Wales/ Africa, links between Llanrhaeadr and Llanfyllin and Kamuli, Uganda

Wales based educational enterprise Sector39 are teaching permaculture design in Uganda, building on the success of their 2106 course an with support from the Wales Government via their Hub Cymru Africa programme

The course will also coincide with a visit from a group of teachers from Llanfyllin High School who wil be visiting the area with Dolen Ffermio, a Llanfyllin based farming support charity. We are excited to be meeting teachers from our own community while we are out in Uganda running our permaculture design course

as it presents an excellent opportunity to develop links between this project adn the work of the school.

We hope to raise funds to support participants on extremenly low incomes attend this ground breaking course. Any support is welcome! Steve Jones

We are working in partnership with the Permaculture Reseasrch Institute of Uganda, PermoAfrica and Dolen Ffermio to create new opportunities for farmers, teachers, project leaders and social innovators.

 

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GCSE Photography Students at the Community Orchard

We have just received some more photographs and a little write up from Louise Bass, Photography Teacher at Llanfyllin High School:

My year ten Photography class have been working with the Llanfyllin Transition Project to produce banners and a booklet cover. Very kindly Jack Hunter came in to introduce the project to help fuel ideas to do with Permaculture. Students spent time discussing environmental issues and ways of encouraging cultural changes to work with nature to help support green practice and ways of working.

Students also benefitted from a visit from a past textile student who is now studying at university. Marianne Terrill spoke about her project using digital images of green foliage inspired by environmental issues. Her sketchbook showed the digital manipulation of images to produce beautiful printed fabric designs. Bringing the outside inside on soft furnishings.

On a damp Thursday morning Mr Hunter and Steve Jones kindly agreed to show the students around the Wetlands and Community Orchard. Here students had the opportunity to photograph the environment in detail. Steve spoke very inspirationally about using nature to heal the damage we have done. The space is a beautiful location providing fun for all the community and a real environmental mini ecosystem. My favourite comment was that there is no such thing as waste in nature only another resource!

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In lessons students plan to use their new found knowledge to combine with images captured to produce real banners, posters and a booklet cover. I look forward to seeing what they produce.

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GCSE Photography Students at the Community Orchard

We had a lovely morning taking Llanfyllin High School photography students down to the community orchard and the wetlands as part of the Llanfyllin Transition Project. It was really good to see them getting up close to nature. We are really looking forward to seeing the fruits of their efforts!

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What is Systems Thinking?

The following is a little snippet of something I am working on for the Llanfyllin Transition Project Handbook:

When we think about our position in the world, especially in Western societies, we tend to think of ourselves as somehow separate and distinct from nature. We live our lives in a human-made bubble. This idea is most clearly expressed in our culture’s binary distinction between nature and culture, between the wild and the domesticated. This perceived divide between ‘us’ and the rest of the natural world has had an enormously destructive impact on our planet. Our assumed dominance over nature has led us to plunder the Earth’s natural resources, to destroy vast swathes of wilderness, and to decimate whole populations of plant and animal species – all because of our own self-imposed distance from the natural world, and our self-elected dominance over it.

All of this can be understood as resulting from a form of reductionism – the notion that we can better understand and control the world by breaking it down into individual component parts. For example, forests become ‘trees,’ which then become ‘wood,’ which we can use for our own purposes. When we enter into a reductionist mode of approaching nature we ignore fundamental connections between these component parts. By breaking nature up into commodities, we destroy a complex whole. In our desire for oil (as a component-commodity of the natural world), for example, we have tended to ignore the negative impacts of extraction processes on other components of the natural world. Think, for instance, of the destruction of precious habitats for the extraction of oil from tar sands in Canada, where focussing on just one part of the whole (oil) has led to the collapse of other interrelated parts (woodland habitats, animal species, plant species, and so on).

We can express this situation in a simple formula:

Nature/Culture Divide + Reductionism = Ecocide.

Systems thinking is one method by which we might be able to overcome our culture’s dominant destructive attitude to the natural world. Although there were precursors to systems thinking throughout human intellectual history, we can trace its current popular formulation to the writings of the physicist Fritjof Capra, perhaps most famous for his synthesis of quantum mechanics and mysticism in the book The Tao of Physics (1975). Drawing on his background in quantum mechanics and theoretical physics, Capra came to the conclusion that reductionism fails as a mode of interpreting the natural world, which, contrary to the old Newtonian view of physics, does not consist of mutually distinct ‘objects’ (e.g. atoms as simple balls of matter), but actually is much more accurately described in terms of systems of relationships, processes and networks of interrelated, and interdependent, parts.

“The new vision of reality we have been talking about is based on an awareness of the essential interrelatedness and interdependence of all phenomena – physical, biological, psychological, social and cultural. It transcends current disciplinary boundaries and will be pursued within new institutions” (Capra, 1985, p 285).

