Scale Up for Bigger Impact

At the National Permaculture Convergence 2023, Mitra Ardron presented and facilitated a session on Speed, Scale and Permaculture. Mitra is currently working to deliver clean water to billions of people in Bangladesh. He challenges us to ramp up our efforts to effect change and build a better future.

Mitra’s steps for scaling up projects

Firstly, set the size and speed of your project as a goal from the start. Design the project so that it can grow.

Can we responsibly make decisions at the speed of change?

What happens if we don’t ? Can we focus on solutions rather than the problems ? Tackle the challenges of scale & speed. And maintain people care, earth care and fair share.

Observe and interact – the Problem is often the Solution.

Mitra says “Ask which patterns are ripe for disruption at scale? “

Self reliant elders

Use edges & value the marginal

Mitra invites us to explore the edges of what we are working on.

Produce no waste

Ask “How would your costs, and your unit economics, change with massive scale or a different biz model, or by eliminating waste or unnecessary steps, how would that cost improvement impact the uptake?”

https://www.mitra.biz/ explore alternative strucutres for scale

Explore Some Alternative Structures for Scale

The different models are B2B2C (B to B2 to C) like a supermarket model versus B2c (B directly to C) like a farmers market set up. Then there is Partnering, and Facilitation which Mitra employs in getting producers to link directly with sales team by supplying technology that makes it is cheaper and faster to link them.

Use & value renewable resources & services

What untapped resources could you use to scale up your project?

Epping forest, London IPUK delegates from Africa and Hong Kong marvel at the wasted abundance in a major city

Obtain Your Yield

How can you create a yield? For all those involved the yield needs to exceed input.

Create a positive feedback loop

Creatively use and respond to change, apply self-regulation and accept feedback. Ask can your organization stay cantered in the middle of chaos? And without knowing all the facts, is it able to allow responsible people to make, and change decisions at the speed needed? Responsive projects listen to the internal and external feedback.

Design from patterns to reach scale

What are the key parts of your project? And the edges between the parts? And the edges with other participants ? How do these edges change as it scales?

Understand and Work with Succession

Use backcasting to envisage alternative futures. How would your solution look at the scale of the problem ? How is that different than it looks now ? What initial steps do we take to get there ? Apply that to each of the detail elements.

In Summary

When we apply Permaculture principles to our projects, think big and long-term from the start. There is one principle that Mitra sees as an anti-pattern – it is the concept of using small and slow solutions. Mitra and the world need the opposite. With good collaboration models, you will increase the project’s reach and impact.

Once we start thinking bigger, we make lasting impact and tackle the big polluting industries that engulf us.

Extreme Range Driving an Electric Vehicle

pride in local production

We drove our trusty short-range electric vehicle slowly over the dusty Hay plains. Along the long stretches where the radio crackles, the weeds tumble and the trucks roar past impatiently, we started doing the mathematics. We formulated a coping strategy to monitor our use and enable long range driving in our modest electric vehicle.

Our short-range electric vehicle did extreme range driving 3000kms in the countryside. We expected few surprises. After all, it was going to be just more of the same. We have driven interstate from Brisbane to Melbourne along the coast with little to tell. But in those journeys it was from one town to another, never across open countryside. As a result, this trip was nail biting. And when it wasn’t stressful it was…..rather dull. [And here’s a quick shout out to Waikerie hotel for accommodating us with a standard power point off their garden maintenance shed.]

Welcome to Range Anxiety

Recently, at a busy charging station in South Australia we met a lovely couple on a romantic escape. They had flown over from Western Australia, hired a car, and were looking forward to exploring the exclusive wineries for the weekend. But, when they went to pick up the car they accepted the offer of an upgrade to an electric car as potentially exciting. With very little instruction, they zoomed off. Suddenly, their fuel dial started dropping. When they got to their destination winery, the charger was broken. They didn’t know where other chargers were, or how to find them.

We’ve been driving our electric car for 2 years now. So, how did we get caught out?

The Best Coping Strategy for Range Anxiety

When your electric car is full of charge it displays an estimate. Let’s say it estimates 250kms. For extreme range driving outback, be sceptical. Simply halve that estimate. The estimate is about right if you plan to travel at 60kms/hr, on a flat road. As soon as you travel uphill, at speeds over 80kms or use air-conditioning, headlights, hazard lights or the windscreen wipers (depending on the type of vehicle), the estimate drops. Rapidly.

