As the end of the year approaches I have been seriously thinking – again – about dropping my involvement with TSL as I seem to have made little progress throughout the year. I’m not succeeding in getting other people fired up about the Transition Movement, nor am I succeeding in getting others involved in organising activities and setting up projects. It seems to me fundamental to have projects up and running which people can actually see, and can recognise as being worthwhile enterprises which point to a better future despite the looming crises of climate chaos, peak oil and economic collapse. We have concentrated our efforts on promoting organic farming, as food is clearly of fundamental importance to any community, and here in Mui Wo we have land available for farming, making our focus on farming something of a no-brainer. On top of this is the fact that modern chemical farming is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and therefore switching to local, organic farming is a great way to cut back significantly on our community’s carbon footprint, particularly as most food in HK is imported from elsewhere.
However, our small community garden has only been able to provide some food for our own families, with very little surplus except for the occasional gluts of tomatoes or lettuce, and the like. So, I decided to hire someone – Bhola – to farm for me. He has been a revelation, and in just three months he has cleared a couple of plots of land, rebuilt the ridges and furrows, planted crops, and has recently been harvesting pak choi, choi sum and mustard leaves, much of which we’ve given away. This has been very heartening, but it has hardly been a community activity, and so I was thinking of moving away from the Transition group and focusing on my own endeavours as a part-time organic farmer.
Then, quite out of the blue, Siu Ming, who used to run the splendid little green produce shop round the corner from the China Bear, phoned me to say she is involved in trying to educate local people about environmental matters and wants to show them projects that they can not only learn from, but which they can get actively involved in. She saw what Bhola was doing on the farm and thought this would be a good opportunity for teaching people – especially younger ones who want to be ‘green’ but don’t really know where to start – how to grow food organically. The arrangement we’re working on is for her to bring people along to help on the farm, and we’ll give them organic vegetables as payment. This is exactly the sort of thing I’ve wanted to be able to do – spread the word about organic farming and the related issues of peak oil and climate change, whilst getting local people actively involved in the work which will help them reconnect with nature and help us all to learn to live within nature’s limits. We’re also hoping to be able to take things a step further by learning about how to use the food we grow in cooking. Siu Ming is staying in an area that has a good venue for such communal cooking, apparently, so it’s all beginning to look very promising.
As a result I’ve swung from feeling rather gloomy about TSL’s prospects to suddenly feeling exhilarated at the doors that are opening before us. At last we have the chance to make a connection to the local community and to make some really positive contributions to building our local resilience. I can’t help thinking of how important it is to disseminate ideas as far and wide as you can, and then, as with planting seeds, wait to see if they will sprout with the help of a little prudent watering now and then. It requires a lot of patience, and considerable faith in the accuracy of your own perceptions, but, thanks to Siu Ming, I feel as if something valuable really has taken root, and now has the chance to develop into something that will strengthen us as a community.