Key to this new vision of reality is the system, very simply defined as set of things working together as parts of a complex whole. The idea of systems derives from observation of the natural world, and indeed from ourselves – human beings are complex systems too!

“Living systems are organised in such a way that they form multi-leveled structures, each level consisting of subsystems which are wholes in regard to their parts, and parts with respect to the larger wholes. Thus molecules combine to form cells. The cells form tissues and organs, which themselves form larger systems” (Capra, 1985, p 27).

Perhaps the clearest example of the kind of system Capra is talking about is the ecosystem. Broadly defined, an ecosystem is a community of interacting organisms (plants, animals, etc.), in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (air, water, soil, minerals, etc.), interacting as a system.


If one element of the system is damaged, removed or destroyed, all of the other component parts will fail too. This is precisely what has led to the current crisis facing our global ecosystem today. The underlying philosophy of the industrial revolution was one of mechanism, reductionism and human dominance over nature. Natural resources were seen as independent commodities, the extraction of which had no consequences for the rest of the environment, so we had no qualms with mining coal, chopping down ancient woodlands and replacing them with factories and refineries.

Similarly, human beings were viewed as separate from the environment, above it almost, so that the pollutive byproducts of our industrial activities were somehow thought to have no direct impact on surrounding plants, animals, or even other human beings. This we now know to be entirely false, and yet incredibly we continue to perpetuate an outmoded worldview – as though we are separate from our ecosystems and our actions have no consequences. The adoption of a systems view and a re-awakening of our intimate inter-connection with the natural world, might assist us in realising the error of our ways and point us in new directions for change.

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Your roadmap to a 66% chance of survival

Climate change and run away green house emissions are here, exactly as predicted. What next?

It is actually not hard to understand the basic premise of climate change, you burn stuff made out of carbon and the amount of carbon in the air increases in direct proportion.

Carbon in the air combines with oxygen forming CO2, this acts like a blanket and traps more of the sun’s thermal radiation in the atmosphere, hence global warming. This warming effect energizes climate systems which in turn changes the weather, ie climate change.

The earth’s bio-systems are actually pretty resilient and able to tolerate a lot of stress whilst remaining relatively stable. This self-regulating effect, much as how our bodies regulate temperature, only works within a narrow tolerance range, when we step outside of the warm/ safe zone, things get really unstable quickly and outcomes become impossible to predict.

Scientists are certain about all of this, the only uncertainty is just how bad and how dangerous is the situation exactly and what will it be like this time next year? We will only know these answers with hindsight. The key point is: Science is certain about what is happening and when confronted with the amassed evidence governments are forced to agree with it, hence the Paris Accord.

The escape route it short and sharp,
We will have to crash-land the carbon economy over the next three decades and think up some other way of doing things pretty quickly. This is none negotiable, in terms of the science and in terms of our economy,

paris targets
This is the path laid out by the Paris Agreement

which also has to change rapidly to reflect our sudden shift in priorities.

 

GDC Gross-De-Carbonisation

We wont be able to sustain the same kind of GDP growth we became accustomed in the last century in this one. GDC will drive the future economy. Gross de-carbonisation. The future economy will reward innovators not in the through-put of energy and materials (GDP) but in fnding economically efficient ways of carbon sequestration and substitution.

Trump can trumpet for coal all he likes but he is rolling stones uphill and gravity will always win out in the end.

The final thing to know about Climate chang and the Paris Accord is that when confronted with all the evidence and with no way to escape the reality, 195 governments around the world agreed to sign it.. but they only agreed to committing to 50% of the measures required to avoid climate catastrophe, (in effect 4 degrees of change when the agreed target is 1.5 with an absolute ceiling of 2). Politics in its bigger sense has therefore failed us.

Democracy and economics

Governments therefore are not the leaders, they will have to follow.

Permaculture is a global phenomenon as people around the world realise the future is working with local and natural resources.

It is down to community, individual action and our collective political and economic impact to shape and form the future. Together we must find a way to forge the road to a carbon neutral 2050.

Only permaculture, regenerative agriculture, ecological and cyclical design processes can get us to where we need to go. These approaches are generally bottom up, niche market led and decentralised approaches but they are popping everywhere. It is if a mycelium of ideas has permeated the very substrate of our society and as it all starts to unravel around us a whole new set of options and approaches are popping up like mushrooms on a damp autumn morning.
Next Transition Event

We are celebrating Earth Day in Llanfyllin Town Square

narch for science
Global actions are planned in support of the scientific community
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Llanfyllin Transition Event. WWF UK’s Living Planet Lecture 2016


Sir David Attenborough & Professor Johan Rockstrom speak at WWF UK’s Living Planet Lecture 2016.

