Friday, 29 April 2016

Here's a little film about the Permaculture Design Course that I co-teach with Aranya on Dartmoor.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Permaculture: Thinking like an ecosystem

Permaculture is often difficult to define as it is not so much A Thing, as a way of thinking. It is in essence an ecological design process which can be applied to all areas of human life. The word is a combination of the words ‘permanent agriculture’ created by the founders of the movement who aimed to find sustainable alternatives conventional agriculture practices. From these roots the movement has evolved to incorporate everything from agriculture to personal well-being, so it is now about creating a permanent (sustainable and resilient) CULTURE.

The principles of permaculture design come from observing natural ecosystems. Nature is not only self-sustaining but abundant, so we have a lot to learn from understanding what makes these systems work so well. Nature’s ability to cycle resources is largely down to bio-diversity, many different species making use of the environment in many different ways. An important part of diversity is the way in which these different species interact in order to co-exist. Beneficial relationships are prevalent in nature, contrary to our general perception of a ‘dog-eat-dog world’, it is co-operation that allows ecosystems to thrive and make best use of the available resources. Our human systems have moved away from these principles due to the availability of ancient sunlight, in the form of oil, which has allowed us to live beyond our means. We now need to relearn how to live well with local, renewable resources.

We can apply ecological principles to our own situations, by starting to see everything as a system. When starting a business for example, you think about your where your market is and find your niche within it. You can survey that market and identify other businesses that you can form relationships with. Who will supply you with your essential resources? Are there any waste products from local businesses that could be a resource for yours? How can the waste products of your own business be reused either within the business or by other local businesses? A great example of these principles in action is the Exeter/Totnes based business GroCycle who use used coffee grounds from cafes on which to grow gourmet mushrooms. The mushrooms are sold to local eateries and the coffee grounds become fertile compost for local food growers. The GroCycle mushroom farm is in a disused office building in central Exeter, right where the waste is produced and the food is needed. They fit perfectly and harmoniously within the ‘system’ that is their local food market.

Personal design may begin with analysis of lifestyle and habits, and mapping out patterns you see in your life which you may want to change. Your resources will be things like food (diet), money (income), Rest (personal space, sleep), Relationships (fun, support, sharing). Where is there imbalance in your lifestyle, how would you like it to look? What simple interventions can be made in order to redress the balance? Tools such as brainstorming and mind-mapping can be helpful to build up a picture of your whole situation, so you can start to see individual issues in context and find holistic solutions.

Permaculture design offers many tools which can help us to streamline our systems and keep them balanced and healthy. These tools can be applied as easily to a kitchen garden as they can to a business, a community, a project or us as individuals. A big part of modern permaculture is finding ways for we humans to co-operate in order inhabit and manage these sustainable systems in a way which feels sustainable for us. By teaching us to think like an ecosystem permaculture offers a holistic understanding of our world which allows us to be a harmonious part of it. 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Preserving the Harvest: Salt Preserves

In my last post I talked about different preserving methods using sugar. In this post I'll cover salt, the second major ingredient in food preservation. Salt can be used in various different ways to preserve food; brining and salting are the methods for most vegetable ferments and are very simple


The general ratio for a brine solution is 1tbsp salt : 250ml water.
The recipe below is the basic brining method and can be adapted easily to other ingredients.

Nasturtium Capers

2 tbsp salt
400ml water
1 cup of nasturtium seed pods
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
6 black pepper corns

Add the salt to the water and stir until dissolved.
Add the nasturtium seed pods, garlic and peppercorns to a 0.5l storage jar and cover with the brine solution.
Cover the jar opening with a muslin cloth and secure with an elastic band.
Leave for about a week, tasting every couple of days to see when the flavour is right. You may need to remove a bit of mould from the surface every now and then.
When ready seal the jar and label. It will store unopened for several months. Once opened store in the fridge and eat within a month.


Sauer kraut and kimchi are made with shredded vegetables which are added to a fermentation crock (or bucket) in layers which are sprinkled with salt. The veg and salt are then weighed down with a plate and a weight and covered with a cloth. After a few days the salt will have drawn out the liquid within the vegetables creating a flavoursome brine which will ferment and preserve the veg. Herbs, garlic, spices, etc can be added at the beginning to give different flavours.

