One School One Planet

Sector39 and partners have been working on this project for nearly a year now. We won funding from the EU and Wales to develop educational strategies and resources to deal meaningfully with climate change in schools.

We began from the stand point that you can’t just talk about the unfolding climate crisis without responding to it. Talking without action totally undermines the message: when turn up to talk about planetary emergency,  then leave in your big car and nothing changes it simply undermines the message.

There really is no time to waste, as CO2 levels continue to soar the world is in desperate need of some different economic strategies. Business as usual is clearly not an option.

We knew from the outset we had to link the work to action. It is education so much of that action could be in terms of pupils forming and developing ideas as well as communicating, sharing and networking those ideas with other students and schools.

However for the project to make a real impact we also want to create visible changes in school culture as well as on the ground action. We are seeking to develop a clear sense of engagement and responsibility with the subject matter rather than just passive observation. We are after all going to have work together to fix this.

The climate crises will not go away until we resolve it and the Paris Accord is telling us it is going to take 30 years of increasingly hard work to do so.

Someone needs to set the example and take the lead and it struck us a couple of years ago that it might just have to be us. My own increasing sense of exasperation and impatience was at boiling point so I thought we may as well bight the bullet and go into full on project development mode and try a develop a project that allows us to address the climate issue head on.

I had spent the previous 5 years with Cwm Harry a waste management company that made compost from food waste and we had put together a community garden development team utilising their output. Having built a demonstration garden behind their factory in Newtown we had then won a three-year project bid to build an organic horticulture training centre by Newtown college and a series of community gardens.

The final one of these was a community orchard and food forest for Llanfyllin. We undertook the initial design, consultations and plantings for this before the project funding ran out. Our intention from the outset  had been to evolve the project into an enterprise beyond funding but when it came to it the reality was that I was based in Llanrhaeadr and my main collaborator was based in Llanidloes so geographically starting a joint enterprise in Newtown didn’t make sense.

I took out a business development loan from Robert Owen Community Bank and hired the services of Jemma Dixon, one of the brightest of our recent PDC graduates and sat down to write a series of funding bids with the intention of creating a more locally focussed project that built directly on the previous experience.

First thing we learned is that writing bids if difficult, long-winded and uncertain. It was a gamble. I went through cycles of elation and depression as each bid was completed then returned unsuccessful but we were getting nearer each time.

This was my thinking, climate change is a global problem to which there is no solution as such other than a complete overhaul of our food, energy, land management, social and economic systems.

Education is going to be the key to bring the next generations into this new reality, yet we are still behaving like this massive looming problem isn’t happening. It’s that old adage the educators are guilty of preparing the pupils for what just gone rather than what is before them. Well this time this can’t be allowed to happen. The students of today need to be the climate leaders of tomorrow, this the core assumption of the project.

Permaculture design tells us to start small and to start local. We had already begun our community orchard in Llanfyllin so this seemed a good start point build active relations with school and community but I also knew we had to have a global perspective too.

My personal permaculture journey began in Zimbabwe and I have been in love with Africa ever since. When I discovered back in 2011 that Llanfyllin had strong links to Uganda via a local charity, Dolen Ffermio my ears had pricked up and I readily offered my services to help host a visit of 6 key Ugandan partners to Wales later that same year. I made the return visit in 2014 on a study tour there and now I was sure there had to an African component to our own project ambitions, especially as it built directly on already existing Wales / Africa links. A bid was written to Hub Cymru Africa only to be returned through lack of evidence of need or measurable outcomes. So Sector39 bit the bullet again and self funded for a small team to go out there to deliver our first African PDC through Dolen Ffermio and their partners Busoga High School, Kamuli.

Students at Sabina School, central Uganda in their school’s forest garden. Why isn’t every school surrounded by an oasis of fresh healthy food? These 13-year-old permaculture Students want to help Welsh schools achieve the same. Reducing carbon emissions, building fertile soil, it’s an outside class room and play area that contributes to food security and tackling poverty, what is there to not like about that?

Finally the jigsaw pieces were falling place: the goals and process were becoming clearer and I could see who the right partners and funders should be and how to approach them. It took 9 months to complete the EU application and we were on almost starvation rations by the time the project began in August 2016. They kept us guessing to the last-minute be finally we got the positive answer we so badly wanted
The other project dropped into place a few months later when we finally won £10,000 to develop the African component of the project based on the evidence we returned from our trip with. 

