Permaculture Andorra

In January this year (2011), I got a bout of sciatica as a result of lifting weights that I shouldn’t have been. It knocked me off my feet for a month and I still had dizzy spells in March from the muscle relaxants I took from the Doctor. As a result I was totally up for an adventure and saw a small ad in the back of my Permaculture Magazine for someone looking for a Permaculture Teacher in, of all places, Andorra.
I had always been curious about this place, nestling in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, so I replied to the email to find out more. A lady there has a bit of mountainscape she would like to turn into a Permaculture Centre and as I found out more – I got more interested. I will be setting up a website about this project and hope to be visiting in September, but for now I want to put this ‘reply’ where I can find it easily.
Here’s some stuff about me.
I have been working as a social entrepreneur in Cornwall for about 20 years or so. Another proud and independent Celtic race [like the Catalan People] who don’t like ‘interference from outsiders’. I have made some headway here – starting a gardening cooperative, running a community centre and creating a ‘community college’ within it, collecting 60 people together to join in a ‘lets’ scheme with its own currency and some other projects. I was also deputy director of a woodland project near Exeter in the 1980’s, telling a story of the creative process through building ‘places’ in the woodland, funded by the arts council and other private companies. I have also worked with PFAF, (Plants for a Future) who hold a massive database of useful plants on their university based site.
These days I work from home, on the edge of Bodmin Moor, building websites and publishing books for people (and myself). I tend my own veg. garden and practice permaculture as a lifestyle choice – running several blogs about this. I am the Parish Clerk for Michaelstow. In truth, after being wiped out with sciatica in January, I could do with an adventure and have always been curious about Andorra.
And here are some thoughts:
As Phillip mentioned, many people seem to be walking around blindfold at the moment. For those of us who recognise that the western world is completely unsustainable it is quite frustrating. Matthew Arnold’s quote from ‘The Great Chartreuse’ rings true to me:
“Wondering between two worlds, one dead
The other powerless to be born.”
This makes a lot of work for us visionaries who want to create a future – for a future that most people don’t even want to look at!
Talking of quotes – this one from Henry Cloud resonates with me also:
“We change our behaviour when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change”.
Mind you – I am personally more into fun and joy than pain, but I do recognise that as a culture, we still have to face the consequences of our actions with regard to this planet. Hence the delay in people’s awareness.
So that’s a couple of reasons why I think it presently seems so difficult to start something along the lines of your permaculture project, which, by the way, I think is an extremely generous action by you.
It gets even harder when you are ‘stonewalled’ by a local populace with very entrenched values. From my experiences in Cornwall, innovations such as this need to be expressed locally in their terms and notions and especially ‘benefits’ – to ‘come from them’ almost. The Andorran National Anthem seems to hold some clues, but I don’t know much about this yet. It sounds though that the project is yet some way from this process of localising – it still needs envisioning.
Perhaps one thing we can do at this time is to build ‘safety nets’ for people who do not want to look at what is coming.
Did I mention I am also a qualified adult educator and when I was teaching, was a lecturer and ‘A’ level examiner for ‘Communication Studies’. (I certainly feel like I’m going on like one!)
What I am getting to is what I think I can offer you. As a writer, website designer, communications expert and social entrepreneur I would like to build you a highly interactive, visually interesting, multilingual website to:
  • help create stories / mythologies / buzz about your permaculture project (from multiple contributors)
  • provide a nexus for communication regarding this project, so that people getting involved can readily network
  • create information so that others can ‘see what it is’
As for just going in cold and making it happen – I reckon I would need about a million pounds and two years to get such a thing going, and that’s once I had learned to speak Catalan. I have just £500 to my name, which should get me out there for about ten days if you are in agreement with these initial ideas.
I could also write up the visit to try and publish in Permaculture Magazine, with your approval at every point of course. The other magazine I subscribe to is ‘Resurgence’ and I have been published in this before – it is certainly the sort of thing they should be interested in and this may be a good way to set about getting ‘friends’ for such a project.
Please let me know if this is of interest to you and if it is, I will look into the practicalities of getting and staying there for ten days or so.
Kind Regards
Simon Mitchell

simonthescribe writes and publishes articles, books and websites themed around living a sustainable life in tune with nature.

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