Saturday, 12 September 2009

links from the previous post

submitted proposals

the sustainable communities act received royal charter this summer -

Forget Westminster: real green change is local

Forget Westminster: real green change is local

from Mark Anslow

19th August, 2009
It's one of the most encouraging reports of the year, and the mainstream media totally ignored it. Think what you like about town hall politics: there's power in them there councils

Here’s some figures for you: 80 per cent; 46 per cent; 40 per cent.

The first is the number of people who, in a study released yesterday, said that they travel outside their local area to meet their basic everyday (shopping) needs.

The second is the number of people in the same study who rated the provision of children’s play facilities in their community as ‘poor’ or ‘bad’.

And the third is the number whose local post office has either closed or is threatened with closure.

Add to this the 73 per cent who thought the provision of fishmongers in their local area was ‘poor’ or ‘bad’, and the 45 per cent who thought the same about greengrocers.

The study – Places, Bases, Spaces – was produced by Urban Forum, a national charity that helps ordinary people get involved with the policy decisions that affect them. Despite its shocking headline statistics – is there really only one fifth of the population who can meet their basic needs from their local facilities? – the report seemed to die a death on the national media’s news desks. It scraped into a few trade publications, but that was it. Local democracy, it seems, is still pretty lowbrow stuff.

It’s this sort of tacit contempt for town hall politics that leaves us forever whining at Westminster. Take a look at Urban Forum’s report and you’ll discover a whole raft of progressive, recession-‘chic’, proposals that most engaged citizens I know would be very interested to hear.

For starters, the report proposes that councils should use their development plans to ensure there are enough shops and facilities (including independent shops) to meet local needs. How do you stop supermarkets and chain stores capitalising on this and killing off the high street? Simple, say the report’s authors: adjust business rates so that they favour independent shops, rather than chains. In addition, you can make sure that high-street competition issues don’t become just a boys’ club for the Big Four supermarkets – every local retailer should have a say.

The report goes on:
‘* Communities should be able to buy or rent local shops at low rates. This should be part of the community asset transfer programme.
* Local authorities should do more to bring derelict property back into use, making better use of available powers including a Public Request to Order Disposal.
* Public spaces need to accommodate the needs of different social groups, particularly young people.
* Children should be taught about urban design, architecture and planning in schools.’

All critical stuff when trying to create sustainable communities. And what’s even more encouraging – and even less widely reported – is that things are actually starting to move in the right direction.

At the end of July, the first round of proposals for reform from local people submitted via the Sustainable Communities Act was made public. If you don’t know what the Sustainable Communities Act is, read this article here.

The list (available here), is enough to make the pulse of environmental and local democracy campaigners race. Residents under Birmingham City Council, for example, want to introduce rules to improve access for home energy generators to the national grid, as well as introducing business rate relief for small businesses. They also suggest introducing Statutory Allotment Status on suitable land to turn it into allotments after a certain period of time.

Brighton and Hove residents want allotment holders to be allowed to sell their surplus produce to local shops (currently illegal), and to put a legal responsibility on supermarkets in the area to reduce the amount of non-recyclable materials they use in their packaging.

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough wants to see a country-wide concession pass made available for young people on public transport, and Lewes District Council is calling for legislation that would force the Highways Agency to ensure that footpaths and cycle paths are properly linked up.

To be sure, there are some pretty questionable proposals in there too. Quite why Ryedale District Council residents think that subsidies on the price of bottled gas is a good idea for a sustainable community is best left to them to explain. But by and large, I have to say this is one of the most exciting spreadsheets I have ever read.

Are some of the proposals hopelessly idealistic? Certainly. Will a good number of them never see the light of day? Quite possibly. Should this stop us from trying? Absolutely not.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

What's the right thing for this place? Incredible edible and the finely dressed carrot that started a revolution

Paul Clarke
Professor of Education
St Mary's University College, Twickenham, London, UK
& Director, Incredible Edible, Todmorden, UK
phone: 075 904 705 53

What's the right thing for this place?
Incredible edible and the finely dressed carrot that started a revolution

The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.
Paul Cezanne

What does a local food project have to do with the impending environmental crisis? Why might such an approach contribute to the transformation of communities, generating discussion and engagement in actions which can lead towards a more sustainable future?