The way we respond to climate change, it is increasingly clear to me is to deliver on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. We have to tackle poverty in all its forms and the injustice and discrimination that underpins it.

Question: How do we do that you may well ask?

Answer: Permaculture design offers a design mechanism for change. Bringing permaculture into education and empowering to more actively shape their own destiny provides an achieveable to affet this kind of change.

It’s all linked, the war waged on the planetary ecosystem is waged against mankind as well, solve one and we solve the other. There is everything to play for here!

Permaculture is a design system for sustainability. It gives us the ‘how’ in terms of the method and process to achieve the gargantuan task before us. Really it is a win  win situation, something tht is self-reinforcing.

Many people are wondering where the jobs and opportunities are going to come from for the next generation when the answer is right there before us.

Fix poverty, fix climate and create masses of new opportunity at the sane time; humankind needs to innovate, invent, create, communicate like never before. Thi si swhere future employment is going to come from.

The next generation are literally giong to have the opportnity to save the world!

This needs to be the golden age of creativity and the educational tools to allow this human scale evolution need to be in the hands of those who are going be most affected by these changes. Education needs to embrace permaculture as the tool that an empower it pupils to create a sustainable future for themselves.

I strongly believe we can do this, it is definitely going to be a bumpy ride but once we are focussed on the challenge before us there is no reason why we can’t transform the world in the only way that will give us stable future.

We are excited and optimistic as we plan for year 2 of the project. It becomes ever clearer how to bring permaculture into school and with realisation that responding to the threat of climate disruption is an opportunity to create positive change for everyone.

Green Shoots: Monthly piece for Llanrhaeadr Chronicle

Green Shoots

July 2014

It has been an interesting month for the environment.  We are saying goodbye to Government minister Owen Patterson who we now understand declined to be briefed by the Government advisor on climate change; it’s a sad day when politics doesn’t have the time for science or to fully consider the long term implications of the decisions they are making.

As someone with a long term background working for the environment I have long held with the view think global, act local, so I think it is locally where we can often have the most impact with our own actions. That said it is deeply frustrating when our own government ministers refuse to review the startling information about the negative impact that development is having on the environment. We are fed the idea that it is a trade-off between the two objectives; it’s either development or the environment and this is simply not true.

Going forward it is essential that we embrace development models that speak to both agendas and this is why I dedicate a great deal of my time to the study and practice of permaculture design. The rules of ecology are non-negotiable and we ignore them at our peril and continuing to do so will lead us into sudden and violent economic collapse. Currently witness the crop-lands of California, withering under yet another serious drought or the disastrous top-soil loss in the Mid-West. We simply cannot afford to squander our ecological assets in this fashion and expect there not to be dire consequences. Now we witness the geo-political positioning over access to the remaining fossil fuel reserves rather than seeking realistic low carbon solutions.

As a local community our priorities should be around using our collective voice to lobby for more sensible approaches whilst also working hard to protect our own biodiversity, reducing our energy use and securing our own local food supply. The last decade has seen an explosion of grassroots social and environmental projects as people worldwide come to realise the predicament we are all facing. This is also driven by the increasing realisation that meaningful change will come from the bottom up, rather than top down government led initiatives which are so closely defined by their intimate relationship with the existing status quo.

So our greatest hope comes from the actions of individuals and communities; to collectively explore and develop alternatives to the resource intensive system of capital that we currently enjoy.  As Cwm Harry and Sector39 and as members of this community we are active running courses, building community gardens and supporting the development of grassroots responses and we invite anyone interested to get in touch to find out more.

Steven Jones


Follow my blog for up to date discussion on sustainability issues as well news on eco-business development, community owned farms and ambitions for a significant expansion of permaculture education in North Wales.

Changing Lives, Going Green part 1

Here is part one of the Presentable TV series we made for BBC Wales TV. Filmed in later summer 2009 at Llanfyllin Workhouse, Sector39 crew are heavily featured in most episodes, Myself, Ritchie, Sue and others. Really the TV producers had a very sketchy idea about the ‘green’ content of the show and I was able to heavily influence and structure the show and the practical challenges the family had to face.

I am really proud of the resulting program and I really want to thank the Davies family for being such good sports. They were all very open about their feelings and were prepared to be influenced by the experience as it unfolded.