Have we lost our connectivity?
How do you feel about how much life has changed over the last 10-20 years? What are your thoughts on progress?
Here at Onodrim, we have realised that over the past decade our passion for spending time immersed in nature and our daily work has given us the opportunity to observe the changing landscapes, communities and environment. We have witnessed the subtle changes in climate, the sharp drop in numbers of invertebrates and the growing disconnection between humans and the natural environment.
At the same time, the number of people suffering from mental health issues is increasing, as are levels of auto-immune diseases, allergies and diet-related illness. Things seem out of balance.
A coincidence? Perhaps. But we think not. We think that perhaps society needs… not a new direction but a return to a familiar path, one that considers our own health, that of the earth and of each other. A reconnection.
A pandemic providing focus
Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak in Spring 2020, climate change was finally gaining momentum and on the agenda of every world power, voices in their millions crying out for change. People realising that huge change had to happen as the final realisation of the impact of progress was fully recognised. Then life turned upside down as a pandemic swept across the globe. Lockdown kicked in and we all fought to stay safe, stay indoors, save lives.
And while we did this, two remarkable things happened.
Nature healed, incredibly quickly. Dolphins and birds returned to once polluted watercourses, monkeys lounging by pools in deserted hotels, microbes in closed-down shopping malls claiming back natural materials, deer walking down quiet motorways. And the birds…oh, the singing of the birds.
And people reconnected with the Earth and with each other. Banished to our homes, suddenly people craved to be outside. Neighbours connected as our movements became restricted. Daily walks became oh-so-precious and those lucky enough to have gardens tended them carefully, not only with flowers and plants that brought joy but food too. Fruit and vegetables became the priority for many, unsure how long lockdown would last and how that might impact the ability to feed loved ones. A huge wake-up call for every consumer on the planet. How vulnerable did we feel, do we still feel?
Food on the World Table
Food Security & Nutrition is a global issue. In 2019, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) commissioned a report “The state of food security and nutrition in the world 2019”. The report found that there has been a steady increase in the number of people suffering from hunger since 2015. It is estimated that over 2 billion people do not have access to safe, nutritious, sufficient food, with 8% of those being in Northern America and Europe. That’s 160 million people in our perceived ‘civilised’ western world going hungry. At the same time, overweight and obesity continue to rise, particularly in primary-aged school children but in adolescents and adults too.
WHY? In short, economic slowdowns and downturns are the major cause but the issue is compounded by gender inequalities, social exclusions as well as conflict and climate variability.
In the U.K, this issue has further been highlighted by the pandemic we face in 2020, with capacity for earning potential slashed, more people than ever before have been using food banks and food voucher schemes. Being able to provide healthy, nutritious and safe food to our families is a struggle for many households, even more so now.
Learning New Skills, Changing Bad Habits
We realised a few years ago that we were utterly caught up in a cycle of consumerism. Buying things we didn’t need and just generally living without awareness. We sat and discussed what we liked and what we would like to change.
We decided there were a few things we wanted to explore:
With little to no budget, we knew we could not afford to immediately invest in equipment to reduce our carbon footprint. We had to be creative in our approach. The only way forward for us was to research and find an alternative, more gradual path; a path leading us to embrace Permaculture, Self Sufficiency and Low Impact Living.
Over the past few years, we have been watching, learning and cultivating new skills to complement and enhance what we already teach to our students. Our ethos has always been firmly rooted in nurturing self-development, resilience and confidence in oneself and at the same time heighten awareness of the natural landscape, recognising its value (even in our modern industrialised society) and forging a sense of connectedness to the environment.
What is Permaculture
Permaculture is an ethical design process, firmly grounded in the philosophy of caring for the Earth, ourselves and each other. Using principles based on observation of how natural, regenerative systems and processes work, means we can create efficient and resilient systems which are kinder and more mindful of impact.
These permaculture principles are most often applied to land-based designs but can be used in many different forms of design, from development and financial planning to building sustainable corporate strategies and intentional community projects. Permaculture provides tangible, ethical solutions at the same time as offering a deeper understanding and affinity with the natural world.
How can we use Permaculture to enhance education?
It is our goal to introduce permaculture into all of our schools. We feel that by introducing it, the benefits of understanding 'connection' by pupils would be of enormous positive benefit. In understanding that 'everything is connected' in our daily lives, we create a basis for us to delve further into looking at our role as humans and rediscover knowledge that has been lost as we have become more entrenched in consumerism. We want our communities to remember that we are not separate from nature - we are an intrinsic part of it; when we work with it thoughtfully, we can live alongside it very well, actually!
Reconnecting allows us to realise that we can grow foods (even on next to no budget and even in tiny spaces), make spaces for wildlife, innovate to create modern ways of living that don't cost the Earth.
We want our communities to feel connected. By building knowledge from schools outwards to communities, we can facilitate an exponential spread of skills and hopefully create opportunities for neighbourhoods to create beautiful spaces and resilience together.
We will be encouraging all of our schools to adopt a permaculture programme and work with them to enable a space in the school grounds to be dedicated to immersing pupils across all age groups in micro-farming throughout the year. In addition, we are looking at ways to work with local authorities to adapt barely-used public land spaces (roadside verges, etc) into community gardens and re-wilding projects.
Use of permaculture to transform business and home
There appears to be a consciousness growing, a realisation that humankind cannot continue to consume in the way we currently do and it’s clear that there is a growing desire to change things – we are just not sure where to start.
Applying permaculture principles into your projects is simpler than you may realise and a great foundation for just such a change. Many people encountering permaculture for the first time notice that they were already using some of the tools that we discuss.
Experience has taught us that a step-change should be a considered action and not something to be rushed into. Better to make small, assured, successful changes and in time, your new practices will naturally encourage further adaptations to how you live your life in a more ethical way that will encourage a sense of connectedness. Connecting with communities, the earth, the soil and landscape has many proven and documented positive side effects- psychologically, physiologically and emotionally.
Let us help you with the first steps
There really is a simpler way to do things. Whether your project is for you, your family, your home, your business, work-colleagues or communities, we can help. Lorna is able to offer a Permaculture Design consultancy service to help communities, schools, organisations, businesses, individuals and families who are looking to introduce ethical solutions into their processes and practices.
To find out more about Permaculture you can visit www.permaculture.org.uk or get in touch with us for a chat. To find out more about our permaculture journey, follow us on our dedicated Instagram page The Permaculture Potager