250 years of co-operation

Hey, ok not 250 years exactly, but this month we celebrate 250 since the birth of one of Wales’ most important sons, Mr Robert Owen.

Looking back at his work you can’t but help feel this man fully embraced permaculture ideas, even coming from such a different time and place. When I began my permaculture journey back in the early 90’s I realised that having a greater degree of control over my life was central to be able to make change in the world. For me this started with housing, land, instead of being a penniless tenant in drafty uninsulated damp rented house I wanted to be able to shape my world to a much greater degree. I asked, I looked, I had no idea how to do this.. until I stumbled onto co-operatives. And this is the theme of my post because without Mr Owen all those years ago would we even have the idea of a mutual company, one that existed for the benefit of its customers and users and for not its owners or investors?

In 1995 I was a co-founder of Chickenshack housing co-operative in Meirionnydd, 3 houses, 4 acres of land and an uninterupted view. Dedicated to permaculture and trying find the leading edge of the ecological shift, 8 of us moved in and an amazing adventure began. Robert Owen was manager of the World’s biggest cotton mill in 1800, he found the workers living in squalid unsanitary condtions working 7 days a week in a badly lit and dangerous factory making a fortune for its owners. He was appalled and this is what transformed him into a social pioneer, rejecting child labour, bringing in education, sanitation and access to land to grow for the workers. Before he left he created the first mutual company, a store that traded to benefit its customers, giving value and quality on basic products that previously were over priced and aldulterated. Loyal customers were retured a divident, a share in the profit of the store.

Owen saw the links between things, what makes a business thrive, what makes healthy soil, to invest in people to see their potential. Inspired by his work in 1844 the Rochdale pioneers created the first true co-operative and the quiet revolution began.2021, I now live at Dragons co-op in a different part of Wales but i am still building and working to those same values and have connections to a wide range of permaculture initiatives and projects and people.I would love to hear from people with similar interests who are on the same path.

I believe humanity must make a hig evolutionary step, this decade. To incorproate the reality that we are merely a part of a huge interconnected ecosystem called planet Earth, or rather the bioshsphere, that thin film of air and water in which we all swim. There are no countries, no divisions, those we see are a flaw of our own imagintion, homo sapiens is a single species, no race, no nationalities other than where we might happen to find ourselves within our bioshpere. The air we breath in was breated out by plants, as we continue to erode into our natural capital we erode into any possibility we have for a bright and abundant future. We have to do so much better than we are, and increasing numbers of people are realiszing this. Lets get busy and i would love to hear from you.

Steven Jones May 2021

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