Welcome to our vibrant Late Summer edition of Northern Edge. At this time of year, we remain immersed in the abundance of life. Many of us will have been reaping the first of the harvests, snacking on our gooseberries, strawberries, courgettes, peas and kale that just keeps on giving! Whilst relishing in the delights of nature, as a team, we have continued to reflect on the needs of our times – wondering what ‘life’ is asking of us during this powerful period of transition.
We found ourselves considering poignantly; “What is security?” And how or where do we find it? This is obviously a huge question, to which there is unlikely to be one absolute answer. We might argue that security is found within; that it is dependent on our basic needs being met; or that it is forged through the strength of our relationships with others and so on… This feels like a question worth contemplating over the coming months and years, especially whilst our global and ecological situation is precarious to say the least. And yet, how do we respond effectively to the environmental and cultural issues that we are facing? Given that our current dominant system fosters dependency, generates exhaustion and a strong sense of inertia in its population, how can we effectively move towards developing the co-creative movements that we require?
In order to navigate these changing times, it would of course be prudent to ensure that we are able to meet our most basic needs as effectively as possible within our localities. One of the first steps towards this is to ensure that we have access to appropriate food and shelter as David Holmgren recently delineated in depth in his recent contribution to the field. His comprehensive book, Retrosuburbia, helps us to envision the challenges we may face in the coming years and how we can work together to achieve resilience. The Transition Towns movement generated by Rob Hopkins was a positive initial move in this direction and many people have since begun to make the necessary steps towards self, family and community sufficiency.
There are now several established allotments and growing initiatives such as ‘incredible edibles’, therefore it would perhaps be a good idea for us to offer support to these foundational movements in our areas, where this feels appropriate. Even though these commitments to food sovereignty may not use ‘permaculture’ (as they do not necessarily include systems thinking, patterning and the extensive use of polycultures) the most successful permaculture projects that have emerged tend to be those that are well supported by the communities in which they were conceived. Permaculture sites that draw in outside assistance through offering education, food, events and experiences are also more likely to take root. We note, once again, that mutually beneficial relationships seem to ensure and enhance the progress of various permaculture enterprises. This substantiates the need for us to continue to move more deeply into a reciprocal and equally enabling approach to life.
As we have recognised in prior newsletters, we appear to be in the process of finding the true value of our social relationships and networks. We hope that our courses offer ample opportunity for those who attend to engage with a supportive network of people who are committed to creating healthy change in their own lives and communities. It feels of particular importance to celebrate each other’s successes, no matter how small, whilst acknowledging the many challenges that can arise during this process. We are after all part of an emergent culture whose fundamental aim is to support life rather than destroy it. Moral support is a must as none of us can do it “all on our own”. Even though we may be met with constant setbacks, criticisms, challenges and restrictions, our efforts to proceed regardless are all the more admirable to those who are able to bear witness to our struggles. We might want to remind ourselves that; Love does not give up.
Fortunately, many of us are willing to admit that we do not yet ‘know it all’ as the complexity and genius of nature and her systems would be impossible to comprehend fully (at our current stage of development anyway). If we merely look at the intricacy and fragility of one natural system, such as the water cycle, we find that we are still learning so much about how this impacts the entirety of our ecology. We do however understand that our ancient forests play a major role in maintaining the water cycle globally and that without them we would be prone to greater extremes of weather, erosion, droughts, increased flooding, desertification and so on. In the UK we have less than 2% of our original forest ecosystem which has dramatic consequences with regards to the efficacy of the water cycle not to mention our levels of air pollution. Canada has 30% of its mature forests and so has much better air quality but this is still a far cry from what it could be.
The true genius of our ancient woodlands as a template of health and their worth as our greatest learning environments should not be underestimated. As such, they must be afforded our protection, acknowledgement and deep dedication. Charles Eisenstein in his latest work, "Climate: A New Story" powerfully reinforces this fact. He also aids us in broadening our perspective on the myriad of issues we face in the natural world. Eisenstein highlights how our current ways of responding to these challenges, frequently focussing solely on the reduction of carbon, are short sighted and insufficient due to the broad range of assaults we continue to make on our planet. A proponent of the ‘living world view’, Eisenstein invites us to understand that our great Earth is alive and that in knowing this we will choose to treat her sacredness with respect.
Fortunately, as permaculture designers, we know that through our devotion to and re-engagement with life enabling processes we are coming to understand how to work with ecological patterns with increasing productivity. This has been demonstrated to date by many established permaculture and regenerative agriculture applications. So perhaps it is important to acknowledge that we do know enough to begin the reparative work that is called for. Indeed, it seems that we are required to take action now, as our beautiful Earth can no longer restore her health and wholeness on her own. Even though we do not comprehend all of nature’s workings we do know that if we do not ‘step up’ we may lose our connection with life itself. A frightening and tenuous place to be, but could this be just the position that we require for us to begin to work together with loving commitment and passion, in unity, knowing that we are all needed?
And so perhaps we can offer this question to our readers to reflect on prior to our next issue which will focus more directly on the forms of education that are necessary for us to ‘return to life’… “What kinds of skills and education do we need in order to move into a healthier way of being?” Please do contact us if you wish to offer your reflections on this musing - which we will weave, with acknowledgement, into our next publication.