Covid-19 Life in the home lane

Posted: 10 April 2020

Rebecca Solnit is a writer concerned with hope. She wrote a book called ‘Hope in the Dark’ about the hidden history of positive changes that are often forgotten when we consider the unsustainable trajectory of our current global economy.
She thinks that it is important to remember what we can do, what we have done together, if we are to find the energy and community of purpose necessary to build a better world. Her account of the incredible global efforts mobilised in response to the coronavirus pandemic is a moving example of what can be achieved when we face a clear and present danger of global magnitude.
“A crisis is always, of course, an opportunity.”
She is not the only one who makes the link with global warming and sees, in this effort, the seeds of what must be done to slow climate breakdown before it is too late. There have been many calls for the post-lockdown world to look different from the status quo ante from ideas for a green stimulus to arguments about a renewed social contract from the Financial Times. Fred Pearce in Yale’s Environment 360 predicts a fork in the road. A crisis is always, of course, an opportunity.

The difference though is that climate change is a slow-motion disaster. As Richard Powers says in his Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, The Overstory, we must imagine “imminent threat” on the timescale of trees. Imagination – how we imagine the future: our hopes and our fears – is critical at times like these.

“We know that our current way of life is unsustainable. “
Confronting the future is what BMC is all about: imagining it, shaping it, creating it. That the future has arrived earlier than anticipated is a surprise, but the shape of it was not unexpected. We know that our current way of life is unsustainable. We know that our economy must work with the grain of nature within ecological limits, not the ideology of unlimited growth. We know that our supply chains are vulnerable and that food grown far away carries huge hidden costs. We know that we must re-connect with our planet and re-invent educational journeys that create new kinds of leaders who can re-engineer society in a more healthy direction.

Black Mountains College was founded precisely to help people acquire the skills to weather and navigate uncertainty: confidence, resilience, critical thinking, creativity and adaptability.

In this effort, there is a helpful tool that the BMC degree will use developed by behavioural scientist Dave Snowden called the Cynefin framework about how to make decisions based on different contexts –
Cynefin... all the indefinable elements of our context and experience that go into making us who we are
It is a business school’s answer to Rudyard Kipling’s line, “if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs… “.  The Cynefin framework is interesting and particularly relevant at times like these. But for us at BMC it is doubly so since the name ‘Cynefin’ is Welsh, with an untranslatable meaning. The short version is ‘habitat’, but it is more than that, something akin to, ‘all the indefinable elements of our context and experience that go into making us who we are’.

It is about the relationship between a living thing and its environmental history, and the framework is about maintaining balance. It is perhaps a very Welsh idea that it is the hills that shape the person. But it is an idea that indigenous people the world over would instantly recognise.

At a time of isolation when we are all confined to our ‘cynefin’ it seems like an appropriate starting point to reflect on where we are and to re-imagine how things should be in the future now that, as Rebecca Solnit says, “the impossible has happened,” because that makes anything possible.

We’re working on our NVQs in Regenerative Horticulture and Seasonal Catering. This newsletter focusses on our Seasonal Catering tutor, and recent winner of National Bakery Awards, Nicola Craven.
Name: Nicola Craven
Position: Owner at The Bakers’ Table Cafe and Bakery at Talgarth Mill.

Nicola has built The Bakers’ Table in Talgarth over several years to become a destination for people seeking delicious local sustainable food and excellent bread and cakes using the flour milled on site from Talgarth’s working water mill. During late 2019 and early 2020, she has been running a series of taster days for students from local schools and undertaking her assessor’s award from Neath Port Talbot College ready to share her considerable experience with the lucky students who choose to study with BMC. Nicola says, “I’m looking forward to teaching youngsters how to make the most of local, seasonal produce and how to bake.” 

For the past year or so, striking students – and many parents – have been demanding that schools and colleges feature climate breakdown more centrally in their curriculum and correctly portray the risks to students’ futures. The abrupt shift to home-schooling in response to the pandemic provides an opportunity to shift the balance. Here is an almost definitive roundup of online resources to ‘teach the future’ for differing age ranges from the London and South East Schools Eco-Network. It features easy ideas for inspiring a love of nature among younger learners to complex tools for critical thinking about carbon footprints, energy balance and the nitty gritty of climate politics for older students. Teaching the future is no longer a slogan, it’s up to us.
We’d love to hear from you.

BMC’s network has grown rapidly. People are reading this newsletter in Russia, Japan, Australia, Kenya, the United States as well as many countries in Europe. Through this newsletter and our blog, we are exploring the idea of what education means in a time of crisis and uncertainty. What should it be for and how should it be delivered? If you have ideas you’d like to share, things you’d like us to feature or a piece you’d like to write, then please drop us a line.

This account of an agro-ecological approach to a small farm in France is nothing short of miraculous and shows how ‘a million small farms’ as Colin Tudge puts it could point the way towards food sovereignty and security: “Miraculous Abundance” by Perrine & Charles Herve-Gruyer 

Alex Beard examines the rise of artificial intelligence in education and asks, ‘Can Computers Ever Replace the Classroom?’

The Futuremakers series of podcasts from the University of Oxford explores in depth the science behind the headlines: how the climate is changing, the current state of research and what this means for the rest of us.
Patagonia’s Secret Life of Trees is a moving and beautiful journey to the northernmost forests of the world.
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