Permaculture Blog

Fording the floodwater with fingers crossed…

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We're making a risky crossing...Last weekend, on my way to teaching one of my weekends-based permaculture design courses, I was offered a leap of faith. It had rained heavily the night before, so I encountered areas of flooding on the first half of my journey which I carefully negotiated. It all seemed manageable, but then I came across the big one…

Ahead of me lay about 150 metres of road flooded by a river; one which normally flowed several feet below, under a bridge. How deep was it? Thankfully I had a guide; a 4×4 driver was fording from the other direction. It looked touch & go, but I wasn’t sure there would be any way around & 25 people were going to be waiting for me…

I decided to plunge in. My car is a diesel, which I figured made her a bit less vulnerable to the flood water, but how much depth could she cope with? Of course once committed, there really isn’t any way back. It was only then that I pondered such things as ‘what about the exhaust?‘. I guessed that moving forwards & the pressure of gases through the exhaust would keep the water out, but what if she stalled? And if she did, how long before the interior flooded? I began pondering the bravery of my decision to not purchase breakdown cover ~ one based upon me always being in the right place with the right information & tools whenever a problem had occurred in the past. At this point though, it seemed courageous, but crazy!

I couldn’t tell if the headlights were now above the water or not. Luckily I didn’t need them ~ imagine driving into this in the dark! I started to feel blessed… While I couldn’t see the road itself, hedges either side clearly marked the road ~ more guidance… And Lucy (yes, my car has a name), was doing fine.

The fording seemed to take forever, but eventually we made it & my students were very pleased to see me. Would I in retrospect do it again? I’ve certainly had plenty of opportunity to ponder what might have gone wrong, if the water had got deeper, the engine cut out, the car flooded (I had all my precious teaching notes & equipment with me). But that didn’t happen, we made it.

It could easily happen here...And I’d like to think that we’ll collectively be able to do the same with the difficult crossing we are making through peak oil & global warming. Many of us are living in very vulnerable circumstances & I don’t just mean in the two-thirds world. In the UK, 92% of us live in urban areas & are mostly dependent upon supermarkets for our food supply. When we’ve had fuel shortages, some shops came within a day of running out of food. New Orleans offered us a picture of a possible future for us all, with daily queues outside empty shops. When most of us have no idea how to grow or forage for our own food, or even have somewhere to grow it if we did, that’s a risky crossing.

Having made that little journey, I have hope for what we can achieve. We have the tools & technologies to enable the necessary re-skilling we need. Permaculture is one such gift ~ developed during the oil crisis of the 1970s, it has a lot to offer us now that we face rising fuel prices again. For millennia, humans have made the vulnerable journey through the cold winter months, so we certainly have the adaptability we need. The real danger we face is our lack of awareness. Metaphorically, we spend our comfortable lives in the luxurious interiors of our cars, distracted from the rising flood waters outside. We need to notice the danger & take action before we are swept away.

Foolish choices have led us into making this risky crossing, but now that we are on our way, we need to use our courage & our ingenuity to get safely to the other side. I know we can do it…

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