Demystifying farm carbon offsetting: three watch-outs for farmers

This piece was first posted here on the FCT website. There’s a rise in farmers and landowners interested in getting paid for carbon sequestration. Yet in the UK, an absence of robust guidance, protocols and industry experience makes this space feel like the “wild west”. Farmers are at risk of being misled, while NGOs and… Continue reading Demystifying farm carbon offsetting: three watch-outs for farmers

Rebuilding the food system: who do we engage with for a just transition?

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ― Buckminster Fuller This alluring quote from the American inventor and visionary Buckminster Fuller has sat uneasy with me in recent years. In 2017, I went from managing a progressive, community-owned food enterprise… Continue reading Rebuilding the food system: who do we engage with for a just transition?

Eigg Time

It’s morning and gusts of wind beat against our off-grid, timber bothy. We can hear the wind bellowing down the chimney stack, causing puffs of smoke to burst out of the wood burner as we fire it up. It’s been raining on and off for days. I found a telescope and from our bothy I… Continue reading Eigg Time

Climate breakdown, neoliberalism and wild futures for farming

Preamble: this piece contains some disparate threads of thinking going on this week for me, on climate breakdown, capitalism, ferming and farming.  Eco-curmudgeon My recently-departed colleague Iain Watt, who amusingly, possibly accurately, describes himself as “eco-curmudgeon” on twitter, gave a presentation about climate change in our workplace before Christmas. Since then, I keep thinking about… Continue reading Climate breakdown, neoliberalism and wild futures for farming

Eight questions for the regenerative agriculture movement

Farm machines harvesting corn in Midwest, September, aerial view.

Following my recent blog exploring the opportunity that regenerative agriculture offers as a shared ambition for the food and farming sector, here, I share eight questions I’m currently holding about regenerative agriculture. A little context. In addition to my work at sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future, I’m excited to be doing a Nuffield Farming… Continue reading Eight questions for the regenerative agriculture movement

Regenerative agriculture: a shared ambition for the supply chain?

This blog was first published on the Forum for the Future website. I’m reposting a slightly edited version here. There’s excitement and hope stirring around regenerative agriculture with many organisations putting it into their strategies. So what is regenerative agriculture and could it offer a shared ambition for the food and farming sector? This is… Continue reading Regenerative agriculture: a shared ambition for the supply chain?

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While living through unprecedented losses of wildlife, Knepp offers us hope

This piece also appears on Ecohustler right here. The announcement of newborn Royalty this week quickly displaced a stark headline that reminded us about the unprecedented destruction of wildlife happening today. The latest global assessment, the most comprehensive to date, found that one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction within decades. Inextricably… Continue reading While living through unprecedented losses of wildlife, Knepp offers us hope

Traversing the Cuillin Ridge

The Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye is one of Britain’s greatest mountaineering challenges. It involves 4,000 meters of ascent and descent along 12km of continuous Alpine terrain, where weather conditions can turn quickly, scuppering the chances of a successful traverse. With this in mind, I approached this expedition with some trepidation, especially with… Continue reading Traversing the Cuillin Ridge

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Mindsets for changing systems

Many of the global challenges we face are highly complex and intractable. They can often feel daunting, frustrating and require mountains of patience to work on. The practice of systems thinking offers a way to understand and start tackling these challenges. Some academics talk about the most difficult challenges as being “super wicked” problems because: The… Continue reading Mindsets for changing systems

How It Ends: Another Incomplete Timeline Of Events

Okay, this piece might be a bit gloomy for some, but writing it was strangely therapeutic. It’s inspired and provoked by Debbie Urbanski’s An Incomplete Timeline of What We Tried. A rough timeline of notable moments, told from the future, in reverse order. Here we go: Small pockets of human settlements endure, connected via primitive… Continue reading How It Ends: Another Incomplete Timeline Of Events

Part II: Current Action on Feed Sustainability

drained water alga fibers close up - abstract background. extreamly blurry look

This blog is reposted – it was first published on Forum for the Future’s website. This is the second of a three-part blog series on the Path to a Better Animal Feed System. In the last blog, I outlined why action on animal feed sustainability is urgent and gave a sense of the future direction for monogastric and ruminant… Continue reading Part II: Current Action on Feed Sustainability

The Alphabet of the Heart

I recently read “Into the Magic Shop” by James Doty MD, a neurosurgeon and professor at Stanford University. It was his story of growing up in the high desert of California, faced with the hardship of being from a poor family, with a depressed mother and alcoholic father. One day he walked into a magic… Continue reading The Alphabet of the Heart

