Hey Owen Jones, I wrote you a letter!

Hi Owen Jones,

I watched Hypernormalisation yesterday, I dont know what you thought of it but the things that stood out for me strongest was the statement that many radicals have disengaged from the political process because it is too complex and slow and also the comments that Occupy ran out of steam as it had no new vision to offer, just righteous anger and a great operating system. The whole thing has got me thinking about how we can articulate that alternative vision to the crumbling current one, and in doing this might help re-engage a great number of people with the political process.

I do like a lot of what you say and respect where you seem to be coming from in a lot of what you say about the Labour party and its future prospects.  I am not a politico, and am not up with all the names and jobs and machinations that makes it all work but I think I have something of value to offer to the process and don’t really know how to engage properly in a way to get heard. I think everybody is missing something really quite big and in that might lie a huge opportunity for Labour to seize new territory and develop its own agenda.

I hope I haven’t lost you already, I will try to be brief as I can.

The future is going to be different, really different, for several big reasons. Thomas Piketty, Ha-Joon Chang or Paul Mason all put it better than I can but we cannot escape the fact that the neo liberal paradigm has run its course and many people can see that, however there is really nothing to put in its place, so we all carry on. Essentially we are still preparing for the wrong future.

If Labour can frame and articulate a new vision they stand to capture the new territory that our economy is heading towards, before most people have seen it coming. I need to enlarge a little here I think.

I am not here to say Climate Change is THE problem. Climate change and what is driving it is a symptom of a much bigger problem, essentially the fact that our short-term economic goals put us directly at odds with the long-term ecology of our planetary system. We are always prepared to sacrifice one more pristine ecosystem to fuel the monster of economic growth.

The proposal I am making is that whosoever can advance an economic mechanism that delivers the food, energy, services or whatever that society requires in a way that also restores and enhances the environment has essentially cracked the whole Malthusian population vs resources face-off in one go.

But how, you make ask?  If you listen to James Hansen of NASA for example what he has to say is alarming at least. But also exhilarating. 10% year on year reduction in emissions until it is zero, then we have to drive co2 levels back down to 350ppm by the end of the century or there abouts to head off the worst case scenarios. In short, a carbon negative economy. There are no policies out there currently that get us anywhere near that and to my logic someone needs to start formulating some and leading us in that direction.

Why exhilarating? Well because it requires re-inventing the economy, agriculture needs to be transformed into something quite different, energy we know about, but transport will be a huge change as well. For the rising generation who have nothing to aim for in the current economy, no stake in it other than a dodgy degree certificate and a load of debt and no chance of having a home etc. this is a much more interesting prospect potentially.

Some examples: we can build houses from straw bale and local timber for a fraction of the cost, they sequestrate carbon in their structures and have a fraction of the embodied energy. They can be largely grown to order, processed locally and built by user groups and co-ops. Suddenly housing is a carbon sink and co-operative enterprise and with a tweak of planning laws, affordable and low impact.

I have much experience in community food growing, fruit and veg, chooks and eggs are easy to produce on a small and local scale. You can involve the whole community in growing and related activities and it rapidly becomes part of the social and caring economy and the food it produces almost a bi product.

I am not saying these things can replace the current system, but they offer a transition away from it that is inventive and inclusive.  I have just launched a local project with our High School where I will be challenging them to visualise the future they want and to start to imagine how they might be ale to help make that happen.

So much to say, but I shall press you no more, so happy to talk more about permaculture, regenerative economics and finding ways to inspire the next generation to do something positive and creative.

Steven Jones

Block chain in Africa, a new financial dawn?

Block chain in Africa, a new financial dawn?

The interview in the second half of this episode of Keiser Report should be of real interest to all my African friends. Digital currencies are already rampant in Africa with the Mpesa system, Airtel etc, but they still run through a middle man who can take a cut. Blockchain, the technology that underpins Bitcoin is peer-to-peer verified, so there is no middle man. Global markets work to the detriment of poorer nations so the rapidly expanding world of digital and peer-to-peer currencies and technologies creates many possibilities to sidestep some of the many failings of the old financial system.

Crisis, what crisis?

