From Paris to Llanfyllin

The Paris Accord is our chance, we must take it. When Trump announced that he wanted the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement this month even the US coal industry advised him against it. ‘We need to be at the table, not out in the cold’ they told him. 195 countries signed the ground breaking global treaty in December 2015 and to date 142 countries have ratified it. It must be the single most important piece paper ever signed.

So what does it say? At the Llanfyllin Transition project we have been stopping people in the street and asking them what the Paris Agreement means to them. It is revealing that very few have heard of it enough to know exactly what it says or what the huge ramifications are as we begin to implement it.

The core ideas are this: every region, city, state and nation needs to work on its own carbon reduction plan. We have until 2020 to develop these ideas and be ready to implement them.

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

Between 2020 and 2030 we are required to halve our CO2 emissions.

Then we need to do exactly that again the following decade and then again. By 2050 our emissions need to be close to zero and not only that but farming, one of the most significant sources of green house gasses needs to move from being a big emitter to a net carbon sink. Yes, we have to transform agriculture into a carbon sequestering process, one that also protects biodiversity and feeds a rising population. It is a huge challenge and one that will over-ride all our other concerns or objectives as the seriousness of the encroaching climate crisis bights ever deeper.

Will this save us? Science gives us a 66% chance of avoiding run-away climate change if we achieve these targets. That is like playing Russian Roulette with 2 rounds in your 6 shooter, it is still far from safe. Every day we delay facing up to this challenge is a day wasted and a day our children and grandchildren will live to regret.

Before you all get too gloomy I have to say I think this is a fantastic opportunity.

Achieving our Paris commitments has the potential to rejuvenate our economy, creating numerous opportunities for the next generations in a way that will revitalise our communities at the same time. Facing up to this requires a complete transformation of food, energy, farming, transport, housing and economy. The era of economic growth at all costs and throw-away consumerism is already over. The evidence is all around us, solving climate and biodiversity challenges will require new economic models and new thinking creating a whole raft of opportunities.

Greening local Politics

With the encouragement of colleagues and I friends I have put my name forward as a Green Party candidate in the local elections on May 4th, not least because I believe we need to register our recognition of the new directions required. My work with the Llanfyllin Transition Project and in permaculture education means that on a daily bases I am immersed in the reality of the challenges we face as well as the many responses and strategies at our fingertips to set us in a new direction. I am convinced this is a change we can embrace and benefit from. We are gong to have to!

Join us, we are organising on-going events and publishing regular articles on our website and blog.

Steven Jones
steve@dragons.cymru
www.llanfyllin.sector39.co.uk

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Image attached: Paris targets graph

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Are you ready? Big change is coming!

This is the Paris Accord,

  • 195 nations signed the Paris Accord
  • If we follow path it sets out the planet gets a 66% chance of avoiding run-away climate change
  • The accord says we have to halve our emissions in the next ten years
  • Then halve them again and then again in the following two decades
  • It also says we need to find really creative ways to take carbon from the air and put it back into the ground.

This is the Paris Agreement

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Ex High School student wins Grow Wild grant for Llanfyllin

grow wild
Grow wild, is a project by Kew Gardens to support wild plants and landscapes across the UK

Protecting Wales’ wildlife and biodiversity is an essential part of fighting climate change. Plants trap carbon from the atmosphere and build it into fertile soils where it becomes an asset rather than a danger.

Cae Bodfach is a community space for exercise, recreation, fun and specialising but it is also planned as an essential part of protecting and enhancing biodiversity in the area. It contains more than 50 heritage fruit trees as well as many more support plants, willow coppice and now ex Llanfyllin High School student Grace has secured funding from Grow Wild to add more dye plants, herbs and meadow species to the field.

Many of our wild plants can be sued as dyes as well as being good for nature and wildlife.
Grace at Cae Bodfach pruning fruit trees back in February

What was once a ‘green desert’ monoculture of rye grass is slowly turning into diverse rich space that can help feed the community and the surrounding wildlife. This is great news and a big credit to those who drafted and submitted this application, congratulations!

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‘It is not an investment if it is destroying the planet’

Yet here in Wales we are still proposing new roads that destroy increasingly rare habitat.

The M4 relief road key points:

The Welsh Government wants to build a £1.1bn six-lane motorway to the south of Newport.

The 14.23m (23km) highway will be between the current M4 junction 23A at Magor to junction 29 near Castleton.

The Welsh Government plans to begin construction in 2018 and open the new road in 2021.

