Permaculture adventures in Sector39

Trying to make sense of living in a crazy time

Commentary on permaculture, networking, courses updates, news and related info
Cwm Harry Land Trust, Treflach Farm, Permanent Housing co-operative, S39 work with several different projects, gardens and farms
Links and discussion on wider sustainability issues, news and opinion

Sector39 is a partnership of gardeners, teachers and rural craftsfolk, working in persuit of a saner, more sustainable world.

Scared yet?

“Last year, we learned what is probably the worst global warming news yet — that we may have irrevocably destabilized the massive ice sheet of West Antarctica, which contains the equivalent of nearly 11 feet of sea level rise. The rate of West Antarctic ice loss has been ominously increasing, and there are fears that if too much goes, the slow and long-term process of ice sheet disintegration could accelerate.
“Humans have a hard time conceiving of the incredible scale of an ice sheet, so the consequences of such a change can be lost upon us. But in a new paper in the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers — Forensic Engineering, researchers Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., and John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. – summarize what we now know about West Antarctica. That includes a finding that may serve as a wake-up call for Americans in particular.
“Namely: If West Antarctica collapses entirely — a process that would likely play out over centuries, but that could substantially begin in this one – the expected 11 feet of sea level rise won’t just spread out evenly across the ocean. The United States will actually get a lot more sea level rise than many other parts of the world — possibly over 14 feet. Call it geophysical karma — we’re the nation most responsible for global warming and, at least in this particular case, we’ll get more of the consequences.”
- Chris Mooney, Washington Post


The Creation of Money, the future for economics and are we heading for another huge crash?

So, a common theme that links all of the posts and discussions on this blog is that our economic system is failing us. Climate change and all that goes with it, including the political inability to respond to it can be argued to be the most extreme example of market failure. Politicians wax lyrically about the power of the free market, when we couldn’t be further from that in reality. Fossil fuel is heavily subsidised, as is industrial agriculture and first world countries block the export of finished or processed goods from the majority world. Whilst investment capital is free to move around the world at the touch of a computer button first world governments work ever harder to restrict the corresponding movement of people. Again this point has risen in the fallout of the COP Lima summit that has just finished with another toothless and none binding agreement.

Speaker after speaker at the Global Forum on the Social Economy in Seoul – including the UN and the OECD, not traditionally seen as radicals – told us that our current economic system no longer works. In every country in the world, inequality is increasing, environmental damage is picking up speed, social problems multiply. Here in east London, the combination of a return to ‘business as usual’ following the crash of 2008 with a severe austerity programme from government has increased inequality and multiplied the challenges faced by the poorest communities. – See more at:

Its time to explore the world of economics and to formulate our own ideas and responses to the challenges thrown up by this reality

Economics lesson: Here is a series of videos and thoughts on the subject of the financial crisis. No single one tells the whole story and together make powerful watching. And of course, this is not over.. the massive reflation of the global economy has only gone to create even bigger asset bubbles and seems to have set up up for another crash, on  a much great scale. Maybe crash is to stronger term, but it seems highly likely to me that we are certainly heading for a significant economic contraction, on the scale of Japan in the 80’s where asset prices prices contracted by 70% and have pretty much remained at those levels for getting on for 30 years. So we here we go this is a roller coaster ride and takes us past Max Keiser, the ex Wall street broker turned financial journalist who accuses Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the lead culprits in a global  fraud of epic proportions, leading up to Dimity Orlov who offers fascinating insights into the notion of collapse.

The award winning documentary ‘Inside Job’ [2011 | US] by Charles Ferguson and narrated by Mat Damon is the most insightful and illuminating amongst a number of such attempts that deal with the global financial crisis, which is wrecking lives and economies across the world to this day. This documentary The Biggest Bank Heist ever contains clips and  extended interviews from the film, with even more expose on the nefarious dealings that led up to the financial crisis. A good starting point to think these issues through.

