Permaculture at the Cathedral

cc1For many people completing a PDC can be a life changing event. Not least become they come to the subject looking for a catalyst to accelerate changes in themselves which are often already well underway. Permaculture puts flesh onto the bones, it enables a person to move from defining themselves by what they don’t like or approve of, to what they positively do strive for.

Modern societies greatest fallacy has been to externalise the environment. We are encouraged to see the living world as something outside of our selves, where of course nothing could be further from the case. By externalising the natural world we have lost sight of our own place within it.

Permaculture begins within you. It starts as way of seeing, of thinking about the world that makes ourselves active players, spectators no more, we become participants. Sustainability is just an idea really until we really take it on board and think about what we mean. If something is not sustainable it by definition leads to collapse or footcut.jpgimplosion. It doesn’t matter on what level it is happening the outcome will be the same. It is no co-incidence that so many people feel a deep sense of disconnection from a global society that seems hell bent on its own self destruction.

Permaculture teaches us that nothing exists in isolation, we are all the product of interactions between living things. We humans are as intricately bound into the web of life as are the plants, fungi and animal around us. We couldn’t digest our food with out the yeasts and bacteria in our gut, our waste would not decompose and plants couldn’t extract nutrients from the soil. The air we breath is full of oxygen released by plants and all life* draws its energy from the sun.

*(Actually there are some weird and wonderful life forms that draw on geo thermal energy to exist, but they are far removed from anything we recognise).

Why the Cathedral?

Permaculture design is for everyone, it teaches how to live on this planet without destroying it, it is not an exclusive club for greens. Although many of its pioneers are hardened environmentalists as a club it is open to all for membership. We all have a stake in a living planet, not everyone has fully realised that yet maybe, but the wake up point comes to everyone at some point.

The 2 week residential course is out of reach for all but the most dedicated students. Although it is a fantastic experience every time it is also hard to squeeze into busy lives, childcare and work responsibilities. At Chester we created a modular course based on evening classes of 3 hours, supported by home study directed by resource pages and videos.

This pattern has enabled students to weave the course around their existing commitments with a degree of flexibility.

 We are excited to announce we are invited back to Chester this October to run the course again and build on what we set in motion on the first course. 

I am writing this on my phone as I wait for train to Heathrow to pull out of Shrewsbury station. The next Sector39 course kicks off in Kamuli Uganda next weekend with 25 African farmers, teachers, students and civil servants. We are partnering with the Permaculture Research Institute of Uganda who are keen to connect us with Government and funding bodies out there. We will see how it all goes, delivering an excellent PDC is our first goal but are keen to develop peer to pèer learning models to enable us to launch a permaculture academy and create 1000s of new designers and teachers. Permaculture and Africa go beautifully together, an explosion of creativity just waiting to happen. Watch this space.

 

 

 

 

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.