The Welsh Government said the current M4 around Newport, opened in 1967, “does not meet modern motorway design standards”.

Environmental campaigners and local residents claim the scheme will devastate the ancient marshlands of the Gwent Levels and four sites of special scientific interest.

There have been 335 formal objections, compared to 192 letters of support.

A public local inquiry is expected to last five months.

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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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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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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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How far can you see?

Creating a 25 year Vision for Llanfyllin,
can we be carbon neutral by 2042 ?

Rising to the climate challenge can create new opportunities and new possibilities, all it takes is imagination – we can be leaders not followers!

Many people try not to think about the climate challenge as it is either too scary or contentious for them. The future will indeed be dark if we don’t work together to build a vision of what we do want, inaction is no longer an option. The longer we wait to rise this challenge then the harder it will be to make the changes required of us.

The longer we wait, the more rapid the change we have to make
The longer we wait, the more rapid the change we have to make

Science is warning us not to wait any longer to make the changes and adaptations to the unfolding crisis, inaction only means an even more rapid and severe transition is required.

None of us has a crystal ball but we do know that the future will be very different from now. If we use current science to make predictions, what does that tell us?

The Science underpinning the Paris Climate Accord tells us that we need to achieve net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible, we should be well on our way to that target by 2042. We can be sure that the way we plan and deliver essential services like transport, food, energy and buildings will be entirely different by then. The key sources of green house gas emissions are food, energy and transport and what many specialists in the area are predicting is that:

‘the future is going to be local.’

narch for science
Global actions are planned in support of the scientific community, as politicians continue to duck their responsibilities by claiming there is still doubt about the data.

More than simply finding creative solutions to food and energy issues we are told that we must develop strategies to actually capture carbon from the atmosphere and return it to the soils where it is no longer a problem. They call this carbon sequestration and the target we have to hit by the end of this century is to drive atmospheric CO2 down to 350ppm.

The climate has alwyas changed but nothing like this in the last 2 million years

Before we started burning coal and chopping down forests the level was 285ppm and today, it stands at close to 410ppm. Don’t let these numbers baffle you, it is a huge challenge and one we simply have to achieve if we are to have a chance of a secure future.

carbon budget
The path to climate stability

This graph shows data from the 2017 COP22 meetings held in Marrakech Morocco earlier this year and show the extent of the changes we all will need to make to secure our futures. This is the available science and contrary to impressions you might get from the media, is widely agreed and accepted, there is a clear consensus amongst scientists regarding these assumptions and our government is signed up to the global agreements requiring action.

Paris is not enough!

195 countries signed the Paris agreement in December 2015 accepting the science and the urgent need for climate action, however governments, including our own have only committed to about half of what we are actually required to do. They have admitted that on their own it is too big a challenge for them to achieve and therefore the need for leadership to come from us, the people has never been stronger.

Perhaps older people are more complacent facing up to problems they perceive won’t affect them directly but whatever the reasons for this I strongly believe the younger generations have an amazing opportunity to rise to this challenge.

Make the climate challenge the defining issue for this generation!

If we don’t plan and work for the future we want then in all likelihood we will have something last-minute and ill thought through imposed on us from above. The world is waking up to the fact that Governments and industry are too embedded in the current system to be able to make the changes required. It is up to us to build a vision of what we want our future to look like.

Lets create a different vision of the future!

We want Llanfyllin, the school and community to be leaders, rather than waiting to be told we should be planning for an exciting low-carbon future. Jobs, housing, food, finance and so many other opportunities are going to be defined by this increasingly urgent agenda. If we can see these changes as a big opportunity then I believe people’s attitudes can be quickly changed.

food forest
Seattle/ Llanfyllin, we have already started a food forest for the Cain valley
  • Did you know there are ways to build houses that lock up carbon from the atmosphere for many decades? Using timber, straw, wool, earth and lime plasters we can build modern homes for less cost that also sequestrate carbon.
  • Did you know there are ways to grow food and manage land in ways that also suck down tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere and lock it up in the soils?
  • Soil carbon, like compost and humus doesn’t just make land more fertile, it helps it absorb and hold onto moisture, reducing flooding and the need for irrigation.
  • There are even Search engines that plant trees on the revenue generated
  • Did you know there are ways to produce heat and electricity that are many times more efficient than the current technologies we use?

We need new ideas, new stories, new inspiration to help people’s understand grow and with the clock ticking we need find ways to be creative and inclusive in how we do this.