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Christmas reflections, preparing for 2019

My new year resolutions often include an ambition to write more. This year, I’m keen to write shorter, more regular reflections on what I’m learning. Even if they are rough and perhaps unresolved thoughts. My current work and colleagues at Forum for the Future provide me with so much interesting sustainability fodder that I’ve been… Continue reading Christmas reflections, preparing for 2019

Leaving BedZED

A version of this blog post appears here on Bioregional’s website. On a crisp, early morning a few weeks ago, I took a final stroll around BedZED, my home for the last four years. I’m excited to be moving to the Dorset coast. Yet there are many things I’ll miss about living here and it’s… Continue reading Leaving BedZED

Agroforestry: where trees, farming and biodiversity get together

This summer I’ve taken the opportunity to learn more about agroforestry. In August I spent a day at Wakelyns Agroforestry Farm in Suffolk with the UK Agroforestry Network, hearing from a variety of UK projects. Then in September, an agroforestry weekend course with Professor Martin Wolfe, hosted by Huxhams Cross Farm in Dartington. Over the… Continue reading Agroforestry: where trees, farming and biodiversity get together

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Here come the robots: precision and regenerative farming

On the horizon, a revolution in farming technologies promises to transform the ways in which we produce our food. This shift can dramatically reduce the volume of chemical inputs used and if we get it right, supports a transition towards a more regenerative approach to farming: one that builds healthier soils and increases biodiversity. The… Continue reading Here come the robots: precision and regenerative farming

Ethiopia Travel Notes Part II: The Simeon Mountains

The town of Debark rests at the foot of the Simien Mountain range, a Unesco World Heritage Site in northern Ethiopia that’s marked by steep cliffs and breathtaking canyon-style gorges. We’re going trekking for four days and this is where we meet our guide and our rather elaborate support team. Hiring a guide feels luxurious… Continue reading Ethiopia Travel Notes Part II: The Simeon Mountains

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Meall a’ Bhuachaille

It was our last day in the Cairngorms. The mountain weather report looked bleak: frequent showers and the chances of a cloud free Munro below 20%. We woke in our wild camping spot by Loch Morlich, had breakfast then went for a swim, following the 1.5km route suggested by some swimmers we met the evening… Continue reading Meall a’ Bhuachaille

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Sustainable Intensification

This is an essay about sustainable intensification, a goal in farming whereby yields are increased without causing harm to the environment or cultivating more land. It’s one of many approaches that will help secure food for our future generations. The essay explores its potential role and is divided into three parts. Part 1 provides some… Continue reading Sustainable Intensification

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Behind the Scenes: Creating an Efficient VegBox Scheme

The two most well-known national VegBox schemes in the UK are Riverford and Abel & Cole. Like freckles dotted in between, there are many smaller box schemes1. These are usually associated with small-scale farms and provide the ideal way for local people to access good quality, super local and seasonal produce from farms on their… Continue reading Behind the Scenes: Creating an Efficient VegBox Scheme

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Hackbridge Ecology Park

Photo courtesy of Lukas Becker

Over the last few years I’ve been working with my neighbours in Hackbridge to try and establish a 25 hectare ecology park on some disused fields, opposite to where I live at BedZED. The park will help connect people to Beddington Farmlands (a 400 acre nature reserve) and the wider green corridor of the Wandle Valley Regional… Continue reading Hackbridge Ecology Park

On Trying to Open a Community Farm Shop & Cafe

I recently wrote about my involvement in trying to establish a community-owned ecology park and a community-owned microbrewery. In these projects, I’m working collaboratively with others, aiming to get each project into a position where we can raise investment and employ an experienced manager to drive the project forward. I see my involvement as helping move the project to this… Continue reading On Trying to Open a Community Farm Shop & Cafe

Is it right to put a price on nature?

I’ve just spent a week trekking along Wainwright’s coast-to-coast route, walking the first section from St Bees to Penrith. The walk took us across the vast and stunning landscape of the Lake District, as described in Wordsworth’s poem ‘Daffodils’: I wander’d lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at… Continue reading Is it right to put a price on nature?

Getting to grips with a “super wicked” problem: the future of food and farming

“Nothing less is required than a redesign of the whole food system to bring sustainability to the fore”. Foresight: The Future of Food and Farming, 2011 The abundance of food lining our supermarket shelves and providing millions of people with an affordable and reliable food source is a small modern-day miracle. However beyond the glistening… Continue reading Getting to grips with a “super wicked” problem: the future of food and farming

It’s worth it.