In this paper I am going to do three things. The first is to tell a little of the story of the Incredible Edible initiative from an insiders perspective, the second is to reflect on this story, and the third contextualises the activity within recent thinking on new social movements and poses further observations as yet undeveloped. It is recorded so that we might learn from what we have done and share it with other communities who are interested in similar types of initiatives.

The feeling of decline
The story goes that Incredible Edible started with Pam and Mary sitting around a kitchen table thinking out loud about how to draw attention to a serious problem of disconnect between people and place. In the winter of 2007 we had already all heard and shared in the general concern that was being voiced in the press and in papers and magazines about food security, the problems that we might have with peak oil, the change in climate which we felt was already evident in the never ending rainfall in the valleys and the general sense that we were heading for troubled ecological and economic times, the ‘perfect storm of environmental and economic collapse’ of which the government chief scientific officer John Beddington (2009) recently reminded us.

Our town had, like many other communities, started to feel the effect of slow and sustained economic flight from the rural economy that continues to be a blight on rural development. The ever growing urban marketisation seemed to persistently suck the life-blood from any form of economy that deviated from current economic hegemony. The previous two decades had witnessed the closure of almost all the local manufacturing industry, much of which was associated with the cotton industry, the location of the town is not best suited to modern development and transportation networks. Local farming was in crisis with fewer and fewer hill-farms being commercially viable, the local market was struggling under the competitive pressure from the two newly built supermarkets and there was a feeling that the community was losing out a lot more than simply an economic base.

In its transition from an industrial northern market town towards something as yet undefined, there had been a fracture in the collective sense of place and with that a feeling that something was amiss, something to do with community and idealism and the fragile relationship that exists between individuals, their community and their feeling of personal and collective power to effect change. This is far more than simple sentiment, it is a substantive sense of loss of identity and purpose which is as much spiritual as it is economic (McIntosh 2001). People have been, and continue to lose their sense of self, their sense of place, their sense of connection. The identity of the town was lost into the general anonymity of modern life, it was ‘just another place to go through to get somewhere else.’

Historically, Todmorden has been a pioneering town of cotton mills, cooperatives and interestingly, creative dissent and challenge1. The memory of cotton and the connection of a trade across national boundaries that spanned the globe remains evident to this day in some of the impressive Victorian municipal buildings. The pioneering social and cooperative legacy remains strong in the many affiliations and self-help clubs that convene in the area, and the dissent is still present in the many creative professionals who take advantage of the studio space left as a result of the industrial decline. However, the resulting changes over the last twenty years in its population (from 22k in 1980 - 12k in 2008), and its subsequent impact on both local employment and infrastructure had started to show in the way people responded to the place. As a long-time member of the community I have noticed this gradual decline, particularly in some of the things which in the past have served as points of contact for people, places where they can connect, meet and share their ideas and observations. Many of the signs were typical of rural decay and poverty. The high street shops that have been empty for months, the pubs that have closed, depressed house prices, restricted employment opportunities and the general feeling that there was nothing anyone could do about it, it was just a symptom of a systemic problem over which people had no control. It felt like we were on the slide and the only end-result would be something worse than before.

I describe these changes as a feeling of decline because that is how it was experienced. Living in a place for a long period of time generates an emotional attachment to that place, through familiarity of the air, the seasons and the climate, through memories and through relationships. An awareness of loss is manifested therefore in an emotional response, it felt a bit like the idealism and community that must have been vibrant in the town of the past to create what it once was, had long gone. There was a feeling of drift, anonymity and alienation in what was once a thriving and close knit community and this makes one uneasy, uncomfortable and unsure. This undercurrent of unease and dissonance is not unusual in a border town trying to survive in a world which seems ever more geared towards an urban form of modern life. Traditionally, border towns have been used to a steady through-traffic of people and with them comes a tidal wave of ideas and possibilities. The town is no exception in its diversity of cultures represented over a substantial part of the 19th and 20th centuries. In the past people had arrived and stayed, now they were not even stopping. What we were witnessing was the decline in the way that the place caught those people and embraced their contributions and provided them with a home in which they could consider the possibility of creating a living.