To feel secure, start the journey at a modest speed [80km/hr] until you are 100 kms from the next destination. Then keep the watching the estimate and only drive faster if you can keep the efficiency and maintain an estimate that is double of the distance to go.

trying to get a new charging station to work

Never assume the next charging station is going to work for you. Everything breaks when someone is using it. It could be your turn. So, we only book accommodation after getting our final charge. And we carry bedding and a tent, just in case everywhere is booked out. But don’t assume you will be welcome to charge. For example, Yass caravan park doesn’t have a policy to enable charging even if you pay for a powered site. Call before booking to get permission to charge.

The PROS

The main advantage of the electric vehicle is that it runs on a fuel that is nearly everywhere. Wherever people are, there is usually a power-point. Whereas diesel, petrol or indeed hydrogen isn’t everywhere, and mostly imported. An electric car can be charged overnight with a simple wall power point.

Every Community Benefits

Best of all, the main community benefit from electric cars is huge. An electric car saves money from leaving the country. Every drop of electric is generated in your own region/state whereas most countries import fossil fuels. According to Saul Griffiths, the money spent on charging an electric car is more likely to be spent locally than money spent on fossil fuels.

By rewiring our energy use, we save money as well as taking pressure of the environment.

The Short Term Downside

Short range electric vehicles have adequate range for urban living. When you turn ours on it claims to give you 280kms. But drive it with the air-conditioning running, and on rainy nights, that range estimate begins to drop, rapidly.

So for long distances you slow down to conserve energy. But, as you slow down to save energy, you begin to realise a timing issue. Because you can’t afford to arrive so late that you need headlights and heating. The trick for driving electric cars in a time of slowly emerging infrastructure is planning and flexibility.

The traffic behind you is doing a minimum of 110kms/hr, and you are slowing to 80kms an hour. You begin to feel vulnerable. Especially, as the sun is blaring across the horizon. You are crawling and the traffic behind can hardly see you in front of them. In the countryside there are no slow lanes.

The first time we rolled into the charging station with just 6% charge left, we started to question our expectations. Had we known then that our backup plan (see below) would not be fail-safe, we might have parked the car and caught the train.

The other downside currently, is we needed to take a longer route, in order to reach the next charger. The chargers are not yet there to serve the long distance short range driver. They are well positioned for locals, who do short trips out of major cities. And they are not being commissioned as quickly as the number of electric cars are being sold. You learn to sit and wait. A trip that normally takes 2 hours by petrol car, can take 4 or more by electric car. Allow time to queue for others to charge as well as time for your own charge.

Driving Slowly Is Tiring

It can be more tiring to drive slowly. You watch the meter drop and grip the steering wheel as the trucks swerve past. At night, you can’t rest until you have charged again. For this journey from Wollongong to Adelaide Hills we had to charge the car 4 times each day over 3 days. And each charge takes a minimum of 40 mins. Sometimes a charge takes a couple of hours on slow chargers.

You are always better off to ‘top up’ the charge than to pass a charger in the blind hope that the next charge will be available and working. Also, occasionally people plug in their car and walk off for dinner. You get to wait in the cold and dark until their belly is full.

The Failed Backup Plan

Our backup plan was, and has been on previous trips, to carry a simple cable, plug into a powered site at a caravan park. It takes about 10hours to charge as we sleep overnight in our tent, a cabin or motel within walking distance. On the final night of our journey, the caravan park was full, as were all the motels, and the powered sites.

Back up plan failed
no powered sites available

Most places received us with interest and support. A few told us they are waiting on charging stations to be installed. Many chargers only charge Tesla cars, yet Tesla cars often use the chargers that we need because they are cheaper. This inequity is slowly being addressed by government subsidies [a lot less than fossil fuel subsidies] and simple economic forces. For example, the NRMA will soon have an app that charges users.

Backlash

Surprisingly, some hotel and caravan park managers eyed the car with suspicion. Some hosts are apprehensive because the price of the electric car is high. Yet the price of a short range electric car and charging is equal to about 8 years of fossil fuel. Some managers see the electric car as capable of guzzling electricity. And to be fair, electricity prices right now are high. So, we try to cut costs by not using air-conditioning in our room or cabin and always offer to pay extra for the use of electricity. In fact, the cost of a charge overnight is about $7. Some hotels happily take the offered bonus, some don’t charge.