We are making incredible discoveries from observing nature every day. Just recently, scientists recorded two dolphins having a conversation for the first time. That’s mindblowing. For all the inspiration and love we feel for our fellow inhabitants, the 2016 ‘State of Nature’ report published today tells us the tragedy that 1 in 10 UK wildlife species faces… Continue reading It’s worth it.

Hiking Sgurr nan Gillean

I’m hoping for a light breeze to clear away the midges. That’s all it takes yet the air remains still and they hover in their millions outside our camper van at the Glen Brittle Campsite. There’s a sadistic type of pleasure in satisfying the itches but I try not to indulge. I feel sorry for… Continue reading Hiking Sgurr nan Gillean

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Glencoe Open Water Swim

Beautiful hillsides and mountains towered over the lightly misted loch as we pulled on our neoprene wetsuits. We were here for the five kilometre Glencoe swim. Due to patchy weather conditions on the days leading up to the event, the swim route had been simplified. Rather than looping around an island on Loch Leven, we… Continue reading Glencoe Open Water Swim

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When the Arctic melts

Will there be no ice at the north pole by the end of this summer? I have a friend who believes this is the year it will happen. Looking at the data and taking into account positive feedback loops, it’s certainly possible. Whether or not it happens this year, when it does happen, the moment… Continue reading When the Arctic melts

Food as a relationship: a reflection on running a community farm

Harvesting courgettes on Sutton Community Farm

For over three years I’ve had the pleasure of managing a beautiful community farm on the edges of south London. It’s been one of the most interesting jobs I’ve had, combining my love of community work with social enterprise. With a heavy heart, I’ve recently decided to leave my job for new pursuits, but before… Continue reading Food as a relationship: a reflection on running a community farm

Finding hope and optimism in a stressed world

We live on a planet under great stresses. Collectively, we are struggling to look after each other and the natural world we depend upon. Many of the environmental and social trends suggest we’re in for a tough time ahead. For many of us, we live with an uncomfortable gap between our everyday actions, and the actions required of… Continue reading Finding hope and optimism in a stressed world

A year on the farm 2015

What a year it’s been! So much happens on our farm and these are just a few snippets fro mthe year. This was originally posted on the Sutton Community Farm blog: In the final few days of the 2015 we’ve been having a recap of the wonderful year that’s gone and looking forward to the exciting… Continue reading A year on the farm 2015

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Sowing Seeds in the Desert, reflections on Fukuoka

My mind is often bubbling with enterprising project ideas and I’m grateful to feel so stimulated in life. Ideas spark the most when reading a visionary non-fiction book. I recently read Sowing Seeds in the Desert by Masanobu Fukuoka. It’s one of those books where you feel compelled to write notes as you go along,… Continue reading Sowing Seeds in the Desert, reflections on Fukuoka

Stepping up and looking forward: what next for Sutton Community Farm?

I was recently in an interview pitching for some scale-up funding, when the interviewer asked me “what’s the big vision for the farm?”. She understood perfectly what we do and why we do it, but she was after a sense of our next steps and the scale of our ambitions. So I want to paint… Continue reading Stepping up and looking forward: what next for Sutton Community Farm?

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Are community enterprises easier in the city?

I was recently invited to sit on a panel at an event organised by the Plunkett Foundation, a charity that promotes and supports co-operatives and social enterprises in rural communities. The session explored the similarities and differences of setting up a community enterprise in urban and rural settings and it sparked some interesting dialogue. Presented below… Continue reading Are community enterprises easier in the city?

Petition to compensite the illegal destruction of trees

I visited a project called the Tent of Nations earlier this year on a trip to the Israel and Palestine and met members of the family there that have lived on this beautiful land for over 100 years, with ownership papers dating back to the Ottoman Empire. They are an inspiring, peaceful family that run an… Continue reading Petition to compensite the illegal destruction of trees

Sketches of Israel & Palestine: Bethlehem to Nablus via The Dead Sea

Travelling towards the Dead Sea from Bethlehem, we are dropping in altitude. We stop at Sea Level point along the Judean River. The landscape has slowly shifted from green to an arid, dry desert landscape with very few trees. Some shrubs exist and you can see how grass grows in the areas that receive more… Continue reading Sketches of Israel & Palestine: Bethlehem to Nablus via The Dead Sea

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Sketches of Israel & Palestine: Checkpoint 300

