Where we began our story

Deassartation Trust

Guardian article March '93
Guardian article March ’93

In late 80’s and early 90’s Bob was a software engineer,  he got involved in designing and became a system analyst  for nuclear power station control room safety systems in the UK. The power station wanted the software to prevent accidents such as 3 mile island but if the software was not adequately tested it could just as easily cause one. Bob was the Project Manager and became concerned about how the software was not being tested adequately. The company management would not take the concerns seriously. It was a difficult time; this was a moral and ethical challenge: do you take the money in the short term and allow something to happen that is wrong and an unacceptable risk. After refusing to go along with the management they try to co-opt you,  buy you off and finally throw you out. After fighting an industrial tribunal the verdict stated Bob was unfairly dismissed but a 100% to blame. That was the end of a mainstream career especially as a guardian article which was published in 1993 on these concerns labelled him a whistle blower, before any laws were put in place to protect such people.

mandelbrot setThis played out over two years and Bob could see the ethical and moral challenges coming ahead. He began asking questions: why is it like this? what is the rationale behind it, how does it work, is it ethical to take the money and say nothing ? So it led to re-opening the box marked religion and ideologies. The obvious thing to do as a software engineer was a comparative analysis of religion. Looking at them all, you can contrast and compare, not to find which is right, but parts which were right and parts which were common among them. After a while the most interesting ones were Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism.

 

First yurt we made and our blue truck 1995
First yurt we made and our blue truck 1995

We decided to walk away from our old life, for some time we had been aware of the emerging environmental problems in particular climate change. We were concerned about how serious this problem was becoming. We just had our first child and felt we should be looking into helping future generations as the climate change issue seemed to suggest the worst would be generations away. We moved into a friends truck which had been used for a travelling circus, sold our flat paid our debts and were left with very little. We went out in the truck with no place in particular to go to look for alternative communities where we could find like minded people.

First Yurt Bob cutting wood 1998
First Yurt Bob cutting wood 1998

We spent 18 months in the truck; during this time we visited Tinkers Bubble a land-based community that had basic bender type dwellings in the woods. These were hard to live in and not a long term all year round option, but there was also a communal yurt. Side walls, proper door and roof circle for a central wood stove. This was the dwelling we chose to copy and live in as now Jules was expecting a second child. This is where our practical pathway started. We built the yurt with little funds using locally pollarded willow, and recycled materials that we could find, working them using mainly hand tools.

Deassartation Trust Logo
Deassartation Trust Logo

We spent 12months in our first yurt on a Nottinghamshire smallholding learning how to live in it. Here our first child was born and we set up Deassartation Trust a Buddhist Educational Trust. We came to the conclusion that the yurt is an excellent all round home. Especially suitable for those working in sustainable livelihoods which are relatively low paid and undervalued.

Hedgerow Frame baskets
Hedgerow Frame baskets

In 1996 we decided to join a rural housing cooperative, in West Wales, it was rather shambolic and had a turnover of members and visitors from the road protests. Young people looking to establish themselves on the land (often failing abysmally). Poverty and the lack of skills blighted the cooperative. The problem was that the community had no shared

Inside yurt workshop 2004
Inside yurt workshop 2004

vision or spiritual understanding and spent more energy arguing among them selves. For those three years we continued to learn practical rural skills and research farming and social history. We worked on plans for practical skills projects which would create sustainable livelihoods for people wanting to move from urban to land-based living. This seemed to us to be the heart of solving our environmental crisis: re-skill and re-ruralise.

Bob sitting outside rustic yurt workshop 2004
Bob sitting outside rustic yurt workshop 2004

We left the housing cooperative in 1999 and moved into a village, where we set up a rural skills school in a local woodland, starting with practically zero

funds. The old yurt became a workshop in the woods and for the time being we had to go back into a house. The principles of social inclusion, equality, and ecological responsibility were at its foundation. We created a charity and an IPS worker cooperative. In 2003 we set up and ran a 6 month

Coppice Course 2000
Coppice Course 2000

rural skills apprenticeship scheme. We became members of the Open College Network and registered a traditional rural skills program. We created a commended environmental project that provided an

holistic approach to the issue of re-skilling people to change their livelihoods to those that are life sustaining and non harmful to the environment. This network was the closest a DIY cultured organisation can get to main stream qualifications. The units can contain practical skills as well as knowledge based learning.

Open College Network Article 2002
Open College Network Article 2002

But we made a mistake, a very big one in not being careful enough, who we accepted as members. As these members gained more power and responsibility within the organisation the written rules and principles were ignored and twisted to their own ends. The original objectives of the school became sidelined. Our mistake was not being out about our spiritual motives

2005 Rural Skills Apprentice Scheme
2005 Rural Skills Apprentice Scheme

behind this action on climate change project the rural skill school was not an end in itself but a means to solving a problem bigger than ourselves. This school ended in 2005 and again we paid a price. We learned many lessons during this time about what works and does not work, about how to do projects and how not to do them. We saw into the training and third sector organisations, how this functions and what the problems are. Most importantly we learnt that such a training project needs to be delivered by a group of very committed trainers who have shared values and understanding; not only of the seriousness of climate change but also of ethical principles.

Mongolian yurt 2010
Mongolian yurt 2010

 

We decided to design new Mongolian yurts and move out of the house and village. In 2008 we moved onto a local farm and eventually came to Castle Green in 2011. During this period we began teaching hedgelaying again, also supporting the

Construction of a yurt door
Construction of a yurt door

national climate camp movement using our yurts and other structures to put on a field cinema and deliver educational workshops. In 2012 we set up the 4 noble truths of climate change. A project which applies the Buddhas principles in understanding and acting on solving climate change. But this

Making a laminate roof circle 2006
Making a laminate roof circle 2006

project is inherently more difficult and serious. However there are many opportunities for engaging people and we have used our direct experience and knowledge to create practical workshops to provide skills for the re-ruralisation process which hits at the heart of solving

Cinema and teaching space set up, Cardiff University
Cinema and teaching space set up, Cardiff University

the climate change problem. In 2014 we set up Rural Skills Trust, as a practical manifestation of 4 noble truths of climate change to teach practical skills.

So after 20 or more years we are still going.

 

 

 

Pat hedge-laying 2014
Pat hedge-laying 2014

 

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