Growing connections - a model for action
When we reflected recently on the origins of Incredible Edible it was clear that there were a series of concurrent discussions in which we were involved that were taking place over ‘futures’. Some were local, some were regional, some were national and some were global. These discussions held within them a similar theme, that the old industrial-capitalist-reductionist way of doing things was no longer working for us, it was not meeting the changing needs that we were witnessing in our daily encounters with life. In the words of the poet TS Eliot, we were ‘... no longer at ease in the old dispensation.’ Indeed, our feelings were that we were beginning to witness the dis-ease of consumption at all costs, which was leading to our collective feeling of decline.

In response, Incredible Edible’s basic aim was to generate awareness of three core agendas for change: change in community behaviour, change in local business activity, and change in awareness and knowledge of sustainable living achieved through new learning. Our intention was to design (Braungart and McDonough 2009) a different way forward which carried with it a simple and powerful message which people could connect to, and which would be open enough for widespread participation and engagement without exception.

We envisaged this in the form of three interdependent spinning plates. The critical connector was not so much within the three plates (although clearly networks and activities take place in each of them), we saw the connector as the local production of food. Food would serve as the catalyst for discussion and action to establish new ways of using land in the community, new ways of educating people from cradle to cradle (Braungart and McDonough ibid) from the school through to colleges and into the local environment, and engaging local business in sourcing and creating new ways to connect to the community by growing new markets to ensure greater levels of local food production, sourcing, and distribution.

Figure one: linking food and learning, community and business

Figure two: creating new connections and new challenges to focus on sustainable food production

cradle to cradle

The connections between food and land, food and markets, and a need to educate people to re-think their relationship with food and to pass this knowledge to others was our way of response to the wider, macro-economic challenges that we were recognising. Whilst we heard from elsewhere that more interdependent communities would have a better chance at responding resiliently in times of economic challenge (Hopkins 2008), we did not know if this was the case in our environment. So the simple focus on the growing and sharing of food to spread the ideas and aspirations of a bigger change game in the form of a re-established food focused community seemed like a good first step to take.

This was pragmatic as much as idealistic, food prices were increasing year on year and this was not going unnoticed by people didn’t have much money. Food was also a feature of our local landscape, we had grown up with local farms providing for us, and we had a strong tradition in the town of public allotments and private gardens, added to which the local countryside was an abundant resource for people to pick berries and nuts in the coppices and hedgerows. As such, food serves as a connector, people understood the essential role it plays in their lives and historically we knew which kind of food and where food was produced in our region. We were aware though, that food has become something distant, the gradual increase of imported food and out of season food had generated a laziness and a lack of interest, food was too easy, it did not need to be in our design for our existence because someone else would supply it.

Growing connections: A model of action
One practical step which bridged the gap between talking about change and actually engaging in something which created change that focused on food began to happen on the railway station platform. Mary and Pam planted herbs in the platform flower beds. People could get off the train at the end of the day and gather a handful of herbs to take home and use in their cooking that evening. Then Nick visited France and was struck with municipal planting in rural France which included vegetables in the council flowerbeds. Why not here? Over a period of a few weeks many of the odd parcels of land dotted around the town were identified and planted, with orchards of fruit trees and bushes, and a variety of vegetables and herbs.

Within three months there were people all across the town participating in the effort to grow food, develop new networks to reclaim land and sharing ideas and knowledge some of which are outlined below.

