Transition Now Before It’s Too Late

If permaculture is bringing answers to the awkward questions around sustainability, then community is how we can make permaculture a reality on a meaningful scale. For a brief introduction to permaculture, see my earlier article here.

I’m delighted to report that many communities are now finding their feet and getting off their sofas to do this work, through the Transition Network.

People getting involved in Transition initiatives are coming from every walk of life and with a vast range of motives. The movement itself was begun due to concerns, not just about climate change and the loss of our natural resources, but also about the expected effects of peak oil.

Peak oil is a complex subject, but in a nutshell, demand for oil is growing, and new sources of oil are shrinking. There’s a point on the graph where the economics mean oil prices will sky-rocket. So let’s take a moment to think about what in our lives that would effect.

Tell you what – it would be much quicker to list what it wouldn’t effect. Nothing!

Everything we buy these days is transported, often half-way around the world. In fact, many things are made from materials transported half-way around the world. Then the finished products are transported back again. All this flying or sailing about requires fuel. Then there are the materials themselves. Plastics made from oil. In everything. Then there is the energy to drive the manufacturing processes. Sometimes, admittedly, from coal. Extracted and transported using oil. And then there are the energy-hungry, manufactured pesticides and fertilisers. There are those who believe that if we do not invent the technologies to combat climate change while we can still transport things about relatively cheaply, our options will suddenly become very limited.

So the Transitioners are starting now. Their aim, above everything else, is to build local resilience. What if we grew a huge range of food plants and animals close to home? What if we put back the local butcher, the local baker, and yes, the candlestick maker? What if we made an audit of the essentials in life, and tried to create local social enterprises to supply them? And what if, as shoppers, we supported these local enterprises before going to the supermarket?

It’s not about going backwards, to some romantic pastoral idyll, and giving up all our advances. We can green up the cities. We can connect and share ideas over the internet. There are already many great ideas to be found for greening up our lives, without losing anything of real value.

Transitioners are not waiting for governments to put things right for them.  They’re getting out there and building community themselves. And, rather hearteningly, quite a few councils are getting involved or lending support too.

Cheap energy, cheap food and cheap consumer products have come to us at an  enormous cost to the planet and to the people paid a pittance to produce them. Transition offers us a way to prepare for and begin to live more responsibly. Caring for people, caring for planet, ensuring fair shares for all.

See the video below to find out more about the Transition Movement and what changes we all can make to ensure we have a brighter future.

For more information on the Transition Model, check out the Transition Network website.

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Cambridge University Collates Research on the “Future of Food”

Why do we find tomatoes in the supermarket all year around? Why is a mango cheaper than a watermelon? What are Shitake mushrooms? – something not only Catherine Tate may wonder. More than half the people in the Western world carry food parasites in their bellies, most of the time unnoticed. … Food as a central and integral part of human life gets into the headlines more and more often.

Feeding the world’s population has become an ever-increasing issue. The world already has a population soon reaching 7 billion and more than one billion people in developing countries do not have enough food to cover their basic needs. The human population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Meanwhile, people really struggle these days in the developed world with unhealthy diets partly due to pressured life styles and a flood if important exotic foods.

This fuels the debate as to how we should feed the world’s population. One way that seems to offer a way to increase food production is genetic engineering. However, this has been subject of debates all over the world, not just here in Britain. This debate is also a heated one here in Europe, where grain production is still well over capacity and huge amounts of grain get burned within the European Union each year, since an export to poorer countries would be more expensive.

The University of Cambridge has collected research articles and comments on these issues and published them online. The new articles can also be found in the latest issue of the University’s research magazine, Research Horizons.

Some research the university has collected reports about projects to develop influenza-resistant strains of poultry or schemes that optimise soil usage whilst keeping natural biodiversity intact. Other research focuses on understanding better how certain plants live together in symbiosis with other plants or microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses in order to understand how to optimise plant growth and thus yield.

Meanwhile, economists and conservationists all over the world try to improve the current geopolitical situations to enable a better supply of food around the world and the international community starts addressing issues such as food and water supply on a global scale.

Professor Chris Gilligan, Head of the University’s School of Biological Sciences said: “Global food security is one of the major challenges that we face in the 21st century. For the University of Cambridge, this is both a challenge and an opportunity to focus and integrate our remarkable research expertise in the natural, clinical and social sciences, coupled with the humanities, to develop tractable solutions for global food security. These must be sustainable, socially equitable and ecologically successful – the so-called ‘doubly-green revolution’.”

Recently, City Connect Features Writer Jan Haley reported on permaculture as a solution to today’s food problems. Read more here: Permaculture brings harmony to life and Transition here before it is too late. We are looking forward to see what our readers think about all of these suggestions and if they come up with other suggestions and solutions.

Permaculture Brings Harmony to Life

If our current lifestyle truly is unsustainable – and there are many voices clamouring that this is so – what are we to do about it?

Is turning off a few appliances, having one less holiday abroad a year, sorting all our rubbish into four different bins and buying fair-trade fashion enough to turn the tide? Or do we need to make more radical changes to what we decide to value in life?

One rapidly growing worldwide movement claims not to know all the answers, but to be asking the right questions. Permaculture is about empowering people to come up with solutions themselves.

Originally a shortening of the term “permanent agriculture”, permaculture now more readily means “permanent culture”. It’s a collection of tools, methods, systems, philosophies, experiences and ethics which are used to create a harmonious, non-damaging lifestyle.

The three tenets upon which permaculture stands are difficult to argue with: ‘caring for people’, ‘caring for Earth’, and ‘fair shares for all’. You may notice that ‘profit’ is conspicuously absent from the equation.

Permaculture is about taking back responsibility for ensuring that our heart-based values are put before purely monetary considerations. Money maybe a tool. It is never a driver.

Care for people will cover things like ensuring that the food we eat is healthy, that it’s produced without exploitation, that the vulnerable and helpless are cared for in community. That our children are given real life-skills, like how to live happy, fulfilled lives and how to relate well to each other, rather than how to be worker/consumers.

Care for Earth means working with nature, not against it. Instead of stripping the land and pouring on chemicals, in permaculture we allow and encourage a healthy mix of plants and animals to grow together.  Just like they would in the wild, but selected to give us maximum benefit.  We also ensure that a proportion of the land is left totally wild and protected, to preserve biodiversity.

Fair shares for all is kind of self-explanatory, but it extends further than the immediate community.  We’re realising that when we buy cheap clothes we’re directly responsible for poor wages where they’re made.  We are not separate from the process.  So we take responsibility for all our actions. We don’t turn a blind eye.

The permaculturalists I’ve met are enthusiastic, endlessly inventive, beautifully creative, practical, warm and nurturing people.  I reckon they’ve found a truly fulfilling way to live.

One of my favourite permaculture principles is to aim always for maximum yield from minimum effort.  You combine things in the most beneficial ways. If you can get the trees to grow great fruit because you have animals roaming beneath – fertilising the ground and keeping competing weeds down – and you grow plants nearby that encourage beneficial insects that reduce pests, and you’ve selected a variety that thrives in the conditions on your plot … well, you can sling your hammock and learn to play the guitar while
they ripen!

In nature, organisms live as crowded together as the climate allows. Abundance, when it comes in a healthy mixture, is the natural order – until we come along, strip the land and force one thing only to grow there. Permaculture works with this natural order to bring abundance back to our doorsteps.

Further information:
Permaculture Knowledge Base
Transition Network

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