ECOLOGICAL WISDOM IN THE TIME OF COLLAPSE
Glastonbury Oracle, June 2023
In this uncertain world, governments and economies may not last very much longer; the land and the people have a better chance of survival.
When I have a Friday free I go to Plotgate Community Farm and volunteer to work on the land for the day. Last week I was helping to plant celeriac. Plotgate has its own particular version of a no-dig system: first we stripped the weeds off the vegetable beds; then we loosened the surface of the soil with a hoe; then we used a curious piece of equipment made out of assorted pieces of wood to mark four rows, ten inches apart, from one end to the other of the vegetable bed; then we used a substantially made dibber to push holes into the ground along each row; then we laid the seedlings out next to the holes; and then we planted them into the ground by hand.
The ground had been given a good dose of compost the year before, so it wasn’t required this year. With a gang of six of us, each taking a repetitive task, we planted hundreds of seedlings remarkably quickly – and we had time, as we passed each other along the rows, to snatch a quick bit of conversation between us.
I remarked during one of these brief encounters that this can’t have been very much different from working in a Victorian kitchen garden; but on reflection I don’t think I was right. That would have been too, well, Victorian – “a bunch of teenagers and a grumpy old guy with a beard”. It must actually have been more like working in a small field before anyone had ever invented the plough. The history books tell us that ten thousand years ago all they used were digging sticks, but I reckon they had ingenious yet simple bits of machinery, like Plotgate’s home-made row marker, which does four rows at a time quicker than you could mark one row with a stick.
At lunchtime we had healthy soup and hearty cake, and enjoyed each others’ company.
Which all may sound somewhat insignificant, but I don’t think it is. Jem Bendell’s new book ‘Breaking Together’ is by all accounts both radical and profound, and he’s calling it ‘A freedom-loving response to collapse’. Of course collapse is going to be very uncomfortable, especially in the cities, but bring it on. The book’s message is that modern society has already started collapsing anyway, capitalism will be coming to an end, and the task of the next generations will be to regenerate both nature and culture, together.
I’d like to make a start on it now, and I see people like those at Plotgate as leading the way.