Facing our demons

Now more than perhaps ever before the World needs to rally together to face the terrifying issues of the moment. Our whole economic paradigm seems to be collapsing, responding to climate and economic crises is no quick fix, it will take a bold new vision of our collective objectives and strategies. Liberal democracy seems to have been fatally hi jacked by corporate power, banks and oligarchs putting humanity on a collision course with reality.

I strongly believe permaculture design has a very big part to play in how we address these issues in a coherent way. As our work at sector39 continues to reach a broader and broader audience and brings us into contact with more diverse audiences I can that this potential continues to grow.

Nobody can articulate the enormity of the challenge we face better than Chomsky and here he is a recent interview that really demands our attention.

Noam Chomsky, ‘The Human Species Has Never Faced A Question Like This’ (2016)

Here is a current scientific overview and presentation on the scale of the challenge we face.

If humans caused it then surely we can solve it?

Well if you listen the presentation above you realize that although this is a correct assertion the clock is ticking and that will not be true for long.

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Before the Flood – Full Movie | National Geographic

The must watch movie of the time, climate change is the defining issue of human civilization, is there anything we can do to stop it?

Leonardo Di Caprio has become one of the loudest and clearest voices on this complex issue. This is a vitally important movie.

We are way past changing a lightbulb, we are looking at fundamental change

Leonardo Di Caprio

“Climate change is the single greatest threat to a sustainable future but, at the same time, addressing the climate challenge presents a golden opportunity to promote prosperity, security and a brighter future for all.”

Ban Ki-moon
Secretary General, United Nations

In the Paris accord, 195 countries agreed that they would collectively keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees. But what does science have to say on how fast, and by how much, will we have to cut our emissions to get there? Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre is a climate scientist who looks at exactly this question. And the math he comes away with, isn’t pretty.

Kevin Anderson shares his thoughts on what will need to happen if we are to meet the declarations in Paris, why it’s a matter of justice that we act, and why he personally has made the difficult decision to give up air travel.

Recorded for The Elephant Podcast
Subscribe in iTunes: http://bit.ly/elephantpod
www.elephantpodcast.com

Prof Greg Philo, from Glasgow Media Unit speaks at Real Media’s ‘Mainstream Media Bias’ event in Glasgow.

Tanat Valley Chronicle, announcing the new project

Note: Working through my own community is scary, I feel exposed as it is my home and I don’t want to create a divide or a barrier by seeming to be partisan. I want to find ways to be inclusive and invite participation from across board in what I see to be  both a terrifying challenge and a fantastic opportunity. Here is my latest piece for our local newsletter, read by all locally, announcing the new project. Steve Jones Oct ’16

‘Saving the planet one school at a time’ – We are looking for leaders

This is big, really big. The 195 countries who signed the Paris Climate Agreement in December have now ratified the treaty. Trump or Clinton, Brexit: hard or soft, Syria and a potential WW3, we might be forgiven for being a little distracted but this is the big story.

Governments have agreed, we need to listen to the scientists, we really do have to stay under 2 degrees of change but there is no policy in place that gets us there. The agreement they signed has no binding targets or penalties, it is basically a statement of intent that has no teeth. How fast can we get off coal, gas and oil? We have about 30 years to move completely away from our old ways and that allows no wiggle room whatsoever, sooner would be better.

So where will this momentous change come from? Even though they happily signed the agreement many governments including our own are not formulating policy that will get us to where we need to be, they are still building roads, talking about fracking, planning new runways and hoping to restart economic growth in the consumer economy.

No, this change will come form the bottom up, the emerging generation will be leading the way. It is much easier to see past the oil age when you are not personally invested in it. Just as we found in Uganda when we were teaching there in May, the idea of localised organic food systems, distributed solar power networks and public transit doesn’t alarm them, since they have that already and it works fine. Whereas we built a commuter economy out of coal, with disconnected nuclear families and rampant consumerism as if that was an end in itself. All this assumed the oil would never run out and burning it had no consequences, inpite of what we know we are still desperately trying to keep growth going because our economic models require it of us. It is going to be a big ask for the UK to make the changes required of it.

The train that is the neo-liberal market based consumer economy has left the station never to return. For the emerging generation that isn’t going to be their future, they missed that opportunity so they are going to have to invent a new one for themselves. We might not know much about the future but I am guessing it is going to be low carbon and almost exclusively local. This is not bad news, especially not to the ears of someone who will never have a pension plan paid by North Sea Oil. The post carbon economy is a land of opportunity, like the Wild West seemed to those intrepid settlers 200 odd years ago or when they first invented the internet, it is a vast un-occupied space waiting for a new generation to inhabit it. With this bold project we are looking for the leaders who are going to help create a new vision for a post carbon society.

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Wales has its own Permaculture network: Paramaethu Cymru

The future is there for us to invent. Sector39 have won potentially 3 year’s funding, in stages to help facilitate the development of that vision. Using permaculture design we are going to challenge the high school to lead the community at large to lay out our transition plan to a carbon negative economy. It is our future to create, no one else has a plan and in doing so I think we can inspire, we can put Llanfyllin on the map, along with Powys and Wales as leaders and partners in this great change we all have to make.

This is open to all, centred on Llanfyllin High School we will be linking to schools across the UK and Africa, creating blogs, radio, newspapers, holding public talks and debates. From this we hope to be initiating new projects and micro enterprises and even a community currency. Help us chart these unknown waters.

This is about working together, no one is telling anyone else what to do, rather we are required to build a common vision and action plan that fully takes into account what the science is telling us. Economy cannot exist out side of ecology, we have tried that and it has been a disaster of pollution, deforestation and species loss, together we can build an economy that restores the ecology of the planet and creates hope for a future that we all want to be part of.

Join in, be a leader for change.

Watch this space, lots more to come!

www.sector39.co.uk

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Saving The Planet, One School At A Time

Sector39 Haulfre, Market St, Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant, SY10 0JN
0771 981 8959 steve@sector39.co.uk
Llanfyllin Transition Project
Saving The Planet, One School At A Time
October, 2016

We are looking for Leaders- Can Llanfyllin be on the front line in the fight-back against Climate Change?

If you think so, then please join us!

We have been successful in our bid for funding to support Llanfyllin School and community in a 3 year project to place Powys on the map as the frontline for innovation and change..

As governments around the world commit to the historic Paris Climate Agreement , we are all challenged to find creative ways to achieve the vision of the low carbon economy that is required of us all.

The responsibility to find rapid pathways for repairing environmental damage lies with us all as individuals and we are never more effective than when we work together at a community level.

The transition to a low carbon economy will require a significant change in outlook and
behaviour, and this project seeks to work with Llanfyllin school and community as well as our wider network of thoughtful and conscious partners to achieve a community-led transition.

de grasse tysonTogether we must explore new and innovative climate resilient economic and productive
models that enable us respond to this colossal challenge.

The Project

Sector39 has been working closely with ARWAIN over the last 9 months to develop a project proposal to offer a permaculture design process for the community of Llanfyllin. The work will be focussed on the school, working with the immediate community as well as with Sector39’s wider network of partners; that means you!

This is exciting three year project commences in September and aims to find and work with the leaders of the future. Our aim is to build an inclusive vision for our community, one that recognises and understands our responsibilities as global citizens and one that creates exciting new opportunities for work, play and learning.

Whilst working with the school, we will be holding public meetings, workshops and think
tanks, as well as recording interviews, sharing information and videos. We will also present a series of workshops and presentations at the school through general assemblies, Welsh Baccalaureate classes and other opportunities to collect ideas, hopes and aspirations from across the community.

As well as exploring cutting edge climate science we will be looking at the best responses to this unfolding challenge that can be initiated from a community level.

Using permaculture design we will be building a transition timeline to a carbon negative
Llanfyllin by 2046, a vision and plan shaped by the whole community and for the wider benefit of all. The world is changing and as a community we must shape an informed vision of what we want for our collective future!

We will undertake a full survey of the school, its stakeholders and surrounding community. We will achieve this by working closely with a cross age range student group who, supported by us will work on both the survey, the analysis and design process.
Arwain Leader Funding
Funded through the Rural Development Plan for Wales (RDP) as part of the Welsh Government and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, Arwain is working with Powys County Council to deliver the LEADER 2014 – 2020 programme in Powys.
LEADER uses local knowledge to promote a joined-up “Grass Roots” community-led delivery for rural development.

The principle activities that ARWAIN will be funding are as follows.
● To facilitate a full permaculture design process for Llanfyllin high school, working with
a group of students from across the age spectrum.
● Undertake a community audit of resources and opportunities as well as priorities and
objectives.
● Facilitate a community narrative and process for sustainability transition; work,
housing, food, transport, investment, community currency, social support, waste
reduction and energy efficiency.
● Develop a social media platform to engage with the community and disseminate the
outputs.
● Produce a practitioner’s manual drawing from the course experience as a template for
change. By creating a set of teaching resources, training and guidelines for use by
other groups interested in following the same process.
● Recording the project methodology throughout the project. The resulting permaculture
design plan will present a template which can both evolve and exist as a model that
other communities might learn from.

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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
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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.

lectures

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.