But is it sustainable?

But is it sustainable?

Sector39 permaculture, Llanrhaeadr YM, SY10 0JN
Sector39 limited: 9001792
I am speaking at an event in Manchester thsi weekend,on permaculture and cooperatives and I wrot ethis peice as an introduction to permaculture and why it is so vital at this point in human evolution.

permaculture perspectives manchester event

Initiation @ Wonder inn Manchester

Sometime in 1990 the concentration of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere passed the 350 ppm mark, from that point forward the
influx of energy in the form of heat from the sun has exceeded the
rate it has been leaving the earth’s atmosphere; the planet has
literally been warming. This will continue to happen until the Co2 in
the atmosphere returns to a level of 350 ppm or below, with levels
currently over 400 ppm we can’t even begin to use the word
sustainable with any meaning until we have achieved this
momentous challenge.

Climate change isn’t even the problem, it is the symptom of a much
deeper and more serious one; that of our almost total disconnect
from the ecological reality of our finite planet. We live in denial of
reality and that reality is going to catch us out big time unless we
prepare ourselves emotionally, intellectually and physically for what
is coming next.
Fixing this problem is not a technological issue as such, rather it is a
total shift in our relationship with the living planet we occupy. New
and enlightened economic, social and educational approaches are
required to enable us to escape the disaster we are creating. To be
clear we are no long talking about minimising or reducing the
damage we cause; we are required to find strategies which actively
repair the enormous amount of damage already done to the
biosphere. We have to fix it. We call this regenerative development.
Sustainability is the starting point for such a process, it is not the
objective but the barest minimum required.

Permaculture is about solutions, it is about finding the pathways to
regenerative development. It is not just the earth’s living systems
that have to be repaired; we have to address the social imbalance
at the same time. The empowerment of all people to be fully able to
take an active part in this process is central to any chance of
success that might remain.

permaculture allows us to tackle the huge issues of the day

Permaculture sits at the intersection of economics and ecology. It is
a design strategy that asks economic questions about how we meet
our needs, personal and familial in a way that empowers others to
do the same, not at their expense. Permaculture recognises that all
of these economic decisions and transactions occur within a healthy
living biosphere. We cannot stand outside of this biological
relationship for more than a few moments, just how long can you
hold your breath or go without water or food? Permaculture is about
self empowerment and community enablement whilst caring for the
earth by listening carefully to the feedback it gives us. To be good
at permaculture you have to be good at listening and right now if
you listen carefully the planet is screaming at us, make the change,
join the movement, and get active!

Steve Jones August 2017.

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.


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!



Critical mass is coming

I am excited to see this latest initative from the Permaculture Association, recognising now is a critical time for engaging with the wider public to create real alternatives.

I have agreed to attend the Convergence and contribut to the talks on how we can use our permaculture networks to accelerate change. Permaculture economics, might bring togehter such things as crowdfuneing, PDC courses and projects to create a criticl mass to accelerate proejct development.

More on this soon, lease help share this post far and wide.

New life at Chickenshack

My co-operative journey began with the inspiration of working in rural Zimbabwe in the early 1990’s, where I first learned about permaculture and the possibilites of people working together towards common goals. Inspired by that and more when I did finally return to the UK I was determined to do something along those lines myself. I craved the opportunty to have my fingers in the soil, to contribute directly to the global transition to sustainability but also to crate a home, somehwere safe, somewhere to roost. In late 1994 Chickenshack was born as an idea and in 1995 with the support of a great many people, friends, investors and Radical Routes we moved in on August 1.

I spent 13 fantastic years there, learning much of what I now draw on in my permaculture teaching and running our first 3 PDC’s there before moving to Llanrhaeadr in 2009. Since then I have ben involved at the Workhouse, Cwm Harry Permanent Housing Co-operative and eventually Dragons co-op, where I now live. The co-operative journey continues!

Really thrilled to see this lovely video from Chickenshack where a new generation of members are making way for a brand new member! Good luck to everyone there for a continued bountiful future. !

£100,000 for permaculture education projects!