The general ratio for salting is 3tbsp salt 2kg shredded veg


This simple recipe, traditionally made with cabbage, can also be made with perennial brassica leaves such as ‘Nine Star’ broccoli and ‘Daubenton’ kale. Make sure you pick leaves when they are really fresh and succulent, and remember that they will shrink down as they ferment, so pick plenty.

Brassica or other leaves, shredded
Additional herbs and vegetables of your choice (e.g. onion, garlic, dill, fennel), shredded or grated
Sea salt (see ‘Salting ratios’ box for quantities)

You will need a suitable large container, a plate, a weight and a cloth.

The leaves should make up the bulk of the mix: around 4 parts leaves to 1 part other vegetables and herbs, but you can experiment with what you have available and according to taste. Mix the shredded leaves and vegetables and spread them, a handful at a time, over the base of your container. Sprinkle some salt after every  few handfuls, aiming to distribute it evenly between layers of vegetables.

When all the vegetables are in the container, cover them with the plate and push it down firmly, compressing them as much as possible. Put the weight on top of the plate and cover the container with the cloth. Tie the cloth around with string to secure it over the container – this will keep insects out but let the microorganisms in.

Over the next day or two, press down on the weight occasionally to encourage the process, and after 24-48 hours enough liquid should have been drawn out of the vegetables to cover the plate. If after 48 hours the plate is not covered with brine, add a little brine solution to ensure the vegetables are submerged. Give the sauerkraut a gentle stir and then replace the plate.

Check the container daily and remove any mould that forms on the surface of the liquid using a spoon. After one week, taste the brine daily until you are satisfied with the flavour.

Transfer the sauerkraut to sterilised storage jars, label them with the date and contents and store in the fridge. It will keep for at least three months when refrigerated.

Try using this method to make a sour slaw with grated root vegetables, garlic and herbs. You can also create a Korean-style kimchi with mixed forest garden vegetables, Szechuan pepper and elephant garlic.

Brining (pickling)

Brining is an all-inclusive method of fermentation, applicable to pretty much any kind of fruit or vegetable. Essentially, you create a brine solution, submerge your chosen food in it and wait. Some recipes, such as brined garlic or capers, are very simple and use only one food ingredient. Others, such as some traditional Indian pickles, are more exotic and complex.

Brined elephant garlic

1 elephant garlic bulb, separated and peeled
2 tbsp sea salt
400ml (14fl oz) water

You will need a 0.5l (18fl oz) sterilised glass storage jar and a piece of cloth.

Add the salt to the water and stir until fully dissolved. Place the peeled cloves of garlic into the storage jar and pour in the brine solution. The cloves are so big that you can wedge them in against each other and prevent them from floating to the top. Make sure there is at least 2cm (¾”) of brine above the garlic cloves, and fix the cloth to the rim of the jar with an elastic band or string.Allow to ferment for approximately one week, tasting the brine daily and removing any mould that forms on the surface. When the garlic is to your liking, if you have had a lot of mould you may choose to empty the jar contents into a clean bowl, re-sterilise the jar and return the contents to it for storage. Label and date the jar and store in a cool place. It will keep for several months out of the fridge, but refrigeration helps to reduce surface mould.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Preserving the Harvest: Sugar Preserves

We are approaching the season of gluts in the garden with beans dripping from the vines and courgettes turning to marrows in the blink of an eye. That's why we need to be ready to capture this bounty for our larders and not let it become slug food! Here is a whistle-stop tour of preserving methods you can try out.

There are two main ingredients in food preservation: Sugar and Salt
These ingredients can preserve foods by creating an environment which food-decomposing microbes cannot survive in. They can also aid a fermentation process which encourages beneficial microbes to help preserve the food. In this post I'l talk about sugar preserves and I'll cover salt preserves in my next post.

Sugar Preserves


Roughly equal volumes of fruit and sugar are boiled to a setting point and then stored in hot, sterilised jars. The Jam cools and will store for months or even years if unopened.
Pectin is an ingredient naturally present in fruits (some have much more than others) which helps to make the jam set.

High Pectin Fruits
Low Pectin Fruits
Cooking aplles
Crab apples
Sour plums

If making jam with low-pectin fruits pectin can be added either in a processed liquid form or by including some high pectin fruits.

