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.

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 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.

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

Slide show: Permaculture education, going mainstream

First in a series leading up to the launch of the Permaculture Academy later this year.

Permaculture needs to escape its roots and go mainstream, everyone who has a stake in living on this planet without destroying it needs the benefit of its wisdom and understanding.

In the first of a series of posts I will be outlining the aims and unveiling the Permaculture Academy is all its glory.  It is 25 years nearly since I first walked onto Dairy Plot farm in Chimanimani and first came into contact with permaculture design in all its glory and its 20 years since I completed my first PDC and now 10 years since I started convening and hosting my own courses as Sector39, time for the next stage in the plan!

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.

My Birthday Party – a permaculture celebration


Birthday party invite image by Paul Stocking, thanks Paul!

Celebrating 50 years and an excuse to get everyone together.

This invite goes out to anyone who knows me via whatever connection, has worked with the sector39 crew or been on any of our permaculture or other courses.

At the Workhouse, Llanfyllin, Powys 25/ 26th May 2013, Midday-Midday


Its camping, there are local B+B’s, lots of parking space and facilities… small charge for parking. Well stocked bar and food and snacks on hand. Some great DJ’s, a stage and plenty of space to chill and relax and enjoy the beautiful setting

A chance to get together and network, open space to talk about projects, offers and requests.. we are interested to hear people’s permaculture journeys and stories, accomplishments and aspirations for the future.

We will post more details as they emerge.. but please put the date in your diary we would love to see you here!


Old plan of an early Workhouse event. Its a great venue, with courtyards, gardens, meadow as well as a venue and basic facilities, including a bunk house

fb bitton

My Birthday Party on Facebook

Party Outline Plan

  • Saturday from Midday – You are welcome to arrive and get settled in
  • Saturday PM, Permaculture networking and open space.
  • Evening Bar and food
  • Entertainments and refreshments until 3.00am
  • Sunday relax and chill in the field in post party splendour

Best wishes




View of Workhouse under renovation in 2010


Permaculture Design Course graduate group at Llanfyllin Workhouse May 2009

Permaculture revolution – the path to freedom

While the politicians rant on about how we might kick start our stalled growth-led economy and the oil and gas companies fracture the rocks and delve into the ocean floor to extract the diminishing dregs of the economy’s lifeblood: cheap energy and while we argue about who is to blame for the financial crisis and collapse of credit perhaps we are missing a whole new and different approach to solving our woes?

We need to escape the old left/ right industrial age paradigm and embrace a whole shift in perspective.. from the extractive to the organic, from physics to biology.. If we were to embrace the biology of our planet, rather than treat it a set of resources to be liquidated we may find abundance not scarcity and a true path to harmony. There is another way and a great many and an increasing number of people have been studying ways and exploring its implications of how might live in this planet sustainably.. some call this other way permaculture design. Permaculture is as simple as it is powerful and is packed full of new possibilities and potentials, solutions, not problems. Permaculture is a word created to describe that process, of how we learn to harmonise and work with nature and learn to make this step beyond the extractive degenerative phase of economic growth  to something much more whole, sane and truly sustainable.


Regular permaculture courses in Mid Wales

Permaculture is the path to freedom. The more we can achieve through good design the less we need resources, money and labour to meet our needs. Energy efficient housing, highly productive yet low input gardens and landscapes, using gravity and natural forces to clean water, compost wastes and return outputs as inputs, interconnected communities and vibrant local economies all combine together to make a much more abundant World. One much more resilient to outside forces and changes and one able to meet core needs from local resources. Freedom from consumption and the endless treadmill of work a day life is the true path to freedom and to exploring and achieving one’s own personal goals.

The sustainability revolution is a bottom up process.. it is just people taking the time to educate them selves to work with their own powers of observation and experience and them beginning to apply that learning to world around them.

Studying a permaculture design course can be a major step on one’s personal journey to a more abundant, interconnected and life. Find out more about up and coming courses with Sector39 and Get-Growing

complexpermaculture revolution


permaculture design course 2013

PDC advert 2013

A permaculture design course is a 2-week curriculum, created with the intention of creating a self replicating body of knowledge which maps out the essential skills and perspectives required to understand the mechanism of how the World works. Permaculture engenders an understanding of natural systems,  how the soil beneath our feet lives and breathes and how to live in partnership with it rather than by ruthlessly exploiting it.

