Author(s): Sepp Holzer
Sepp Holzer farms steep mountainsides in Austria 5,000 feet above sea level. His farm is an intricate network of terraces, raised beds, ponds, and waterways, well covered with productive fruit trees and other vegetation, in dramatic contrast to his neighbors' spruce monocultures. Fans of Sepp Holzer have come from all over the world to see the productivity of his farm, a veritable permaculture paradise. His first book, Sepp Holzer's Permaculture, offers a detailed guide to what Holzer has achieved on his farm. Many readers might have wondered-but how can we achieve this on a global scale? Luckily, his newest book, Desert or Paradise, examines Holzer's core philosophy for increasing food production, earth health, and reconnecting mankind with nature, applied to reforestation and water conservation across the world.
Through years of consultation with other countries, Holzer has developed a core philosophy for reconnecting mankind with nature even in arid or otherwise "lost-cause" regions. He details a process he calls "Grundierung," a term from painting meaning "base coat," which goes into great detail the importance of water, and Desert or Paradise offers his concept and guide to construction of large water reservoirs in arid, rainfall-dependent regions with examples from Greece, Turkey, Spain, and Portugal. Holzer describes the ecological and economic benefits of these changes, as well as the use of a variety of plant and animal species for further integration and regeneration of the surrounding areas, including reasons for reforestation and the cause and use of forest fires.
Holzer also outlines his ten points of sustainable self-reliance and how these methods can help feed the world, such as the need to regulate the water budget, eliminate factory livestock farming, bring more fallow or unused areas into production, enlarge crop areas by using terracing and Holzer-style raised beds, regionalize instead of globalize, fight for land reform and engage in community building, go back to the ancient farming wisdom, and change the educational system. Also included are Holzer's ideas on beekeeping, humane slaughtering, nature spirits, the loss of roots in our society in general, and in politics especially.
"Many climatologists are concerned that the recent spate of drought across several parts of the world is likely to become the new normal, which would prove particularly challenging for farmers, but will also affect everyone from city planners to rural landowners. Creating well-regulated water usage systems and better agriculture production methods are crucial for preventing widespread collapse or water shortages, and Sepp Holzer's excellent thoughts on the topic provide a handy guide for the type of solutions that are needed.
Well known in the field of sustainable agriculture, Holzer first introduced his innovative water-retention ideas in Sepp Holzer's Permaculture, a handbook of small-scale, integrative farming techniques that drew on Holzer's experience as a farmer in Austria. Much like that useful volume, Desert or Paradise contains a wealth of practical tactics that can help prevent desertification, reverse poor water policies, and even create areas rich with orchards and crops.
In his new book, Holzer offers examples from countries like Russia and Portugal to demonstrate the breadth of landscapes that can be healed with a greater emphasis on natural water management. He covers an immense range of topics, including using pigs to restore forest-fire areas, constructing ponds with proper shallow zones, restoring hydrological balance in the world, and abolishing industrial livestock farming. Despite the wide range of topics he covers, Holzer creates a cohesive, well-argued, and persuasive handbook that aims to help people "restore paradise."
For Holzer, restoring the earth's balance isn't about economic development and squeezing a few more seasons out of an exhausted stretch of land. It's about a long-term and beneficial view of the world as a resource. He encourages farmers to become rebels, gardeners to become advocates, and everyone to become more self-reliant and community-minded.
In a lively, accessible style