Hotels and Caravan parks need to develop a charging policy and
determine a reasonable fee for the service.

Education about how electric cars work and use electricity is the challenge. On a previous journey, our host accused the car of causing her microwave to burn out! So, we can’t assume everyone supports electric cars. Indeed, for some rural towns, it is only a few generations since their first light pole. This is a time of rapid change.

Your Turn to Drive

Driving an electric car is one of the few ways an individual can act to reject fossil fuels. Domestic demand for electric cars embarrass governments and force them to plan a cleaner future. “New research shows fossil fuel subsidies over the forward estimates have increased to a record breaking $57.1b, up from the $55.3b forecast in 2022.” In fact, our defence force could easily become world leaders in Electric vehicle technology.

Once again, we find brave families car pooling, going the slow road, and daring to make the switch. Individuals are driving change. Plan now to make your next car an electric car and help pioneer a better future.

Albert Bates 4 Stages of Life

Prolific advocate, Albert Bates is famous for his work promoting Biochar and much more, Here he talks about his 4 stages of life and how he stays hopeful. Each stage of our lives has is a unique facet. Many of the key elders in the Permaculture movement began with an awareness, grew hopeful, then skilled and empowered. Finally they seek to be sharing and nurturing others. Here are Albert Bates 4 stages of his amazing life – in his own words.

Our interview with Albert Bates on his stages of life

Highlights of his career so far

Albert says his life is a work in progress. “I just turned 76 a week ago and I figure I got another 25 years So I got a quarter of my life still to go. And I’m having to figure out what can I do that would be different. And better. How can I do a a fourth act here. And up my game.

The Game of Life – Stage 1

So, let’s go back first stage of the game childhood through you know holding onto your mother’s skirt up to where you’re able to cause real trouble and then um I went to law school with the idea of being perhaps a one of the first cannabis attorneys who would uh who would redirect the legal system to make uh psychedelics legal that didn’t pan out all that well they didn’t Legalize It by the time I got out of law school so a lot of my courses that I took were wasted. But I got out of law school and I decided to put the city out of my blood get away from it for a while.

a hen looking back over her shoulder as she stands on a peak above a sea of mist

Walking in Elders Footsteps

So. I hiked the Appalachian Trail from north to south. That’s a trail that runs down to eastern North America along the Appalachian Ridge 200 miles. And this formed a circular perspective because my great great great great great great great great great great grandfather [Seven Generations removed] was Issachar Bates who was a Shaker poet.

Issachar was a revolutionary war soldier with George Washington throwing off the British yoke and he then fell in love with the Shakers and started to dance. He was a fife and violin player, a dancer and singer. And he wrote 400 Shaker hymns and became a missionary for the Shakers. The Shakers sent him on these long treks out to talk to the colonies. Out into the distant wilderness. He walked the Appalachian Trail [probably the same route I took out into the Ohio Valley]. This was in the late part of the 18th century.

He set up two utopian communal colonies in the wilderness. And had a confab with the prophet who was the brother of Tecumseh and was thinking about throwing off the American yolk. He was a protector of the native peoples, as well.

Issachar Bates - A Charismatic Shaker
Issachar Bates

I found that I had these commonalities in my life. And I was recapitulating my ancestors journey through life. Editorial note: Lucky for Albert Bates, the family did not stay celibate, else he would not have been born.

Common Trails with Ancestors

Here was I, walking the same Mountain trails, starting utopian communities in the wilderness, learning to make friends with adversaries [in our case the redneck Tennesseans who didn’t understand hippies]. And so, I was finding myself in my second phase age 25 to 50.

The garden of earthly delights by Bosch

Second Life Stage – Building Community

Life in that Community Building phase, I was developing the the farm as a village. We were developing businesses like our mushroom people business that was doing medicinal forest mushrooms. And our second Foundation was a charitable organization. And our Plenty which is our International charity. I had no use as a lawyer it at first. But after several years at the farm we started noticing that there were these things called nuclear plants popping up like mushrooms after a rain around us.

