Sunday, 31 October 2010


i cant let the occasion of halloween go by with out a little mention.
Halloween at our house has always meant finding the box of spooky things and hanging them up in the porch to serve as yet more stuff to fall over as you try and get to the door. This year is no exception but for the fact that there are glaring omissions - no kids at home, and NO BOX of spooky stuff! The kids are all way doing their stuff, and as for spooky things well I just cant find them, maybe they will turn up for christmas and we can combine the festivals into a psychadelic goth freak out. However, undeterred I carved a pumpkin, all those years of training have now i think come together and results this year are suitably ghoulish and clearly demonstrate that the houseowner has way too much time on a wet sunday to know what to do with. Made toffee apples, and made a spooky soundtrack - yes, too much time. Now sitting here and no trick or trreaters as they probably cant be arsed coming all the way up the hill to be freaked out by some wierdo listening to very loud prog rock (it has a certain gothicvibe - second hand - death may be your santa claus recorded in 1970 - well worth a listen but as rare as ghosts ghoulies and other things that go boo in the night. Have a good one!

Friday, 29 October 2010

new economics forum

be active…
take notice…
keep learning…

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Intro and Chap one ...finally

We hold an immense responsibility in our hands to pass on to our children the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding to ensure that they are both capable and competent to live their lives on the earth in a responsible and caring manner, confident in the knowledge that their actions ensure that their children will inherit a place that is better equipped to sustain and provide abundant facility for life. A critical part of this knowledge and understanding comes through a robust relationship with the natural world. An ecologically sustainable world is predicated upon the interconnection of ourselves with the web of life, if we lose our connection with the earth we forget we are of the earth, we begin to fabricate an illusion of our own importance alongside the larger presence of our planet.

I have written this book with the simple sentiment in mind that a revised form of education might play a transformational role in cultivating a cultural change towards a more sustainable way of living. I choose my words carefully, in Cultivating the Future I am exploring the way that the metaphor of nurture, the art and science of growing can have both physical and meta-physical connotations.  The notion of growing from within has long been associated with the quest for learning, whilst growing in a physical sense concerns transitions from birth, to child, to youth, to adult and ultimately to death, but we transcend our own demise by passing on knowledge and understanding to the next generation, we extend our reach intergenerationally from cradle to cradle. This cycle of life is universal, it extends from every one of us to the entire biological community of which we are a part. As we grow we learn, what we learn therefore serves to define us. In this book I am interested in how we can learn to be self-reliant and at the same time interdependent, how we can learn to live sustainably, and be enabled to see the power and agency of our actions, the capabilities inherent in such ideas are important foundations for a sustainable form of living.

The book also pursues the idea that we are governed by powerful narratives. Narratives are important for our understanding, but they are not always consistent nor are they entirely coherent. In writing this book I have grown increasingly aware that this work is inevitably unfinished, there is such a vast arena of work to connect under the sustainable theme that any traditional sequential narrative is immediately engulfed in the wave upon wave of connecting narratives. To tackle this stylistic problem I have come to the view that  this book is just a set of thought pieces. Bertold Brecht was famous for his montages, a series of divergent episodes which have some connection but in turn are in themselves coherent pieces. The aim here is not to claim overall coherence, as I am not yet in a position to suggest that what the book examines is in any way coherently conceived. Instead I want to indicate that there is a need to experiment, and to explore the possibilities that are currently in front of us to generate a new narrative, a new realism for our  time.

'Stories,' writes Ben Okri, 'are the secret reservoir of values: change the stories individuals and nations live by and tell themselves and you change the individuals and nations…Nations and peoples are largely the stories they feed themselves. If they tell themselves stories that are lies, they will suffer the future consequences of those lies. If they tell themselves stories that face their own truths, they will free their histories for future flowerings.'

Our sophisticated post-modern civilization is not keen on grand narratives, it is suspicious of any single solution to the problems of our time and perhaps rightly so; recent history demonstrates the dangers of tyrannical obsessions and single solutions. At the same time in encouraging the multivarious we have created a context where nothing seems to have any value over anything else, where everything is relative. I think that this is the breeding ground for cynicism, so I am not convinced about the value of this situation either. Instead I think that there is a pressing need for a new narrative for the post-industrial world which challenges existing orthodoxy and presents a set of alternative visions of the future that are achievable and sustainable, the way to this is simple, we reconnect hand, heart and mind, something that the last two centuries have managed to dislocate.

