Climate change, global warming or the climate crisis - whichever name you prefer- and let’s not forget biodiversity loss - is surely the defining issue of our times. While the news tends to focus on the problems created by climate change (when it isn’t outright avoided) there are plenty of solutions. To help you get started we’ve made a list of 6 ways you can take action on climate change and biodiversity loss. Including permaculture design, of course.
1. Reduce your reliance on fossil fuels
An obvious one, but reducing reliance on fossil fuels is really one of the key things we can all do. Whether that’s using less energy at home or installing renewable energy systems, cycling, walking or taking public transport. We can, divest our pensions, investments and savings from banks and enterprises that invest in and encourage fossil fuel use and invest with banks and enterprises that align with our values. We can also, reduce our consumption of fossil fuel dependent foods, clothes, tools and materials and switch to organically and/or locally produced products as well as avoid products containing petroleum (check your beauty, cleaning and hardware products, inks and packaging). The thing to remember is take one step at a time. Our whole system relies on fossil fuels so it’s difficult to do all these things at once. Thinking small and slow is the key.
2. Shop and live local
While it’s not easy or necessarily desirable to source absolutely everything locally, the more we do the more resilient we can make both our social and economic systems. What’s social and economic resilience got to do with global warming and biodiversity loss? Well everything really. We need diverse systems with multiple connections to be able to survive, something our current economic and socio-political model reduces and inhibits. When we choose local we increase support for a diversity of enterprises, products, seeds and soils.
Local products made by local people might at first appear more expensive, but each £1 spent with a local supplier is worth £1.76 to the local economy1, as opposed to to just 36p if spent in a chain or larger business2. So spending local creates positive feedback loops. It also brings the negative effects of our current systems closer to home. If they’re easier to see and we experience the direct impact of them we’re more likely to change negative practices and continue positive ones. Additionally, when we can create local systems with short chains we improve our ability to respond to this change. It’s far easier to lobby a local business than a cooperate conglomerate. Which brings us on to No. 3.
3. Get Political
The environment is a political issue, as are our social and economic problems. While our current political system is far from perfect we can observe how it works and choose ways to interact that will help us create the changes we want to see. Getting political doesn’t mean you have to join a political party, though that is an option. There are many different ways to do so, whether that’s asking questions at local surgeries, council meetings, or joining or creating a local campaign. You can use your skills and your voice to get important issues on the political agenda. If you consider yourself more of an introvert or speaking up isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of work that goes on behind the scenes. Environmental, social and political groups are always looking for people to write, help with admin, create images and plenty more.
4. Reduce your food (and other) waste
Contrary to popular belief there’s currently enough food on this planet to feed everyone3 and while people in some parts of the world go hungry, over a 1/3 of food fit for human consumption is lost or wasted globally4. Food waste is said to be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the USA and China and contributes toward biodiversity loss5. While the reasons behind these issues are fairly complicated there’s something simple we can do in our own homes. Reduce our food waste. Here in the UK 5 million tonnes of edible food is wasted in our homes each year6. Some simple meal planning, correct storage and preservation methods can go a long way in alleviating this problem.
It’s also important to think about other forms of waste, including plastic found in our clothes, inedible food waste, packaging, and waste water. There’s really no such thing as waste as it all has to go somewhere. Examples of solutions are using grey water to irrigate house and garden plants, composting inedible food waste, and reducing our reliance on packaged goods. If you can’t think of a reuse for something you’re purchasing, and it can’t be reduced to compost, then try to use alternatives wherever possible.
5. Take a Permaculture Design Course
As you are on the Learn Permaculture website, this is perhaps an obvious one, but it really is one of the best ways to learn about positive steps you can take and how to design solutions unique to you situation. Whether you’re a city-dweller or living in the country, or somewhere in between, permaculture can help you formulate solutions. It offers you tools to connect environmental and social issues in a way that fits with your personal circumstances, skills and abilities. We can all create remarkable positive change given the right environment, support and tools and a permaculture course will help you design and implement the changes most suitable to your situation. There’s also incredible power in sharing a space with people who are on a similar mission to you. The mutual support I see on permaculture courses shows how much positive energy and connections are made around what can often be overwhelming issues, and if you’ve already completed a course, get designing!
6. Think in Systems
And last, but certainly not least, systems thinking. This method of thinking is in direct contrast to the way our current industrial society is set-up, which is very linear in its approach. Plastic waste being a prime example. Plastic is produced, maybe re-used, then re-cycled, but each time the quality is reduced. Eventually it can no longer be used and is sent to the incinerator or stored in landfill. A systems approach would potentially favour materials that could be composted and therefore return to nourish the soil, creating a more circular or spiral approach. And while we can’t change the economic, political and social system from our homes, thinking about the consequences of the decisions we make will go a long way.
Applying the permaculture design principles will help you think systemically, as will asking questions of our choices. For example, is reducing meat consumption in favour of soya from an opaque supply chain a good idea if that soya could have been produced on deforested land? Is purchasing renewable energy a good idea if the land used to build the wind-farms on has been taken from indigenous peoples? Is it ok to work for an environmentally unjust company but use the profits for good? Is purchasing a locally-made bag better than supporting a social-enterprise making a similar product in a poorer area?
I can’t answer any of these questions for you, it will come down to your own personal motivations, values and vision. What I can encourage you to do is ask questions and explore the relationships between social, economic, environmental and political issues. As well as be kind to yourself. We can’t change all the things that are contributing to the circumstances we currently find ourselves in. Find the things that are easy to take action on now and start there. If you are looking for some practical ideas the Permaculture Associations 52 climate actions is a great place to start. Ultimately none of the decisions you make or solutions you implement will be perfect and that’s the whole point of the design cycle process. We observe the changes we’ve made, reflect on them, re-design and implement again, slowly making changes and tweaks along the way.
(LM3, 2019) Local Multiplier 3 www.lm3online.com/about