Rooster warrior

And I said we had to do something about that. Those are pretty nasty and so I got asked to go out and stop that stop that nonsense. I I handled nuclear cases as a law project it was called the Natural Rights Center. And we fought four times in the United States Supreme Court. We ended the Tennessee Valley Authority’s nuclear program which had had 20 reactors scheduled. And we fought them to a standstill in North America.

I then left out of stress and got more into my mushroom business. I found the law office thing was fine for a number of years. Then, I was like the warrior in Bill Mollison’s ‘Travels in Dreams’.

Regenerative Agriculture

After my life as a lawyer I got into regenerative agriculture. And back into the the basics of of agroforestry. And I started working with Chris Nesbitt down in Belize Maya Mountain Research Farm. Chris is a big agroforestry guy using traditional Mayan style that a lot of has gone extinct. But Chris is revitalizing it for climate resilience. So, I’m still working with Chris. Even today doing Ridge to Reef programs to restore the Mayan coral reef.

Life Stage 3 – 50 years Young and Beyond

In this stage I was focused pretty much on climate change full time. I began to live as an emergency planetary technician. So, they’ve you know they dispatched my ambulance to this particular planet. And I’m doing triage. I’m figuring out what we got to do here to stabilize the patient. And I’m using all of the various means of drawdown that Paul Hawkens talks about.

Natural Climate Solutions

I have a full kit of natural climate solutions in my jump bag. And the main thing that I’m probably best known for is biochar. I’ve written a number of books on it. Mexico is my Hemingway machine, my writing space for this age of 76 and beyond.

Albert Bates – Climate in Crisis

A number of years ago I wrote Climate in Crisis forwarded by Al Gore. This was my first book on climate. It came out the same year as I met Bill Mollison 1990. I probably had it with me when I saw him. And then, the next book I’m known for is the biochar solution this one came around 2010 after I went to a permaculture gathering in Brazil.

Charcoal pencils made inside our cooktop fire. Thanks to Albert Bates tip to use a loose fitting container.

Biochar and Me

Andre Suarez introduced me to Terra Preta – the dark earth of the Indians and that led me to the biochar solution. Then more recently we started looking at the non-agricultural uses of biochar. Which led us to this book Burn : Using Fire to Cool the Earth which is now out in German. By the way, if you want to understand the German word for burn is cool down. That’s the translation! Soon it’s going to be translated into Chinese and Italian. And during the run up to the Paris agreement [I was going to the U.N regularly to the conferences], I wrote the story of how they got to the Paris agreement [2015].

Albert Bates with his book BURN: Using Fire to Cool the Earth

Planetary Technician Processes

While I’ve been in here in Mexico I’ve come out with a book number of series on planetary technician processes. One of those is transforming plastic. It is about how to take plastic and turn it from a problem to a solution.

Dark side of the ocean book cover

And as this relates to the oceans, I wrote the dark side of the ocean which talks about the so-called blue economy or blue carbon. The idea that that the oceans are infinite. But they’re not. And how we’re actually destroying them. But we don’t see the destruction. It talks about alkalinity and salinity, sea level rise and extinction of of marine mammals.

fostering a love of animals helps children develop empathy and understanding of nature.

Children’s Books

And because it’s so interesting I decided we needed to create some children’s books. So I started making books for middle school. You could learn about the ocean, and cuddly sea animals. And understand the effects of pollution and maybe what you’re doing what you’re what you’re sending down the trash chute. And then, I wrote a book called Taming Plastic for kids – how they can do reduce their microplastic footprints. Showing how they can separate their different kinds of plastics and find things useful things to do, shaping a new future by using the recycled plastic.

Finally, here, during the pandemic, I came up with a book on a history of plagues. And it’s also about surviving this one. And how we’re failing on the plague the same way we’re failing on the climate. I have problems with the ways millions of people are dying from stupidity.

Beginning the 4th Phase – Publishing

What I’m doing in my fourth phase is publishing. And a lot of why I’m anxious and eager and grateful to get it out to a larger number of people. So it doesn’t just die with me!

Ecolution of an environmental mind

How do you stay hopeful?

Cultivating a sense of humour helps. As does a Buddhist non-attachment. You know, we may have been screwed before I was born. The trajectory we were on could well have been set well before I was born and I’m just along for the ride. Now, I have a bailing bucket in his sinking ship. So, I’m gonna bail. Because it makes me feel good to be doing something positive. As long as I have the ability to do something I’m going to keep doing it.