£100,000 for permaculture education projects!

Well here’s hoping!  Sector39 has been relatively quiet these last three months as we have been concentrating on putting together a series of project bids. The deadline for submission for the three biggest ones was yesterday, so I have been locked in mortal combat with spreadsheets, funding criteria and project evidence. Breathing a huge sigh of relief now they are all in the post.

I am not a natural fundraiser and I am also suspicious of funded projects as by their very nature they tend not to be sustainable. All that said I remain convinced that now has never been a more important time to invest in permaculture and for all involved to be much more ambitious.

Hence the decision to step out and nail our colours to the mast. We want to make a much bigger impact in our local community and our core project proposal is around working with our local high school and its 1000 students to help shape a vision for our low-carbon future. We are going to be challenging the school to map out the 20 year road to being a zero carbon school, as required by both the climate Change act and the pressing urgency to take the lead on responding to out comes of the Paris Summit.

IF we are successful then we will have the opportunity to run a three-year project across both school and community whilst developing resources and media to help communicate the projects successes and failures and challenging others to explore similar challenges.

Project two, is to build on our up coming PDC in Uganda, we don’t want it to be a one-off, we know we need to follow through with at least two more over the coming 2 years to make it really effective and to allow us to support some of the students to go on and complete their Diplomas so they can convene and certificate their own future course in East Africa. We hope to able to develop a handbook for East Africa permaculture in collaboration with our East Africa colleaues and support from our friends at Permaculture Timor Leste, who have already developed a tropical peramculture handbook.

We are also planning our own PDC programme in the UK as well as, developing teaching resources and case studies, we are also looking to be more active in co-operative development and support. With jobs and housing becoming increasingly out of reach of the rising generation then the need for more self-created opportunities is going to intensify.  Working and housing co-ops that allow people t take much more direct responsibility for themselves and allowing much more opportunity for innovation to create truly sustainable lifestyles and regenerative development that can enable us to help heal the damaged and depleted biosphere and build a climate friendly model of development.

Here’s goes nothing.. maybe we will strike out and fail in our quest.. but we have certainly tried our best. Sector39 has been supported by investment from the Robert Owen Community Bank to develop these aspirations, we are hugely grateful for the opportunity and hope that we can achieve something truly remarkable as a result!

Our Uganda fundraised has 5 days to run, and every penny raised will really count to making adifference, so please consider supporting us.

Sector39 news and developments

PDC course advert for Llanrhaeadr

PDC course advert for Llanrhaeadr

Triodos Newsletter

The Colour of Money Triodos bank’s newsletter has chosen to feature Dragons Co-op as a key article in the latest edition. We worked closely with the bank on the article and are happy to be associated with them as they have been supportive by providing ethical finance to a series of housing co-operative projects that Sector39 have been involved with. Creating the kind of opportunities such as fully mutual housing co-operatives, community owned businesses and permaculture projects requires investment and long term support and we are really grateful for a chance to profile some of our work in the publication.

Launching our January Design Course in Llanrhaeadr at Dragons Co-op

Short notice we know, but we will be offering a full PDC based at the new co-op in Llanrhaeadr. We are also writing a three year programme at the moment now that we have a more solid base at Dragons Co-operative and can plan much further ahead. We intend to use this course to strengthen local links and some of those attending are also closely involved with other projects in the area. Sector39 is also currently developing plans to work more closely with the High School and Dolen Ffermio charity in Llanfyllin as well as Tan y Fron housing co-op in Meifod.

The course is designed to work well for those based locally and for those coming from further away. There will be accommodation options for those wishing to stay over on the Saturday evenings, creating opportunities for some social time as well as the course itself. Please contact us for more details, prices are flexible to keep them affordable for all, based on £50 per weekend, with a discount available for those who book early for the full course, at £250.

Changes to Reading plans

Following on from the successful course we ran at Reading International Solidarity Centre in January to March this year we had initially planned to run one there again this year, however on  reflection it is going to be such a busy time for us we have shrunk that ambition. We will be running a full introduction weekend there this March  and going back to RISC in 2017 to offer the full permaculture design course, again spread over 6 weekends.