The roots of the economic crisis. Here is a BBC documentary that sets out the core economic problem we are facing.. an unpayable mountain of debt. Globalisation has not been a success. The lack of sustainability of the economy mirrors the lack of ecological sustainability of the way behave. Economic turmoil, or a state of near permanent crisis could easily be our best possible future.Part 2 is very glib abd light on solutions and should be much angrier.. we were sold a lie in terms of the Monetarist policies of the 80’s, they created a false consumer boom that lets be honest,a great many of use could see at the time was ultimately leading nowhere. Perhaps the failure of the programme to really grasp the importance of that is its undoing.. still it is an informed overview the sets the scene for much deeper debate we should all be participating in about the future of economic goals in the light of this flawed system, the failure of globalisation, consumerism and the climate change and ecological crisis it has also caused.

Here is part two of the BBC docu…. exploring solutions.. of which there are tellingly precious few… notably the RBS manager who still wants to defend bonus wages bonanza in the city.  A key point is the lack of opportunity for the next gener\tion and our failure to invest in education.

If you want another version of this, from perhaps a more alarmist perspective here is the Money Week Magazine advertorial, explaining the approaching debt crisis… alarmist in that they are a magazine trying to sell their ideas.. but they are not wrong in their core analysis of the numbers. They don’t offer up a solution though, just an investment strategy to those who already have money.. which again a is big part of the problem. the current system always favours those who already have money and only exacerbates the differences between those who have capital and those that don’t.

And here is the 2012 documentary..Overdose, the next financial Crisis. We haven’t fixed the problem, but have set ourselves for a bigger crash.

I have to say it is really interesting to see that the house of commons has finally had a debate about the creation of money. The current economic system allows banks to create money at will by giving out new loans. This is still something that the vast majority of people fail to understand. 90% or more of money is created at the stroke of a pen, or rather touch of a key. So here in the first video of this series is Tory MP Steve Baker being interviewed on RT, as the proposer of the bill. This is doubly interesting to see a recently schooled insider who is prepared to blow the whistle on the financial malpractice that is at the heart of our economy as he can clearly see how absurd and unfair the system actually is.

Obviously this deregulation of the banking system is what has set the seeds of this problem so this debate in attempt to start to think our way out of this problem. Taking control out of the hands of the banks – these most undemocratic of institutions has to be a key start point in a joined up responses to solving our economic problems.

Here is Steven Baker at the debate making his proposal

The response from Michael Meacher is also really worth watching and is really informative. I am including the parliamentary debate on this to illustrate that these ideas are not fringe ideas, but are even being discussed at the heart of the system.

Anyone with a developing interest in economics and the  fraud and mismanagement at the heart of the financial markets needs to follow Max Keiser and his RT show The Keiser Report. Max and partner Stacy Herbert host one of the liveliest and most informative chat shows out there.. they analyse  the financial news, expose the hypocrisy and lies at the heart of the system as well as bringing on leading luminaries to explore their points of view. I have listed two recent episodes that highlight what they are all about, but really it is hard to just jump into their dialogue and get all of what they are saying, it is well worth being a regular subscriber, I never miss an episode!

Max is a former Wall Street trader turned financial journalist and his inside perspective, phenomenal contacts and experience open up a world that was previously hidden from people on the outside.  He is a harsh critic of the current system and a proponent of crypto currencies, crowd funding and all sorts of new, more democratic and powerful economic tools that are becoming increasingly at our disposal.

We talk about mass civil action being required to bring about the degree of change required and economic systems are actually that.. the sum total of of how we all interact with each other, yet the system is skewed to favour the owners of capital, regardless of the consequences of that fact.  A better understanding of how economics and money work has to be at the heart of a powerful and unified global response to the issued raised through this blog post and the rest of the Sector39 blog.