1 large cooking apple per kilo of fruit
1 250ml bottle of pectin per 2kg fruit

Alternatives to sugar can be used:

Jam will taste of honey. Expensive. Doesn’t always set as well.
Fruit concentrates
Concentrating juices yourself not practical. Concentrates can be bought- apple or grape are best. Jams don’t keep as long once opened: keep in fridge and eat within 2 weeks.
Sweetens but doesn’t preserve. Method is more traditional bottling method (boiling jars) but risk of botulism if correct method not followed.


Similar product to the method is different. Fruit is cooked separately first and the pulp is passed through a fine fabric jelly bag to make it clear. The Juice is then boiled with sugar to setting point.

1 part whole low-pectin fruit : 1 part whole high-pectin fruit
1l water : 2kg fruit (variable depending on juiciness of fruit
Same volume of sugar as extracted juice , eg. 1lb : 1 pint

Syrups & Cordials

These are concentrated juices cooked with sugar and stored in sterilised bottles. They normally need refridgerating once opened but will stay good for a few months. Fruit can be cooked to a pulp then strained through muslin. Flowers can be steeped in water and strained. Lemon juice is often added to preserve colour.

General ratios
1kg sugar : 1.5l water/juice

Vinegar (live)

Vinegar is created by natural air-borne yeasts which colonise sugary liquids and turn them sour. Other microorganisms can’t survive in the vinegar so the food doesn’t rot. Fruit vinegars are very easy to make using excess fruit, peelings and scraps.

Basic recipe:
200g Fruit
1l water
50g granulated sugar
·       Put chopped fruit or scraps into 1.5l storage jar.
·       Dissolve sugar in water and add to fruit.
·       Cover jar opening with a piece of muslin secured with elastic band
·       After about a week the liquid will darken
·       2-3 weeks will be fully sour – small and taste to check.
·       Strain out fruit and store in sterile glass bottle.
·       Keeps forever

Vinegar Preserves

Vinegars can then be used to preserve other foods, eg. Pickled onions which are ‘bottled’ in the traditional way (heat up ingredients, add to clean jar and seal. Add sealed jar to pan of water. Bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool). There are an infinite number of different recipes for vinegar preserves from simple ones like pickled onions to complex spiced Indian and Chinese pickles.
You can also infuse vinegar with herbs and spices for use in salad dressings and cooking. Particularly for Japanese and Chinese cooking. I make rice vinegar and infuse it with garlic, ginger and Szechuan peppercorns.


Chutney uses both sugar and vinegar but the vinegar is the main preserving agent and the sugar is there to make it more palatable. The simplest method involves throwing all ingredients into a large heavy pan and boiling for several hours until it has reduced to the right consistency. Much less of an art than jams and jellies, but somewhat more energy intensive. There are many different recipes for chutney so try different ones to find what suits your taste.


Alcohol is created by yeasts which are naturally present on fruit skins and thrive in an anaerobic environment. Airlocks are used when brewing alcohol to prevent airborne yeasts from entering and making vinegar. It’s easy to make alcohol but tougher to make drinkable alcohol! I’m not an expert so I can recommend Andy Hamilton’s Booze for Free as a simple guide to get you started.

Alcohol liqueurs are very easy to make by combining fruits/leaves/flowers, etc with spirits and sugar. Sloe gin is a classic example and my rule of thumb for all is roughly equal parts fruit : sugar : spirit. Some examples are:

Hawthorn leaves & fruits
All kinds of mint
Beech leaves

Aquilegia leaves
Mint or lemonbalm

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Diversity and abundance!

Robin sowing peas in the spring
Following a disappointing growing season last year we decided we needed to get to the source of our problems and give our soil some extra attention. Having inherited 4 large brick raised beds with no soil in them (see previous posts) we set about filling them as quickly as we could so we could start growing lots of veg. We used a mix of compost, leaf mould, spent potting compost and used peat-free grow bags. Plenty of organic matter, yes, but very little mineral content which meant that our veg was pretty weak and very vulnerable to attacks from predators like slugs, caterpillars, voles and birds.

