Monthly Archives: November 2016

Climate science 2016: the evidence is overwhelming, here it is laid out for you

Professor Johan Rockstrom, Executive Director of The Stockholm Resilience Centre speaks, with an introduction from David Attenborough.

Here it is, in no uncertain terms this is the challenge we have before us! Facing up to climate change represents the greatest leap in human social and economic evolution ever made in a single generation. This generation.

We have to turn our carbon emissions into carbon sinks, energy, food, farming, the whole economy has to be transformed in line with the geo-physical limits of our planet that we are now experiencing.

Professor Rockstrom makes it clear, there can be no more externalities to production, a whole new economic model is evolving before our eyes, one that we need to embrace and understand in the short time we have left to make the required chaanges.

Homework for all staff
We hope that you can all find the time  to watch this one hour documentary and give it your full attention. We intend to use this as a baseline for the project. It might take a few pauses or a couple of run throughs, but it is important to assimilate the core ideas presented here.

Please watch it to the end as the responses and opportunites are outlined in the final segment. As scary as the message is, it also offers strong directions forward that we can all embrace.

For Llanfyllin School this is a potentially exhilarating opportunity to take the lead and create energy and momentum around these issues.

Your thoughts?
During the course of next term I think all the pupils should have the opportunity to watch this video in a formal learning environment. Is it too technical/ difficult/ challenging, I am intersted to know your thoughts on this.

Are we Leaders or followers?
In taking the lead we will help to define set the agenda, rather than have responses imposed on us. Government targets and plans including those from the Paris Accord fall well short of the requirements of the science, so it is down to communities, led my their schools and younger generations to take up the slack.

We invite you to see this as an opportunity to link subject areas to the core themes of the project

We hope that over the next three years Sector39 will be creating ways for every subject area to link to the transition agenda. Examples below.

  • Land based studies: we started with this subject as we have worked with Emyr Jones previously and can see how to fit in here best. we are designing fruit tree guilds and planting a community orchard, learning about carbon sequestration and regenerative agriculture.
  • Geography – links to Geog and Science subjects seem straight forward
  • Science subjects –
  • English/ Welsh language – We are proposing a VoxPop project, to capture opinions from individuals.. communicating messages and ambitions of the project must create opportunites in language and media related studies
  • Media studies
  • Business studies and economics. We are proposing micro enterprises, a community currency and discussions on new business models that take all externalities into account fully.
  • Welsh Bac – We are still learning about this as a subject but feel sure the project can contribute units/ content here. Cross curricular themes like global dimension, environment being key examples
  • Eco schools initiative: Hopefully this could energise and give direction to this area of school work
  • Please add your subject to this list and think how we can best link together, we are really open to suggestions for potential links.

Vox Pop Project

As part of our Transition Project for Llanfyllin we are planning to carry out an audit of opinion in the town specifically relating to climate change. One way of achieving this is to conduct short one-to-one ‘vox pop’ interviews with residents of the town in order to gauge their opinions on these important issues. The video below is something of an experiment, but gives a good idea of the kind of thing we would like to produce. It consists of a select few micro-interviews with participants in the Permaculture Design Course currently being held at Chester Cathedral. For the finished product we will be interviewing Llanfyllin residents and students at the High School. Once we have completed our audit of public opinion it will be possible to look back after our project has finished to see how much impact we have had in changing people’s minds about climate change and the things they can do on a local level to help mitigate its effects:

State of nature: Iolo speaks

This video is from a sate of nature event at the Senedd in Cardiff back in 2013, Iolo’s words still ring loud and true. This is a very emotive and moving speech and well worth watching. It is a call to action to save what remains of the Welsh countryside. Iolo was a student at Ysgol Llanfyllin and talks about growing up in Llanyddyn, so it is especially poignant to anyone who lives around this area.

Land-based studies Llanfyllin High School GCSE group

We are working with the Land Based studies GCSE group as the first part of the Transtion project. Below is a resource created for students in support of sessions on soil carbon and biochar.

Assignment, biochar and wood pyrolysis

  1. Draw a diagram based on the information below explaining the process of creating charcoal/ biochar.
  2. Can you explain how biochar used as a soil improver could be a useful tool in combatting climate change and in reducing inputs in farming.

You may want to watch the BBC video below about lost civilizations in Latin America as well as the short one afterwards on the same video on biochar applications to support and develop your ideas in question 2.