Chickenshack at 20

Brynllwyn in 1995 shortly after we first moved there.

The story of Chickenshack Co-op began in Zimbabwe in 1990/1. A chance conversation led to a chance encounter which led me and friend Sue to the village of Chimanimani in the eastern mountains there. A wonderful and unexpected  opportunity to care take a pemaculture designed small holding quickly evolved into the opportunity to develop a derelict neighbouring property, using the knowledge and momentum from the first project. The new property had once been the home of John Wilson a permaculture pioneer in Zimbabwer involved in several key early permaculture projects in that country. Ever since that time my life has also been inextricably linked to the world of permaculture.

Chikukwa permaculture project, Zimbabwe

Chikukwa permaculture project, Zimbabwe

Looking after the small holding of Graham Metlerkamp had taught me so many new things and slowly the idea to apply this learning to new and subsequent projects really took hold. The first port of call was the neighbouring property, which has now evolved to become Heaven Lodge an absolutely stand out destination for travellers in Southern Africa in itself, let alone the stunning region surrounding it.

Heaven backpackers lodge Chimanimani

Heaven backpackers lodge Chimanimani

One of the first real sources of inspiration came when we visited Chikukwa in 1991 and met Uli and Ellie Westermann, two German teachers who had naturalised to the traditional Mashona homeland area, and who in consultation with John Wilson, the previous owner of Heaven helped begin the impetus that has gone on to transform the whole of the Chikukwa area.

Read The Chikukwa story in Permaculture Magazine

The combination of these and other experiences led me to discover my own passion for permaculture and realise a determination to take this ideas and put them into practice via my own life an work. So the dream of Chickenshack was born and on my eventual return to the UK  I set about finding ways I could both learn more about permaculture and put the ideas into practice myself. I have to mention my great friend at the time Andreas Heigl, it is in part down to him that we actually called the housing co-op that name, we had lived in a wooden shack in Zimbabwe and kept chickens so there had been lots of jokes and silly names around chickens at the time, including a band and a repertoire of silly songs, but with Andreas the Chickens name kind of stuck. When we reunited in a camping site in Amsterdam in 1993 he even coined the word Hunchenfest, for Chicken party, i used it as a net pseudonym for a while.

Andreas Heigl, was the first of our friends and supporters to contribute to the Chickenshack loanstock fund. Here he is helping fit the door from the cottage to the larder, some years later.

Andreas Heigl, was the first of our friends and supporters to contribute to the Chickenshack loanstock fund. Here he is helping fit the door from the cottage to the larder, some years later.

It was through the support and belief of dozens of people like Andreas that the idea grew into a reality. I bumped into a woman called Stephanie McCann in the Green Futures field at Glastonbury and she told me all about Housing Co-operatives, Radical Routes and how to buy and manage property without necessarily having capital. Suddenly what had been a whimsical aspiration become a potential realistic proposition.

That's me in 1994, having moved to Wales and contemplating launching Chickenshack

That’s me in 1994, having moved to Wales and contemplating launching Chickenshack

It still didn’t really seem real when we  put our offer in on the property in early 1995, we still didn’t have much of the money and only barely had a few members committed to living there, as people kept getting all excited about the prospect then dropping out when the full complexity of the challenge presented itself.

Then came the Permaculture design course at Centre for Alternative technology and that served to click all the pieces into place. We only had 3 of the required 8 members in place at that time and still needed money, we had allowed our focus to broaden to make the coop more broadly appealing, who knew what permaculture was all about after all?

My certificate from the 1995 PDC with Mike Feingold

My certificate from the 1995 PDC with Mike Feingold

But with course all that changed. the design course not only gave us a why, it gave us a how, it showed how to prioritise, via zoning where to place by sectors, it showed how to make decisions by consensus. Ironically the tighter the focus for the co-op the more attractive it became. It became easier to explain what is was all about and how it was going to run. we found our other 5 members on the course and in the surrounding community, we had our focus, our raison d’etre and momentum was finally on our side.