Figure three: A whirlwind tour of six months of incredible activity
60 people attend first meeting
Seed and plant swaps start
Proper-gander gardens
750k school food hub bid to the lottery
Incredible parents-all schools have them
Harvest Festival
Cafe discussions and films
Doctors take a vote for veg
Older peoples growing memories
Every egg matters campaign
Agriculture show- new growing section
Community Pay-Back get on board
Incredible Buzz - bee keeping group

Simple messages
People did simple things, planting seeds and fruit bushes and fruit trees in public places, using school playgrounds to create community allotments. The high school, recognising that it had probably the most publicly available land in the town, recruited the help of the community payback scheme and working with Incredible Edible to build a large polytunnel. This now provides seasonal vegetables to the school canteen, and excess is sold in the town market. The school worked with the initiative to put a successful bid to the lottery fund which has enabled the project to plan to build on the school site a sustainable fish farm. This will offer courses and advice as well as produce for all the town restaurants and cafe’s. New courses in land management and rural ecology are planned for this academic year. Evening cookery classes take place monthly at the cafe. We have undertaken an audit of all the local egg producers, encouraging many people to take up hen keeping and created an egg map for the town of local producers. There is a bee-keeping group, aiming to have at least ten new bee-keepers in the next season underway with very little capital outlay through links with local carpenters workshop who can provide hives at discount prices. We regularly have gatherings in the cafe to show films and hold discussions on issues related to the wider picture of global warming, permaculture and other themed events.

This ‘seeding of minds’ coincides with our work through the website to share and expand the network of ideas to others. At present the website has about 15k hits per week, we launch ‘Incredible Spreadables’ the ideas from across the planet to respond to a need for an ecological economy. There is an autumn national conference to be held in the town hall and ministers, regional policy and planners, food company representatives and many members of the local community have registered to attend.

Messages: The power of action
So what are we learning from all of this activity? My first observation is that in themselves these activities are rather innocuous things, they don’t seem to demonstrate much more than people can still grow things, and can do that wherever they manage to put the plants. But we have come to recognise that these single small acts were symbolically important, as they represent a reconnection with the power to do something in a community setting, outside of the existing boundaries between individual land space and public landspace. People were looking at the available public land and reclaiming it to make it more productive. In doing this they exercise choice, public action, civil responsibility and because it involves others, they are actively creating communities of action (Clarke 2009).

Food as a starting point to a bigger conversation
We have learnt the obvious, that food is a great connector. The simple act of growing food has a resonance with people from every corner of the community, it is so easily accessible. It was not necessary to orchestrate ‘community outreach’ meetings or similar ventures because people simply turned up and joined in. As people participated they brought with them ideas and suggestions. We have been very open to these new perspectives and suggestions. It is clear that not every idea will work, but how do we know which one’s until we try? For example, it was suggested that the initiative should be opened up to include young offenders involved in community payback. Their enthusiasm and pride in the project has seen them building polytunnels, planting areas, and they are now a vital part of the digging and laying infrastructure across town as the care homes, the old people’s centre, the schools, the health centre, the various cafe’s and eateries, the local police station, the social housing programme, the services such as bus shelters and railway platforms and car parks are utilised as resource. In turn, these individual locations generate pockets of interest and enthusiasm, and contribute to the cumulative impact across the town of the initiative as we can point visitors and media to witness the work first hand.

Furthermore, we have noticed that people make wider connections, they do not need people ‘banging on about climate change’ as Pam observed. They do not see Incredible Edible as a single issue project. The recent meeting in the cafe showed a film about peak oil and over 70 people attended, and two hours after the film finished the room was still full and alive with discussion in response to the film, its repercussions are still being thought out as we meet and reflect further. This connection beyond the basic idea of the initiative serves to strengthen the enthusiasms of participants. It is reinforced further by recognition from national organisations, and through the multiple film crews and news reporters from around the world who have opened a conversation within and beyond the town extending across the planet. We use the website to generate links and to seed the deeper message about sustainable living.

The ownership of land
The use of public land is highly controversial and contested. It was somewhat predictable that the local authority would have problems with citizens planting on council land. However, after a number of meetings and the cumulative impact of a series of positive reviews and awards from both regional and national organisations (Market Towns Initiative winners and Sustainable Development Commission Breakthoroughs for the 21st century Programme winners) the council have made a significant change to the legislative process which enables people to identify and ‘land bank’ areas for public growing of food. This change in the way that the local authority responds to the programme is evident of a broader issue, that the relationship between local authority and community can be redesigned to enable rather then restrict the activities of the communities in their care.

