Is Transition the Trojan Horse for Permaculture?
Permaculture gives us solutions for self reliance in a time when resources are diminishing and economies are failing. But could transition be the key to sharing to a wider audience and really changing the world?
Working at Permaculture magazine means I am immersed in solutions and inspiration to live a healthier and happier life whilst protecting the planet. It seems so obvious to me that growing your own food not only saves you money, but keeps you fit, keeps you healthy, allows you to know exactly what you are eating and also stops at least some of your money being spent with big companies who produce food in environmentally damaging ways plus a lot more.
Recyling and reusing rubbish as plant pots, chairs, tables or even whole buildings, feels like the best option for waste management and using local resources such as food, building materials and labour again saves money, protects the environment by decreasing your carbon footprint and helps your community.
So why is it so difficult to get the majority on board?
Recently I visited Worthing, West Sussex, to listen to Rob Hopkins talk about his latest transition book, The Power of Just Doing Stuff, (hosted by Transition Worthing). For those who don't know, Rob co-founded Transition Town Totnes and the Transition Movement too and before that was a permaculture design teacher. He began transition as a solution to the decreasing fossil fuels the world is dependent on.
And permaculture is the same. It tackles how to grow food, build houses and create communities, and minimise environmental impact at the same time. We want to live in harmony with the planet, thinking carefully about the use of our resources for ourselves and future generations, decreasing and eventually ending our dependence on fossil fuels.
The basis of permaculture came from 'permanent agriculture' - originally a system of designing permanent tree crops on farms to reserve soil and habitat - but it quickly evolved into a design process that includes our homes, garden as well as farms and communities, helping us to live lightly on the planet and make sure that human activity can be sustained for the future, in harmony with nature. This is deeply embedded within Transition, using local action as the solution against the challenges of climate change and economic hardship.
When Rob spoke about permaculture in Worthing, one thing he said really struck me. He explained Transition as the Trojan horse for permaculture. He said that when trying to explain what permaculture is, people don’t always want to know, but with Transition, people are introduced to permaculture without even knowing it.
I personally know several people who switch off when I talk about permaculture, or label me a hippy because the solutions I explain take in account caring for the environment.
Obviously I would I love for people to open their arms to permaculture, but if there is a way to make more aware that we need to change how we live, then I am all for it.
Many people we meet have said they thought permaculture would be too difficult to understand and implement but after it is explained to them they realise they are already doing permaculture. As Aranya states in The Basics of Permaculture Design, "You're already a designer. Every time you make a meal, or rearrange your furniture, you're designing."
This is how transition helps bring permaculture into the foreground. It seems society takes action against unemployment and the closure of local businesses rather than the protection of the environment, so perhaps this is the best way to get people involved. Start them off with improving their own lives and their communities and in turn these actions could protect the planet. All these actions are already aspects of design, whether conciously or not.
I love how transition brings communities together, creating local jobs, locally sourced food and local businesses. It focusses on putting money into the local economy and improving the community as a whole. Rob shared some inspirational examples that really showed communities working together.
For example, in Fujino, Japan, a group of people created a solar panel company after visiting local communities that had been affected by the tsunami, bringing them 'light' in the form of solar panels for the yearly Light Festival. Now there are 40 similar electricity companies across the country. In Brazil, transition has provided empowerment for women and social justic. In Tooting, South London, an organised carnival was nearly cancelled due to the last minute request by the council for a license. To get around this, the carnival could be a demonstration but this would mean paying a huge amount for the policing. The police volunteered to pay and 8,000 people came to watch while local restaurants fed 1,000 for free at the end: an amazing community effort.
Stories like this show the power of small actions and how they can turn into something huge and life changing. This reflects a permaculture principle of starting small.
Hearing that transition projects span over 43 countries, has given me hope. I hope this is a way to make permaculture and our message more accessible.
Rozie Apps is assistant editor for Permaculture magazine - practical solutions for self reliance.
A rather unfortunate title for this article. "Trojan horse" is a pejorative. A Trojan horse is a trick, and what comes out of it is the enemy. A more neutral word like "carrier" perhaps?