The basic lay out of the land, the position of the veg garden, orchard, forest garden, wind breaks, paths and much more was mapped on on the PDC as our group design project. It has been a fascinating process to see how it has matured and how well it has all worked, over the years and the successive residents and members of the co-op.

I have too many memories to try and list them here, I dug out a handful of battered old photos from those early days and I have scanned a few of them in. I would like to write much more about the whole experience, and the three other housing co-ops I have been closely involved in starting, the fourth of which I currently reside at.

The whole thing has been and continues to be an amazing journey and thank everyone who has been part of it so far. I am certain that the co-operative model is one of the most powerful tools we have to transform our society and to empower us all to pursue our dreams of sustainability and abundance.

View at Chickenshack 2015

View at Chickenshack 2015

I am going to be there this weekend, and will be photographing and making some sound clips and video for posterity. it feels like a significant achievement for all concerned and hopefully can act as inspiration for future potential projects.

If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything
Chris Reid’s Dad


Paul Mason on a new kind of economy

This guy is well worth paying attention to. He has been writing and talking on this subject for a while, here is a succinct and engaging summary of his core ideas. Although, as an economics commentator he is approaching this from a different perspective nothing that he says conflicts with the permaculture vision for the future. The only future that is possible, one that respects and nurtures the living planet we are part of, as well as all its fellow inhabitants. Technology, information sharing and open source knowledge and the active removal of patents and copyright creates a whole new set of possibilities.

Meanwhile, here is a subject close to my heart. Chickens.

Any talk of a new kind of economy has to think a lot about co-operatives and other similar forms of mutual ownership and control of assets likes homes and businesses. Since when did we become a nation of property speculators?

Anyone who know me will know that we are celebrating 20 years of co-operation at Chickenshack Co-op this year, and here is a party even this weekend. Chickenshack was our bold attempt to pioneer a permaculture inspired community, one that follows and embraces the values of Earthcare, People Care and individual choices to limit consumption and re-invest surplus for mutual benefit. we are thrilled to celebrating their 20th anniversary this month and reflecting back on the many ups and downs along the way to getting there. Here at Sector39 we are finding an increasing interest in Co-operatives as an alternative route to housing and we are putting together training packages and talks for aspiring co-operators.

Follow Chickenshack on Facebook

On Chicken welfare!

Chicken care.. how to team up with your Chooks for happiness and abundance.

Here is a great article on caring for your precious Chooks. From The Happy Chicken Coop.

September PDC in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant

September PDC in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant

Click image to visit course booking page

We are excited to be offering our next PDC in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant, the tiny Welsh mountain village made famous by its stunning waterfall. Located only 45 mins drive from Shrewsbury and 12 miles from Gobowen mainline station, this village is buried deep in the unspoilt Mid Wales countryside, by the Berwyn mountains.


The area is home to numerous permaculture projects and housing co-ops, which will form the backbone of our site visits and practicals. We are about to launch our own latest project in the area, a housing co-op and community shop. The course will use the PDC framework to look deeply into co-ops and other community led solutions, including local currencies and trading schemes. It is our contention that Crowd funding, ethical investment and local currencies offer up a whole new layer of opportunities that are yet to be fully exploited, never has it been a more interesting time to be involved in permaculture! Come along and find out why.


View of the Berwyn Mountains

We are live on Crowdfunder


Live on Crowdfunder, from today, please support us!

Please consider supporting Permaculture Education, we are aiming to raise £600 via Crowdfunding to support low income students on our June PDC. We specifically want to help Ollie Boon and Stephanie Jackson of the Roots project to be part of our next course, they are just back from 4 years in the Amazon and launching their own Roots project.
the ideas, concepts and networking provided by permaculture design education will be the perfect support they need to advance their project ambitions and here at Sector39 we think this is the best way we can link with projects such as this one.

There is more info here https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/permaculture-design-course-bursary and payment links.

Many thanks in advanc,e any help is much appreciated!