Crisis, what crisis?

chester chroncalI have already written to the editor of this paper to make the point that publishing climate change denial letters such as this one on 6 Oct both demeans and trivialises the whole paper. I would however also like to address the letter writer directly and more forcefully.

Christopher Calder tells us we have been fooled by ‘science’ have we? By science I guess you mean those nasty people at NASA, you know who gave us the moon landings, the space shuttle, satellites and digital telecommunications.

Or did you mean the Met office, who we rely on every day for weather forecasts, storm warnings and the like.

Or NOAA in the USA, when they give hurricane warning do we ignore it, thinking it is another of their made up pranks?

60 Nobel laureate scientists published a joint open letter only a couple of weeks ago saying how urgent it is that we pay full attention to the science – and it is not the first time either! Are you saying they all made this up, really?

The Oil industry has been caught over and over pumping millions of dollars into climate science disinformation, bad science and denial, do you not think if there was even the merest chink in the robustness of the science they would have exposed it and filled our media with it?

pope-768x401The Climate denial game is so over, even Exxon’s Mobil’s own scientific department concluded that unchecked co2 emissions represented a clear and present danger back in the 80’s; but when even the Pope steps forward and puts the full force of his office behind the ‘moral imperative to act on climate’ then you make a fool of yourself to pretend otherwise.

‘Science’ you say, I am particularly annoyed how you chose to put the word in commas, you and your so-called science! Science, my friend means observation, simple as that. Everyone with a thermometer can measure the temperature outside and make comparisons and the evidence of temperatures past is written in every geological record and every tree ring. Anyone with a ruler can measure sea-level changes. This is evidence that can’t be falsified, evidence that every serious scientist around the world concurs with when they do their own research.

de grasse tysonThere is no dissent about climate change within the scientific community, other than just how bad and how urgent is it? Trump, a climate denier blames it all on the Chinese, why the Chinese I don’t know and how they falsified everyone’s scientific data around the world, that bit he failed to explain. The US army’s own scientific research teams concur with the climate scientists, it is indeed a real and present danger; are they colluding with the Chinese too?

Honestly, there really is nowhere left to stand to hold onto the position of denial and appear credible. Are you really prepared to put the whole gamut of evidence against your own untested word?

You site no sources to support your views, yet the weight of world opinion is against you.

I am sorry to have to be so strong in my words but you are a scoundrel sir!

A scoundrel for daring to make such a false point and doing it so weakly and so incorrectly, you insult our intelligence. Around the world millions of people are already affected by climate change, ecosystems are collapsing, oceans are acidifying and there is no other explanation for what is happening to us. The scientists are not just certain that it is happening they are also certain that we are causing it, and to my ears anyway that is the good news. What would be truly terrifying would be to hear that it was a natural phenomenon that we can nothing about, the fact that we are causing it also means we can solve it.

earth surface temps

Global average temperatures ar rising, hard to falsify!

Facing up to this is a huge challenge as we have built an economic infrastructure that runs almost entirely on coal, gas and oil. If that wasn’t bad enough, our economy also requires growth, year on year just to stand still, just to pay off the interest on the money we have already borrowed. We are sort of locked in to our own destruction as we have already raised money against oil and coal that hasn’t even been burned yet.

Although 195 governments, almost the entire world signed the Paris Climate Agreement, binding us to work to stay under 2 degrees of change it also not unsurprising that they are unable to enact policies that take us in that direction. After all until now our whole economy has been rooted in burning resources at an ever faster rate to produce goods with ever shorter shelf lives.

regenerativeEconomic growth is not going to save us, only an evolution in human thinking, an evolution in our collective economic behaviour will do that.

Atmospheric CO2, the main culprit in the problem currently stands at 400ppm. It used to 285ppm before we started on the industrial age, and the planet will carry on warming until we get it back down to 350ppm (this is the view of NASA), that means getting our global emissions down to zero as soon as we possibly can whilst developing ways of farming, land management, building, energy and more that actually lock CO2 up and stop it returning to the atmosphere. Plants do this all the time, so building out of natural materials achieves this goal, imagine building houses from wood, straw, hemp, clay/ lime, coupled with a re-localised organic food production system, powered with a renewable energy grid running super-efficient, low energy appliances and homes, that is the kind of thing we need to put in place and fast. Building such an infrastructure is where the jobs will come from for the emerging generation, the generation who are growing into an already climate-changed world and whilst we are doing that we will be building a new kind of economy that enhances the environment and locks up carbon, making climate more stable once again over the longer term.