Finally: I know this is a marathon but I think that understanding all of this is essential to realising how it is that all the possible low carbon, energy efficient renewable technologies out there are not getting invested in as they should be. How politicians cannot allow climate change legislation to  pass when it comes to it because the economic forces that surround them wont allow them to. I think we all have to realise that regulation in all is form will never be effective in bringing about seismic change, it jsut manages us into collapse and catastrophe. Change only comes about when every one starts to behave differently. As soon as we act differently, collectively disengage from the current paradigm in whatever ways that we can, we will increasingly send out a massive economic signal that really does have the power to transform teh world. We need to drag the politicians and their corporate sponsors kicking and screaming in the direction we as spopulation require, and not expect the market to lead us to a fair an  susainable world, especially not as currently configured.

Orlov on Economics is really insightful into the nature of what we almost completely take for granted here in the West. This is really worth watching,  it is slow paced, but consequently gives you time to digest the real meaning and wider consequences of what he is saying. The importance of local economy as the only sustainable system is spelled out with great clarity. Really interesting what he has to say about gifts, largesse and charity.

Short Circuit

On rebuilding local economies i stil this is the best book out there.. Richard Douthwaite’s Short Circuit. It is free to read on line and is a great resource as well as a good read. Between what Orlov talks about and this book i think we are looking at whole different kind of approach to how we proceed.

Merry Christmas and Solstice every one, here’s to an abundant New Year!




COP: Lima

The upshot of Lima is nothing but a huge travesty that once again proves Western Government’s inability to stand up to corporate power, vested interest and complacency.

We are all in this together, we were told…. reading between the lines this essentially means that the developed world doesn’t want to take responsibility for historic emissions and wishes to protect the financial and intellectual property right gains that result from this. The upshot of Lima is that first world countries wish to pass the buck onto the majority world and refuse to do anything more until post 2020.. so they are also choosing to put the burden of responsibility onto  future generations.

Regardless of a rousing speech by John Kerry and the much publicised US – China deal pre summit, the US worked hard at Lima using UK, Australia and Canada as stooges to undermine any strong global agreement.

‘Poorer countries were bullied into accepting a weak outcome that will be catastrophic for their countries’

‘We need to build a powerful movement.. people are the only hope… we need to hold the government’s responsible to account and to challenge the economic system that is driving us towards catastrophe’   Asad Rehman, FOE

Deomcracy now is a reliable and consistent source of news analysis, this short video summarises the points made above and more.

Meanwhile, here, in tribute to our great friend and inspiration Dilwyn Jenkins in a short video of him talking about his work protecting the rain forest in Peru and the Ashininka and other rainforest people who depend on it. Sadly Dilwyn died unexpectedly last month and we mourn his loss, and feel the challenge he has given us all to live up to the towering example he has left behind.


UN Report calls for end of Industrial Agriculture

About 24% of greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, encompassing methane from livestock, nitrous oxide from fertilisers, carbon dioxide from onsite machinery and fertiliser production, and land use change.

Industrial agriculture, the report finds, is a major contributor to climate change which, in turn is triggering more intense “heat waves, flooding and shifting precipitation patterns”, with “adverse consequences for global crop yields.”

Back in 1940, for every calorie of fossil fuel energy used, 2.3 calories of food energy were produced. Now, the situation has reversed: it takes 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce just one calorie of food energy. As food writer and campaigner Michael Pollan remarked in the New York Times:

“Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases.”

Global agriculture is heavily water intensive, accounting for 70 per cent of all freshwater use. The nutrient run off from farm fields can create “dead zones” and “degrade coastal waters around the world”.


Quotes from recent article by Nafeez Ahmed

More evidence if we needed it that we must accelerate our efforts working towards a re localised and sustainable future.


Our next PDC explores responses to this and other sustainability issues


Permaculture Tipping Point

Crucial watching! How to accelerate permaculture… where is the tipping point?
How do we get the point where enough people get it to achieve critical mass? This is really interesting and really quite exciting.

Geoff Lawton lays it out clearly and critically in the brilliant video, what it will take to Permaculture the World? To get the message out to the degree that everybody gets it. In his imagination, in his ambition it is possible and the process is already well underway…

Watching this inspires me to work with greater conviction towards developing the Permaculture Academy here in mid Wales, realising that we don’t have to have the complete answer, only  the determination to work deliberately towards where we aspire to get to. Again, Geoff makes this point brilliantly in the presentation. We have to give it our best shot… I think with International Permaculture Convergence coming the Britain next year and the Climate change summit coming to Paris at the end of the year, 2015 is going to be a massive year for the environment.

There seems to be a rapidly building momentum around sustainability issues

There seems to be a rapidly building momentum around sustainability issues and  hopefully some where along the way we are going to cross that turning point, that critical mass point when the whole world wakes up and realises we are simply part of a much parger living system and need to live in harmony with it, not as parasites upon it!

Our next PDC is a spread over 6 weekends and will be at RISC in Reading

Our next PDC is a spread over 6 weekends and will be at RISC in Reading

“Nothing less than a paradigm shift in agriculture is required” UN report


Climate change is simple

Watch David Roberts of give a really clear and insightful explanation of Climate Change and how it works in this TED talk. Grist are a leading eco-blog I have been following for years and are an excellent source of analysis and information of really important issues.

How whales change climate and create more fish – Trophic cascades beautifully explained by George Monbiot. A brilliant insight into how ecology works and how interconnected all life on earth is and how climate is a product of life.



Q: What did our ancestors of 1.7 million years ago have in common with us?

A: They cooked their food and they depended on soil and microbes to help them grow and digest it.

The brilliant Michael Pollan talking at Google about his newest book, Cooked. This lively, insightful and ultimately radical talk gets to the heart of the matter. How we cook our food turns out to be the most important factor in our own personal health.


Uganda Shows the Way


530 words by StevenJones

IT WAS A WONDERFUL opportunity to travel with the Dolen Ffermio group to Eastern Uganda earlier this month to see progress on projects that the Llanfyllin area has been supporting for 20 years. The UK is Europe’s least-forested country, so it was powerful to see the extensive reforestation efforts going on over there in part of their wider on-going battle with climate change. The coffee growers of the stunning Mount Elgon region were clear about the effects of deforestation on their landscape. Landslides and floods, as well as the erratic weather patterns that have been developing over the last two decades, have made their ambition to produce one of the world’s really great coffees ever more challenging.

Uganda is a young nation, with its tribal conflicts and civil war behind it. It is an inspiration to meet the young population, hungry for knowledge and with an eye on the future. They have revolutionised their own economy by creating a form of money transaction using phone credit, one that bypasses banks and has stimulated economic activity by a factor of 10 times where it is active. Suddenly everyone has a mobile phone and is hooked into a surging and energised economy. Britain feels like a rather grey, tired and aged nation compared to modern Uganda. Yet many communities, especially in rural areas, are still held back from participating in the economy by really mundane and trivial things. The lack of small bits of information, tiny amounts of funds for school fees, uniforms, basic resources, slow down progress and causes unnecessary suffering and frustration.

Just like in the UK, the expanding and vibrant parts of the economy in Uganda fail to touch the remoter areas and more socially-excluded people. Political ambitions are more along the lines of huge industrial farms to grow commodity crops like sugar cane for export, rather than to invest in the organic, small-scale patchwork of farms that exists there and is a model for sustainable food production the world over.

My lasting impression is of a country with a bright future, with ample resources and a fantastic, lively population, yet still facing the same global issues as every other nation. The main challenges include the lack of the right kind of investment into the social and environmental parts of the economy, the ever- present threat of climate change, and being at the mercy of globalised markets for the commodities like coffee that they grow so well. Uganda leads the western world in low-carbon lifestyles, in a localised and largely sustainable food economy, and in the ingenuity of its people.

For all its vibrancy, the importance of its links via projects like Dolen Ffermio are hard to overestimate. Uganda needs to be able to play an active part in our globalised and interconnected community – they have so much to offer the rest of the world and it is certainly time we in the West shifted our perspective on Africa as whole. It is a continent with a huge future and one we can engage with for mutual benefit, allowing us all the opportunity to overcome the baggage of our pasts.

