Graham Bell: Permaculture is real alternative

AS the rusty economy grinds painfully and the financial world remains in tatters; when the unemployed see little light at the end of the tunnel and disaster seems flavour of the month, it’s good to know there is a counter-culture working in the opposite direction, a worldwide movement of people creating positive solutions for themselves.

They’re not waiting for governments to act or asking permission.

One expression of this is “permaculture”, a word derived from permanent agriculture, but increasingly directed to thinking about intelligent design for all aspects of human culture.

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What these people are doing is researching and learning from the best model we have for how to run efficient systems: the world of nature. Then they practise what they have learned. How can we take as much responsibility for as much of our own needs as possible – and have a great time doing it? For many the start point is growing our own food.

Then there’s how we meet our energy needs, such as building energy-efficient, low-impact housing or retrofitting existing buildings. We can also harvest renewable energy at a local level, not just feed it into the grid. And we can think about how we travel.

We can also apply new models of education so today’s youngsters have much greater resilience and capability for dealing with the uncertain times ahead, when our society can no longer sustain present rates of consumption.

The aim is to create a fairer sharing of our planet’s resources. This is not just a dream. Many thousands around the world have trained in permaculture and are changing the way they produce what they need in life, sharing surpluses, building micro-businesses and reducing their carbon footprint.

This weekend at Comrie Croft, Perthshire, 200 Scottish practitioners will meet, learn, entertain each other and continue to build on a vision first organised here 25 years ago. Aspects, such as agroforestry (laughed at then) are now government policy. A good idea has come of age.

• Graham Bell is a permaculture teacher.;