There is already a global movement in permaculture design, in community supported farms and climate change adaption and mitigation, so instead of burying your head in the sand and expecting us to believe these absurd statements of denial I invite you and everyone to join the solution, the transition. Let us all help each other find the pathways from the destructive and now obsolete carbon extraction economy and create a new exciting and forward- thinking carbon-sequestration economy. I call that permaculture, you can call it what you want but it is the only future possible for humanity and anything that distracts us from that aim is wasted time.

leo2Science is sceptical; every published data set is tested by other scientists to ensure accuracy, which is how the peer review process works, you make yor reputation by proving other people wrong. If you reject climate science then you reject science, it is all inter-connected, so the smart-phone in your pocket or the jet plane that takes you on holiday, it is all the same science, you don’t get to pick and mix what you ‘believe’. If you want to know more about climate science, talk to the scientists, here is a plain English site that explores every commonly held mis-understanding and explains with evidence what is the best understanding by those who study it. www.skepticalscience.com

Find out about permaculture design and how we can work with natural systems to repair the biosphere and lessen the effects of climate change.

Chester Cathedral are teaming with local permaculture trainers Sector39 to offer a course for community leaders and innovators for change at the Chapter house from Mid-November, over the course of 12 evening plus 1 weekend.

Join 350.org the global climate action movement to find out how you can join in the response to the biggest challenge humanity has yet had to face.

Taking permaculture to old places

Taking permaculture to old places

Chapter house, Chester Cathedral

The cathedral at Chester represents nearly a 1000 years of history. First built-in 1093 the main part of the building was rebuilt around 1283 to 1537. For this course, the first at such a venue certainly for us, we will be based in The Early English Gothic chapter house, built between 1230 and 1265, it is a rectangular building and opens off a “charming” vestibule leading from the north transept. The chapter house will be the classroom for the proposed PDC and the significance of the venue is not lost on me. (History from Wikipedia)

This place connects us directly to our Norman past, Hugh d’Avranches (c. 1047 – 27 July 1101), also known as Hugh the Fat, the second Normal Earl of Chester was buried there, first in a long line of patrician overlords who found their resting place here. I have always been fascinated with history, especially the ancient buildings, churches and castles which have always captured my attention and where as I child I always felt I could feel the pulse of those that had passed before somehow resonating from the very stone of the buildings.

Hugh spent much of his time fighting with his neighbours in Wales. Together with his cousin Robert of Rhuddlan he subdued a good part of northern Wales. Initially Robert of Rhuddlan held north-east Wales as a vassal of Hugh. However, in 1081 Gruffudd ap Cynan, King of Gwynedd was captured by treachery at a meeting near Corwen.

Gruffudd was imprisoned by Earl Hugh in his castle at Chester, but it was Robert who took over his kingdom, holding it directly from the king. When Robert was killed by a Welsh raiding party in 1093 Hugh took over these lands, becoming ruler of most of North Wales, but he lost Anglesey and much of the rest of Gwynedd in the Welsh revolt of 1094, led by Gruffudd ap Cynan, who had escaped from captivity.

So it comes full circle, to be travelling from Wales to Chester to explore ideas for our continued mutual survival in this rapidly changing modern world.

What would Hugh d’Avranches have made of the dilemmas we now face, climate change and resource depletion, what lands would he invade and subjugate? I also wonder what would he have thought of Bill Mollison, the originator of the permaculture concept? I really can’t empathise with Hugh d’Avranches but on many levels the monks at the Abbey in the 13th or 14th century would have got it, they kept bees, grew veg, were guardians of seed and provenance and kept carp in ponds in the gardens at the Abbey. They knew about food security, how to cultivate the land and how to act a guardians of seed and soil. They certainly knew how to weather the many storms that faced them in those troubled times and I am interested to know what we can draw as inspiration from their memory.

If you have never heard BIll Mollison speak then he is certainly worth a listen. The word genius is overused these days but Bill brought a new way of seeing to the forefront, of way of seeing that which once you do see things that way, becomes obvious and compelling. Bill had foresight, he could see what was coming and set his mind to developing a system that was accessible and adaptive that might provide a basis for every community to address the challenges that confront us.

