Graham Burnett teaches permaculture and writes extensively on the subject. He founded Spiralseed in 2001, and he has worked with projects and organizations including Comic Relief, Naturewise, Green Adventure and many more. He has also written a number of books and booklets, including The Vegan Book of Permaculture, Permaculture a Beginners Guide and Earth Writings. Graham has cultivated his own garden and allotments in Southend in Essex, where he lives with his family. He continues to teach and organize courses both at home and abroad.
In the beginning of our conversation, Graham talks about his background in activism. He grew up in the 1970’s when he discovered the Punk movement. The lyrics from bands like the Clash and the Ruts opened his eyes to issues related to social injustice, racism and later animal rights. But after awhile, he got burnt out, and he recognized that he was defining himself by what he was “against,” rather than what he was actually “for.”
It was at this time that Graham discovered the magic of permaculture. He calls this a “switching point” in his life when he moved from problem focused thinking to solution focused thinking. From here, he was introduced to all of the amazing permaculture projects in London. Graham talks about how these permaculture principles apply to everyday life.
One key principle is to work with nature, not against her. He explains that this is all about listening – listening to nature and also listening to one another and people in our communities. Through this deeper listening and observation, we can uncover imbalances and issues that need to be addressed. And then, we’re better prepared to intervene with minimal effort for a maximum effect.
Another key principle is that the problem is often the solution. Graham says that when we step back and look at something from another perspective, we see that the solution might be hidden within the so-called problem.
Graham talks about bringing these permaculture principles into the community. In fact, he designed and implemented a raised bed for people with learning disabilities in the back of a pub. Beyond the garden, there was also an open mic night at the pub, so anyone could have the opportunity to have their voice heard.
Punk music and all forms of music are a huge inspiration in Graham’s life. In fact, he plays guitar in his own Punk Rock Band called Warty Hubbard and his Magic Cupboard.
For Graham, he takes the long view of life. Recently he went to a museum and saw one of the oldest rocks in the world. It’s a mere 3 billion years old. He says that when you look at life through the lens of this deep time view, it puts things in perspective.
In the end, Graham says that he has a lot of hope and optimism for humanity and the planet. There’s also a very special treat at the end… as we get a LIVE performance from Graham!
You can learn more about Graham and his work here: https://spiralseed.co.uk/