Bioneers Europe Gathering at Findhorn:
Breakthrough solutions for people and planet
Yet again the majesty of nature unfurls a cloak of beautiful dawn colour. The birches are changing into their autumn hues burnishing the landscape with green, coppers and golds. The air is cold and still, only a faint breeze stirs the branches.
We begin our day with a song, our voices harmonising and lifting to hold the land in sacredness.
Galen Fulford, a confessed lover of water, seasoned skinny dipper and director of Biomatrix Water, describes the difficult challenges he is facing developing ecological design and engineering solutions for bioremediation and wastewater treatment in countries like the Phillipines and China.
Our water systems were once the lifeblood of human settlement, yet now, in our megacities they have become the dumping ground for our waste. Galen illustrated how, by using a combination of biology and technology, Biomatrix is bringing dead water systems back to life again. He says, “What is waste? Waste is merely a lack of imagination!” It is heartening to witness how individuals and government are responding to this call to manage our waste responsibly. In partnership with the genius, experience and wisdom of Biomatrix, they are lending brawn to the dream of creating river parklands and green lungs in cities like San Miguel and Ningbo.
Bernd Walter-Muller and Barbara Kovats then shared the solar and dryland restoration projects being developed in Tamera, an ecovillage in southwest Portugal.
Tamera serves as a centre of demonstration, experimenting with natural and renewable technologies to create pathways for others to follow. Bernd says: “There are simple practical solutions to support the healing of our landscapes. It is necessary to dream into the land to see what needs to be done. We have the knowledge to make the change.”
Then Peter Harper of the Centre for Alternative Technology steps up to the plate. “We need a strategic, collaborative vision to meet the needs of future generations.” Zero-Carbon Britain 2030 describes how it is possible to make a shift to alternative energy technologies.
This vision for the UK shares how we can power down by making moderate lifestyle choices between well-being and excess. By using technology only when it is needed and developing electric transport, we power down. In reality this mostly means less flying (a flashback to the capacity of the 1970s) and less consumption of livestock products. We also need to power up by harnessing the vast potential of offshore wind power: “The weather is worth money!” and we will need to form partnerships with our neighbours to manage the variability inherent in these renewable energy systems, by creating an EU supergrid.
The food and land use sector will need to go through a transformation. Much grazing land will become biomass in the form of crops and agro-forestry and we need to look towards building our shelters to incorporate biomass as well. This vision predicts that more people will move out into the countryside and our health will improve by our change in diet. Now this is a scenario worth creating!
Maddy Harland follows with three stories illustrating how the permaculture ethics of earth care, people care and fair share are being used to create change. “In permaculture we use what makes natural systems endure and using these principles we design what is needed.” She speaks of a woodsman, Ben Law, who has learnt to use the forest to supply all his needs. He has created a roundwood building system that captured the imagination of the millions of people in the UK, when his Woodland House appeared on Channel 4’s Grand Designs programme.
Then there is the story being woven in Malawi, a country of 12 million people, exploring the impact of 1.2 million aids orphans. Permaculture principles have been applied to help communities to heal and balance by reviving traditional local plants, valuing indigenous building and farming methods, and offering education in intelligent design to augment common wisdom.
Maddy finally speaks of her story in transformational media, with Permaculture Magazine and Permanent Publications. “We use media and publication to encourage people to live more healthy, self-reliant and ecological sound ways of life.” Permaculture Magazine now reaches 100,000 readers in 77 countries, a fundamental aspect of the emerging global Bioneers movement.
The last treat of the day was time spent with John P Milton, co-founder of Friends of the Earth, a man who merges environmental science with his ancestral Native American roots and the discipline of the martial arts. John has been a powerful initiator, bringing the vision quest of the Native American peoples to the west. He sees the vision quest as a practice that allows individuals the opportunity to connect with the profound sacredness of raw nature.
“The vision quest is a powerful process and an act of communion. It offers each person the gift of earth empowerment and gives us each the vision to source the inspiration and the activity of our lives.” Especially relevant as a rite of passage, the vision quest allows us to see nature as our temple. By using the senses as the bridge to unify our inner and outer natures we can recognise that all of earth’s communities are one great family. His talk closes with a challenge to go into the truth of the wilderness and see what comes up.
On this Samhain, we light a bonfire in the dunes and share tales about this Celtic festival, sharing the quiet breath of this night with the dance of the fire. The day has been rich.