One form of this dislocation comes in the way that our children are ill at ease with the natural world. Many children express fear and concern over the future of the natural world, much of this fear is informed by their observation of television images and messages, and from the conversations that they have with parents and other adults who in turn have observed over their own lifetimes a steady deterioration of the natural world. The result is a dismissal of the natural world as broken, a place which has nothing more to offer, and so they turn inwards, to their human centric solutions. This starts early in life and is then continually supported into adulthood. It crushes the connection, the story becomes ingrained in the collective psyche that the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual possibility of the natural environment are no longer a necessary part in our lives, no longer needed in our sophisticated world and no longer necessary for us, we turn away.

This book is written to challenge the sleep walking of our society, it is written to raise the profile of the importance of the natural in our daily practice, and how a re-culturing of this connection into the collective mind is a critical component of our realignment with ourselves as a species, and our relationship with other living creatures and the planet. The book is not founded on an idle day-dream, it is built on a disturbing set of facts. The prospects for life on earth at the end of the century on an equivalent scale to that of today are becoming extremely unlikely, especially if we continue to deplete the natural resources in such an unabated fashion. We are in what the renowned biologist E.O.Wilson describes as a bottleneck, where demand is continually outstripping supply across the planet. He writes ‘Everyone can, in theory at least, be housed and fed, but the pressures on the last remnants of wild biodiversity might easily grow fatal for a majority of the remaining ecosystems and their distressed plants and animals. The only way to carry biodiversity safely through the bottleneck of this critical period is by a combination of scientific and technological innovation, abatement of population growth, and environmental education, guided by redirection of moral purpose.’ (Wilson 2001:viii). it is in response to this crisis that we must fashion  the new moral purpose, an educational challenge which extends from what we have achieved in our past narrative and moves us into a narrative of and for the Google-Age (Trippestad 2010). It could be a narrative where the singular and the collective are in a process of continual emergence (Scharmer 2008) and redefinition, a narrative of flow (Csikszentmihalyi 1990) where we are fully immersed at the optimal point of challenge and skill in our responses to the world around us, a narrative through which we begin to recognise our place amongst all species (Capra 1996). It could be a narrative of scale, reflecting both the large and small as a relationship between the micro in the form of community, and the macro in the form of the global or universal effects of our actions (Esbjorn-Hargens and Zimmerman 2009), but fundamentally it is a narrative of ecology, of nurture, of cultivation of an ecological mind which will see us through the bottleneck.

To break into such a narrative there is a need for simple starting points, in the case of my own work this starting point comes in the simple craft of growing food. I like to use food production as a metaphor for our reconnection with the local, and to demonstrate in turn, how that reconnection enables us to reinterpret our relationship with the whole, the earth. My practical source of inspiration and evidence for the whole of this work comes from a community food programme, Incredible Edible. I have been involved with this programme since it began in early 2007, and prior to that as an activist in environmental issues throughout my adult life. Incredible Edible is a deceptively simple project. On the one hand it maintains a determined focus on food, growing, cooking, eating, celebrating food. However, to get to and from this focus we have learnt that there is a need to encounter a whole set of relationships, of people, places, interests, activities that can be examined and these can be used to illustrate a new way of living, ‘treading more gently’ as Thomas Berry (1996) says, on the earth. Our mantra in Incredible Edible is ‘if you eat you are in,’ this profoundly connects with people, but also anticipates participation without pressure, simply by existing, we begin to reconnect with our own relationship with nature, through food, and with others through the communion of food that exists in every person, in every place on the planet.

For over a quarter of a century, there has been a slow and growing realization amongst people from many different social, economic and cultural backgrounds, that the way the human race is living on planet earth is not healthy, for us, for other living things, and for the earth itself.  The urgency is examined in some of the chapters of this book, where I will point to the reasons why so many commentators are emphasising a clear need for local and global action. Added to this is the growing frustration of many people with established versions of participatory democracy (Sandell et al 2005), where freedom and choice are of secondary significance to the needs of commerce and we begin to see that the renewed interest in what is local is more than the stuff of life-style choice, it is the formative period of a new social and cultural  movement. This diverse movement is challenging the consumerist narrative and presenting practical alternatives to the existing themes. These alternatives converge upon the critical questions of our time, how to learn to live sustainably and as one with our earth, using resources within our means and not depleting the very stuff we need to retain. In pursuing this idea, people construct a narrative of what it means to have a real connection with the world around us, it enables people to re-imagine a future where they play an important part, personally and in connection with others.