It’s 4.30am and I’m in a car park next to checkpoint 300. The wall that overshadows us was erected in 2004 and is considered illegal under international law. It sits 2km within Palestinian territories, as marked by the green line. This checkpoint is the gateway that Palestinians living in Bethlehem must pass through each morning… Continue reading Sketches of Israel & Palestine: Checkpoint 300

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The Borough Common

I’m part of a church community called the Borough Common that meets every Sunday night. Over the next 6 weeks, we are running sessions that explore the concept of “community”. Last Sunday, people shared their experiences of the community and this prompted me to write a bit about mine. So here’s a bit about my church:  We… Continue reading The Borough Common

London to Berlin: weighing up the transport impacts

I’m heading to Berlin later this year with a friend and we’re discussing our transport options. The default choice for most folks is to fly. However, I’m a complicated case because around 2005 I started getting all concerned about the environment and made a pledge to fly as little as possible in my life. At the… Continue reading London to Berlin: weighing up the transport impacts

Does our farm sell the sizzle?

I spent this morning in the offices of sustainability communications agency Futerra, for some media and communications training; one of the perks of being part of the London Leader’s programme .  When I was working as a sustainability consultant at BioRegional, Futerra’s reports on communicating sustainability were like little presents from heaven. They taught me many important lessons about… Continue reading Does our farm sell the sizzle?

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Reimagining Economics

I wanted to start my revitalised blog by writing about some of my work interests. This post is all about our footprinting, economics and decision making. It’s some loose thoughts I’ve been playing with.  I’m interested in the question of how we can shape our economy to achieve a better harmony between our ecological, social… Continue reading Reimagining Economics

Passion #3: Sustainable Energy

I’m starting this blog by writing about 5 passions. An introduction, if you will, to some of the things I think about. This one is about energy: In 2008 I completed an MSc in Sustainable Energy and the Environment at Cardiff University. For my MSc thesis I worked with a recycling company to investigate the… Continue reading Passion #3: Sustainable Energy

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Passion #2: Permaculture

I wanted to start my revived blog by writing about 5 passions in my life. This one is about permaculture: Permaculture has given me a new lens to look at land and design – a lens that has renewed my hope for our future. I was introduced to permaculture in December 2011 while I was living… Continue reading Passion #2: Permaculture

5 minute talk on local food

The London Leaders programme is run by the London Sustainable Development Commission. It’s all about demonstrating the power of leadership and innovation in tackling the sustainability challenges inherent in global cities such as London. I was recently very honoured to be chosen as a London Leader and this programme is supporting me with training and mentoring… Continue reading 5 minute talk on local food

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Passion #1: Local food

I’m starting my new blog by writing about 5 passions in my life. Each one capturing some thoughts on the subject, which will inevitably be shaped as time goes by. This one is all about Local Food: Sitting down with family, friends and neighbours to share a meal cooked with fresh, local ingredients is a… Continue reading Passion #1: Local food

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Inviting nature into our cities

In our climate, the climax vegetation is woodland or forest. This is the natural tendency of land if you allow it to truly express itself. Over time, a field will eventually transform into something vibrant and diverse, with plants working in harmony with a variety of wildlife to create a new balanced ecosystem. Walking through… Continue reading Inviting nature into our cities

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Kitengela glass

For my last day in Kenya I headed to Kitengela glass, a quirky art site in the middle of some dusty open plains south of Nairobi. Dotted along the driveway are statues popping over the stone walls, a few camels and some gloriously fat pigs. We walked into the main glass blowing house, a sort… Continue reading Kitengela glass

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L’Esparance, Rwanda

Soon Rwanda may be a country with no orphans. A claim the government will make once it has completed a programme that will close all the orphanages and relocate the children into the homes of relatives. In theory, having children living with families rather than in institutions seems a good move but in practice, is… Continue reading L’Esparance, Rwanda

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Bringing electricity to fishing communities on Lake Victoria

Dotted around the shores of Lake Victoria are hundreds of villages that depend on fishing. As night falls, thousands of fisherman row out on boats to catch omena, nile perch and tilapia. The lake lights up like a city, as a thousand paraffin lamps flicker through the night, attracting omena fish (silver cyprinid) to the… Continue reading Bringing electricity to fishing communities on Lake Victoria

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Living in a doughnut

A few years ago, the Stockholm Environment Institute released a paper on planetary boundaries. I failed to rouse much interest from friends about the paper, but it had me tremendously excited. It provided me with a much needed framework to describe how climate change isn’t the only major threat of our lifetimes, there are several others and… Continue reading Living in a doughnut

