RetroSuburbia at the library

By Seymour Telegraph

There was a buzz at Seymour library last week when 110 people packed the usually quiet space to hear David Holmgren’s presentation, Food, Resilience and Retrofitting our Suburbs.

The night started with banter between locals Peter Lockyer and Richard Telford, focussed on retrofitting projects of the built environment, including Abdallah House and three other properties, all within a 1km 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.

Mr Holmgren then introduced ‘Aussie Street’, a compelling story from the new suburbs of the 1950s and the 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,’’ Mr Telford said.

‘‘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 90s, so does the time away from home as the number of people living in the street decreases.’’

But when permaculture retrofitting was adopted at one household, time at home started to increase and the home economy rebuilds, Mr Telford said.

‘‘This spreads to impact neighbouring properties, allowing the small community to thrive during the 1920s great depression,’’ he said.

‘‘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.’’

Mr Telford said question time then raised lots of concerns about regulatory requirements and how Mr Holmgren’s vision of a suburban transformation could be realised.

Mr Holmgren acknowledged the importance of the rules and regulations required by council to curb unethical behaviour, particularly by corporations.

He challenged the audience, along with the three councillors attending, to make incremental changes where they lived, even if that means bending a few rules.

‘‘Building relationships and trust with neighbours gives residents the social license to enhance the properties where they live, and build community at the same time,’’ Mr Telford said.

‘‘David concluded by pointing 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,’’ he said.

A ‘‘techno-optimistic’’ future was ‘‘unrealistic’’, Mr Holmgren said.

‘‘We face economic uncertainty that will change the way we live,’’ he said.

‘‘We can create better, more rewarding lives for ourselves now, without hardship being forced upon us.

‘‘Change now and avoid the rush.’’

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