In this book I will suggest that both our personal and shared stories, serve as the carriers of our day-to-day realities and understandings. These narratives have over the past centuries carried the rhetoric of tribalism, feudalism, religion, communism, fascism, capitalism and democracy to name but a few.  However, in recent times one dominant narrative has prevailed, the narrative of consumerism. This narrative carries with it values of affluence, individualism, wealth, lifestyle and industrial progress pursued without conscience or consequence within and between nations.  This narrative transcends all of our established ideological boundaries. It restricts, inhibits and influences our capability to explore other ways of living by commodifying all aspects of our lives. It influences and informs how we see ourselves and how we relate to and live and work with others.  However, in the end, it is just a narrative, a story we are telling ourselves about the illusion of certainty of endless resource, continued economic growth and freedom at any cost. 

Clearly to move these ideas forward requires examples, and workable solutions so that they become an antidote to the mainstream narrative, and by making them real and practiced they do not fall victim to the accusation that the ideas are in any way idealist, elitist, factional, or illusory. That is why it has been a central feature of the Incredible Edible programme to show people ways of achieving simple sustainable living solutions.  When people can see examples of sustainable living for themselves and build the moral purpose behind their actions, in the everyday and the mundane aspects of daily life we know that they begin to migrate from their previously held positions. They might begin being skeptical and hesitant, but with example comes inspiration and hope, and through hope comes a new perspective of the art of the possible. In Incredible Edible we have played with the architecture of mind and place. We deliberately provoke response through growing in urban spaces within the built environment. We have seen how physical examples can stimulate the broader debate on ideas of sustainable living, and how these physical examples slowly become the new landscape, which in turn influences the new mindscape of sustainable living and becomes the reality of daily living.

Our work as educators is therefore a work of cultural change driven by purpose, it is to use Michael Fullan’s term, the new meaning of educational change, the new agenda for the century. How we become accustomed to the many ideas associated with sustainable living will have to be established through the commonplace, through the landscape that surrounds us. We will have to learn to adopt sustainable practices in every aspect of our lives, some will come through choice, but much might have to come through mandate, such is the urgency to realign practice to try and counter the excesses of climate change. We are more than aware that at the moment our built environment, our economic action, our transportation, our energy systems, our food production systems, our health and education systems are insufficiently encultured with the sustainability ethic, but there is already some early evidence of change.

Despite the many problems we have created for ourselves, there is clearly a widespread interest among people from all parts of the planet, to take a stance which seeks to be part of a solution, a positive response to the way things are, and to see if it is feasible to redirect the dominant consumer narrative, to radically alter the direction we might take in the next stage of our collective experience of life on earth. As storytellers, each and every one of us contribute to this new narrative, a narrative of parts which combine in multiple ways to inform a broader whole, a narrative for the Google-Age. Exactly how we contribute, matters.

When I started to work on this book I thought I would revisit the ideas of a decade ago when I was interested in learning communities and the part the community within school might play to promote more sustainable forms of knowledge and understanding. I drew upon what I had learnt from working with networks of schools, in a number of different countries around the world. I was interested in the ways in which the symbolic nature of networks, of connection, and of emergent systems provided a powerful metaphor for our times and could foster conditions for a realignment of practice. But I also discovered that it represented much more. Enquiry into the idea of a networked, sustainable model of our world pointed me to a whole new, vibrant and emerging story, and not a revised version of my earlier text. I saw educators at all levels of the system, together with people from the high office of government to the individual citizen, all of whom were acutely interested in the pursuit of some form of enlightened truth through their work and through their daily lives, but at the same time they were struggling to achieve this because of the underlying fault that runs through the system.

