Autumnal Reflection

From the Editor

education change connection

Marie Louise Edwards

Hello! You are warmly welcomed to our Late Autumn edition of Northern Edge. In our previous editorial, you may recall that we invited readers to share their thoughts with us in relation to “the kind of education that we need in order for us to move into a healthier way of being”. As we didn’t hear from you, we were curious as to what might hold people back from offering their thoughts… Perhaps many of us still harbour anxieties that what we have to say is ‘not good enough’, ‘right’ or that we may show ourselves to be ‘inaccurate’ or ‘wrong’ in some way. If you do feel like that - I can honestly say that I often feel like that too. Or, given that the majority of us are all so time poor due to the demands of our dominant system we might feel that we have little energy to give to an online musing? Which is fair!

And so… as a team we pondered this question deeply and would like to share some of our initial reflections with you in the hope that they may contribute to or stimulate your own. We found ourselves acknowledging that we do need an ethical framework that underpins the foundation of our life-enabling culture. Of course, we can always refer to Bill Mollison’s wisdom with regards to that, which just to remind us is as follows: “The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children. Make it now.”

It was raised that due to the level of trauma we have experienced as a result of the systems, structures and relational issues we have been born into that we are likely to be in need of common values that promote self-reflection and self-care. We all benefit from being encouraged to take personal responsibility and accountability for our, at times, disruptive behaviours and actions. This is only truly effective when we are genuinely supported by others in acknowledging the barriers that have impeded our natural inclination towards health. We would need to reinforce between us that these desirable introspective attributes can be successfully cultivated in community. This way of being might include for example, being mindful of the ways in which we communicate with those around us; taking care to process powerful and difficult emotions without overtly adversely impacting on or attacking others.

Cooperation is inherent to natural human behaviour, particularly when we are living in balance with the environment around us as we know that we need to work with each other in order to survive, grow and fully live. We were reminded of the chicken parable, whereby battery hens who have been abused within confined and traumatising environments find that within three months they have intuitively remembered how to self-medicate, for example, they can forage for specific herbs. It is highly probable that we will redevelop these skills and qualities also as a species when we move more deeply into healthier social and ecological structures. (Luckily, we already have Edwina’s medical herbalism expertise assisting us with regaining this natural wisdom already!)

Daniel Ladinsky (1996) in his poetic written work, I Heard God Laughing, recognises that; “The spontaneous movement in all of us is toward connection, health and aliveness. No matter how withdrawn and isolated we have become or how serious the trauma we have experienced, on the deepest level, just as a plant spontaneously moves toward sunlight, there is in each of us an impulse moving toward connection and healing.”

We could think about how best to generate healthy growth in our emergent systems. Life requires… nourishment, solid foundations and grounded perspectives (Earth); to engage with innovative thoughts and ideas (Air); warmth, inspiration, creativity and action (sometimes represented as the sun or Fire); as well as emotion, compassion and intuition (Water). We are also aware of the need to value, respect and work with the life force that animates our world. Many earth wisdom, ancient and indigenous cultures retain their knowledge of these elemental foundations to life and their equal necessity to the human experience.

As we progress into the coming transformation we are witnessing a heightened increase in polarised views. Our challenge is to find balanced positions from which to nurture effective change. The need to listen carefully, to discern truths for ourselves and to relate to each other with sensitivity, gentleness and respect leads us into a reparative spirit. Even though we cannot realistically expect people in positions of power to suggest changes that benefit all life and support living systems, permaculture offers us a useful strategy to go forward with, to a culture which is necessarily supportive of other humans and life forms. In fact, permaculture would not have been able to begin to flourish as it has if it wasn’t for the generous sharing of knowledge and the cooperative responses of the original pioneers of this design system in our world. As Angus said in his recent contribution to the Global Earth Repair Conference: “The challenge for us is to do what we are doing now and to connect up and share good practice. It is not to connect up and impose solutions.” Offering knowledge through demonstrations of ecological design in practice is to be welcomed and celebrated as together, across the world in our respective areas, we continue to generate the solutions that we need.

An ‘adult’ species is responsive and supportive towards others; sharing with and assisting relatives, friends, neighbours, strangers even and reaching across the globe in assistance to all peoples. We know that other communities really do have as much to offer us as we do them. We understand that when we ‘all’ thrive we ‘all’ benefit. This will be a world worth celebrating and we are heartened that our long-sighted and future orientated international colleagues of the Global Earth Repair Conferences are already coordinating such innovative ways of developing permaculture practice.

Perhaps it is time for many of us to disengage from the evident fights and wars against others? To shift our attention away from the seemingly insurmountable and volatile political dramas that could drive us to distraction. Many of the issues highlighted in the mainstream and alternative media appear to siphon a large amount of energy from the populace leaving people feeling increasingly disempowered and frustrated. Instead, we can move towards immersing ourselves in the natural solutions that we have at our fingertips in our immediate environments. Working with likeminded people and the places in which we find ourselves. Each of us has the capacity to change our world for the better.

Permaculture invites us to become full participants with our planetary ecosystems, citizens who are relationally involved with the processes of life and living systems. We can change ‘dysfunction’ to ‘function’ and foster beneficial relationships with the people around us where we recognise our commonality, shared needs and interests. Opportunities to redistribute wealth and address inequality are right on our doorsteps; we can always offer food, support and kindness to those in need. We note that the solution to disconnection is connection and that the remedy to separation is unity. We have long past the peak of prosperity that the ‘old system’ once offered us and now we can focus our energies on moving towards renewal. If you would like to offer your thoughts, reflections and critiques to future issues please contact us as we do sincerely welcome your comments.

Life is a cycle of decay and renewal

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