What is true for the natural world is also true for society and our economic systems.. permaculture observes and communicates these patterns of abundance. The formula for success in natural systems which are dynamic, robust and productive is the same for human systems and with a permaculture design approach this abundance is attainable, indeed it is essential in enabling us all to make the evolutionary step required to progress beyond the vast economic, ecological and social challenges of the day.


This is a special one-off course, working closely to redesign a small holding and provide a space for people to come to together to explore strategies for strong network of individuals and communities working for sustainability


Reading Roof Garden, edible landscaping, urban permaculture, 24th Sept

FG ad

Forest Gardening at RISC Reading 24th Sept 2011

A one day workshop on forest gardening and the potentials for urban renewal using permaculture design
Work on the award winning RISC roof garden began in Feb 2002 and now in its ninth year it is positively blooming. It is a bold statement about the possibilities for greening our cities, supporting biodiversity,  reducing urban heat islands and storm surges and creating oases of calm and sanity in city centre spaces.

The RISC garden is inspired by the work of Robert Hart and was designed as a Global Garden to reflect the inter-connectedness of life, society, history and culture on this earth. It is a statement about the importance of biodiversity and the value of the ecological legacy we leave to future generations. A forest garden is a self sustaining system assembled from a great many, mainly perennial plants with multiple uses, from around the world; some obscure, some so familiar we take them completely for granted, all of them however are important.

The day will focus on positive responses to the challenges thrown up for modern society by the excesses of industrial agriculture, the overuse of chemical inputs and the corresponding erosion of biodiversity, tops oils and water. Forest gardening address all these issue and more and can be practised in any setting on any scale. Forest gardening is simply the application of the principles of ecology to a designed, constructed system such as  garden.

RISC has also been a big part of my own personal development, I moved there from CAT in 2002 to be involved in developing the roof garden project and it it will be a pleasure to be back there working on this one day event.  The case for all the issues that the garden embodies have never been more pertinent: our place in the globalised world, the debt we owe to past generations for the diversity of food and medicine plants represented here that sustain us all.
Society needs to evolve its relationship with the environment and fast, from degenerative destructive exploiting to a productive partnership aiming for regenerative design, adding biological and social complexity to the built environment.’

An important insight for…

  • Local and national politicians
  • Town Planners
  • Visionaries
  • Gardeners
  • Environmentalists
  • Everyone….

The day will be a positive and uplifting experience, looking at how we can work with natural systems and permaculture design to create resilient, productive and bio-diverse habitats everywhere.. even on roof tops!
Booking is via and its on £45 for the day, including delicious snack lunch. 55 places only.

Forest Gardening on the RISC roof

Urban generation, permaculture and forest gardening in Reading, Sept 24th

Thoughts on the Centre for Alternative Technology..

First of all here is a wonderful reflection by the great Peter Harper on the origins of the Centre and his advice to anyone thinking of trying to start their own eco centre. Interview by Michal Napierzynski and Marek Kolodziejczyk

Centre or Alternative Technology – Peter Harper from dobraidea on Vimeo.

The Centre for Alterntive Technology is an extraordinary place that has inspired and challenged a great many people over the years, myself included who worked there from 95-02 and has been a regular visitor since then. Working there is more like joining a big extended family, it can be pretty challenging at times, but also is an amazing opportunity to learn about the many complexities of low carbon living and the challenges it presents, in both living it and communicating its messages.


Sector39 at CAT festival for the living landscape

Although I still regularly take study groups there, i have not worked at CAT since 2002 so it was a genuine thrill to be invited to speak on permaculture design as part of the festival for the living landscape event, held over the May bank holiday; also to be invited to talk specifically about permaculture at the home of Alternative Technology. I found it a real challenge to write a new presentation for the general public, not really knowing what to expect from the audience, it was rewarding one as well and I was pleased with the reception and feedback from the event. I have a policy of never saying no to a public speaking engagement, which often leads me to panic before hand.. berating myself for putting myself in the firing line.


Entrance to the Sheppherd theatre of the WISE building

I also have to say what a thrill also it was to be presenting in the all new Sheppherd theatre, the main auditorium of the new WISE centre at the Quarry. It was a germ of an idea when I left the Centre 9 years ago and it was seen as a chance to put into practice many of the lessons that had been learned along the way in developing the other buildings at the centre. Using rammed earth and timber as its principle materials and passive light and heat to maintain the inner environment the vision was to bring together an elegance and high level of finish to a high-spec eco building. Not least to help gain the respect as well as the broader audiences that the message deserves.