Over the last half century or more the educational community has played its part in creating the next generation of young consumers. Our nations are getting better at educating our young people, as nations we are increasingly literate when we leave school, we understand the importance of education and its association with well-being and self-efficacy. We recognize that education is essential for our collective national needs, to participate in society and contribute to the workforce, to be good citizens and pay our taxes and share in the pursuit of the collective wealth of the nation. But we are still in our infancy on a wider scale, the planetary literacy, the role we all play in the global story. I would go so far as to suggest we are fundamentally illiterate when it comes to our relationship with the natural world. The curriculum we offer to our young people has completely failed to generate a literacy amongst the young of the ecology around them, within them and between them. This claim is easily substantiated. If it were the case that education prepared our societies for sustainable living, then our actions out in the world, in the workplaces and the choices we make in our daily lives would demonstrate this literacy in action, and clearly, our actions do not seem to be present in the majority of such environments and lifestyles. Some early examples of a move towards the formative practices of sustainable community are visible, we have discovered in the last decade that the idea of the learning community has both personal and collective value, but it is of restricted transformational potential when it remains framed by the same systemic problem of consumerism and industrial growth.  I think that the true potential of the learning community if it is to liberate, emancipate, or truly empower has to be discovered in reinventing the entire notion of learning within, between and beyond schools. Our present form of schooling has become too closely aligned with specific forms of literacy, defined across the developed world in the form of reading, writing and numeracy. This has served us well as we moved from the field to the city and we embarked on the journey of industrialisation. However, as our people gathered their qualifications, their PhDs, MBA’s, MSC’s, their BSc’s and BA’s and the like, a parallel phenomena emerged, as it was not the illiterate and the indigenous people’s who have trashed the planet, but these very same literate, educated and successful people. As we step forward into the 21st century, it is worthwhile remembering this fact, and ensuring that whatever track we choose to take is cognisant of the need for intelligent sustainable design, and not a compromised version that ensures business as usual with a green wash.

This raises some interesting challenges for educators. How do we connect ecological sustainability into the fabric of our organizations?  In exploring this question I have been drawn to the grounded and the practical. I have witnessed first hand how action in the form of hand, heart and mind defines the Incredible Edible programme, and how the simplicity of this enables people, from the diaspra of the community, to participate. It enables people to work together on ideas, put them into place, experiment and reflect, and refine and share, this is a simple learning process with profound effects. I will describe some of my experience of Incredible Edible later in the book.

We are also realising that the scientific and the technological solutions are vital in our response to the ecological challenges we face, but they are not enough on their own. There is something about ‘spirit’ that we have to acknowledge is a critical part of the mix, moving into a broader connection with what is beyond ourselves. As Swimme says, ‘unless we live our lives with at least some cosmological awareness, we risk collapsing into tiny worlds.’ (Swimme 1996:60). These tiny worlds are the reality of today, where our narrative is laced with the illusion of thinking that our lives exist simply on political entities, such as the state or a nation, or that the bottom line concerns in life have to do with economic realities of consumer life styles. Swimme suggests that ‘In truth, the narrative of sustainable living is one which confronts the reality that we live in the midst of immensities, and we are woven into an immense cosmic drama.’ (Swimme 1996:60). It is then, a matter of consciousness as well as action, a matter of individual and collective change of practice, and of mind. I will suggest in this book that we can create the conditions, through the way we relate and respond to the world around us to generate an ecological literacy, but we can also begin to ensure that this is more than just a technical response to a crisis, it has to establish an equilibrium between our hands, our hearts and our minds (Pestalozzi 1894). 

This broad quest for how to act today, how to live, how to be, to think, to do, serves then, as a script for our time. It is through such questions that a counter-cultural narrative has emerged on a global level. This widespread and dispersed set of narratives are creating the fault line in the conventional story, busting the myth of consumer growth and economic progress, it opens us to the possibility of a new rhetorical position based upon a new reading of how to live. The conversations are both face to face and digital, local and global. Personally I find that it is immensely empowering to be a part of such a network. It serves as a support mechanism to see beyond the enormity of the symptoms and to see clearly the solution – the move from ego to eco. As all great challenges go, this one is both personal and collective, our time has the burden of making a critical contribution to the next stage of human progress and it is now reaching a point where it can go two ways, one, towards rapid self-destruction, or the other towards a new enlightenment, a renaissance of connection between ourselves and our earth. Ben Okri poignantly recognizes and tells of the symbolic significance of stories, as the secret reservoir of values. It seems to me that if we change the story we use to educate ourselves with, towards this new renaissance, we begin to change the stories we live by, we begin to tell ourselves a new set of stories, a new set of narratives through which we learn to become literate of our earth.

