Science in the dark ages

Rachel Carson, author of the groundbreaking ‘Silent Spring’ warned us many years ago of the dangers of allowing politics to influence our understanding of the natural world.

 The real wealth of the Nation lies in the resources of the earth — soil, water, forests, minerals, and wildlife. To utilize them for present needs while insuring their preservation for future generations requires a delicately balanced and continuing program, based on the most extensive research. Their administration is not properly, and cannot be, a matter of politics.  Rachel Carson

This begs the question what is the role of science when the politicians of the day can cast aside the dire and detailed warnings of the climate science community despite the agreements and commitments they so publicly made to respond to this unfolding crisis?

event1We teach science in our schools yet we fail to adhere to it our daily lives, what message does this send to the growing generation? The smoking ban, compulsory seatbelts in cars, these were considered responses to known and measurable threats, so why then do we ignore the much more serious warnings about climate and energy?

We know of the disproportionate hold the oil industry has over our economy, over the US presidency and the Russian rouble yet to allow that reality to frame our responses will have dire consequences for all.

Last year we launched the Llanfyllin Transition Project, ‘Saving the Planet One School at a Time’ with the specific aim of exploring these ideas across the whole community and asking ourselves the question of how we can better prepare for what awaits us. To begin surely we are obliged to refer ourselves back to the science, what can we expect, what is happening how much do we know? Also we need to look at this information outside of the political and economic framework that surrounds the debate in the media.

factThe global scientific community will stage mass demonstrations to celebrate world Earth Day on April 22nd. This year’s event and campaign will fight against efforts to silence science and focus on creating and supporting knowledge sharing, community engagement, citizen science and stewardship.

We will be holding a series of events leading to Earth day the first of which is at Llanfyllin High School, 23 March building to the global event in April. It is free and will be informative, challenging and inclusive. Please be there. 

www.llanfyllin.sector39.co.uk

Innovating in the garden, heritage grains

It is always interesting and illuminating to hear from a past PDC graduate to hear what they have been wrestling with and working through since they finished their course.  This came today from a participant from 3 years ago, who had an active interesting in food growing and land work talk about the challenges of pursuing these ambitions.

Hi Steve! I’ve been keeping up with the blog and it’s good to see what’s going on in Wales with the projects 😊.

Last time I messaged I was looking to set up a market garden, I’ve been trying to do this for three years and have not succeeded yet! Land was hard to come by where I was living in Stratford (or should I say land that people would let me use) and so I moved to Birmingham thinking that an Urban farm would be better placed for a client base.
I’ve met up with a few food co-ops and local growers who have looked into trying similar things and we have all come across the same problems. In short, peoples attitude in the city towards food is not currently at a level where a urban food farm can thrive.
Peoples attitude needs to change, as you are well aware, indeed we have no option but to change with the coming challenges!
So I’m currently in talks with a few people and have started to work out a new project in order to change the publics relationship with food. The project is less about the amount of food grow at the end of the season but about peoples connection with the years cycle and how that relates to food production, harvest, the soil biology and preparing for next year. In a world of short termism, these are valuable skills to know.
The idea is to turn peoples back yard lawn into a field of grain. Rather than a field in the city, it needs to be personal and apart of the individual’s personal space in order for them to engage regularly. I will be visiting each household at key stages in the cycle to work with the individual about what to do next and to assist with the activity.
In the end the participant will have experienced the life cycle of the grain, from preparing the land (some or indeed a lot of preparation will be needed on ground that was once a compacted lawn) sowing, observing growth, harvesting, threshing, seed saving, milling and baking.
Oh I forgot to mention as well that the project will use regenerative agriculture techniques instead of current agricultural land management practices.
The project will be small to start with, only an handful of people in the first year or so, and then we can see if the project has legs.

I’m currently writing out an expenditure and have come across a problem, I’m struggling to find a place to buy any grain that is an old variety. Places to buy heirloom veg seem more available than heirloom grains.
Would you know of any organisation or individuals saving grain seeds?

Hope you are well!

D.

A reply came back from Emma of www.cultivate.uk.com the horticulture training centre in Newtown..

You can’t buy heritage grain. You can get small amounts from heritage seed libraries, and spend years bulking it up. Otherwise need to get to know growers and get direct from them.

The questioner came up with two links from the USA.
http://www.growseed.org/

http://www.growseed.org/seed.html

Need t check on the restrictions of sending seeds across international boundaries.

Llanfyllin School Project

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Effective community led action begins with a youth empowered through education

The Sector39 team are currently busy working through our local high school and the wider community to support community led responses to the challenges created by our changing climate. Climate disruption and the issues generated by that reality is not going to go away as in issue, it will become increasingly urgent. Consequently we are formulating short, medium and long term responses to help reduce our own collective impact and to foster resilience to the changes and shocks that my lay ahead for us.

in Sept 2016 Sector39 won funding from the E.U. Leader programme to stimulate action in these area. We are still at the very early stages of the project and are putting out feelers in all directions to attract potential partners, participants, volunteers, sponsors and anyone who can help communicate our message to the wider community.

Look out for our public meetings, our VoxPop events and much more,

All events will be published via http://llanfyllin.sector39.co.uk

So far the project has:

  • Won potentially three years’ funding to take the project forward
  • Helped develop a community orchard for Llanfyllin
  • Designed a nature friendly, fun & interactive play space for a local respite care home
  • Contributed to GCSE Land Based studies course work and lessons at Ysgol Llanfyllin
  • Developed links across the community

Much more to come!

Simon Sinek on millennials and smart phones

Excerpt of Simon Sinek from an episode of Inside Quest. Apparently it has gone viral and I can see why. It struck me as relevant to permaculture in a different way when he talks about the growing addiction to instant gratification and instant results. We are hooked on the better, quicker faster cheaper mantra. We miss out on the slow and complicated, the unplanned and accidental, some of the most important things in life come from these places.

Permaculture courses

Much is planned for the coming year, kicking off with a 6 weekend PDC at RISC Reading. Sector39, our teaching partnership began from work done in 2002-5 in Reading at RISC, on the roof garden and in Wales at Chickenshack housing co-op from 1995. These two project gave us experience and insight enough to begin teaching our selves. So it is perfect to be back in Reading at the end of this month to offer a full PDC at RISC and in the garden
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Permaculture course advert RISC 2017

Sector39 are also planning to offer full residential camping course in Mid Wales in the village of Llanrhaeadr, home to Dragons Co-operative.
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Permaculture design courses for 2017 from Sector39

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