On the PDC I will be sharing Bill’s vision and design for a sustainable world, but so much more than that permaculture gives you a set of tools that enable you to work with the people around you to bring about meaningful change.As much as we can recognise the need for change it is hard to know where to direct one’s energies and what to prioritize.


The PDC is a curriculum that covers the broad thrust of Bill Mollision’s and David Holmgren’s work, encompassing the principle tools to be able to immediately start working for positive environmental change. Permaculture is empowering,  at its heart are ideas of self-determination and responsibility and a way that actively helps to build mutually beneficial relationships with those that surround you.

Scott London: A reviewer once described your teachings as “seditious.”

Bill Mollison: Yes, it was very perceptive. I teach self-reliance, the world’s most subversive practice. I teach people how to grow their own food, which is shockingly subversive. So, yes, it’s seditious. But it’s peaceful sedition.

Bill’s passing in September this year is a huge loss, a big tree has fallen in the forest, as writer and teacher Graham Bell said, however the new light let in from the canopy creates the opportunity for many more to grow.  Bill always taught us the nature is cyclical, the Rainbow serpent on the cover of the epic Designer Manual is both creator and destroyer, birthing a whole world of complexity whilst devouring its own tale.

Please join us in Chester for this course and help us work together to create new opportunities for all and to draw on the inspiration of those who have gone before us.

Permaculture lectures@ Llanrhaeadr, Economics and the future of money.


Do’t worry about the details, just come along if you are interested, its very informal

An ambitious subject to tackle I agree but it is the economics that underpins our society that reinforces our destructive behviours so that makes it an essential area to consider from a permaculture prespective.

For my sins I started out as an economics teacher, I was always fascinated how we make decisions about resources and population whilst also appalled at the way we tend to externalise the costs of production onto the natural world. It seems like there is always an economic justification as to why we are allowing ourselves to carve into yet another pristine environment as we talk about brown field sites as if they posed no value or importance to our embattled wild life.

The permaculture magazine have talked to me about developing this narrative into a article for the magazine, keen as they are to explore permaculture from its every angle and perpsective, so I am offering this as an open lecture to help me build the threads of this important story. We will be in the hall having supper from about 7 pm tonight, please feel free to come and join us and help make it more of an occasion.

Just how are we going to get ourselves out of this mess?

earth surface temps

The next 50 years are going to be one hell of a ride! That is the time lag between todays emissions and when we will feel their full impact on the climate system. Yes folks, even if we stop everything today we are still set for a very bumpy future.

Today’s inactivity is tomorow’s nightmare. As much as we all know this to be true, each day we get up for work and repeat the actions that brought to this point. We all need to make a living it is true, yet the way most of us make our living is driving the climate problem.

“Just because you are on a well beaten path doesnt mean you are on the right track”. Permaculture principle number 11 challenges us all to explore alternatives, to look to the edges for new opportunites and ideas. We cannot fix our problems using the thinking that created them and for that read: we need a new economic paradigm, we need a different rationale and a different set of goals. Consumption, short termism, economic growth for its own sake, waste, pollution, war, militarism, do you need me to go on… ? Yet we seemed locked in step in the march to our own self destruction.

Today I am inspired by the Lakota people of the central plains. America’s original inhabitants who reverred nature as sacred, rivers, mountains, wildlife and more were regarded as true value and the loyalty of people, friendship, (apparently the meaning of the word Lakota is friend) the thing that binds us all together and creates common cause and society. Yet we have never treated these people as friends and still they are persecuted for standing up for all us in their battle against the ceaseless expansion of the oil industry.

Across the globe there is a waking up of people realising the terrible truth of today’s society and economy, where everything other than profit is regarded as an externality, people, land, whole ecosystems even are seen as expendible. Permaculture is part of that wake up call, for those of us who have empathy with the natural world, permaculture is common sense, it is a guidebook and an inspiration. I am guessing many Lakota people don’t need to study permaculture, as their instincts steer them in that direction with their every thought yet for the rest of us it remains a pathway we are yet to choose.