Defiant community, re-defining community?
In his recent book, Tobias Jones (2007) reflects on the visits he made to a group of ‘alternative’ communities, modern but self-contained places which function as places of - according to taste, idealism or escapism. He makes an important observation, that his interest was not to engage in stand-off voyeurism, nor to gently deride, but to genuinely see how people were attempting to redefine their realities.

In the case of Incredible Edible I think we are witnessing something similar, but not in the guise of an alternative community, just a community in a process of change.

First of all, it is entirely grounded in the harsh realities of a local, depressed market town economy but it is attempting to redefine this through consciousness raising about possibility of personal and collective action. This means that economy is a significant factor in the future success of the programme. We need to generate jobs, worthwhile forms of employment which will encourage people to stay and live in the town. The initiative raises the question however, what type of economy might we want to create here, what’s the right thing for this place?, and how does it sustain itself whilst supporting the development of similar initiatives elsewhere?

Second, I think that the programme is not (in the rather dull nomenclature of the day) an ‘intentional community’, because there is no set of core values upon which this programme exists. It is a ‘town’ programme of activity, with some business, some community and some educational elements. It tackles head-on, the threads of numerous needs, from the family who want a bit of physical space to grow a few vegetables and ‘get away from each other once in a while’, to the market traders who support the idea simply because it brings more people into town and perhaps boosts their sales. It was Habermas (1997) who noted that new social movements were no longer forming around the traditional class struggles. Instead, he recognised that the new struggles were with identity and lifestyle. Habermas defined two different levels of society, the system and the lifeworld. The system being the institution of the state, and the lifeworld being the day-to-day ways of the people within the state. The operable ‘space in society’ to act and live is what Habermas describes as the ‘public sphere.’ This public sphere defines space, but not place, and place is what the Incredible Edible initiative claims in the form of land, it provides a way for people to generate new forms of identity, of self, and of community, geared towards a more sustainable lifestyle, but this represents a struggle which as yet is only in its formative stage.

My third observation when talking with people involved in the programme is that they are aware of its public significance as a way of redefining the town, but they are often more interested in how it offers them a way to connect with other people in the same place. This connection between self and others, public and private, or self and an ideal defined through the many and perhaps conflicting visions of what the Incredible Edible programme actually is, is very interesting. As Jones (2007 p) reminds us, ‘Emile Durkheim sugested that idealism only ever emerged through the communal because it was only at the school of collective life that the individual has learned to idealise. It is in assimilating the ideal elaborated by society that he has become capable of conceiving the ideal.’2

Across the entire neighbourhood of the town the connection of people to place is evident and provides a daily reminder to people passing through that their lived environment, the landscape of their daily lives influences the way people interact. If they are disconnected from it, they feel less need to engage with others, if however, they are actively working in it, even in a small way, they engage with it and others, very differently. This is therefore a cultural issue, at least as Matthew Arnold means ‘turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits.’3

The initiative is therefore illustrating a number of different forms of community (Clarke 2009) that are happening in response to the focus on food. We have communities of action - people doing things together, we have communities of place - people connecting to the physical landscape to identify and plant produce, we have communities of interest - people connecting on themes that they find to be useful to them, so we have a bee-keeping group, an egg production group, a vegetable group and so on, and we have communities of connection - where the original issue of food is being linked to the wider debates on sustainable living, sustainable economy and sustainable forms of business within local, regional, national and international frameworks.

A revolution of the hand, heart and the mind
Nurturing plants is both a connector of hand and heart. It brings people together to share experiences, and to exchange plants and seedlings. It brings them together to talk. To share stories. The connection of hand with heart begins to break through to the mind. People begin to see examples of ways in which simple acts like putting herb plants on the railway platform for the travelling people to come home at the end of the day and have herbs fresh to put on their meals gets people thinking as well as adding to their culinary repertoire. Their minds become more open to the innovative, quirky, a creative way of looking at our environment and this in turn generates enthusiasm, it inspires, it opens up possibility. It generates a belief, even if not always borne out by reality, that it really is possible to influence and improve a place, and to have an influence upon a community.