Here is a simple diagram of a wood gassification stove similar to the one demonstrated in class.

Here is a short video of such a stove in action, cooking on wood gas whilst making biochar at the same time.

The Secret of El Dorardo.
Maybe the farmers who lived in the Amazon basin in what is now Peru and Brazil centuries before Columbus and other Europeans arrived there  were some of the most sophisticated cultivators of the soil ever.


Biochar as seen under the microscpe. The scale of 100um is 0.1mm so very small indeed. The micro cavities and fissues in the char provide the ideal home for soil microbes and trap air and water making the soil much more fertile and alive. Could this be the secret to their farming methods?

Tropical rainforests produce very poor soils, not suitable for agriculture yet these farmers in the Amazon from well over 1000 years ago supported a population of millions, how did they achieve this remarkable feat?

They worked the land for over 1000 years and left behind fertile, stable black soils that are still extremely productive even today. The farmers themselves largely died out 500 years ago as a result of contact with western diseases like smallpox and influenza after Spanish explorers arrived in the region in 1530.

Watch this video of the discovery of these lost civilisations as well as the shorter one on bochar and its applications on the same clip to help with this assignment. It talks about the discovery of Terra Preta, or black soils that can only be explained as man made and that defy our understanding of amazonian history and culture.

Other resources:

Please explore these other resources if you would like to find out more.

Wild stoves manufacture and retail the model we demonstrated at school

The British Biochar foundation undertake research and collect information about this remarkable material.

The Soil fertility project, lots more information can be found here about biochar, its potential and its application.

This locally based initiative has been developing mobile kilns for biochar production and we plan to work with them to produce biochar for our school orchard project.

PermoAfrica, Llanfylin and Kamuli


Ex Llanfyllin pupil Grace with Connie and Helen in Kamuli in 2016

Let me introduce you to some of our African friends and tell some of the story of the connection beteen Llanfyllin here in Wales and Kamuli in Uganda.

In the picture above is ex-Ysgol Llanfylin student Grace, who first visited Uganda with a school group when she was in Yr 10. Here she is returning in 2016 to help run a 2 week permaculture training course with  Ugandan colleagues  Connie and Helen from Dolen Ffermio and Ngora Orphans project. We really hope that with this transition project we can create opportunites for staff and pupils to visit Uganda and see more of what they are doing there.

Connie, pictured above in the middle has visited Llanfyllin twice previously and she teaches English Literative GSCE in Kamuli High School. There is a plaque on the wall in the school reception with Kamuli, Uganda on it as well as their flag alongside the Ddraig Goch. The friendship and connection goes back 21 years already, via farmers and teachers visiting and supporting each other and finding more about each others lives.


Slate on the wall in the school reception area celebrating the school’s connection with Kamuli Uganda

Uganda is a booming, relatively young country on the African equator where a new generation of people are rapidly transforming the country in to a modern and dynamic nation

A network of farmers, teachers and students have been engaged in mutual support and training programmes for over 21 years now, starting with a vet from Llanfyllin forging friendship with afarmer and teacher in Kamuli. We quickly rlaised we all have much to learn from each other as we each have different strengths and weaknesses and much to share.


Ali lives in Kampala, Uganda and has recently supplied some jewelry for sale at the Dragons Shop in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant

Across Uganda and Kenya a whole new generation of switched on, Facebook connected, educated young people are finding new ways to farm, run businesses and even inventing new money systems based on phone credit. They are using a mixture of new technology and innovation together with more traditional and even ancients ideas around organic growing systems, community councils and local economy as well as a revived interest in traditional medicinal herbs.

Freeing themselves of having to buy in costly fertilizers, medicines and pesticides and allowing temselves more ability to adapt the changing modern world. Farmers there know a lot about climate change as they feel it every day. It high up there, much of it above 4000 sea level, that higher then Ben Nevis, UK’s tallest mountain. So the sun is hot but the air is cool it has an almost perfect clamate, always between 32 and 38, not too hot or too cold.


Harvest butternut squash at the PermoAfrica centre in Kenya. November 2016

It is generally really fertile with productive soils,good farmers can make a living there, and life is generally pretty good. However it is already noticeable that climate change is making it more unstable and weather pattterns and changing. They are working hard to adapt and creating all sorts of interesting responses. Point is, we will are experiencing the same problems, also here in Wales, but we will just expeirence differently here as we have a different climate. The aim is to work and learn together and share and support each other as communities.

