by Genevieve Morton
Meet the Tasmanian designing a better life for us all. Hannah Moloney of Good Life Permaculture is a leading landscape designer and educator in South Hobart (you may have noticed her bright pink and green house up on the hill). She’s spent 15 years designing and managing projects around urban agriculture, small-scale farming and community development. She believes in ‘radical hope’ and facing the climate crisis in a proactive and positive way.
Describe “Radical Hope” and the role of permaculture in creating a more vibrant and resilient world?
Radical Hope is a verb. It describes having active hope in the face of enormous crisis, where despite all odds, you choose to do positive actions that can help counter the “said crisis”. The global challenge we all face right now is the climate crisis. It’s so big and so scary it’d be easy to curl up into a ball in a dark corner. However Radical Hope and permaculture are the tools we use to address crisis in a proactive and positive way.
“The greatest reward in my work is helping people to realise how impactful they can be in their own worlds to address the climate crisis.”
You write about permaculture enhancing not only environmental health but social health.
Permaculture (permanentculture) is so much more than agriculture and gardening. While this was its origins, it quickly evolved to be more holistic so it could address whole system change, instead of just how we grow food. This means permaculture design and practice can be applied to everything from building design, town planning, economics, governance, education, creativity, health and wellbeing and technology. Permaculture is literally a framework for designing and creating a new type of culture that can be permanently sustainable.
You live and breathe what you do – how does this translate in an everyday way for your family?
We’re really passionate about our work – and while we still need to rest and have weekends (like everyone else), we’ll often work 14 days straight without really noticing – because it’s all fun and important stuff to do. Of course amongst all this, we have a very vibrant young daughter – so there’s lots of playing threaded throughout everything!
You work with the community to create and implement sustainable living projects – what are your highlights?
Highlights have included teaching home composting methods to hundreds of residents in collaboration working with the City of Hobart to divert tonnesof food waste from landfill and turn it into compost for gardens. We’ve just wrapped up running the inaugural Home Harvest edible garden tour in the Hobart municipality. We had nine gardens open for the day and over 1500 people visiting them for inspiration. We hope to run this again next year.
What’s your biggest challenge? And greatest reward?
The greatest reward in my work is helping people to realise how impactful they can be in their own worlds to address the climate crisis. If we all step up and be the change we desperately need then we can actually step past and beyond our political leadership and be our own leaders.
When you’re not designing gardens for others, what does an average day look like?
I start every day by milking our two dairy goats (Gerty and Jilly), feeding the chooks, harvesting eggs and checking on our garden. If it’s a work day I’ll then either head out to a client’s farm/garden, get ready to teach a workshop or head into our office to draw up landscape designs. If it’s a rest day, I’ll be playing with our daughter, trying to progress garden projects or catching up with mates.
What’s your advice to the average homeowner with a free patch of dirt in their backyard?
Whether you’re renting, or own your home, you can use the land you have to grow some of the food you need. Us city folk could grow some (or all) of the perishable food we need. All our fruit and veggies could come from less than a 1/4 block if you wanted to. If growing lots and lots of food isn’t for you, consider growing some fresh greens and herbs for yourself. These are often quite expensive to buy and relatively easy for you to grow in a small space. Alternatively, offer up your garden to someone else in your community for them to grow food instead. Also, always be sure to grow some plants for small birds and bees as well – a healthy food garden is a glorious polyculture of plants for you, soil health and local beneficial insects.
“Reclaiming domesticity from a consumer culture” – what does this quote mean to you?
Right now our mainstream domestic culture is based on consuming stuff. Generally speaking in our culture, we buy all our food from somewhere else, we pay someone else to look after our kid/s, we pay for someone else to produce our energy, supply us water – everything. In contrast, we’re really passionate about reclaiming domestic culture to be one of production rather than consumption. For example – we work from home, produce 90% of our perishable food, catch rainwater in tanks and have some solar panels on our roof. We’re not aiming for self-sufficiency, rather community sufficiency – where throughout Hobart (and beyond) we can all support each other to support one another’s needs. Together we are better – alone we will always struggle.
Given the Coronavirus crisis, the importance of food security and growing your own is in the spotlight.
Absolutely. The more we can take responsibility for our own needs in times of disaster (and any time), the better – this includes food. If you have access to a patch of earth (whether that’s in a big garden or in a tiny courtyard) now’s the time to have a crack at growing some of your own food. This can be as simple as growing herbs, or quick-growing greens. And if you really have no growing space outside at all – you can always grow fresh sprouts on your kitchen bench. ■