Finally there is something about action as choice that can be drawn into our narrative of a new literacy for the planet. We are all part of this world, we are all playing our part in the construction of now, and we all have our part to play in the direction that we take next. What we choose to do, be it to proceed with a version of the present which remains very much in keeping with the recent past, or a version of the present which moves us to a reappraisal of our place as a species amongst other species, a species that presides now over its own and its neighbours destiny through the actions it takes. We have the capability to eradicate poverty, to seek ways to stabilise the climate, to learn to live within our means and to learn to maintain and cherish the resources that are of the earth to provide support for us and for generations to come. We have the know-how to make this happen in our daily lives, today, we simply need to learn how to see that through to our new reality, our new story, our new literacy of ecological awareness, that is the cosmological legacy that we have to live up to, it is asking us as teachers to ensure we instruct wisely as we tell our stories, a theme I will explore further in these pages.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Independent Midwifery to be criminalised in Ireland

Dear All

Please help our sisters in Ireland - birthing women and midwives alike.

I was sent the following...

THE NURSES and MIDWIVES BILL 2010 goes before the Select Committee on
November 4th.

This Bill massively restricts the rights of women to choose home birth
in Ireland and criminalises independent midwives with the threat of up to 10 years' imprisonment if
they do not comply with the HSE's new rules, which in effect make home birth a rare concession.

The Association for Improvements in Maternity Services (AIMS) Ireland
have planned a peaceful
picket at the Dáil on Nov 3rd to highlight this issue.

Contact AIMS Ireland
<http://mc/compose?>  for more information.

Full details and a petition are at

Department of Sociology
National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Co. Kildare
Republic of Ireland

Tel. (+353-1) 708 3985
email: <http://mc/compose?>

Monday, 25 October 2010

Arne Næss

When I was in Norway with Tom we went up the mountains to Arne Naess's home, the Tvergastein hut, if you look to the right of me on the picture you can see it, nestled into the mountainside. Arne Dekke Eide Næss (27 January 1912 – 12 January 2009) was a Norwegian philosopher, the founder of deep ecology.[5] He was the youngest person to be appointed full professor at the University of Oslo.

Næss cited Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring as being a key influence in his vision of deep ecology. Næss combined his ecological vision with Gandhian nonviolence and on several occasions participated in direct action. In 1970, together with a large number of demonstrators, he chained himself to rocks in front of Mardalsfossen, a waterfall in a Norwegian fjord, and refused to descend until plans to build a dam were dropped. Though the demonstrators were carried away by police and the dam was eventually built, the demonstration launched a more activist phase of Norwegian environmentalism. In 1958, Arne Næss founded the Interdiciplinary Journal of Philosophy Inquiry.

Næss was a noted mountaineer, who in 1950 led the expedition that made the first ascent of Tirich Mir (7,708 m). The Tvergastein hut in the Hallingskarvet massif played an important role in Næss' life.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Councils plan for exodus of poor families from London

This was the headline in The Observer today, Sunday 24 October 2010. Fucking hell. What exactly is happening to my country? Remember the Nazis? Remember the clearing of cities? Remember. Just remember.

Andrew Hargreaves new album

Read full review of Defragment - ANDREW HARGREAVES on ©

Andrew has released his new solo album - its on Lacies records and available from Boomkat the Boomkat review is below - my review is simple - its a magnificent piece of work, well done Andrew!

