You may or may not know about the Reading Landscape documentary film project. A collaboration between PA Patron David Holmgren, film-maker Dave Meagher, and PA member Dan Palmer, that will shine a light on the foundational aspect of permaculture design. The project emerged from Dan’s fascination with David’s extraordinary capacity to unpack a landscape through direct observation. Featuring footage of David reading landscapes ranging from national parks, farms, botanical gardens, abandoned arboretums, and suburban backyards, the film aims to firmly establish the reading of landscape as a fundamental human skill and a core foundation of permaculture design. Find out more in our interview with Dan below.
“We are creating a compelling, accessible and beautiful film about reading landscape and deepening connection to place, in a way that generates excitement, catalyzes learning journeys, and contributes to re-embedding reading landscape into our cultures as a known and fundamental human capacity,” Dan Palmer
Tell us about yourself Dan, for those who don’t know about you and your multitude of projects!
I’m a passionate student of permaculture and indeed any processes that bring people and places more alive. With my wife and two daughters I live on a small homestead in a 1965 two-story Bedford House bus in Aotearoa New Zealand’s aptly-named Bay of Plenty. As well as co-directing Very Edible Gardens with my friend Adam Grubb, I am creating a podcast called Making Permaculture Stronger, online courses on Holistic Decision Making, a book about Living Design Process, and a film about Reading Landscape with David Holmgren.
So many great projects! Tell us a bit more about your new project – Reading Landscape. Why is reading the landscape such an important skill to share to make permaculture stronger?
We are creating a compelling, accessible and beautiful film about reading landscape and deepening connection to place, in a way that generates excitement, catalyzes learning journeys, and contributes to re-embedding reading landscape into our cultures as a known and fundamental human capacity.
For me, reading landscape is a foundational human capacity, that for most of our time on the planet was essential to everyday life. While for most of us it has since atrophied, it is a skill we can practice and redevelop. Not only for the sheer joy of it, but as a key stepping stone toward becoming re-nested within the wider ecologies we are but one expression of. To me it is impossible to imagine a permaculture that is not grounded in reading landscape, and I am excited to be helping highlight its relevance and importance within permaculture in this film. This project started with me inviting David Holmgren to come and read landscape on some of my design consultancy projects. I was just fascinated with David’s uncanny abilities to unpack a place through direct observation. Initially we recorded rough footage as an extra resource for the clients, who would struggle to process everything David was sharing at the time. Then, after several such visits, it occurred to me that it would be a tragedy not to somehow capture and share more widely the experience of reading landscape with David. I invited my filmmaker mate Dave to tag along, and it was only a bit later the idea of making a film emerged, for me almost in the sense of an obligation, or at the very least the right thing to do.
Your project mission/goal refers to First Nations knowledge sharing – can you tell me more about how this?
As the film slowly started to take on some kind of overall shape, it was clear to us that the landscapes we were reading, and indeed pretty much any landscape around the world, has been read or deeply engaged with for a very, very long time. Hence our desire to honor the fact that for tens of thousands of years, the landscapes featuring in the film have been known and cared for by Indigenous peoples to a degree most of us can only dream of. We are currently pursuing conversations with Indigenous readers of landscape toward including their voice as a central theme.
How can folks get involved and support with the project?
You can subscribe to the (very occasional) project newsletter on the website. At this stage a primary focus is raising the $35K we estimate completing this film to our desired standard will take. So if anyone believes in this project anywhere near as much as we do, please consider donating or letting a friend who might be interested know about it. Our dream is to raise the necessary funds in an in-house crowd funding campaign from mid July through the end of August, and then to be able to share the finished film as a gift to the permaculture movement and beyond. Help us make it so!
Dan Palmer is a PA Professional Member and David Holmgren is a PA Life Member and Patron of Permaculture Australia. Join up as a member of PA here and join Dan, David and hundreds of members across Australia advocating for permaculture solutions and making positive change.