The Pontbren Project is an innovative approach to using woodland management and tree planting to improve the efficiency of upland livestock farming, led by a group of neighbouring farmers in mid-Wales. They went on to develop new on-farm uses for woodland products, and when it became clear that tree planting had not just improved farm businesses and wildlife habitats, but had also reduced water run-off during heavy rain, they invited scientists to investigate. Supported by government funding, this internationally important research has revealed why strategically located belts of trees are so effective at reducing the amount of water running off improved upland grasslands. The scientific data from Pontbren is now being used to study the effects of land use on bigger catchments prone to flooding.
Helping to prepare this report has allowed us to reflect on the origins and progress of our project. Although we have always known each other as friends and neighbours, it was only in 1997 that we first sat down to consider what was happening to our industry. Through our hard work and willingness to embrace schemes which encouraged higher production, we had increased stock numbers and quality by introducing continental breeds. We had drained and reseeded our pastures and erected new buildings to feed and house them. It was at this stage we realised that we were on a treadmill. Although we were getting more for our stock our fertilizer and feed bills were growing too. We were completely dependent on the brown envelope and we knew even then that this was not sustainable. We began to explore ways in which we could reduce our costs, add value to our products and market them more effectively.Roger Jukes
Jem Bendell, Professor for Sustainability rose to prominence with his paper Deep Adaption earlier this year. This video catches him in a reflective mood, well worth a listen. He sets a context for his support of XR and gives us lots more to think about.
Imagine being 15 right now and being told that within a few short years the window of opportunity to prevent run away climate change will be shut forever. This the reality that the climate change generation are waking up to. When responses include stopping using plastic straws or other trivial measures that is when you start to realise the true depths of the crisis. The older generations, who had the benefit of all this cheap energy cannot imagine giving up their privileges in support of some vague notion of saving the planet. Hey and what if I give up my hard worked for holiday and other people don’t they ask?
For Greta Thunberg’s generation they already know that they are not giving up anything and these high energy options simply won’t be there for them. rather than fear not having this hyper-material existence they are recognising they will simply be lucky to have a future to look forward to at all. Instead of drawing up battle lines between generations lets think creatively about what we can actually do that is and will be meaningful in the long term. Economic and politics have warped our values and understanding of what it is that we can do but let us not forget that the underpinning reality of the climate and ecological crisis is biological. Removing forests, ploughing up soils, eroding heavily into the planet’s biodiversity has greatly reduced the planet’s ability to deal with the 40 billion tones of carbon we pump into the atmosphere each year.
Remember this, the only new energy entering the global system comes from the sun and like plants we have to build a better relationship with this never ending energy source rather than investing all our future hopes in the remaining fossil reserve in the earth’s crust. Can we make the switch for fossil power to solar power? Of course we can, we have the collective brain power and determination to solve anything, anyway our ancestors had no problem doing this previously and we have all sorts of new materials, technologies and insights to bring to bare they did not have.
There is no single solution, no winning technology other than a re-evaluation and application of our relationship with this living planet, rather a combination of millions of responses and innovations is what is required. The only way we can restore hope is to unleash a maelstrom of creativity, especially aimed at those younger members of our society. Kids need to be allowed to innovate, to put in place their own ideas and to develop and experiment with them. Furthermore we must remove all barriers to this creativity.. need investment in your idea, the answer must be yes. Need time off school to action your idea, yes, need to visit an expert somewhere to develop your ideas, but of course. This response is the best way we who did not act can vindicate ourselves.
Join us in Llanrhaeadr at the community hall on October 11th and help us launch this positive, packed full of ideas publication that is designed to give hope ad the possibility of an abundant future.
Here is the link the act that the Llanfyllin Town Council will be discussing the implications of at their next meeting.
This lecture may appear a bit dry and technical, that’s how finance people speak, but see past that to understand the key themes of what he is saying, this is dynamite. We all know that this is the case, we just probably haven’t fully admitted it to ourselves yet. Since the 2008 crash we have witnessed 11 years of lying, of smoke and mirrors, of quantitative easing, of our own refusal to admit the jig is up. Nothing has changed since then, we have not reformed anything only inflated the problem by kicking the can down the road. Now the developed world is drowning in debt and unable to meet the social responsibilities it has signed up for. Get ready for the roller coaster ride of your lifetimes because the train is going to run off the tracks!
We live in a world here in the West that has become detached from reality. Every day we ignore the ecological un-sustainability of our reality, the economic unreality becomes ever more distorted. Wall street, City of London, banks in general feel they have a right to endlessly make money out of money even if it adds no real value to the economy, money that flows to top to the elites and bares no relation to the world outside of the bubble. Well guess what folks; that bubble is bursting. The West as an economic force is essentially over. We have been the architects of our own undoing as well,.