Each and everyone of us needs to think how they can break their reliance on the destructive economy and align themselves with the forces of positive change and we won’t be able to do it alone, we will need each other, we will need friends and allies, Lakota.

I am writing this with a sense of dismay, I have had a couple of students drop out last minute from our upcoming PDC, work commitments etc. and of course I get that, we all have bills to pay. It takes months of planning and networking to build the momentum for a PDC, time is always precious and money a barrier but there’s always a way if we try. I am not out to critiscise anyone here, I do totally understand limitations, indeed working to limiting factors in central to permaculture design,  but I do keep asking myself how do we create the changes we need in the time we have left?

I would love to hear from people on this subject and certainly this is a theme we will be exploring through the Sector39 school project launching soon. I am not ready to give in yet, we can still head off the worst scenarios of run-away climate collapse yet each day and every decision we take at this critical time will affect the trajectory of that change and with that in mind I urge everyone to think again about their own role in this rapidly unfolding drama.


Due to late cancelations there are a couple of places available on this course, contact me for details

Job opportunity, more info

Here is some more information about the job opportunity

In conversation with our funders, it looks like the work will be self employed, we have 2 posts each at 1 day a week as a guideline, but once we are up and running we can go after more funding and broaden the scope of the project.

I teach permaculture design, both here and in Uganda, via a Llanfyllin based charity. This is my passion and a process which which I think offers communities a powerful way to shape their own destinies.

We want to work through our local schools and community to co-ordiante a group of pupils to run a permaculture design process on the school and the surrounding  community, the idea is to build a comon vision for a low carbon society, something commensurate with the Climate Change targets emmanating from the IPCC.

The intention is to present change as an opportunity, something to be embraced and seen as positive and exciting. We will work out of the Dragons office in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant on Tuesdays and/or Wednesdays mainly, with a strong focus on building links through schools to the surrounding community.

I am looking for people to help, a project administrator who can teach and write and someone with  with web/ video editing skills, both will need to be great communicators and understnad environment, climate and permaculture design.

Feel free to ask more questions, I hope this gives a good understanding of what this project is about.


Please send an up to date CV and a letter of introduction about your interest and approach to the job, sent to steve@sector39.co.uk Contact

Exciting donation for permaculture and Sector39!

The renoun and collectable artist Dale V Marshall has stepped forward and nailed his colours to the mast by making a stunning donation to Sector39.

I want to support permaculture with my art, thinking about the environment in this way has inspired me to begin a new phase of my own work. Dale Marshall

Dale who made his name as a street artist in Bath and Bristol, trained in Los Angeles and is currently in the process of relocating from Wales where he has been based recently to Ireland. Before leaving he wanted to suport some of the local people and groups that he had drawn inspiration from. This winter Dale attened three weeked long permaculture workshops at Dragons Coop in Llanrhaeadr YM with Sector39. Insights into both the workings of the natural world and the pressing need for a change of economic paradigm  convinced Dale of the power of permaculture.

I really wanted to support Sector39 directly and use some of my artwork to create opportunities in permaculture education. Dale Marshall


Dale V Marshall 2012


Speaking up for real change


On Fire in Cienega (Coast to Coast)

These two canvasses, part of series Coast to Coast and entitled On fire in Cienega have been donated to Sector39 for the purpose of supporting permaculture education. Each one is priced between  £3,000 – £5,000 and we would consider selling them as a pair to a collector or singularly.

July was hotter than any month globally since records began, Guardian

Permaculture is design system that models on nature itself to build resilient and regenerative systems for food, housing, energy and meaningful work. It offers many solutions to the challenges of a failing globalised economy, climate change and energy descent.

Many people are simply asking the wrong questions when trying to understand the chaos of our current times, permaculture provides a deep frame work of understanding that allows us to channel our fears and concerns for the futue into positive and meaningful action.

Permaculture provides hope by empowering people to work together as communities to address the challenges they face.
Steve Jones permaculture tutor, Sector39

Please get in touch if you are interested in the artwork, or in supporting permaculture education in any other way.

We offer a 2 week intensive permaculture design course in September in Wales and another spread over 6 weekend in Reading during the winter.

Sector39 are also currently developing a community transition project for their home region in Mid Wales.