Dolen Ffermio is a Llanfyllin based charity and have been working in partnership with a range of projects in eastern Uganda over the last 20 years.

Steve Jones is the founder of Sector39, an independent company teaching about environment, sustainability and permaculture design.

—————————————————- Ends—————————————————


Press release for the Reading PDC

Dear Radio Berkshire,

I would love to tell you more about the permaculture design course I am running at RISC in the New year, I believe it will be of great interest to your listeners.

In 2002-5 I was instrumental in building the now fully established roof top forest garden on the RISC centre at 39 London Street Reading. This is a garden system modelled on the principles of ecology and it has created an abundant and beautiful landscape that needs little maintenance and is highly productive. It is a great example of working with permaculture design and this winter I will be returning to run a series of 6 weekends teaching the broader principles of permaculture and showing how to use this powerful design system for yourself.

Permaculture is the fastest growing, most vital and energetic grass roots movement around. Permaculture is a design system which addresses the challenging issues of the day.. resource depletion, climate change, soil loss, financial chaos and the social and economic turmoil that goes with that.

Permaculture design, often taught via a peer to peer learning process is a complete syllabus on sustainability, It shows you how to become an active part of the solution, is empowering and life enhancing. It is the panacea to the gloom and doom of the present day and an important part of the mechanism that will allow us to turn this destructive ship around to build the kind of World system we might all want to be part of.

Globalisation is proving to be a massive failure, finance and banking system have arguably become a massive global fraud, Western economies are suffocating under unmanageable levels of debt and the fragile biosphere of the planet is suffering from collapsing biodiversity, soil erosion, lowering water tables and deforestation. This massive degradation we are inflicting on the physical environment will have potentially disastrous and far reaching consequences. Bizarrely our economic paradigm actually values resource destruction and environmental damage as a measurement of achievement and consequently decision makers, politicians and corporates are wilfully blind to the devastation they are causing. Economic growth at all costs is the mantra, even when it benefits increasingly few and at an ever greater cost to the natural world.

Permaculture is a grass roots, bottom-up design process which attempts to address all of these issues.. it focuses on self-empowering and bypasses many of the blockages to launching projects and initiatives from within the mainstream. Permaculture is about modelling on nature to build resilience, to re-localise and regenerate the social and biological complexity that globalised systems have eroded.

This is a course for anyone with an active interest in our continued survival on this planet. This is an energising, inspirational and uplifting experience with the power to transform and create new possibilities.

Places are limited, prices flexible according to income, and include all core costs, certification, field trips etc. There are two intern places available at cost only, in return for a commitment to volunteer and contribute to sector39 and on this or future courses.

I would be more than happy to make myself available for interview to discuss this or any of the matters it raises.



TSW Jones
Permaculture courses, landscapes and design
Ty Cornel, Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant, Powys
SY10 0JW. 0771 981 8959


June PDC in Mid Wales, with a focus on crafts and community growing

We are bringing together two of the most experienced permaculture tutors in Wales with three of the most experienced crafts folk to offer a unique and special permaculture design course in June 2015.

Set in a stunning location in the mountains of Mid Wales, by the source of the Severn and Wye rivers this will be a very special for 14 participants to take journey beyond sustainability.

Permaculture empowers you to turn your aspirations for a better, saner world into reality. Limited places, so please get in touch, camping, farmhouse or luxury bungalow accommodation options.

permaculture design course june 2015

Permaculture design course June 2015

Alongside the internationally recognised curriculum there will be opportunities to be involved in building from natural materials, charcoal making a retort kiln, green wood work and basic skills. We will also be spinning yarn from raw wool, weaving and using various looms to make carpets, rugs and blankets.

The mix of theory and practical sessions make you through the basics of ecology, food growing, energy systems, water, soils, community and finance. We run compost practicals, ferment foods, whilst exploring the potentials of unleashing the collective power of community to being about positive change.

permaculture course pics

A few shots from the June 2014 course at the same venue

Here is a lovely clip from Graham Bell in the Scottish borders, admiring his 25 year old forest garden at home.