How Can We Change The World (Sustainably)?

I tried to change the world back in the ’70s.
With reverence for Nature.
Sustainably.
It was called Permaculture.
It was a brilliant concept.
To create a permanent, self-sustaining, life-affirming culture.
A culture that respected the land beneath us.
I’ve written a book about this and other sustainable concepts to change the world.
Ideas we can all, individually as well as collectively, use right now.
Get it here.

Permaculture is about working with
rather than against Nature.

Created over 40 years ago by two
academics from the University of Tasmania,
Prof. Bill Mollison and David Holmgren,
today it’s a successful worldwide
phenomenon that’s changing communities
and transforming lives.
Small communities are thriving where
before they were poverty stricken and failing.

Permaculture is greening the planet, a
little at a time, and I hope this social saviour
continues to change the world.

From whole communities to suburban
backyards it’s use of plants and clever design
principles is creating an intelligent solution to
the realistic use of Nature to enhance lives.
For years I’d been reading copies of the
‘Organic Gardening’ Magazine and studying
the principles of organic gardening, no-dig
gardening, chemical-free gardening and other
sustainable self-sufficient ways of living.
Then along came the new Permaculture
and I threw myself into learning about it.
I bought a copy of their new book
‘Permaculture One’.
I was there at their weekend workshop
in the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria where I
sat with other enthusiasts including Professor
Bill Mollison, one of the founders, and the
Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Jim Cairns, who at
that time was leader of the new Down-to Earth
movement and was leading the record anti-Vietnam War protests in Melbourne.
We bought a cottage on an acre of land
near the town of Daylesford fully planning to
create my own Permaculture acre and move
in to live my own self-sustainable life off the grid.

My dream never happened. Then.
For a few years my peaceful cottage in
Victoria’s Central Highlands was my sanity
retreat from the stressful world of advertising
in Melbourne which was heading downhill to
eventual land me bankrupt.
I had to sell my Permaculture dream to
help finance my fast disappearing business.
I never recovered.
Fifty years later I feel the time has arrived to look again.
“The only ethical decision,” said Bill
Mollison,“ is to take responsibility for our own
existence and that of our children.”

Buy my new world-changing book here.

Love and Peace.

Neil.

Crash Landing

I arrived at the Blue Lake like a meteorite crashing to earth. I needed a place to crash. At the time I knew nothing of the significance of the lake, all I knew was that I had landed. Thank god.
I’d been promised a Place in the Sun to settle down and write the book.
What book?
Well, the book about my adventures up until that moment. But what were they talking about, a Place in the Sun? That could mean anything.
First there had been my one-on-one with a channel in New Jersey. The word was that Michael who I was speaking with was being channelled through numerous mediums across the United States at the time. His words had been gathered, cross-checked for consistency and published by one of the channels named Jose Stevens PhD. The books were published as ‘Tao to Earth’ and ‘Earth to Tao’. I had been given free copies of both, they’re now available on Amazon for over $A100 each. I’d never heard of his idea that we are all born with a ‘Chief Negative Feature’, a negative personality trait we need to overcome. I know mine and he was dead right (but no way am I giving it away). It could explain a lot about some people’s negative behaviour because they can’t help it. Michael told me many other personal things. He told me that I had placed myself in a kind of chute or funnel in order to meet many people and have experiences I would not otherwise have had. And I was “going for it, full blast”.
Which, in a few words, explained everything.
Was this an example of my higher self or soul taking a hand in my daily affairs?
So how did I know that this small furnished timber flat built on the side of a hill at Ocean Grove with views to the Barwon Heads was my Place in the Sun? I mean, that could be anywhere, why Ocean Grove and why a stones throw from my tranquil Blue Lake.
Having gone for it “full blast” as predicted, tearing myself away from the cute New Jersey school teacher when my 6 month visa was up, I was on a plane to meet a friend in England to search for places where my ancestors lived. My New Jersey friend had given me $US20 to cover the bus fare to Cheltenham.
Was that enough? I needed 16 pounds and I gave a sigh of relief when got small change in return. Whew. Just enough otherwise I would have been walking all the way to Cheltenham. I had to lie to customs to get into the country. On the plane my nerves were so bad that in trying to impress the attractive woman next to me I spilled my complimentary rum and coke all over me.
I arrived back in Hepburn Springs where I had been living in a friend’s caravan for 5 years before leaving for the United States 6 months earlier.
I was in for a shock.
The caravan had been towed away by my friend’s son and I had nowhere to live.
That weekend I went to the weekly trash and treasure market at the Daylesford restored railway station. It was my lucky day. There were psychic ladies offering “Readings 10 minutes for $10” for charity.
I picked Margaret who sat me down and gave me a reading for over an hour for my $10. She told me about the book I was going to write at my Place in the Sun. Over and over I asked her, how will I find my Place in the Sun? Where is it? Over and over she replied, ask the estate agent. Well of course, I’d ask an estate agent. I needed for more information. Ask the estate agent. Which estate agent? She couldn’t say.
I returned to where I was staying knowing I needed to leave soon and wondering, asking, where is my Place in the Sun? I needed to know the answer fast because, once again, I was homeless and broke. I was desperate.
As I went to sleep that night I was thinking, over and over, where is my Place in the Sun? I fell asleep with that thought on my mind. All night there was a voice in my head saying to me, remember your dream to live in Ocean Grove? I woke up knowing it was in Ocean Grove with the words “what ever happened to your dream to live in Ocean Grove”.
I knew exactly where to go. Next morning I was on the bus out of Daylesford to the train to Melbourne to my daughter’s home in Mentone. I was on my way to my Place in the Sun and nothing could stop me.
Next morning I got myself to Ocean Grove. One by one I called at every estate agent in town. Nothing. The sun was getting low as I came to the last agent who took me to the edge of town. This was my last chance. I was really out on a limb here.
As we drove along Driftwood Street and pulled up at the group of 3 flats on the side of the hill, I knew then that I was there. I moved in within the week. And that message from Margaret about keeping on asking estate agents, well, it was the last rental from the last agent in town that showed me what I was looking for. I was profoundly moved by the whole experience.
My Blue Lake was yet to be discovered, to complete my elusive but perfect place to relax, a place of peace to shrug off that “blast” I was going for, to find myself again and to live my lifelong dream, the author.
I lived there for the next 11 years and took that long to write ‘Back to the Wall: A Spiritual Adventure’. I worked through 4 different computers with 3 different operating systems all given to me by new friends because they (the computers not the friends) were about to die.
Everything was falling into place and I was a new man. Exhausted. A little disoriented. Missing my daughters with whom I had just been reunited after 10 years apart. But incredibly happy. It was a new life and I set to work straight away to write the book.
These are some of the thoughts that were going through my mind at the lake.
Pretty much every day I’d almost slide down the embankment beside my flat, walk across the Lake Road Reserve, across the road and enter the lake territory through an entrance of large old trees which made it almost invisible from the road.
There was an old willow tree with branches weeping into the lake and around the single park bench conveniently placed by the water’s edge. I’d sit there for hours, lost in the calm surface of the water, my mind still reeling from the whirlwind I had just lived through.
Those first days were spent thinking of driving along Fifth Avenue the night before I left the USA and, the next day, standing in a quiet country town with all of that in the past. There was still the memory of my 3 weeks in Cheltenham trying to find the remnants of ancestors who lived 200 years ago in Regency England and of the ancient university town of Oxford. I found nothing, everything was gone except for the churches where they were baptised, married and buried (even the graves have been built over).
Past and present.
Such contrasts.
The water was like a crystal ball showing me my frantic past as well as my future as the writer of this very therapeutic personal story. All of my boyhood dreams were coming true (and then some).
The past was all go and struggle.
The future was finding myself again.
This was a major turning point in my life marking the past clearly away from the future.
It happened at the lake.
It’s as if I had arrived.
Spilling rum and coke, flying around the world, going bankrupt, 5 years in a caravan, my ill fated freelance business, the insane ad world and the corporate madness, my 2 marriages and the dramas that accompanied them. Always fighting for my life, it seemed.
Then, 11 years later, came the call.
“Dad, I’m pregnant.”
It was over and the next adventure had begun.

