Why going Off Grid really is about living on the edge

Off Grid Festival
The Off Grid Festival is taking place in North Devon from 9 August 2018. It will celebrate permaculture - but even more the ideas that are generated in the zone known in permaculture as the 'ecotone'. HELEN ILES explains...

We are living in an ecotone. We are transitioning between a fossil fuel economy to - well, we don’t really know what comes next.

“Sweetgrass is best planted not by seed, but by putting roots directly into the ground," writes Robin Wall Kimmerer. "Thus the plant is passed from hand to earth to hand across years and generations. Its favored habitat is sunny, well-watered meadows. it thrives along disturbed edges.”

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Like sweetgrass, wisdom is best passed on person to person, rooted in place and time, so that the memory can access the learning easily and put it into practice.

And at this point in human history, there is an urgent need for practical wisdom - wisdom with an eye on both past and future - and where better to receive it than in a sunny, well-watered meadow - a traditional English festival field?

Extra potential

Perhaps here, close to nature and deep in the experience of being, we can learn something of the wisdom of Seven Generations Stewardship - a concept borrowed from the Iroquois Native American peoples, whereby all decisions need to be made with consideration for the effect on seven generations into the future.

Coming into being as the younger cousin of Sunrise Festival, Off Grid Festival was literally born on the edge - a festival within a festival. It has always sought out wisdom - traditional and modern knowledge concerning how to create a sustainable, resilient lifestyle.

Taking the idea of Seven Generations Stewardship as its theme this year, Off Grid Festival is a place where concepts such as this become reality.

One of the key systems implemented and promoted at Off Grid Festival is permaculture, and one of permaculture’s twelve defining principles is the 'edge effect'.

This points to the biodiversity and richness that can be found when two living cultures meet, and to the extra potential created when we increase access to an edge.

Energy systems

Reef ecologies and riparian systems, for instance, are some of the most diverse and productive natural zones on the planet.

To go to our edges, whether it be a growing edge, learning edge or the edge of our comfort zone, means to enter a phase of active learning. Edges take us fearwards, demanding that we face the challenges that life is presenting us, right here and right now.

Beyond the edge, before the next ecosystem fully takes over, we find the ecotone - a transition zone between two adjacent ecological communities. The shift between the two can be gradual and gentle or steep and sharp, but either way, it’s a place of huge potential.

It could be argued that at this point in history, we are living in an ecotone. We are transitioning between a fossil fuel economy to - well, we don’t really know what comes next.

Even now, as our weather systems create havoc for civilisations across the planet, our social systems prove unable to ensure quality of life for every human, our food systems are threatened with collapse and our energy systems uncertain, we stumble over finding viable solutions, bowing to pressure from those who stand to profit for a failing planet.

Guidance and celebration

Yet there are an abundance of smart, workable solutions that exist at the edges of medicine, architecture, agriculture and technology.

Some of these alternatives have been in existence for thousands of years, some have only recently been invented, but it is at these edges that we find an ecosystem teeming with opportunity.

Part gathering, part training school, Off Grid Festival is a living ecotone, bringing together a community of people who are keen to learn and share wisdom. Want to learn how to weave, knit or turn wood?

The family-friendly workshops on the Village Green and in the Wild Wood area offer hands-on experience. Want to explore how to manage change? Join in and take part in discussions with the Zebra Collective. Want to develop some tools for self-care? Try a healing session with Ben Giddey or a yoga class in the Serenity Zone.

In order to avoid a steep descent when our existing systems finally hit the buffers, it makes good sense to prepare. Off Grid Festival offers a wealth of tools, techniques, inspiration, guidance and celebration to nurture mind, body and soul - aiming to help produce whole-organism resilience for the difficult times ahead.

This Author

Helen Iles writes and makes films with an eco-spiritual theme. You can find her online. The Off Grid Festival weekend takes place from 9 August 2018 at Tapeley Park, Instow, North Devon.