Display of stone age tools recreated by a contemporary craftsman

The Welsh Living Landscape Festival brought together a wonderful showcase of what CAT is all about over one of the busiest bank holiday weekends of the year. So along with demonstrations of stone tools, talks about geology, energy and buildings there was music, working horses demonstrations and all sorts of interactive workshops. It was great to see the whole site animated in such a way, I hope it brought in the extra visitors to justify all the extra work. Congratulations to Sylvie and the visitor centre team.

horse logging at CAT

Horse logging demonstration at CAT

As much as CAT is about the ideas, technologies and strategies for sustainability it is also a lot about bringing people together, reweaving the fabric of community that has be so challenged by the rush for globalization; music, theatre and performance have always had their place at CAT and it was also great to see that represented by their house band who performed heroically all weekend to the visitors.

CAT band

Ecclectic Folk band, playing live at CAT

As the site has matured so have the displays and the ideas behind them and i particularly like the Forest Garden display by Chloe Ward and Angela Paxton, which sits well close to what was originally Rogers organic veg growing area, which had to be moved to accommodate the WISE development.


Forest garden display at the CAT visitor Centre

The buildings at CAT kind of represent the evolving history of environmental design, as each building has been completed the prevailing ideas have jumped ahead each time. The AiTEC, shop and information building was CAT’s first mature attempt to incorporate passive solar into a building, and this integral rammed earth wall acts as a kind of storage heater.. using its sheer bulk as a thermal heat store, which gently retains solar heat during the day and releases it at night, maintaining the ambient temperature of the inner building.


Passive solar design and earth wall heat sink

It has come such a long way from such humble beginnings, it is good to be reminded that it all started with almost nothing but a derelict piece of land and the sheer determination to build something that expressed an ideology based on the principle of working hand in hand with nature. It is easy to critiscise and when you dare to stick your head above the parapet, people often do and while CAT has never been perfect it has always been open to learn from its mistakes and use its incredible drive to move ever onwards.

If the global community does ever make it to a steady, sustainable state then CAT will certainly have played an important part in its evolution.


The original slate quarry in 1974

Everyone should do a permaculture design course!

Well I would say that I guess, but anyone who is serious about living responsibly and sustainably needs this information. We live in troubled and confusing times, there is a lot of good infomation out there, but it is buried in an avalanche of the irrelavent, banal and half truths and lies that comprises the content of our media. Permaculture cuts to the chase… and is a system of understading built on observations of nature itself… that anyone can see.

Basically Permaculture is the understanding of how to live on this planet sustainably. It touches on many disciplines, but can only go to a certain depth in the time allowed. It is relevant for anyone who is interested in sustainability and it gives you a new and fresh view on how it all works.

Here is some feedback I received from someone who has just completed the course we ran in Llandrindod.

“I really wanted to take a moment to thank you for the whole experience. I hoped that I would learn about Permaculture doing the course, but hadn’t anticipated being changed so much, and so positively. I truly feel I now view the world differently. Thank you for being part of that.”

We look at natural systems and what it is about them that makes them productive and self sustaining. Forests, soils, water.. the basic building blocks of life.. then we look at how to apply that understanding to things that we make, or design.. homes, gardens, business, community. Permaculture gives you a design framework of how to turn ideas and aspirations into a reality, whilst remaining true to the guiding principles and ethics of sustainability.

There is a chance to look in more depth at organic gardening, and forest gardening, renewable energy, green building, community building and cooperatives etc.. and we will explain the basic theory behind all of these things plus we will take you places where you can see these ideas in action.

We will be based on a Shropshire farm, who are struggling with escalating food and fuel costs and thinking about where the future of food production might lie.. and hopefully visiting Ford Hall Farm, in Shropshire, which was probably the first deliberately organic farm in the UK. It is not all about farming and gardening at all, but these are obvious applications of the ideas. I am personally very involved with a community garden project in Newtown, on an indistrial estate behind a compost factory, and we will have a chance to visit there as well.
For many years I have been going on about how permaculture is about so much more than food and gardening.. which of course it is.. but at the end of the day food and energy are such important issues and with Peak Oil and Climate Change as global issues looming over us it is increasingly apparent that how we produce and distribute food is going to have to change to massively so that it will affect all of us.
It also just so happens that the first National Permaculture gathering for Wales in happening on the middle weekend, on a small holding nearby to where we will be, so we will be attending that one day event, which will be a great chance to network and meet up with permaculture practitioners from all over the area. That should be a real treat.. and the venue itself is a very interesting place.

There are still places available on our May course.. which is set to be a ground breaking and un missable event, so please do get in touch!