A Climate of Emergence

February 14, 2020

A version of this article originally appeared in Permaculture Works, adaptation issue. Permaculture Works is the membership journal of the Permaculture Association – one of the many benefits of membership.

A combination of forces has now brought the ‘climate emergency’ to mass public attention. Banks, corporations and governments are climbing on board daily as I write, lining up to fight the War on Carbon.

Suddenly, we find ourselves in a situation, where moments ago ecological concerns were sidelined and now it’s official: there is an emergency; “our house is on fire”. How do we adapt to this change?

Hear the language of the emergency? Is it to galvanise progressive change or engender fear? I’ve been in a few emergencies. I’ve even been in a house on fire. Clear thinking and quick strategic action were required. Fear and panic are highly contagious and are not helpful in an emergency. I’m noticing even committed permies around me are doubting whether our methods and principles are enough to avert catastrophe.

For some years, within climate negotiations, powerful corporate interests have cited the need to stimulate an emergency through social media to release huge public investment for their solutions and to create new markets.1 For campaigners, it makes sense to be aware of the policies and ecologically disastrous technologies on the negotiating table to achieve a zero-carbon world by 2025. Many proposals for the Beijing summit in 2019 were the polar opposite to the work the permaculture movement is committed to.

So, how are we to adapt to a ‘climate emergency’ in the face of such overwhelming forces? A key permaculture attitude of turning a problem into a solution seems useful. Rising awareness is germinating a climate of emergence, a new sensitivity to ecological crises, which insists on new ways of doing everything, very fast. With social media and television flooded by the issues, many people are awakening to the fragility of our life support systems and may be unaware of existing viable solutions. Let’s work with this edge, help people to adapt and not panic. Clear thinking, discernment and strategic action. The kind of designing and creating we’ve all been doing.

Nationally, CTRLshift is connecting up many like-minded groups, working hard to form a co-ordinated policy voice. It’s making an impressive leap towards integrating hundreds of grassroots groups into an effective ecosystem, strengthening the social mycelia that can support an alternative system at scale.

Closer to home, keep talking to people, strengthening a clear vision (a 2020 Vision!). Imagining the possibility of a route out of this crisis and that another world is possible, is vital to designing it and overcoming despair. Encourage people to engage in local projects that work practically towards positive outcomes. Within ourselves, stay centred and connected to the living earth all around us.

In an era of fake news and a context of a multi-trillion dollar market being created, interrogate climate strategy and policy. Query how will it create thrival for people and ecosystems? Ask who profits? I don’t know what complex processes that feedback over millennia will do in the future, although I do know that permaculture works.


Jasmine Dale

Jasmine teaches and practices permaculture in West Wales. She is deeply inspired by the intelligence and enthusiasm of plants and ecosystems to thrive in relationship with human care and attention. Her practical workbook, the Permaculture Design Companion is available from www.beingsomewhere.net and shop.permaculture.co.uk.

Tags: climate emergency, permaculture, Solutions