If you have not seen it yet, this is a brilliant lecture. Information dense but brilliantly presented, Prof Rockstrom presents a torrent of evidence, yet sticks to key memorable points helping you navigate through the detail. We still have time to act meaningfully but that window is rapidly closing he warns. The final chapter of his presentation is challengingly positive, as he talks about the exponential nature of change and the global responses to this huge problem. A journey of 35 footsteps takes me to the exit of this theatre he tells us, but a journey of 35 exponential footsteps takes me to Mars!

paris targets
This is the path laid out by the Paris Agreement, that gives us a 66% chance of avoiding run away climate change

We staged this talk in a build up to Earth Day next month and as part of the Llanfyllin Transition Project launch. We have the specific aim of facilitating a positive dialogue about how we as a community can channel these tectonic shifts coming our way towards positive outcomes and new opportunities for our community. The climate/ energy story is reshaping our economy as well as the geography of the planet and by steering the economy in the right direction we can also begin to formulate much more meaningful responses to this challenge.

We are experiencing the ecological problem of climate change as an economic problem, caused by a failure to see the whole picture. GDP growth at all costs is a limited and unimaginative way to see the world.

There can no longer be such a thing as an economic externality, argues Prof Rockstrom.

Hiding the true economic cost of production by externalising those costs onto either society or the environment is no longer an option as we have saturated both to the point of implosion. Solving this will involve learning how to think differently, to think bigger and much more long-term. It is going to an incredible journey and we invite you to join us…

40+ people attended the one hour screening and 30 minute discussion at the Llanfyllin High School

We also launched the first edition of the Llanfyllin transition Handbook at the event, we had printed 10 early editions for sale, all of which sold on the night.

Launch of the Llanfyllin Transition handbook

Here is some feedback from one of attendee’s

Morning Steve, just wanted to say thank you for last night, I really enjoyed the talk and would be lovely to get a copy of the book if you decide to get more printed. Wondered if it would be a good idea to arrange a more relaxed way of talking following the next event. I could see that people wanted to talk and perhaps an informal talk around tables with a cuppa would work well? So many lovely people with ideas to share. Anyway its just a wee thought. Sending lots of happy wishes your way!

We are already planning the follow-up event and will be listening to this and other feedback to create a space where we can have more discussion and debate and can pick up on some of the many issues raised by the film and the climate Change agenda.

Read this:

This Vox article sets our decade by decade the challenges before us. This is what we should be aiming to give our selves a chance of avoiding run away climate change.

I invite people to use this as a basis for continuing discussions.
Vox: The simple yet daunting roadmap for staying under 2 degrees

Scientists made a detailed “roadmap” for meeting the Paris climate goals. It’s eye-opening.

 

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Llanfyllin Transition Project Handbook – Preview Copies

We have a limited number of preview copies of our Llanfyllin Transition Project Handbook available for just £3 each. Come along to our climate change event at Llanfyllin High School, this Thursday at 7pm to get one! The aim of the handbook is to inspire positive community change, no matter how small or how large, to help tackle the challenge of Climate Change using ideas from permaculture, the transition movement and deep ecology.

“It is exciting to discover a Welsh community that has already done so much to pioneer these practical solutions using permaculture design and the power of the Transition Movement: influencing school curriculum, creating local community orchards and gardens, establishing a housing co-op and associated enterprises, storytelling, offering cutting edge training to spread this knowledge far and wide, and grounding all of this with an understanding of our deep interconnection with all species as humans alive at this critical time in our history. Reaching out, Llanfyllin Transition Project have gathered stories about their approach and shared it in this book. Prepare to be inspired.”

– Maddy Harland, editor of Permaculture Magazine and a co-founder of Permanent Publications.

“The Llanfyllin Transition Project (which embodies both pragmatic daily wisdom, and myth inspired storytelling), is a vitally important means to invite our participation toward eliminating the variety of eco-crises threatening all life on planet Earth. I encourage all of us to support this project and read this book.”

 – Mark A. Schroll, PhD,author of Transpersonal Ecosophy, Vol. 1: Theory, Methods, and Clinical Assessments.

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Presentation for GCSE Photography Students

Jack’s presentation, given to GCSE Photography students as an introduction to the Llanfyllin Transition Project last week, has now been uploaded to the resources page:

Click Here to Access the Full Presentation

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Plant y coed

Investing in their future: community orchard work, March 2017

Forgive my poor Welsh but the image of children planting fruit trees in the Welsh spring (Children = plant, wood = coed) is too perfect a pun opportunity to miss out on!