If we have just the slimmest of chances that maybe we can have more forest.
We can use algae. We can pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
And we can change our lifestyle. Lets do it.

At some point we will need to. So, it’s necessary that we we show the way. For that reason I stay hopeful. I know that it’s it’s more fun to get up in the morning with a spring in your step because you got something good you can be doing.

Make Life Fun

Part of the solution has to be making it fun. If it isn’t fun – nobody’s going to do it. So, finding solutions is one thing. But then, finding ways to make solutions fun – that’s even more important. And that’s why I write kids books. And that’s why I work with Chris Nesbitt at the Maya Mountain Research Farm. Because he has children’s programs. We do this in Tennessee – we have the Eco Village training Center with a lot of programs with the farm school. And we make it fun.

You know, we make it so that you can get into the mud and make Cobb buildings. And get all muddy. Get your face all muddy and have a party. All of that is is really important. Because if it ain’t fun – ain’t nobody gonna do it!

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Trish Allen’s Circular Economy Cuts Waste

Trish thrives in Matakana 70 km north east of Auckland, New Zealand. She has developed a passion for the permaculture principle – Produce No Waste! With Trish’s leadership Mahurangi Wastebusters actively reduces damage to the environment. In this short video she explains how recycling reduces the environmental damage by reducing the demand for manufacturing, mining and transportation of goods. By leading the change, Trish is forging a circular economy.

Trish Allen on Produce No Waste

Dumping Waste Worsens Climate Change

Waste is a huge contributor to climate change and reducing waste is a passion of Trish Allen. About six years ago she set up a Community Trust a non-profit organization. It is called Mahurangi Wastebusters to do waste education and provide waste sorting services at events. Because events create so much waste.

The Trust grew and became really popular. So, then when the opportunity came up to tender for two Council owned transfer stations they put a tender and got it! Now they run two community recycling centres. And they have converted them from transfer stations (where people used to dump their rubbish for landfill) into processing stations.

Trish at an education stand for Mahurangi Wastebusters
Trish at an education stand for Mahurangi Wastebusters

Better Sorted

They now have 28 different waste streams. And a shop where we sell second-hand items. They send items for ethical processing. For example all the E-Waste goes down to a place in Auckland called Abilities which is an organization that employs about 200 people with disabilities. At Abilities, the employees ethically dismantle everything. So the components can go for proper processing. There are also projects in Waiuku in the Waikato processing plastic bags to make fence posts. This project is called Future Posts.

Mahurangi Wastebusters is also a drop-off point for plastic bags and Silage wrap which goes off to be made into a kind of a plywood. And they are a drop-off point for Tetra pack which goes off to be made into another kind of building material called Save Board.

reclaimed metal waste Mahurangi Wastebusters at the processing facility
reclaimed metal waste Mahurangi Wastebusters at the processing facility

Start Young

Trish is very excited by the progress. “And now I’ve got a couple of wonderful young women working with me and one is going into Early Childhood centres to do waste audits for them. She installs worm bins, compost bins and also educates the children with stories and a little kiwi puppet. She teaches them about waste. And not making waste and not wasting things.

Repair Cafes

Also, I’ve got another young woman who’s doing well organising repair cafes. This is another kind of social permaculture that involves children and adults. It’s teaching people about waste and how not to do it, how to not just reduce waste but going back to a basic principle of permaculture – Produce no waste!

Image By G.Mannaerts, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=97417808

Generating a Circular Economy

“As we know the major environmental impact happens when you extract the resources out of the earth. So the longer we can keep them in in in our system in the circular economy the better!”

Trish has also organised a screening of the film ‘For the Blue’.  It is a film made by young New Zealand surfers and tackles issues around plastic in our oceans. And what we can do about it. The film will be screened at the Matakana Cinema on 5 April and 6pm. Then viewers are invited to actively participate in teams with real-life solutions. These activites include:

– join a town clean up in Wellsford

– join a beach cleanup at Goat Island

– pledge to only use a reusable coffee cup for a month ( no single use cups)

– pledge to only use a reusable water bottle for a month (no plastic bottles)

New Zealand MOVIE POSTER For the Blue

And Trish is co-teaching in New Zealand a 2 week PDC in April 2023.

Thank you for being part of a better future for all.

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