The Incredible Edible programme brings together three critical ingredients which seem to matter a lot if we are ever to make any sense of how to move on from our industrial past into a more humane, ecological form of economy. It brings together the hand, the heart and the mind.
Hand: people are putting their hands into soil and planting seeds. This is simple and profound. Simple because it transcends boundaries. Anyone can plant a seed. Anyone can nurture a seed to a seedling to a plant, in fact nature does it for us. And we end up with food. Profound because it represents a significant step forward from where they previously were in their way of engaging with their environment, they have made the first step.
Heart: We watch, we see and we wonder. I am not alone in thinking that many people are aching to have something to reconnect them with other people, with their community, with something that feels like they have a real role and responsibility and can commit towards (see for example McIntosh 2008, Kumar 2002, Whitefield 2009, Orr 2009). Modern living has eroded so much of the sense of being, and replaced it with structures which are designed by others to make us accountable, discontent and therefore ready to consume the next solution that we have lost the ability to see through this smoke and mirror existence. If we can find things which help us to reconnect with ourselves, and with other people and the environment in which we live then we are breaking into the empty void that so many people experience as their daily reality4.

In the food project we have found that it opens our heart. We begin to talk about what is happening. We see that planting things makes connections between people, how did you grow that? Let’s swap these seedlings, why don’t we have a gathering to eat some of the harvest together and celebrate? Coming together to celebrate the food we grow together is a deep, universally embedded human experience which we have found serves as a connector across continents and race. I have found a bit of land and want to plant a fruit bush or two, can you help? Do you think we could plant an orchard on that bank near the railway? I have some plants extra, why don’t you put them in that spot you found? It places us into a situation where we are able to connect, it is very natural to do that.

Mind: A forgotten connection, a community of interest, a community that begins to find a place, a community that begins to see some patterns of togetherness that generate a sense of value. A community that thinks a little more of what is happening to its own locality, and in so doing, recognizes that this is also something that is more widespread, that is the mind, or as I like to say it creates a mindscape of the landscape.

Connections: People from other places begin to get in touch when they hear of our activities. They are interested in the same possibilities and connect with some of the same challenges. People are curious, they are interested, they ask interesting questions and make us reflect with more care on exactly what is happening. They come to us with doubts, questions and suggestions. They ask permission: can we do this? How can we do this? What happens if we don’t ask for permission but we just do it?
What we do not offer back are solutions. People need permission to make their own mistakes as we have done in their own places. They need the space to succeed and experiment. They need the reassurance that it is possible to undertake significant community action without having to take the established and existing routeways, these will adapt to help and inform, they do not have to be the only way forward. They need to find their own place, to see their own ways of seeing their places.

My experience suggests that simple practical actions like planting seeds and plants in public places can change people’s minds about their relationship with their environment, and in so doing, changes the way that they go about living in that community. I think that this has enormous educative value, with a central purpose behind those changes of generating greater sensitivity and congruence between what we do as human beings and the connection this has with a sustainable way of living. I think that this is fundamentally important if we are to continue to thrive on planet earth, and if planet earth is to continue to thrive with us upon it.

The mindscape of the landscape
As a result of our work in we are learning that ‘place’ matters. How we see it matters. How it influences us matters. How we influence it matters. How we design and model it matters. How it demands our attention matters. Place matters because our response to it generates messages, positive or negative which influence the mind of the people who live within that landscape of place. Place is where we are, where we live, where we dream, where we plan and scheme, where we do things, where we connect. It is where we practice our community, it is everyone, it holds everyone and it provides for everyone. If we witness place in crisis we act as if it is in crisis, if we witness it in development and improvement, we act to facilitate that improvement. I think that there are some very interesting possibilities in exploring the behavioural response of people to the landscape in which they exist, perhaps this offers us a way to explore differently the regeneration of communities, certainly there are programmes elsewhere which indicate that there is some mileage in pursuing these ideas further (see for example East New York City Farms5).

