The Clearing is a vision of the future in the grounds of Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park

Workshop report

6 May 2017

The Clearing

Workshop 5 - Food Part Two: Growing It

Last week, we learnt how to find food in our immediate environment. This week, we’re thinking longer term – how can we start growing food, once synthetic fertilisers run out, and you have to find your seeds somewhere other than B&Q.

The leader of this workshop was Steve Jones, a permaculture teacher and practitioner based in Wales. Ironically for a post-oil/future-thinking type, Steve’s sat nav broke, Compton Verney wasn’t marked on his physical map, and he phoned us up to say he’d be a little late as he desperately struggled to find out where he was. We filled the gap with an impromptu gardening workshop.

It was worth the wait, however. The workshop was amazing. We sat in a circle in the dome (it was a bit nippy). Steve's only props were some bits of paper and some soil. Minds were completely blown.

Here’s a few of the things we talked about:

We talked about permaculture being a way to think about how you live on the planet, what your relationship with it is. The revolutionary idea that there’s such a thing as ‘enough’.

We talked about the science of climate change, and the challenge that awaits us. Steve showed this graph, ‘a map of the future’ detailing the Paris Agreement (which Trump has just pulled out of, remember his name, grandchildren) and the amount we’ll have to cut our emissions to meet it. Half by 2030. Half again by 2040. Half again by 2050. We talked about the new technology we’ll need and the effort – ‘like the industrial revolution, but in reverse’.

We talked about how the vast majority of the world’s population are already living like this. Uganda has 1/1000th of CO2 emissions of America. They live well – no private cars, not as many possessions – they value people, connections. We used to think we’d be helping the third world to develop, when it turns out that they’ll be helping us negotiate our way out of the mess we’re in.

We broke for lunch. One of our regular participants, Brandon, had made some hedgerow soup, as instructed by John Noble last week. It was delicious (and better than John's actually, but probably because Brandon had used some butter).

After lunch, we talked some more.

We talked about soil, how it’s depleted through farming and deforestation, how the only way we can save it is through compost. We talked about pests, and how pesticides erode the entire eco-system, and how that leads to disasters like all the bees dying; and how they only treat the system, not the causes. ‘Remember, it’s not too many slugs, it’s not enough ducks’. And we talked about how permaculture aims to replicate itself, not through protest or big movements, but just by getting on with it. Making the decision to do it, personally, for yourself.

I stopped making notes around about then. I was enjoying the talk too much. For more information, it's worth a look at Steve's website, here. As he says:

'Permaculture takes us on the path to regeneration. There is nothing sustainable about the modern world, we need techniques that restore soils, rebuild communities, replant forests and rebuild resilience. Permaculture gives us the tool kit to achieve that and more.'

Shanti, shanti, shanti.