If we want to see permaculture design embedded throughout society, we need to think more holistically than food growing, low-impact housing and renewable energy. We also need a cultural narrative that empowers society to embrace those things in the first place.
The media would seem a good place to start. Fear and unease now characterise much of what we read or see on television, and the price we pay for this is arguably as great as the damage our industrial, capitalist system has inflicted on the earth. A toxicity flows through many of the stories we consume, closing our minds and hearts, limiting the future that we can imagine and create.
Of course, the media must reflect the good and the bad, the very impermanence and diversity of life from which permaculture design takes its inspiration. But we can choose the lens through which we view this, believes Seán Dagan Wood, editor-in-chief of Positive News, which publishes ‘constructive’ journalism.
“As society’s biggest storytelling machine, the media has a powerful impact on shaping our shared story of human nature, of what kind of world we live in and what’s possible,” says Wood.
As we choose to mimic nature in our gardens, homes and communities, in our media we can also shift our attention to what nourishes life, he says.
“With a permaculture approach, the media could choose to more consciously frame information with an intention to benefit the whole. In practice, this would mean continuing to highlight problems but also taking a solutions-focused approach so that people are left more inspired and less cynical. By changing the cultural narrative, this would offer a more fertile ground for people to create a flourishing world.”
Positive News, which came to life on a kitchen table in rural Shropshire 22 years ago, is now becoming a co-operative owned by its readers and journalists. Creating a structure to match the ethos of its journalism, it is a more democratic model at a time of increased concentration of media ownership.
During a 30-day crowdfunding campaign, people can become co-owners by investing in its £200,000 community share offer, which will raise the funds to grow its impact. All co-owners will have an equal vote on things such as electing the board, giving them a say in how the publication evolves.
At the heart of the new co-operative will be the Positive News Charter, a document setting out its journalistic principles and operating methods, such as collaboration and working for social benefit.
“Our charter has an emphasis on 'ecosystem thinking',” says Wood, “which means we intend to find the niche and appropriate scale where we can best contribute to society, rather than simply growing as big as possible. For example, we will focus on underreported positive stories that are difficult to find elsewhere, while also acting as a hub for inspiring journalism from other publications. And we will also deliver constructive journalism training to other media.”
Mark Boyle, author of The Moneyless Manifesto, is among the 650 new co-owners who have so far collectively invested £132,000.
“I’ve joined Positive News as a co-owner because I’ve had enough of rich and powerful media moguls controlling our cultural narratives and political and economic realities,” he said.
“The media does not have to be the way it is today, run by people with agendas that do not serve us, advertising products that harm us on many levels, and packed full of news that give us a very unbalanced and depressing view of the world that surrounds us.”
As Permaculture magazine does, the Positive News team wants to carry stories that can serve as templates for a more beautiful world. If the psychological equivalent of our biological capital is our thoughts and attention, then we have to turn away from those who want to dictate our future, and reclaim our story. In doing so we can water the seeds of possibility, of our own true natures, and of our deep-rooted relationships with each other and the Earth.
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