We believe in house prices, in pensions, in never ending economic growth. Where is the growth supposed to come from when we have exhausted the natural world of its resources and are now turning against our own populations as governments divest from the social economy and their own responsibilities to the electorate. Think about it.. we go to work to do what? To create economic value in theory, what if our daily work does the opposite, it actually makes things worse not better. well that moment is coming up on us. Jem Bendall touched on this is the Deep Adaption paper. The energy and resources in your car and petrol tank that you burn to get to work is worth more than the work you do all day. Think about the implications of that on our economic models.
Facing up to climate change is as much an economic and social justice issue as anything. I think all of these illustrate just how much our economic models and the plutocrats that run the show are failing us badly. This is getting it right and making some interesting points especially when he starts to compare an economic system to an ecosystem. Of course this is what we teach in permaculture, so for me it is interesting to hear that come out the mouth of an unbridled capitalist. He doesn’t touch on the ecological realities of our predicament, but this is an insightful and interesting critique of where we are at.
BRACE horticulture group have so far agreed to meet each Tuesday behind the institute from 10 am. We are open and inclusive to anyone who wants to join and we are developing our ideas about the purposes of the garden, who its beneficiaries are and to firm up a design. We have so far decided to build 6 main crop raised beds, each will be 1.2m wide and approx 4m long. We are planning a 6 course rotation as the central activity for the space, with wild flower areas around the edges and propagation areas for perennial plants, esp those suitable for forest gardening and extending and filling Cae Bodfach.
Meanwhile at Busoga High School, Kamuli. Here is one we made earlier
Connie Kauma and her school team have kept on supporting and extending the forwst garden we designed and planted together on the 2017 PDC at Kamuli. Fantastic to see how the garden has matured already. I hope this will inspire our team here in Llanfyllin to do something here that makes a big impact on the community.
We are hugely excited to have been offered the space behind the public institute in Llanfyllin as a space to create a community growing hub. We are very inspired by the work in Newtown at the Cultivate centre and we want to use a similar process that was used to design and set that in motion back in 2013 when it began. The project there kicked off with an open permaculture design process which came out of a series of consultations with the potential users groups of the growing space.
Our early aims will be to get the site under control, start making compost and start designing the space to contain a mix of raised beds for ‘main crop’ veg cultivation and for propagation of perennials herbs and fruit trees and bushes. There are 100 different species of apple in Cae Bodfach, just over the road so one of our early goals will be to start propagating from them, certainly ones that seem best adapted to the climate here.
The plan currently is to have a weekly volunteer session on Tuesday morning, where among other things, a work for the week will be published to other people who want to contribute on other days can see what is needed and planned. The first volunteer session will on Tuesday next, which is the 17th Sept, we will be there form 10.00 am. Anyone is welcome to join us.
Momentum seems to be gathering at the BRACE meetings. We are currently holding 2 meetings per month, 2nd and 4th Thursday each month, usually one involves a speaker coming to inform us on a particular subject and the other we discuss general business then go into topic groups where we are working on several initiatives.
These include Repair cafe, Community Compost, Heritage Orchard, Roadside Verges and next up a community gardening hub. More on that later. Clive’s talk was fascinating, alarming and very in line with the understanding we have formed about the degree of emergency we should be feeling and how we should be acting in the light of these facts.
Our landscape is frozen in time, it has not been allowed to breathe, to move around, species have been fragmented and trapped and now with climate change there is great pressure for species to move around to find more suitable habitats. Field boundaries haven’t changed in 500 years, you can look back on old maps and seem the same field shapes. As agriculture farms more and more to the edges these reservoirs of biodiversity are also being eroded into.
We need to think in corridors, in pathways, to create a permeable landscape. Species need to move around, to reconnect and allowed to move much more freely. Looking to river banks, railway sidings and verges we realise that many pathways are there and with strategic management we can link together wilder area, habitat rich area and allow a much better movement of our remaining wildlife.
A wild un-managed landscape would form a patchwork, a constantly shift pattern of dense forestation, clearings, pathways, floods and fire and the action of large mammals opens up new spaces and allow the biological succession to happen. With most of the large mammals removed and one we do have contained in rye pastures none of this mosaic of diversity is functioning in a way it will have done for thousands of years. Add to this the stress of ever more pressure on the landscape and a changing climate and we find our self balanced on a knife edge. Many insights into what we must do and how we can manage the land we have access to in way that opens up niches and allows for a much freer movement for all our species.