Sometimes there just isn’t enough room in the paper for all the great grassroots stories we are sent. So in advance of our Autumn issue (publishing next Monday, 1st September) and the Permaculture Convergence in London (12th-14th September) here is a tale from the road about the relationship between permaculture and the Transition movement, and the challenge in communicating both.
Permaculture is a design system that underpins much of Transition’s ethos. One of its tenets is that some of the richest and most interesting places are found at the edges where ecosystems overlap. Phil Moore reports from the junction:
Trojan Horses and Golden Geese
As my girlfriend Lauren and I hitch-hike across the UK visiting various projects on our way to the UK Permaculture Convergence in London this September, explaining permaculture to people has been an exercise in public relations and has led to some fundemental observations.
We have always been keen to couch the language of permaculture in a way our audience can grasp: whether it’s Jivad, a Pakistani immigrant who arrived in England with just a fiver and is now expanding his clothing business, or Lola and Peter of the Flying Theatre Company, on the road to their next school performance.
As hitchers, on the side of the road, we are, in some senses, at the edge of the mainstream. The parallels with permaculture are all too apparent! Many of our kind lifts have heard of the Transition movement, whereas the word permaculture is a new one to them.
So what does permaculture have to say to Transition? Permaculture is founded on a three-fold set of ethics: fair shares, earth care, and people care. From this foundation flows an intelligent design system pointing to how we can do stuff here and now. A design solution for a sustainable present and future.
Whether it is using your window sills to grow greens, placing your compost bin relative to your needs, running effective, inclusive meetings, or project managing the build of a compost loo, permaculture enables us all to be active designers.
Permaculture is the art of connecting things. This type of joined up thinking is paramount at a time when questions around food sourcing, and where our stuff comes from – and goes – become more prominent.
Similarly, permaculturists, those practicing and at the centre of the global movement, shouldn’t lose sight of the wider general public. As Rob Hopkins said, “We need to be where people are, rather than expecting them to come to us.” The golden goose of permaculture, the chicken-greenhouse is a nice idea but one that is hard to readily communicate to the public without recourse to a flip-chart and drawing a bunch of arrows. Transition has been dubbed the Trojan Horse of permaculture, as the language used by Transition and the way it communicates is seen as more digestible. Transition is permaculture, evolved to communicate differently.
Culturally, this is changing. The Permaculture and Transition networks share an interest in energy and how we reduce our reliance on unsustainable sources. In respect to ‘fracking’ (hydraulic fracturing for natural gas), how can we collectively respond to the issue of energy and distribution? Widening the self-interested idea of human survival to include the natural world, the fair shares ethic at the core of permaculture rejects the model of pure industrial growth. An ecology and economy that truly takes into account our actions makes the interconnection between our lives and well-being, and that of the planet’s there for all to see. Making these decisions, focusing on what is appropriate, permaculture provides real, positive examples of how to design more equitable systems.
Permaculture and Transition still have much to share with each other. So, who’s coming to the UK Permaculture Convergence this September in London? You’re all very welcome. There will be good food and drink, entertainment, and let’s make sure of good conversation! For the UK Permaculture Convergence 2014 are available to buy now, book your place at www.permaculture.org.uk/convergence2014
Phil Moore is one half of Permaculture People. Having spent two years travelling the Americas they are currently touring the UK visiting projects, places and people working toward sustainable, sane and human futures. www.permaculturepeopleuk.tumblr.com and @permapeople on Twitter
Images from London Permaculture