Finding water

Last night I watched a documentary from the incredible series Human Planet. It focused on the ingenious and astonishing lengths people go to in order to have access to water. From community traditions found in the Sahara including Algerian tunnellers that tap into ancient water networks, to fog harvesting in the Atacama desert in Chile,… Continue reading Finding water

Low-tech drip irrigation

We’ve been planting trees in the field around the access:energy workshop. Four moringa (moringa arborea) and a mango tree. To save us having to water the plants each day, my colleague Caleb suggested we use glass bottles to do it for us. After digging a small hole next to the plant, you fill it with water.… Continue reading Low-tech drip irrigation

The spirit that moves through all things

Slow it. Spread it. Sink it… is the recurring principle for water management on land. So down the slope of a hill, you can apply this using dams, swales, plants, aquaculture, rainwater harvesting, shallow wells, mulching, animals drinking water, greywater systems and the soil itself, which when healthy is excellent at water retention. During class, we took… Continue reading The spirit that moves through all things

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Permaculture: Methods of Design

“Permaculture emphasises the pattern of landscape, function and species assembly”. I’m a few days into a permcaulture design course and we’re really getting into it now. The theme of the day is Methods of Design. Here’s a summary of the processes often followed. 1) MAPPING When getting down to a design, the first step is… Continue reading Permaculture: Methods of Design

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Permaculture Day 1

Warren Brush, Permaculture Teacher

I’m finding that permaculture lacks an easy elevator pitch. Describing it in 15 seconds is challenging, but possible. In short, some people say it’s a “conscious design science”. That’s a start, but it’s still a little vague. For now, I’d probably explain permaculture as the design of communities so that they can live healthy lifestyles,… Continue reading Permaculture Day 1

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Hell’s Gate, Lake Naivasha

Notes from a weekend trip to Hell’s Gate, Lake Naivasha, November 2011.  On Saturday we awoke at sunrise and cycled from Fisherman’s Camp to the park, through rolling hills past the enormous, intensive, under-cover, flower farms. It was roughly 12km to the park and we entered through the Ol Karia gate where there lies an expansive network… Continue reading Hell’s Gate, Lake Naivasha

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Stammering awareness in Kenya

Last Saturday, it was International Stammering Awareness Day. It would have undoubtedly passed my radar if it wasn’t for meeting Jonathan, a speech therapist I met a week ago in Kisumu. Jonathan is one of about four speech therapists in western Kenya. He works in schools in the local area, helping children to overcome difficulties… Continue reading Stammering awareness in Kenya

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What can we learn from M-Pesa?

One of the interesting technology revolutions that’s happened here in Kenya is mobile banking. M-Pesa, (M for mobile, and pesa means money in Swahili) is a service that you set up on your phone, enabling you to pay for things by text message. After topping up your M-Pesa account, you can easily pay friends, bills… Continue reading What can we learn from M-Pesa?

Rusinga Island: renewable energy assessment

I’ve spent the last few days on Rusinga Island, situated on Lake Victoria at the mouth of the Winam Gulf. We (access:energy) had been invited by the Village Vocations Programme (VVP) to conduct a site assessment for some potential renewable energy installations with a view to helping communities have more affordable electricity and less reliance on firewood. The… Continue reading Rusinga Island: renewable energy assessment

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The 3 Peaks (London Version)

The idea started as a six peak challenge. Rather than the real six peaks of Great Britain (potentially fun, but strenuous and costly), we thought about six peaks of London: beautiful places with beautiful views of London. We visited a bunch, mapped them (see here), and ended up choosing three (rather than six, more through… Continue reading The 3 Peaks (London Version)

Choosing not to fly: the costs

As I write this, I’m sitting on a train heading for Berlin. There’s a beautiful sunset and I’m enjoying watching the countryside roll by as I get settled for the night. I’m mainly taking the train rather than flying because of my environmental values. I’m trying to lead a low-carbon lifestyle wherever possible. It’s also… Continue reading Choosing not to fly: the costs

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I want to fall in love…

My friend Richard Watkins is a lovely gentleman who sketches out some of his thoughts onto paper. These sketches, known as Pen Paper Pause, are snippets of interesting ideas, concepts and ponderings about the world around us. Lately he has embarked on another project, called Take it and Run. The idea is to take one of his… Continue reading I want to fall in love…

Happiness at work

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom” – Marcel Proust At work, we have champions for each of the One Planet Living principles and each month we choose one as a theme. With January usually considered the gloomy month, we tried to combat this with Health… Continue reading Happiness at work

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