There is nothing to say really. USA’s 4th largest city drowned by 4 feet of rainfall. India and Bangladesh are also experiencing catastrophic flooding. Millions of people’s homes and livelihoods are at stake and this is just the beginning.
Once in a 1000 years weather events are now happening regularly, crisis is the new normal. This is no joke and it is not an overstatement to call it an emergency, or as JH Kunstler calls it The Long Emergency because we are going to be facing these challenges long into the future.
These super storms are pushed into overdrive by the warmer sea waters. Warmer seas = more energetic storms. This is climate change and there is much more like this and more to look forward to, this problem is not going to go away until we have applied a great deal of effort over a great deal of time.
We really must act and to be able to act effectively, we are going to need a really good plan.
The Paris Accord gives us the targets we have to aim for but gives us no idea of how we are going to get there.
The best responses to face such future uncertainty are not immediately apparent and also whatever we come up with we are also going to have to be able to afford. Climate change adaptation and mitigation have to become central to our thinking in all that we do. It will take long term planning and a clear strategy to enable communities to coordinate their efforts effectively.
I am convinced that permaculture design is the framework we can work around to achieve these aims and we here in Mid Wales are planning to work across our community to produce a realistic vision for 2050 and how we might get there.
The Paris Accord
The targets the nations of the world signed up to kick off in 2020, meaning the race to implement our plan begins in earnest, whilst we must prioritise building the tools and training the people to implement it.
One School One Planet are proposing a community wide permaculture plan that allows us to build a vision for 2050.
2050 because that is the Paris Accord target date to be carbon neutral and on our way to a carbon negative economy. Doing this by 2050, we are reminded still only gives us a 66% chance of avoiding climate breakdown and catastrophe, we have to do a lot better really.
We announced our design competition last week and here is my attempt to come up with something… let me know what you think… Or much better still send me your ideas. We want to find the best ideas out there to help communicate this vital message.
Permaculture can be hard to pin down in a tight definition.. although its meaning is quite precise. Hard to pin down perhaps because it is a process not a thing..
“permaculture is a regenerative design science”
Nature, on which permaculture models as a design strategy is complex and dynamic, hence the slippery nature of its definition. My preferred encapsulation is this below image, first presented to me by Chris Dixon, a permaculture pioneer and designer from North Wales. This pattern shows the relationship between permaculture’s guiding ethics and the principles and design tools that enable strategy and action.
As part of our One School One Planet project we are working to bring permaculture design principles into the core curriculum. This challenges us to come up with some concise definitions that can be understood and worked on by students of all ages and abilities.
I have come up with a series of memes that might help and I am keen to try them out to see how people react, if at all.
Permaculture teacher Graham Wood posted this on his Linkedin profile recently, this is about the best longer definition I have seen.
Originally Permaculture began in Australia during the 1970s as an idea put forward by Bill Mollison, and it has since gone on to inspire millions around the world.
Bill Mollison (who died in 2016 aged 88) originally viewed permaculture as an agricultural system that works with, rather than against nature, on the basis that the natural world holds the key to stable and productive systems. So the term was first coined from his “permanent agriculture”, but it has evolved over the years to encompass a much wider range of environmental concerns and human cultural issues so is now most commonly defined as “permanent culture”.
Permaculture is now seen as part of a global solution: a system or way of thinking that enables us, as human beings, to live in a way that can allow us, other species, and our planet to not just survive, but thrive. The Permaculture movement and design thinking is now a part of the global activity, that is slowly being implemented at a local level around the world, to help us transition into a sustainable future ethically and with intelligence.
Permaculture is a philosophy and a design process, but more than that, it is also a practical guide for life. It helps us to design intelligent systems which meet human needs whilst enhancing biodiversity, reducing our impact on the planet, and creating a fairer world for us all. People across the globe are transforming their communities with permaculture. It has given us a range of design principles by which we can arrange our lives.
These twelve principles can be applied to a wide range of aspects in our modern lives, from our homes and gardens, working lives, commercial businesses, even to politics and social-activism. Today in thousands of projects these simple principles are being designed in and applied giving a range of practical solutions for individuals and communities who wish to live in a sustainable way.
Mollison and Holmgren wanted to spread these ideas and methods, so decided to set up and teach a series of informal two-week courses in permaculture. They went on to devise a full curriculum for a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and shared it with their PDC students who grew in confidence as they taught similar 72-hour courses, and after just 10 years of touring and teaching with the help of the network of affiliated teachers – they had spread the permaculture ideas across five continents.
Although his original principles remain in place, the PDC courses have evolved to expand beyond agriculture and into areas such as design, engineering, sustainable energy, systems thinking, construction, architecture, and social resilience all based on a sound ecological approach.
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 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.