Saving the planet also means creating lots of new opportunities

The price of renewable electricity is droppng fast. This will create many new opportunities

for ourselves, new jobs, more interesting work, new and innovative ways of doing things that both embrace new technologies and methods but also that are informed by tried and tested ways of being that draw on centuries of history.

Send us your vision for 2040!

  • How old will you be then?
  • Use your imagination to create a story or description of what Llanfyllin school or community will be like at this time.
  • Can you think of ways to inspire, inform and change people’s attitudes to be more respectful of climate change issues and aware of the potentials to make positive change.
  • Feel free to talk about any aspect of life in our low carbon future, work, school, food, economy, entertainment, technology, its up to you.

Write an essay, draw us pictures, record a talk or video. We and keen to hear your ideas in what ever form you would like to share them in.

One rule, keep it positive!

We want to inspire people that we can rise to this challenge and at the same time make big contributions to the Llanfyllin school, community and Wales as a whole.

We believe Llanfyllin can be leaders and an inspiration to the rest of the world, do you?

Llanfyllin Transition Team March 2017

2 weeks ago
ATTN:

Ecovillages are creating a new way to live.

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2 weeks ago
Marg

Things need to turn around! ✊

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1 month ago
Alex Klokus

This device can pull up to 11 gallons of water from thin air

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1 month ago
Goodful

You can repurpose glass jars into adorable seed starters!
FULL INSTRUCTIONS: http://bzfd.it/2mAwC7K

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2 months ago
Vandana Shiva: Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Forest

Unity in (bio)diversity

We need to value nature's biodiversity, clean water, and seeds. For this, nature herself is the best teacher.

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3 months ago
Tech Insider

This blooming sunflower collects energy from the sun.

Learn more: http://smartflowersolar.com/

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3 months ago
David Wolfe

This Is How Gardening Benefits Your Child

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4 months ago
HuwsNursery

Trying out something different on my Facebook page - I am creating short 60 second videos to do with growing your own food. This one is how to grow peas in 60 seconds 🙂 To see the full tutorial ... See more

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4 months ago
"Permaculture Trio" -- Forest Gardening, Edible Landscapes & Urban Permaculture

Inspiration:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXVnAMQRGbI
(48.06 min)

This video consists of three mini-documentaries: 1. (0:12) FOREST GARDENING with Robert Hart Find out loads about what forest gardening is, and how to make y...

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4 months ago
Photos from Food Forest: Permaculture in Africa's post

This is the site that a friend of mine (Paka Mos​) had in mind for me to start the forest at.
It is a space of approximately 10-12 km2 (1000 - 1200 hectares), that is not being used right now, to ... See more

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Going green

Many people have been attracted to living in Wales by the promise of a greener, less fraught and less material lifestyle. Even if they haven’t thought through the whole sustainability challenge, instinct draws people away from the intensity of urban life towards something a little gentler and potentially more rewarding.

Brynllwyn farm in 1995
Brynllwyn farm in 1995

I have to confess I was one of those people. I was born just over the Welsh border in Shropshire but as I like to say, I came here the long way round. Via Montreal, Reading, Chandigarh, Nairobi and Chimanimani in Zimbabwe before I ended up back in Reading in 1993. Somewhere along the line I had decided that I wanted to live a different kind of life. Closer to nature and less complicated but also by then I had discovered permaculture design, something that had really taken off in Zimbabwe since Bill Mollison had delivered the first African permaculture design course in Botswana back in the ’80’s.

Permaculture is about designing from nature, understanding that the natural world is the template for sustainable systems and also in understanding how deeply unsustainable most modern practices are.

The house in 2006: insluated windows replaced, solar thermal water heating, solar porch and with literally thousands of trees, shrubs and herbs planted all around.
The house in 2006: insluated, windows replaced, solar thermal water heating, solar porch, district biomass central-heat and with literally thousands of trees, shrubs and herbs planted all around.

Coming to Wales for me was more by accident than design. A happy co-incidence shall we say. When I was living in Zimbabwe in the late 80’s and early 90’s I had met a series of people who led me firstly to the opportunity of care-taking a permaculture designed farm and then the chance of applying what we had learned on the first farm to the neighbouring property which had sat derelict fo 10 years or more. It’s a long story and I will spare the details but we opened it up as a traveller’s lodge, in a place that received few visitors but somehow it worked and it still thrives today 25 years later. Heaven Lodge, Chimanimani it is called.

In my time there I kept two cows and grazed them on the land and made cheese from the milk. Local villagers keen to be involved set up their own self-help job schemes and before long the house was stocked with fresh bread, vegetables and we were offering full meals that contained many self grown ingredients to our visitors. The formula worked and the lodge became successful, one of our early visitors was a young outward bound instructor from Shrewsbury and whose first job after school had been at the Challenge Outdoor centre, based at Llanfyllin Workhouse in mid Wales.

narch for science
Global actions are planned in support of the scientific community and the dangers of ignoring the dire climate warnings coming from their research.

This was my first link to the Mid-Wales dispersed community of creative, independent people who worked in emerging areas like alternative technology, permaculture, renewable energy, co-operatives and all sorts of new and interesting areas I had never before seen as realistic options. I remember saying to myself that would give Wales 6 months, what did I have to lose? I moved to near MachynlIeth in 1994 and have never looked back since. Wales instantly became my home and I recognised the possibilities and potentials of living here and set about realising my own dreams. I consider it an honour and a privilege to live in this amazing country but that does not mean I don’t have my criticisms.

Chickenshack co-operative in 2015, 20 years into the project
Chickenshack co-operative in 2015, 20 years into the project. An evovling community of people exploring new options and still building on the foundations laid in the early years.

Much of Wales, although it looks so beautiful and natural is actually nothing of the sort. It is a landscape laid bare by industrial farming. Heavy sheep stocking levels and the use of nitrate fertilizers to improve pastures has led to much of the natural diversity disappearing. Wetlands and bogs have been drained, forests cleared, soils exposed to give way to a green baize of pasture ideal for fattening stock but at the expense of just about every other living thing.

Don’t believe me? Well look no further than Mid Wales’ own famous naturalist Iolo Williams. When he spoke at the Senedd in Cardiff in 2013 on the launch of the State of Nature report his anger was palpable, pointing the finger at the beaurocrats and legislators who had allowed the decimation of the natural world in Wales to happen almost unabated.

What I have to come to recognise is that we all need to question almost every aspect of our lifestyles and habits and find new and different ways of behaving that benefit both ourselves, our communities and the natural world. The third part is the big one as much of what the western economies have done is to sacrifice the natural world to extract minerals, fossil fuels and to clear the forest for intensive farming. This short-term wealth has come at a great cost and it is now clear that if we carry on this path then only war, eco collapse and worse await around the corner. This is our chance to learn and make this transition to another way of behaving.

view over Chickenshack in 2005
view over Chickenshack in 2005

Chickenshack co-operative was created in 1995 as a permaculture community to explore how we might live together differently and to have a different relationship to the land and resources. Bigger, older properties can be shared, greatly reducing costs, allowing tenants to invest these savings into insulation, renewable energy, planting productive trees, taking care of the land and restoring damaged ecosystems. When you look at this view over the property, even back in 2005 when this picture was taken it is apparent by the sea of green in the centre of the picture that the landscape has already changed significantly.

What was once primarily bare, sheep nibbled grass has given way to a diverse, richer and more mixed landscape. The land holds more water, is more productive and varied in its outputs, it is teaming with birds and wildlife in a way it demonstrably wasn’t 10 years previously and is far more attractive a place to live in. Just imagine the impact if millions of people started to apply these same ideas to their own homes and lives.

Permaculture design has the potential to steer human ideas of development in different and new directions, the possibilities of this reality is what motivates me to get out of bed every day!

Going Green

In 2009, when I first moved to the Llanfyllin area I became involved in a project to renovate and save the old workhouse in Llanfyllin, the very same one my travellers lodge visitor friend had told me about back in Zimbabwe in 1991. One of the many projects I did there involved making a 6 part TV series for BBC Wales called ‘Changing Lives, Going Green.

I saw it as a chance to share some of the insight and inspiration I had gained from my own personal experiences and I started conversations with the production company to try to steer their ideas of what being green was all about towards a more permaculture informed viewpoint. In the end they offered me a part in the show as the host and guide for the chosen family’s green journey.

Filming whilst trading off the needs of the TV people, our guests and our own ideas and convictions was a lot of hard work and ridiculously long hours but we were proud with the resulting series. We had to fight hard not to allow the TV people to trivialize what for us were really serious and important issues and to a large part we just about managed to keep it on the right side of serious whilst being genuinely funny and fun at the same time. All credit to the family we worked with, they were such great sports.

All of this leads me back to Llanfyllin Transition Project and my continuing mission to open up debate and challenge people to see new possibilities where they might otherwise see problems and limitations.

I now live in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant, at Dragons Co-operative, the 4th co-op I have helped found and I am still working hard for permaculture, community and sustainability.

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