Two pieces of work - Defragment and Fragments come together as a collected piece.
Limited to just 50 copies for the world* This album is a collection of outtakes and misshapes, prepping you for the proper forthcoming new opus by Andrew Hargreaves.  That billing sounds far too dismissive of what this disc actually presents however: across thirty minutes Hargreaves - one half of The Boats - spins through some delightful sound collages assembled from various warm and scratchy recordings, all of which forms a disjointed but ultimately excellent body of work in its own right.  In general terms these compositions tend to give the effect of sketches, as if they've been set to tape without too much of a narrative form being imposed during their construction.  Instead, a piece such as 'Novena For A Recidivist' seems to hover in place, basking in its own disintegrating loveliness.  Snatches of hiss, beaten-up piano and general electronic sleight of hand all play their part, and similarly 'Confusion In Consequence' is almost too heart-wrenching for its own good - Danny Norbury adds to the air of dusty, dilapidated elegance with some magnificent cello work that intertwines nicely with Hargreaves' swishing recording textures and hesitant piano musings.  There are a few short, sub-minute-long tracks thrown in here that really underline the fragmentary feel of the album, but they're every bit as important as the longer, more developed contributions.  'Graphoagramm' is a brief bass interlude, referencing dub and tape delays, while the forty-second spillage of analogue grain that is 'Grammaphone' sets the pace for one of the album's standout compositions, 'Trained By Kindness', whose jarring mix of synth arpeggios and weary piano tunes works a treat.  If these only represent outtakes, the finished album must be quite something.
Best known as one half of The Boats, Andrew Hargreaves has also been spotted plying his trade under pseudonyms such as Beppu and Tape Loop Orchestra, though here he steps out from behind his alternate guises and releases a new solo album under his own name. Back in July, Hargreaves released Fragments, a ludicrously limited (50 copies) collection of out-takes and off-cuts from a (then) forthcoming long-player. Defragment is that long-player, and quite wonderful it is too. Recorded between such venerable and exotic locations as Barcelona, Tokyo and Burnley, Defragment finds Hargreaves taking piano and electronic programming as the starting point for his compositions, whilst intermittently calling upon the cello (and on one occasion, musical saw) of regular cohort Danny Norbury. At the piano Hargreaves plots his way through understatedly lyrical passages that tug at the heartstrings without resorting to sentimentality; there seems to be a minimalist style at work here that recalls Ryuichi Sakamoto's collaborations with Alva Noto, yet true to the form of his prior work, Hargreaves instils a tangible sense of warmth in his recordings. Amidst a prickly, glitch-riddled electronic backdrop, standouts like 'Mystical And Secret Sayings' and 'Variation Is Repetition' find Hargreaves keying his way through a typically inviting production that neatly contrasts the subtle erosion of those instrumental recordings with a distinct digital cleanliness. Meanwhile, Norbury's contributions to pieces 'Just Us Together', 'Handwritten Notes' and 'Confusion In Consequence' give the album that extra lift when necessary - the latter in particular proving to be especially powerful, its muted piano colours and drowsy strings conspiring to create a very autumnal sound palette. If you've ever fallen for Hargreaves' music previously, whether alone or with The Boats, Defragment is sure to enrich and beguile. Lovely.*

Friday, 22 October 2010

another way of seeing the Pestalozzi lecture

So far I have been singularly unsuccessful in putting the link of the conference onto the website, but i'm indebted to Dag Ove Vareberg in Bergen for uploading the talk onto the web.  Until I can get it onto my blog it can happily sit here on the following link - be interested in people's responses.


Thursday, 21 October 2010

Cultivating Healthy Food and Gardens for a Sustainable Future

Thanks Estelle - cool link!

Cultivating Healthy Food and Gardens for a Sustainable Future

is a presentation of inspirational work being done around the globe. We are always saying “Everywhere can be Incredible,” well every project on this slide show is just that, Incredible, we are so proud that IET was included alongside these amazing initiatives.
The show is on the Harmony Foundation Website, and is also free to download, as is a presenters guide, so you can have a group session and invite everyone to watch together and then talk about the issues raised. Why not share some local food at the same time. A brilliant way to get people thinking and sharing.
Dont take my word for it, watch the 22 minute presentation on the Harmony site here and see for yourself.
Truly food for thought.

Harmony Foundation was created in 1985 by Michael Bloomfield to provide the education and encourage the cooperation essential to successful transition to development which is socially and environmentally sustainable. We believe that sustainable societies depend upon greater investment in education which produces informed people working together for positive change; transforming harmful growth patterns into a positive movement toward long-term prosperity, social harmony and ecological stability.

Social landscape and virtual reality and slum dwellers international

I'm getting really weary of hearing the 'I know we have to cut the deficit' line almost as much as seeing George Osborne attempting to put on an 'It is all very very serious face' (doesn't he look like flashman from Tom Brown's Schooldays?). Seems to me that gravitas comes from having something substantive or visionary to say and doing so with an authority and wisdom, not really the characteristics that can be easily associated with our current blot of politicians (my new collective noun for more than one MP) and certainly not our dear chancellor.

Anyway, enough of that, I'm more interested in social landscape and the connection between the virtual and the real, it is pertinent at the moment because I keep encountering the narratives of the political world and I feel like they are seeping out of their septic tank into the psyche of the common world, time therefore to react and push them back into their place. Todays news is engulfed with talk of the cuts, but perhaps there is another reading we might usefully consider, another story to examine.