I have argued elsewhere (Clarke 2000, 2008, 2009) that the challenges we are facing in a wide range array of human activity from education, to well-being, to community and to economy can all be traced back to one single, defining crisis, the ecological crisis. At the root of a disconnect between the services we have created to provide nurture and support of our communities, there is a disconnect of self from place. We are collectively responsible for committing our societal energies into a developmental view of our future which holds that progress will come through the creation of ever more material wealth, divorced from our environment, distanced from place, and yet the evidence is available to refute and counter the pursuit of this without connecting to other equally important ‘wealth’ forms (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009). However, our persistent focus to the external change required will do nothing to attend to an equally problematic inner abyss (see Berry 2009). We need to activate our senses and overcome the crisis of consciousness, behaviour, culture and systems that span from the internal world views we hold through to the collective exterior realities that we share. For some commentators such as Otto Scharmer (2008), this is a leadership challenge, to others such as Alistair McIntosh it is a community and a spiritual challenge. However we define it, it is a pressing need which people are both recognizing and responding to. The Incredible Edible initiative is but one example of this great work that is starting to happen across the planet.

We seem to have come to a point in time, which coincidentally connects with an optimal moment in the industrialisation of our land and our lifestyles, where it is believed that a certain type of management and power over that land and lifestyle can result in the draw down of all useful resources without penalty. In addition, this view has permeated all aspects of our collective psyche and persists now across most of the habits of mind related to human behaviour. We have come to a place where it seems that progress is measured only through clarity of direction, hierarchy of management, and the exercise of power over others. In so doing, we have accustomed ourselves to a view that non-conformity, a breakout from the established way of doing things, is somehow deviant and must be eradicated as it represents a form of failure to comply that challenges our shared sense of what is right.

Yet consider this. If I scatter a small handful of seeds into a readied plot of land, I can guarantee that what will happen will not be in keeping with that which I expected, and it puts me in a spin. Do I ignore the obvious, that my established and cherished world view is somehow incorrect and needs realignment to the new order of things, or do I eliminate the deviant plants to restore my own illusion of order and control? What would be most productive, what would be the easier route to take? To play follow the leader, or to lead together? We tend to default to follow the leader. But the existing way of doing things is clearly no longer working.

We face huge environmental challenges in the next few years and yet our response is business as usual. What would be the consequences of taking the natural path with all its glorious and unimagined implications? My feeling is that we are entering a time when we need to both scatter with deviant abandon, and we need to be able to cherish, nurture and enjoy the new directions such actions can open for us and illuminate the way to a sustainable future.

Paul Clarke

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

todays ramblings from my notebook

We seem to have come to a point in time, which coincidentally connects with an optimal moment in the industrialisation of our land, where it is believed that a certain type of management and power over that land can result in the draw down of all of its useful resources without penalty. In addition, this view has permeated all aspects of our collective psyche and persists now across most of the habits of mind related to human behaviour. We believe that order, maintenance, management, the exercise of power over the other, and the assumption of being hierarchically dominant amongst others, is our definition of progress. In so doing, we have accustomed ourselves to a view that non-conformity, a breakout from the established way of doing things, is somehow deviant and must be eradicated as it represents a form of failure to comply that challenges our shared sense of what is right. Yet consider this. If I scatter a small handful of seeds into a readied plot of land, I can guarantee that what will happen will not be in keeping with that which I expected, and it puts me in a spin. Do I ignore the obvious, that my established and cherished world view is somehow incorrect and needs realignment to the new order of things, or do I eliminate the deviant plants to restore my own illusion of order and control? What would be most productive, what would be the easier route to take? What would be the consequences of taking the natural path with all its glorious and unimagined implications? My feeling is that we are entering a time when we need to both scatter with deviant abandon, and we need to be able to cherish, nurture and enjoy the new directions such actions can open for us.