 

When Italy Came To The Australian Bush

Villa Parma, an Italian style guest house, Main Road, Hepburn Springs

One chapter of my book tells of the time when, for 5 years, I lived in a friend’s old caravan, homeless, penniless, jobless and unemployable.

I became active in the town and, following a series of articles I wrote on the gold rush history of the area published in the local press, an annual Swiss-Italian Festa was organised by the owner of the general store. As far as I know it’s still held mid-year today as a popular tourist attraction in Hepburn Springs, Victoria.

In the mid-1800s, at the height of the Gold Rush in Australia, the area attracted thousands of Swiss-Italians. They said the hills reminded them of home.

Most of them were men. They left their families in the hope of striking gold and returning home wealthy. Many borrowed money for the journey from relatives or the government.

In the early 1860s Swiss-Italians made up over ten percent of the population there.

Not many of them found gold. Some returned home broken and disappointed while others moved on to the goldfields of New Zealand and California.

A good many remained, however, to take jobs with the larger miners or to set up in business as publicans, merchants, bakers, millers, butchers and administrators.

The farmers among them purchased cheap government land and attempted to duplicate their self-sufficient homeland lifestyles in the countryside. They built farmhouses of stone, handmade brick and rubble in the typical rural Swiss and Italian style, most with wine cellars and cheese rooms and often named after their home towns.

Old Macaroni Factory, Main Street, Hepburn Springs

They planted vineyards, raised cows and pigs, produced milk, butter, cheese and sausages, grew wheat, fruit and vegetables. Many of their farmhouses remain, either in ruin or occupied by their descendants, giving the area a unique European flavour among the native eucalyptus trees of the Wombat Forest. Italian ‘bull-boar’ sausages, made from beef, pork and herbs, are still sold by the local butcher and homemade pasta can be found on the menu at many restaurants.

Standing sentinel as you drive into the small town is the Old Macaroni Factory, a monument to the true Italian spirit. Well, doesn’t every Italian community need an inexhaustible supply of fresh pasta?

Long before the Gold Rush, many thousands of years before, the aborigines knew of another kind of gold to be found in the area – the naturally carbonated mineral springs that emerged in the ground everywhere. To the local Jajowurrong tribe this was known as an area of healing.

As it became for me when I made it my home.

Read more of my incredible story in ‘Back to the Wall’.

Best wishes,

Neil