meeting at Wangaratta with the Hume Region team Eloise Seymour and Chelsea Cherry, to discuss the criteria for the application. Work is continuing on the application, which is due on 30 November.

Jeff Wilmot – Secretary Mitchell Community Energy

Campaigns: Live Animal Exports from Brazil

Live animals exports has been a disturbing topic for many years. The stress on land-based  animals shipped across oceans, to a death too often by cruel means and without any compassion for a stressed gets people very emotional. But it continues, and just doesn’t need to exist as a trade.

Brazil has recently announced plans to increase live cattle exports five-fold, and is meeting with opposition from Animals International to highlight the cruelty of animal exports, from Brazil and Australia alike. Continue reading

Mitchell Community Energy

On Thursday 12th October, Mitchell Community Energy Inc. was inaugurated.  This is a big step forward.

The Sustainable Seymour workshops expressed a keen interest in developing community energy projects in Seymour.  We now have at least one very good solar energy project at the SSAC ready to go, a larger pumped-hydro-electricity project at Trawool that we are developing through a series of feasibility studies, and many other ideas.  There is a growing body of information and support for communities seeking to develop community energy projects.

So a small group from the SS Network decided to set up the organisational structures to implement local projects.  Of the many alternatives, the group proposes to:

  1. Set up an incorporated, not-for-profit group – Mitchell Community Energy Inc. – as the vehicle for developing projects.
  2. Set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (a Community Company) to invest in the SSAC project at this stage. Investments will be available to members of MCE.  This will possibly be the model for other projects developed by Mitchell Community Energy Inc.

On 12th October, a meeting at Chittick Place in Seymour was attended by 17 people.  The meeting was well supported by the Council:  Cr Rob Eldridge chaired the meeting and the Mayor Cr Rhonda Sanderson. Cr David Atkinson and Cr Fiona Stevens and program leader Elyse Kelly also attended.  The meeting voted to set up Mitchell Community Energy Inc, and also voted on the Purpose and Rules for the association.  The Purpose of the association is:

To reduce the generation of greenhouse gases in the Mitchell Shire community and develop a greater awareness of climate change issues through a community-based organization that will:

  1. Secure funding from within the communityand elsewhere to undertake renewable energy and energy conservation projects.
  2. Build community participation, empowerment and pride by working together on those projects.
  3. Strengthen the local economy by using local enterprises and labourand capital.
  4. Keep the funds generated by savings in power costs within the community.
  5. Ensure that all members of the community have opportunities to benefit from the projects.

Finally, the meeting nominated Peter Lockyer as President, Jeff Wilmot as Secretary and John Thompson as Treasurer, plus Irene Telford,  Bob Brown and Carol Tullett as committee members.

The new group welcomes memberships and participation.

How to join Mitchell Community Energy Inc.:  Details to follow shortly

 

 

The BEAM AGM was a big success

Did someone say we should have AGMs more often?

BEAM successfully held its 2017 Annual General Meeting in Seymour on Saturday night of 16th September.  Our guest speaker Gavin Ashley from Moreland Energy Foundation spoke about the how a group like the Foundation might get going and about the many benefits of community ownership of renewable energy.  His talk was followed by a worshop on new ideas for BEAM in 2017-18, the formalities of an AGM and election of the new committee. Continue reading

Press Release: BEAM welcomes VRET

Legislation for the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) passed the lower house of Victorian Parliament last week, thanks to votes from Labor, the Greens and independent Suzanna Sheed.  This moves us one step closer to a future with more clean energy, driving a construction boom of wind and solar projects across the state.  Pumped Hydro Energy Storage will invariably join this push.  It also underscores direct action in Victoria to act on the environment and the economy that grows from such action.

However, Matthew Guy’s Liberal/National Coalition voted against the VRET and pledged to repeal it.  On top of that, they floated the possibility of another polluting coal-burning power station in Victoria! They are out of touch.

By Webaware – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=104929

BEAM Mitchell Environment Group finds the position of the Victorian Coalition on the VRET reprehensible.  Coal has a diminishing role in our energy future- even the coal companies are saying this- and there is no investment appetite for new coal, or even maintaining old coal-fired power stations.  In contrast, the appetite for investing in a whole range of renewable energies and storage is strong, and increasing.  Government certainty is crucial for this investment environment to reach its potential.

The Coalition must surely know the VRET will reduce Victoria’s climate pollution, increase our energy supplies, create jobs and even push down power prices.  The only reason to oppose it is to slow the transition away from polluting coal power.

These attacks by the Coalition (the coal-ition) are ideological and out of touch with the challenges to Victoria.  They threaten the certainty of the renewable energy industry and our best chance at rapidly cutting climate pollutionThis should be an issue for bipartisanship in Victoria, and nationally.  Investment in renewable technology is a priority.  The private market acknowledges this reality, but it would be more secure with a bipartisan VRET.

Sustainability Victoria recently conducted a study “Climate Change Social Research” into community attitudes on climate change, and their expectations on who should be acting on this.  The results were very strong in acknowledging we all have a role to play, government and local communities.

BEAM invites our own local member Steph Ryan to champion this action and its investment future.  It will benefit rural Victoria.

Peter Lockyer, President BEAM Mitchell Environment Group.             Sept 23 2017