Further Reading..

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When we first started growing food we made compost piles, plant remains would be loaded onto a wheelbarrow and transported to designated heaps, occasionally turned by hand. The rotted material would eventually be transported back to where it came from, and laboriously spread sometimes raked. We also grew the same food crops that we have become accustomed too, almost entirely annuals and grown  in mini mono-crop fashion as we new no better, until we discovered Permaculture.

Rather than techniques and recipes, Permaculture draws your attention towards natural patterns, directives are formed from this process. For example; Wild places drop all sorts of biological material to the ground, where it feeds the soil ecology which intern feed the plants. The directive here is to apply raw vegetative matter directly to the soil called a Mulch, cutting out labour, it also initiates a broad spectrum of ecology which in turn maintains balance.  we used to suffer from slug damage until we replaced compost mulches for raw mulches. Slugs love bare soils as it provides sanctuary and breeding possibilities as well as tender annuals to consume, a mulch layer inhibits access and  provides cover for all sorts of predators and works harmoniously with some hardier annuals and perennial crops that don’t require cultivation.

Annual crops have been historically selectively bread for commercial purposes,  priorities include tolerances to portability,  perishability, size,  flavour and texture.  The side-effects of this selective process is reduced nutrition, less flavour and sensitive plants that require intensive cultivation.  An example of reduced nutrition is with Alpha-Linolenic Acid or better known as Omega 3 fatty acids, which is essential for healthy bodily development and maintenance.  The problem with these acids is that high levels reduce shelf life, we have been unwittingly selecting and breeding vegetables that will store well, but contain less essential fatty acids. Wild Purslane contains 4 times the Omega-3 as cultivated spinach, and higher concentrations of flavonoids and antioxidants than other cultivated vegetables. Wilder plants are also more resistant to disease and generally better adapted to survive than cultivated ones. All modern crops have a wild ancestor still thriving somewhere within a balanced community, they do not require  human intervention.  Our research has shown that by selecting self seeding or perennial crops that consistently naturalise we can move beyond typical  agriculture and create self sustaining polycultures that allow gentle foraging and less cultivation. Ploughing is a practice that destroys soil architecture and eventually top soil, and causes mass runoff, flooding and land instability.   Industrial agriculture  is the most destructive single element of our civilisation, and now covers half of all the Earths land mass.  All existing farm land required a farmer to remove a thriving  ecological system and from then on maintain organised chaos by imposing vast annual monocrops.  Natures response to such activities is to restore balance by diversifying with volunteer plants, fungi and insects. This is an excellent  repair strategy for natural systems, but aggravates the farmer.  The counter response is to fight these strategies with warfare by  use of synthetic or organic chemicals to kill off undesirable plants, fungi and insects,  and control intentionally or as collateral, birds, reptiles and mammals.  To be solely dependent upon industrial agriculture is a grim reality to bear for any conscious being,  add also concerns of consuming food that is contaminated, and low in nutrition even before processing. Industrial  methods of production requires 10 calories of fossil fuels energy  to produce a single calorie of food, and the industry is promising that higher technology or GMO will be the fix.  We are suffering  from  overuse of fossil fuel technologies and a directive based on oversimplification of natural systems.

Albert Einstein once quoted that ” We cant solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”

We are also suffering from an overbearing Government / Economy, that has successfully established dominance over us and forgotten the qualities of cooperation and community values,  Councils have equally grown suspicious and overmanage us.  The current economic paradigm rewards greed and therefore draws the most inappropriate individuals to occupy the most important and influential  positions that govern us.  We have  become increasingly deprived how to live our own lives, and instead are ruled, fed, clothed and educated as a social unit. It is through centralised institutions that we have lost the ability to think and act responsibly, the economy requires dependent, passive consumers that are willing to offset nearly all responsibilities. This is especially evident in our inability to acknowledge our own negative contributions, ignorance is bliss, although that is now changing.   I do not expect feasible solutions from “Top Down” to address the accumulation of problems converging. My faith is with YOU the reader, as you can decide how you want to live, but what way is appropriate now?  Most people I ask would like to see “Common Sense” return, which is anarchic, best described as a self responsible position complimented with broad practical skills.  Its no coincidence that the main directive of Permaculture suggests ” The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children” Bill Mollison

Applied Permaculture is gathering momentum in the UK, its peaceful pragmatic approach is also subversive and essential considering our current social arrangement is a amalgamation of control and conformity. History shows us that real change follows unconformity,  that way the need to directly confront or fight power hierarchies becomes obsolete, we can each contribute change directly from an empowered  position that destroys the victim or executioner within us. Governments and elites are trapped within their own creations, they are forced to exercise greater control as the World descends growth, recent events demonstrate this, can we evade tyranny? I’m not sure but I do know that they want to be our shepherds, but that requires us to become sheep.  Why do we choose to support such detrimental and unsustainable production and civil services  is mostly to avoid short term  hardship but as a general rule, we have too much of everything in the UK…which destroys personal incentives to create alternatives, also those that can’t or refuse to self organise use money for a hand to mouth existence. It takes time and reason to create alternative lives and economies, reasons are surfacing but TIME is not. Our affinity for leisure or escapism is enough to swallow the meaningless convenient culture and pursue  purpose derived from consumerism or useless knowledge, we can never attain enough of what we don’t need.  Or seek rest bite from the many forms of spiritual cleansing, almost anything to allow us to continue without actually changing. But all these short term fixes are treating symptoms and not the root cause.  I conclude that the bread and circus act is loosing appeal for many, coupled with  economic chaos just around the corner.  I suggest that we don’t wait for such dire circumstances, decide now to change only yourself, let success inspire others around you.

Permaculture has acquired a reasonable academic following in the UK, I have yet to find a collective strategy superior to Permaculture that really deals with where we all are, and where things are going!

What’s next..

The Isle Of Wight has the potential to create a more diverse and accessible Permaculture Island site for visitors and Island residents. Our current family site has received a great increase of interest,  we are convinced its time to prepare for a much larger site,  To include a multitude of services including visitors centre, educational complex, demonstrations of permaculture,  green waste recycling, family play areas, natural burial….  we look forward to establishing a appropriate team should a suitable site be found. Gavin Roberts

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