I will add more blog posts about what our friends are doing on their various farms and projects and schhools and explore what opportunities there might be for interested people here in Llanfyllin to get involved.

Below is some picture form Raymond Orenda, a friend from North Kenya who is teaching his local communitu permaculture growing techniques, organc nature friendly methods to produce food and energy Crops.


Richard is a joiner from Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant and Paul is a farmer and backsmith from Kenya and founder of the Permo Africa centre. Here they are in Kamuli Uganda discussing permaculture.

A smiling face after doing good harvest in the Butternut fruit in the farm

Gallery post by @permoafrica.

Source: A smiling face after doing good harvest in the Butternut fruit in the farm

Before the flood

This is a must watch movie for everyone. When a mainstream artist and prominent voice puts a documentary such as this in the public domain, then we should all pay attention. Whether you are a climate old hack or novice, this movie frames where we are currently at and sets out the challenge we all face clearly before us.

There is only one mainstream political party globally that still officially disputes the science, however unfortunately that is one just voted into office in the US. The Paris Agreement has now been ratified and politics aside, nothing is going to stop the climate clock ticking than our own mass collective action.

Before the flood
If you could know the truth about the threat of climate change — would you want to know? Before the Flood, presented by National Geographic, features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand. He goes on expeditions with scientists uncovering the reality of climate change and meets with political leaders fighting against inaction.

He also discovers a calculated disinformation campaign orchestrated by powerful special interests working to confuse the public about the urgency of the growing climate crisis. With unprecedented access to thought leaders around the world, DiCaprio searches for hope in a rising tide of catastrophic news.

Some prefer to duck the science and focus on the responses. We can’t solve this problem, it si not going to go away and no single fix of technological break through is going to do that, we have to change our thinking. Let us think in terms of intelligent responses not solutions. we have to build an economy that sequestrates carbon, that rewards the efficient use of resources and escapes the reliance on economic growth. Sound ambitious? Well the ideas are already in place and well established around the globe, its call permaculture.

Bill Mollison, the founder of permaculture passed away in September this year, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy, to get a flavour of what it is all about there is not better place to start than with this documentary from the late 80’s; In Grave Danger of Falling Food.

Cae Bodfach, creating a community food forest for Llanfyllin

Students at work planting pahse two of the garden

Students at work planting pahse two of the garden

Llanfyllin is a typical Welsh market town in many ways, it is home to the regional High school with over 1000 students and is therefore widely known in the area, yet it faces many challenges as a community as well as a shrinking resource base with which to address them.

Since the Spar supermarket up-scaled its operations last year we have seen the Bank, Corner shop and Bakery close, along with one of the pubs previously, and suddenly the high street is looking distinctly quiet.

You could almost be forgiven for thinking the global climate catastrophe wasn’t happening here as, despite the economic challenges, life carries on pretty much as normal. We are a community based on farming, an important industry also being shaped by market forces forcing farms to become ever more capital intensive and increasingly impactful on the landscape.

Yet we know from Peak Oil theory that the oil industry, which underpins agriculture, is increasingly precarious and with our Paris Climate Accord commitments we have a double incentive to be exploring pathways to a rapid decarbonisation of our economy. Food and transport are the area most exposed to the climate and energy threat so it seems a good place to begin our own local resilience plan.

To that effect we began working with the High School’s Land Based studies GCSE department two years ago, establishing a community food and withy forest using heritage varieties of fruit trees and fast growing viminalis super willow. We have plans underway to greatly enlarge this resource and to work with many more community partners to expand the scope of the work.

Species map of trees planted in Phse one of the garden

Species map of trees planted in Phse one of the garden

This year, adding momentum to previous work, we have commenced a three year transition project, funded by the EU, to work with the school to use permaculture design to create a community vision for transition to a Carbon negative economy within the time frame advised by the Paris Accord. Saving the Planet One school at a time, funded by ARWAIN rural development partnership is our vehicle for community led change in Llanfyllin.

We have taken the position that the climate debate is over, with 195 countries having committed to keep emissions well under 2 degrees our focus is now on how we are going to achieve this ambitious yet vital target.

The intention is for the school and the emerging generation to lead the way, to allow those most affected by these monumental changes to set some of the goals themselves, and to engage directly with the processes required to make the change.

Follow our progress on

Steven Jones, Sector39 Limited, Dragons Co-operative, Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant.