Hello again people of the North and any friends across the world who may be reading this. We hope that you enjoyed our first edition of Northern Edge and that this left you eager to read more. And so, we find ourselves once again in the temperate climate of the northern realms of the UK.
Over the past few months we have been reflecting on the nature of our landscape. The heather covered hills of the Peak District and the various uses of the land that our region has seen over the last few thousand years, perhaps most notably since the development of agriculture. We have witnessed mass deforestation; the grazing of farm animals on areas that now struggle to continue to support the livestock that roam there; soil depletion and erosion; pollution; the use of chemical pesticides; synthetic fertilisers and other hazardous practices. With these alterations and adaptations to our landscape in mind we have been considering how to find a different way of relating to the land and the infrastructures that exist around us. This is in the hope that we will begin to build a more balanced relationship with our environment and each other. Perhaps it is time to put down deeper roots and re-engage with our sense of place?
As northern residents and permaculture designers we are keen to look to establish and support the localisation of our resources as effectively as possible. The rise in our general awareness of the necessity of localisation has taken hold all over the UK and beyond over the past decade or so. Whilst we are still challenged by the major supermarkets supporting global producers who undercut our own farmers, we have seen many people actively choosing to support local businesses, producers and ventures over international conglomerates, thus beginning the gradual rebuilding of genuine resilience in our villages, towns and cities.
In meeting our needs locally we make stronger connections with our neighbours and those we share resources with. We visit the same shops, schools, GP surgeries and so forth and become more invested in the success and well-being of our local enterprises. At the same time we generate a sense of belonging as we engage more consistently with our local culture, history and identity. We recognise that we all gain when we work together in mutually supportive and cooperative ways. Recently, much has been written about the benefits of re-imagining local production and how this benefits the local economy. Once we have rebuilt thriving local economies we are able to branch out, trade and exchange in an empowered position within the wider global economy. When we are more able to sustain ourselves effectively, we are on more equal footing with those we trade or work with and we are therefore less likely to be at risk of exploitation by global markets.
In New Mills we have seen the development of local, environmentally kind and sustainable hydro-power. Current UK legislation and practice demands that electricity producers connect to the National Grid. But the project is still an important step towards self-sufficiency for the people of New Mills.
We also have centralised control within our education system which can significantly impact on creativity, innovation and development. Yet, despite the evident restrictions on our curricula we are still able to relish in the rise of Forest School education as well as the recognition that nurture, care, empathy and compassion are important skills for our children to learn and cultivate. Many schools now keep chickens, offer yoga sessions and support creativity in various ways outside of the National Curriculum. Sometimes it seems that life insists on thriving in even when met with the harshest of conditions or political climates. That all comes down to ‘us’. We are the people who drive these ideas forward and find opportunities when it could outwardly appear that there are none.
And so… It seems that it is time to find ways of strengthening the networks we have already witnessed emerging. We can do this by engaging in dialogue and supporting education on localisation within our communities. We can listen to each other, share inspirations, generate a collective vision and work collaboratively to achieve this. We can set up conferences; communicate with various active groups; develop a strategy and bring our dreams into fruition. We can look at our local systems of food production, energy, housing and textiles to ensure that all of our needs are met at a fundamental level. Fair and equal distribution is easier when it’s on our doorstep and overseen by all benefactors. Perhaps that is the only way that it will happen?
Why should we continue to strive for localisation, resilience and freedom in the North we may ask? Northern people have a reputation for getting on with things, being hard working, grounded, retaining community values, challenging oppression, being welcoming and friendly and always able to have a laugh. There is a reason why the Peterloo protest happened here, why our rights of access to the land were granted following the mass trespass at Kinder Scout, why the suffragette movement took hold on our turf and why Manchester hosts the People’s History Museum! We are good at forming networks and speaking with our neighbours and even ‘so called’ strangers at the bus stop.
This newsletter is one way in which we can exchange information; communicate best practice in relation to permaculture design; pool resources and come up with ideas that benefit all of us. So, let’s get to it and create the vision for the North that we always knew we would!