There is wonderful soil down on the flood plain at Cae Bodfoch by the river Cain. Millennia of alluvial deposits have built a wonderful fertile soil there, it’s a little heavy with clay but with a high carbon content so it is open and aerated, perfect for growing. The presence of moles, who feast on worms whilst tunneling through the rich soil open up drainage and air-ways confirm its excellent fertility and potential.

Willow coppice, volunteer Lesley harvesting by the Afon Cain, Llanfyllin

Fertile soils, moisture and full sun make an excellent space for growing. Over the last 3 or 4 years via local permaculture initiatives we have been able to  introduce several willow coppice beds as well as establishing a heritage orchard there.

Willow plays many more important roles than just providing biomass for burning or materials for basketry.

The river is a spawning ground for trout who are very sensitive to silts and mud on the gravel beds where they choose to lay their eggs. Planting trees along riversides reduces the soils washing from surrounding farmland into rivers by filtering and cleaning any surface flow. Riverside plantings also stabilise soils on the banks with their roots, whilst the trees also provide habitat and food for insects and birds.

Project volunteers planted 80m of willow along the edge of the field for coppice two years ago using salix viminalis, a fast growing shrub willow long used for basketry, biomass and water filtration. We also designed the planting to provide a wildlife corridor from the river across the field in a way that also offers wind shelter to the wetland/ picnic area adjacent to it.

coppice This is a small part of the 10 acre area that has been given over to community use by the landowners at Bodfach hall, a little further up stream. There are a range of plans for how to use the rest of the field but protecting and enhancing wildlife and biodiversity was always a key consideration in this sensitive area.

The process began a few years ago when the land first became available, people across the community were invited to submit ideas as to how it could be used for long-term community benefit. A variety of ideas were submitted, some fanciful but not practical, some practical but beyond budget and in many ways suggestions fell between the two but failed to have an overall coherence.

I took the proposition and gave it to a group of permaculture design graduate students in 2013 and again in 2014 and from that we evolved a plan that took into account the key potentials from a wildlife and biodiversity perspectives whilst aiming to create relationships and connections with the surrounding community at the same time. This is the nub of permaculture design, designing for personal goals and needs in a way that compliments, benefits and includes community objectives whilst working to maximise the benefit to and understanding of our place in the wider natural world.

Development vs enviroment
We could be forgiven for thinking that achieving development objectives entails sacrifice of the environment, because industry and developers always present habitat disruption as a necessary cost of progress. Permaculture design however refutes that view asserting that until we can reconcile the two objectives we will never achieve any degree of sustainable development. Furthermore Permaculture asserts that every development is a opportunity to enhance the environment and wider ecology, ceasing this continual erosian of natural capital.

Whenever we are creating something we should be finding ways and approaches which benefit community and ecology, whilst of course achieving the original objective.

 

A plan for Cae Bodfach

With all of this in mind a plan evolved; the two groups of Sector39 students sifted through the minutes, plans and notes from the community and town council meeting and chatted with various stakeholders of the project before producing a design for the field. The student’s design had many elements in the final plan, so when it came to submitting it to the council we removed more speculative elements and concentrated on the backbone of the design, locating the key elements that fitted the brief given us by Llanfyllin town council, representing the community.

cae bodfach plan
Cae Bodfach planting plan as submitted to the Town Council, based on survey work by S39 PDC students

The orchard/ food forest is placed centrally to the field on the highest and richest ground on the flood plain. It avoids the power lines that cross the field and is arranged as a single island that the tractor which crops the hay each summer can easily navigate around.

We have added to the orchard each year since we began, firstly with support of the Cwm Harry Get-Growing project and latterly with help from the Welsh Cider and Perry society as well as this project. Year on year it is developing towards something we hope will be of real lasting value to the community and the wildlife of the area. We have planted some 50 heritage fruit trees now, with hundreds of support plants. Herbs, shrubs, bee-friendly flowers, berries and more have all been added to support the overall effect.

The vision fo the Cae Bodfach food forest is a community able to harvest useful quantities of fruit for its own use with surpluses available for juicing, jamming and fermenting – all of which could potentially be resold to generate income for community projects in the future.

Of course these plantings only take up a small part of the space available and are either at the extreme edges or in the middle of the field furthest away from the picnic areas and entrances. So those plans as yet unrealised and calling for more physical investment, skate parks and natural amphitheatres still have plenty of available space to evolve into but hopefully at least we have created something that makes the area more interesting and inviting to both the community and the ecology of the area.

Local students planting trees as part of the first phase of development in 2014/ 5

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Year 10 Photography Class

Jack has been at Ysgol Uwchradd Llanfyllin High School this morning discussing climate change, permaculture and the Llanfyllin Transition Project with Year 10 Photography students. They are going to be creating posters, placards, banners and a book cover for our World Earth Day event in April, communicating the message of our collective responsibility to care for our local and global environment.

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