Our society is a construct of urban, suburban and rural space. Depending on our daily activities we trespass on all or one of these spaces. The development of these places combines an interesting geographical, physical, spiritual, cultural and social set of connections and yes, we might tag to these an economic thought too, but the point is the interplay of these environments continually stimulates and challenges us to reconsider our expectations. Unless we think of these places in such terms we get lost, obsessed even with the preoccupation of the mundane, a world dominated by money men, in putting our stories together, from every nook and cranny of the places we live, we can see the richness through different lenses and counter the prevailing rhetoric. We have skills, energy, insights, we can share and feel the power of community, we can perceive and initiate changes in the places where we live and we don't need politicians to get their grubby mindsets into our collective heads to pollute the art of the possible we all carry with us.

The chaos of the twentieth century mind has created the problems we are inheriting today, but we  will not solve those problems with the thoughts of that same worldview, instead our efforts might be better focused elsewhere, breaking boundaries between past ideas and expertise and generating the campaigns that liberate perception. What makes our work transformational is the willingness to pay careful attention to the odd, the peculiar, to observe the nuance and the unexpected, to imagine different possibilities for what it is to be human society. Where to look, the derelict, the destitute, the deprived, the destabilized, all these are places where globalization in its many forms are and have failed, but they are the street corners for the new revolution, a social landscape for today and the place for virtual realities to become real, our responsibility lies in the power to simply imagine, and then to act.

Have a look at slum dwellers international - then reflect on what human beings can do, its amazing.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

link to the tod film from alys fowlers site on the guardian - more later

Monday, 11 October 2010

Tempus fugit

I was reading David Holmgren yet again over this last week. His monumental work is just so impressively  practical. Anyway, one particular thing caught my eye towards the end of the book, a small observation about time.
In the section on principles - he identifies small and slow solutions and then proceeds to discuss these in some detail. I was particularly struck by the observation of the value of persistence and taking a long term perspective. Holmgren observes 'as a middle aged person trying to explain why slow and steady are fundamental values in energy descent, I am relieved that Permaculture one is evidence that I had the same ideas when I was in my early twenties...' I connected well with this line of argument, whether for the same reasons Im not sure, in my case its more likely to be out of innate laziness - why do something twice if it can be done reasonably well once. So it led to consideration of decision making and contemporary society. The adolescent society (Holmgren's words) where people want without consequence seems closely aligned with our consumer model leading to the fast, the flashy, the transient, the throw away and then the endless appetite for the next, the newest, the dominance of the new and the decline in attraction of the old, the permanent and the evolved.
Contemporary public decision making struggles to get beyond a couple of years, parliamentary time frames of a maximum of five years dominates our public services, and correspondingly corrupts the imaginative possibility to think in longer time scales. Holmgren makes a fascinating observation - in 18th century Britain replanting oak trees to provide timber for shipbuilding required a 200 year plan. We still have many oaks around as a result of that strategic plan, and although they didn't find themselves needed because technology changed in the shipbuilding industry the world is a better place for them. Our implicit faith in technology as our only solution, through human ingenuity and brilliance seems to be reducing in its time frame from the cycles of the past to challenges such as Moors law - 18 month cycles of technological change which double processing power of computers and such like. In finding our feet in the new ecological literacy we have to find a way of making sense of the power of time that extends way beyond our own presence. In Incredible Edible a discussion is taking place about asset transfer, the point being to explore ways we might asset transfer resources into the programme on behalf of the town for a much longer time frame than the current short sighted 5 or so years that councils seem to operate within. For example, a child born today has the life expectancy to reach 2010, our intergenrational responsibilities need to be much more interested and engaged with this reality, and in so doing perhaps our perspective on our relative wealth might regain some sense of reasonable perspective against the global barometer.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

sent through to me to post...

sometimes comedy says it al!!
 God: Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.
St. Francis: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers ‘weeds’ and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

God: Grass? But, it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?
ST. Francis: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.
God: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.
St. Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.
God: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?
ST. Francis: No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
God: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
St. Francis: Yes Sir.
God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.
St. Francis: You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
God: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It’s a natural cycle of life.
St. Francis: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
God: No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?
St. Francis: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.
God: And where do they get this mulch?
St. Francis: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.
God: Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?
St. Catherine: "Dumb and Dumber", Lord. It’s a story about….
God: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.
"I am like an atom,
a nothing left in darkness;
and yet, I am an identity.

They told me I had 5 senses to enclose me up,
and they, enclosed my infinite brain into a narrow circle
and sunk my heart into the abyss,
so that all from life
I was obliterated and erased.

Man, has closed himself up,
So he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.

If the doors of perception were cleansed,
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite."