A convergence is a coming together, in this case we are hoping to bring together leading practitioners and advocates for permaculture design in East Africa. The aim is to accelerate the already considerable momentum in the region by profiling some of the amazing work already underway in the region.
Since 2015 Sector39 have taught two full PDCs in Uganda and are planning the third currently. We have also formed a supportive partnership with two Ugandan organisations to enable us to extend our regional ambitions. East Africa is literally hungry for permaculture and there is so much that can be done to significantly improve people’s lives and resilience utilising resources that are largely already available.
It seems an obvious step forward for our East African partnership to try to raise the profile for permaculture by creating an event that demonstrates the many possibilities for its positive application. We are inviting some of the region’s biggest enthusiasts as speakers and workshop leaders and planning for an event that can bring together students from our first three courses with school heads, politicians and other social and financial gatekeepers with whom we might build new and mutually beneficial relationships.
The planned venue couldn’t be more ideal as it is home to the most mature designed food forest in the whole region and the school has embraced permaculture design and ideas within its core curriculum, even the Head Teacher has completed a PDC!
Sabina school is near to Rakai in central Uganda, the region that was the epicentre of the global AIDS epidemic. They are still in recovery from the terrible loss of life, creativity and human resource but are well on track to have the situation fully under control by 2030. Modern drugs have massively reduced the mortality rate, it is no longer a death sentence and people are open about their HIV status. That said there are still many orphans in the region and a great deal of work to be done to compensate for the terrible effects of the epidemic.
Sabina students in the school’s forest garden. Bananas, avocado, pumpkin, jackfruit, there is food everywhere!
The 2-day conference is intended to both bring permaculture practitioners, students and pioneers together as well as creating a platform to celebrate and showcase achievements to inspire and demonstrate possibilities for new and interested parties. There will be talks, demonstrations, a permaculture futures forum and a school partnerships proposal launch.
As well as site tours and demonstrations at Sabina there will be a chance to visit The Permaculture Research of Uganda, (PRI-UG) which has an ecological farm and demonstration site less than an hour from the intended venue and that is en route for anyone traveling from Kampala. The day immediately before and after the actual convergence will be open days for the site with guided tours and discussion forums planned.
Permaculture belongs in schools. Imagine the anxiety for young adults when confronted with the fact that the next 30 years of their lives is going to be dominated by climate change, a dwindling oil supply and the possibility of never-ending resource wars accompanied by ceaseless waves of refugees.
Currently it feels like no one in the mainstream is offering solutions or ways forward they are battening down the hatches and tightening border controls. We need to offer more than a vision of a sustainable future, we need to provide the mechanism for change and pathways for empowerment and inclusion in that process and where better to begin than at school?
We have the support of the minister for education for Buganda and the national minister for education was a founding force behind Sabina school where the event will be held, so there exists a solid foundation to link the event to movement on a political level. When we arrived in Kampala some 6 weeks ago our first meeting was with Mr Mula, permanent secretary to the Vice President of Uganda, and he offered us his full support and strongly endorsed the work of Charles Mugarura and partners BEU Permaculture. We are looking to the younger generation to take the lead he emphasised.
Launch of BEU permaculture, Uganda’s most dynamic permaculture team and partners with Sector39 delivering this event
Sector39’s education team have since begun work on 12 educational units for use in school that will introduce permaculture’s key principles to the curriculum, not as a subject but as cross curricular themes.
The East African Convergence gives us a timeline now to develop and profile this work. We have a key partner school in Wales to develop and trial the materials with as well as an emerging school network in Uganda so we are absolutely ready to take this work to the next level.
Pre-booking and sponsorship packages are available to help us develop these potentials and we are also reaching out to teachers and educators to help realise these ambitions.
The Sector39 education team are taking a lead role in organising this event, please contact us for bookings, sponsorship and other offers of help. There will be volunteering and internship opportunities as well.
On the ground logistics, site development, volunteer hosting plus marketing support and branding services are being provided by BEU Permaculture, Kampala.
PRI-UG are offering demonstration visits, networking and practical support for workshops and site development.
PermoAfrica Centre and K5 community permaculture are linking us to on the ground community permaculture practical work in Kenya and will be profiling their 2 years of developmental experience for the conference.
Keynote speakers tbc. We are inviting a leading Author on East African botany, a leading agronomist and politician in the educational field to outline the key themes of the conference.
In 2008, Dan and Amanda from Very Edible Gardens spent four months helping start a permaculture project at Sabina Home and Boarding School in Southern Uganda. In early 2010, they returned to help on a permaculture design course led by Rosemary Morrow. This short movie has three friends and Sabina permaculture interns – Charles, Nyero and Sharon – taking you on an entertaining and educational tour of the site in January 2010.