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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

The Milkwood Permaculture Living Handbook Kirsten Bradley



It’s not often that a book profoundly changes your way of thinking shortly after you’ve begun reading it. But such is the case with this beautifully-presented book, which I believe will sell exceptionally well – and for many years to come.


The reasons I rate this book so highly are numerous, but first and foremost is that it’s a fresh, accessible new take on Permaculture, with the ability to shift these long-held and handicapping perceptions we all have.


Most remarkably, Kirsten Bradley absolves us – the ordinary people – of the guilt we have long held about our own lack of ability to maintain perfect lives. Focusing on our imperfections flies in the face of our desperate need to help counteract climate change, because it renders us hopeless instead of empowered.


Why are we blaming ourselves for not composting correctly, or for forgetting our own cup or container when we go to get takeaways? Because, according to Bradley, if you blame yourself, your eye will be taken off the real culprits: the corporates which not only caused, but also benefited from the destruction of the environment on an industrial scale. Piling on the guilt and green-washing us about how they’ve cleaned up their acts, are just two of the diversions we’ve been fooled by. Meanwhile, enormous corporations, backed by a handful of individuals and families grow wealthier by the day.


A few years ago, the British Newspaper, The Observer – estimated that 26 people own as much as the World’s poorest 50 percent combined, citing figures obtained by global charity, Oxfam. “Oxfam said the wealth of more than 2,200 billionaires across the globe had increased by $900bn in 2018 – or $2.5bn a day. The 12% increase in the wealth of the very richest contrasted with a fall of 11% in the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population.”


As I write, there’s a petition circulating (it was on the national news broadcast last night as well) which accuses corporates like banks and supermarkets of exaggerating their costs during a recession so they can take advantage of their customers and increase their profits. But rather than bow down and be overwhelmed by these figures which assail us and deplete our resources and bank balances, this wonderful new book says you can do something. Many ‘some-things’, in fact.


Using the basics of Permaculture as her toolkit, Kirsten Bradley offers easy-to-follow advice and encourages small actions to transform our lives and to empower us, while also enriching our communities. Permaculture is a now-global movement which began in Tasmania in the mid-1970s when university lecturer Bill Mollison and his then-student David Holmgren cooperatively designed the framework for this living system. One of my few claims to fame is hitching from Tasmania up the eastern seaboard of Australia with David while we were in our late teens. When we went our separate ways just outside of Canberra, he went on to nurture a world-changing global movement, while I... well, you get the picture.


Now, the marvellous Milkwood, in Cygnet, Tasmania, where the author lives with her partner, Nick, is a living testament and teaching tool for the students of Permaculture who visit; and much of what is practised there has been described in the book. These are simple lessons for how to live with more grace and hope. Kirsten Bradley stresses the importance of small steps. And she reinforces the notion that change really is within our grasp. This is such an empowering book. I urge you to buy it and to gift it numerously.


Reviewer: Peta Stavelli

Murdoch Books

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