The way to love is to love many things.

  (Vincent Van Gogh)

Many of us strive to uncover, cultivate and challenge what we think is our own practical, organic view of the world which integrates individual, social and  environmental perspectives.

Here you will find fragments of those practical questions, concrete issues and conceptual challenges which intrigue me and are part of this flowing discovery process. From a ruthless criticism of economic growth to small-scale food production, from the tension between creativity and productivity to the feasibility of a 24-hour working week, from outdoor education to de Broglie-Bohm theory. 

Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in discussing or sharing ideas, projects, solutions about any of the aspects you will find here.

Sections (click to open)

 
Forest Gardening

In the words of Martin Crawford, a forest garden is a designed agronomic system based on trees, shrubs and perennial plants. These are mixed in such a way as to mimic the structure of a natural forest – the most stable and sustainable type of ecosystem in this climate.

Here I have collected some informative and inspirational material on Forest Gardening, from articles and web pages to videos and interviews.

 
Post-Growth solutions

Economic growth has, so far, always shown to be incompatible with ecological constraints [1, ch.1]; it has a negative impact on biodiversity and carbon emissions, it increases inequality within and between countries [2]  and in rich countries it is uncorrelated to well-being and human development [3]. 
 

Meanwhile, climate change doesn't leave us much time to act on this issues [4], and radical movements [5], academics and scientists [6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11], activists [12] are pushing instances of criticism against capitalism and neo-liberal policies.

Governments continue to subsidise fossil fuels and some public figures put huge faith in decarbonizing the economy through research and development in renewables [13], without limiting energy consumption nor growth.

Countries like Bhutan and Costa Rica show that indicators of wellbeing can be completely decoupled from GDP growth and CO2 emissions [14]. 

A top-down solution to this predicament is difficult and isn't in any political agenda, as economic growth is seen as necessary to avoid collapse in capitalistic systems [15]. The alternative is to claim that decoupling is the solution [16].

However, decoupling material environmental impact and economic growth by exploiting efficiency has proved to be unrealistic [1, ch.5]: the scale of the economies grows quicker than the efficiency of the productive system. 

Existent degrowth and steady-state models seem unstable and unpopular in the current set of conditions [1, 17]; bottom-up approaches such as simple living [18, 19] are considered utopia [20].


As Tim Jackson puts it - "this is a story of us: being persuaded to spend money we don't have, on things we don't need, to create impressions that won't last, on people we don't care about, or - worse still - who don't care about us."

I always wondered why somebody doesn't do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody. (Lily Tomlin)

In this section you will find ideas, fragments, suggestions and directions of a diverse and multi-disciplinary nature - that all pose the same question: how much is enough?

Additional references: 

- Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth

- Limits to growth, Donella Meadows et al

A Good Life For All Within Planetary Boundaries, D. O'Neill et al

Short reads:

Some starting points:

  • The 'Do More' attitude
    An engaging, up-to-date, well researched review of degrowth ideas by Lou Foglia. With inputs from S. Alexander, G. Kallis, S. Paulson.
     

  • Greta Thunberg's speech at COP24
    On 12 December 2018, Thunberg again addressed the United Nations climate change summit plenary assembly with a powerful statement.
     

  • Prosperity without growth
    Tim Jackson's book is a great place to see why economic growth presents immense challenges and should be abandoned. Jackson's work is rigorous and well referenced.
     

  • The economics of enough
    Dan O'Neill TED talk in Oxford, suggesting Steady-state economy solutions and alternative ways to measure progress.
     

  • Simplicity institute
    Simple living is one of the most fascinating solutions to the post-growth dilemma. The SI envisions and defends a ‘simpler way’ of life at a time when the old myths of progress, techno-optimism, and affluence are failing us.

Books:
 

 
No-Dig Gardening

Growing one's own food is a simple and yet multifaceted action. I grow vegetables, fruit, herbs and harvest, cook, dry, store, share them. Above all, it is great fun; it also connects me directly with my main energy source. ​Growing food not only gives me the freedom of choosing what I want to eat, but also the chance to cut many intermediate steps in the chain that goes from solar energy to human thriving. It exposes me to the stunning complexity and organisation of the natural world. It teaches me how the biosphere works, how I work and what I am made of.

​Most importantly, though, working the land gives us the opportunity to live not only sustainably, but regeneratively.

 

Over the years, my partner Flavia and I have had the fortune to learn and practice several approaches to tending the soil. Thanks to Charles Dowding and Richard Perkins we discovered the art of not digging, thus regenerating microbial, fungal and bacterial life in the soil, while re-cycling animal and vegetal waste to create fertility.

I am incredulous at how little importance is assigned to the ecological and practical aspects of food: in education, as well as in private and public life. Much visibility is given to the impacts of diets on the climate. But very little is said about how soil management is the root of the problem, and not the actual consumption of this or that item. 

 

Conventional and traditional organic agriculture are degenerative practices [1]. They rely on cultivation, fertilisation, targeted weed and pest control and destroy the soil food web that creates fertility in natural, undisturbed soils. 

In natural ecosystems, decaying surface material feeds soil microbiology and fertility is generated  by the soil food web’s work [2], without need for plant-targeted inputs. It is believed by some that this is the natural consequence of mobile grazing by large herds of herbivores [3]

In the absence of livestock, a similar ecological result can be achieved in a no-dig market garden by importing organic matter (composted wood, animal manures, etc.). This is used as surface mulch, avoiding all cultivation, and removes the need for weeding and fertilising.

  

Resources

 

Charles Dowding's wealth of resources is available via YouTube, and I could not recommend his videos enough. He has also written books and has an informative website. In addition to these, I have listed some books which have contributed to my No-Dig education:

This technique recognizes that micro- and macro-biotic organisms constitute a "food web" community in the soil, necessary for the healthy cycling of nutrients and prevention of problematic organisms and diseases. The plants transfer a portion of the energy they produce to the soil, and microbes that benefit from this energy in turn convert available organic substances in the soil to the mineral elements the plants need to thrive.

A book titled "Do Nothing Farming", by Fukuoka, traced the first steps into this simple yet until recently unfathomable idea. Fukuoka has been a long undoubtable source of inspiration for the Permaculture movement. Some also suggest F.C. King and A.West as pioneers of the method in the U.K. in the 1940's.

My personal inspiration was Charles Dowding, who has been practising no dig in his market gardens, on areas ranging from a quarter to seven acres. His methods centre on using compost as a mulch, rather than unrotted organic matter. This discourages pests (slugs in particular), enhances mycorrhizal fungi's activity, improves structure and thus moisture and heat retention in the soil. Furthermore, it makes gardening easy, fun and accessible without the "mythical" amount of hard, heavy physical work that is often called upon to disqualify gardening as an enjoyable activity. 

More recently, the ground-breaking work of Richard Perkins has inspired me by showing how no-dig food production can be implemented in an integrated small-scale farm system, alongside planned grazing of livestock, laying hens, mushroom growing and landscape regeneration.