William Blake

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

twisted apples

On the trees are only a few gnarled apples that the pickers have rejected. They look like the knuckles of Doctor Reefy’s hands. One nibbles at them and they are delicious. Into a little round place at the side of the apple has been gathered all of its sweetness. One runs from tree to tree over the frosted ground picking the gnarled, twisted apples and filling his pockets with them. Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apples.–Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio (1919).

It was interesting listening to the speech today from our prime minister Mr Cameron. Put aside the dateline, and the current context and listen to the rhetoric and you begin to hear the same, familiar sounds of our industrial solution. If only Mr Cameron.

Unfortunately the reality is so very different now. Whereas in the past governments could imagine with the people the prospect of greener days ahead, we know now that the chances are for many people across the world their prospects are decidedly grim. To me this points towards one set of obvious but perhaps not earth shatteringly exciting political messages -
  • growing vegetables
  • walking for transportation
  • reading old books
  • spinning and knitting
  • chatting as a form of entertainment
  • writing snail mail letters
  • fixing and making things by hand
It becomes interesting the more we look at progress, the more indigenous ideas seem to loom in front of us as solutions. If the convergence of the perfect storm of energy, water, population and food shortages really come together in the coming decades, then doing things within our communities for ourselves will begin to be seen as progress, simply because they will point us towards self-reliance, the way we can help ourselves. The important message for me coming from our political leaders is that they haven't got a clue how to proceed, and are terrified of the likelihood of people becoming more resilient and self managing because in so doing they won't buy the story that there is only one story to buy. Keep saying it  Mr Cameron, its a nice line, economic growth and prosperity to come once we have all faced the stark reality of the cuts, the thing is, we might not all come around to wanting to play your game if the good times do return, because the good times you tell us about are in fact more troublesome than those we are already living through. Time to think again.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


so all day I've been on annual leave, not something I do a lot of really, putting together the frame for a cob oven, and, having recently been told by the doctor during my check up that Im no spring chicken I realised about 3pm that a days slog in the garden is likely to mean Im laid up for a the following day with backache.
Anyway, thoughts... the great thing about garden jobs isn't so much what you are doing but the fact you can ruminate freely as the day goes by.
In no particular order...
- place- the knowledge of a place  - the special connection of a location where we have a real sense of connection is something I am more and more interested in. It has to do with the familiar, the small observations of details which are just slowly changing as the season changes to autumn. The corresponsing changes during the day in the temperature is noticeable, micro changes but enough to make it feel different. I watched the bees during the day and they seemed to respond very much to the change in the temperature, they were out over the last hour frenetically busy gathering balsam pollen coming back to the hive all white, but earlier it must have been too cold for them as they werent interested in getting out. As the day moved on the sounds changed. Late morning (it was a late start) was filled with busy activity amongst the birds, mainly jays and pidgeons and a few crows. They seemed to chill out after midday, and then it was pretty quiet except for a robin jumping around near me, I swear he was telling me something!
It got windier as the day went on, the breeze brought with it smells of the heather from the tops, and balsam, the sweet smell of balsam which is abundant around here. I could hear the stream running fast, its rained a lot these last few days and there is a lot of water moving through. It is a background noise, you tune into it and then it goes again. The trees are changing colour, they are movinginto the autumn colours, beautiful but signalling the end of the growing season. I picked two big boxfulls of apples, stored them in straw and will deal with them for jams and things later on. Finally with place is the feeling of peacefulness in myself. Its good to slow down sometimes and today has certainly been that. The biggest impression of the day is that sometimes nothing much has to happen, its just so good to do very little, but feel like it has been a full day.

oops! best laid plans etc...

ok I am sorry but the idea of responding to everyone who asked for the link is proving to be a bit of a problem, my email has crashed!
So... in a few days I will see how I can put up a set of smaller sized files of the film, and then we can start again, in the meantime dont email me any more as it is proving to be a disaster of a plan.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Bergen lecture

I am hoping this link will work - it is my recent lecture in Bergen where I was working with people from the Pestalozzi programme, hosted by University College Bergen and my goof friend Tom Are Tippestad. Anyway, you will need dropbox to access the file, its massive as its a film which includes a short interview at the end. It sort of gets the current stuff Im doing though.
To get the file you will need to send me an email as I cant seem to find a way as yet to put such a big file on this site, so email me at and I will try and hook you up to the link on dropbox.
Just in case you are able to get onto dropbox etc, the file is called Pestalozzi in Bergen sept 2010