So, over the winter we dug down beneath the outer soil level of the first raised bed into a thick, solid band of yellow clay. With the help of some willing WWOOFers and some pick-axes we dug down a couple of feet and mixed the clay in to the soil we had made. We expected the soil to take a couple of years to recover from being dug and mixed up so extensively.....however, this year we have had the most incredibly vibrant and healthy brassicas (broccoli, kale, sprouts, kohl rabi) bursting forth from the bed.

When first planted

We've had all the same pests this year (although the slugs had a difficult spring so are less prolific) but the plants can handle the onslaught because they have everything they need to keep growing. Having said that we have had problems with voles eating the centres of the curly kale, so while it looks luscious and wonderful on the outside, there's nothing the middle. The voles love the safe protection of the Enviromesh which we use to protect the brassicas from caterpillars and pigeons (which works brilliantly), so I've been sprinkling the plants with hot chilli powder. I've used it in the past to deter cats from using beds as a toilet and it occurred to me that voles might be put off by it too. It really does seem to work, but of course after a few rain showers it needs to be redone. This is fine as I buy chilli powder in bulk very cheaply from a wholefoods wholesaler. However, if I don't want spicy kale I have to be a bit more diligent when washing the leaves for cooking!

Smaller bed now
As this seems to have been so successful we will do the same with the other 3 brick raised beds this coming winter. Anyone feel like brandishing a pick-axe in the name of soil fertility!? Hopefully having done this once to each bed we'll never need to dig them again.

In contrast to this we created two new beds with a 3-layer organic mulch (see previous posts) which were planted up for the first time this summer. These 2 beds are now planted up with annual polycultures; the smaller bed has mange-tout, kale, chard, leeks, lettuce, cucumber, marigolds and cornflowers; the larger bed has mange-tout, french beans, kale, chard, sweetcorn, lettuce, beetroot, marigold, cosmos and nasturtium. These beds used to be lawn grass with our lovely humus-rich clay loam beneath. We added a good layer of semi-rotted manure to the clearance mulch and it's no surprise that the crops are thriving.

Annual polycultures are very high-yielding and we find that we need to take care to keep on top of the harvesting to ensure that nothing is wasted and we can make space for the smaller, younger and later crops to come up between the earlier, more mature crops. This means                                                     sharing our bounty with friends and neighbours, which I think is one
Larger bed now
of the most satisfying things about growing food. The notable exception to this is late in the courgette season when, if you want to stay in someone's good books, the last thing you should do is turn up with an armful of marrows! Knowing this we ended up with a freezer full of marrow soup and a lot of marrow chutney last year....which we haven't quite finished yet. Fewer courgettes planted this year!

This summer has been a gardener's dream so far with plenty of sunshine and just enough rain to keep the soil moist and the water butts full. I have been loving the perennial flower and herb beds this year as they are now in their third or fourth year and everything is well established making the beds really full and colourful. The lawn is buzzing with our foraging honey bees now as the white clover we've sown is flowering alongside the wild self-heal (Prunella vulgaris). It's great but we do need to tread carefully!

I also established a companion plant bed alongside the raised beds for flowers which will attract beneficial insects. Some flowers attract pests which would otherwise attack the veg crops, other attract predators of the pests, and other attract pollinators. Nasturtiums for example attract aphids which in turn attract ladybirds. Composite flowers like cosmos attract hoverflies which eat aphids and are also useful pollinators. Having these near to veg growing areas is an integrated pest management technique - making your 'system' more diverse and therefore more resilient.

I began with a patchy area of grass and ivy which I dug over to remove roots. I edged the area with rocks left over from a neighbour's new stone wall, then I added a good layer of compost and planted it up with a variety of perennial flowers including nasturtiums, calendula, tagetes, poppies, cornflowers, cosmos, irises, lupins, star of bethlehem, violets, and various others which I had raised from seed or separated from clumps elsewhere in the garden. Another important function of this bed is to make me smile as I do the washing up, being right outside the kitchen window! So some plants were chosen just because I like them.

An amazing transformation from a shabby bit of lawn to a sea of colour.

Next year it'll be even more helpful when we have a polyculture in the bed directly next to it rather than brassicas which are covered up, but I think the benefit will reach beyond the immediate surroundings.... and it's improving my washing-up experience greatly!

Other flower beds are in full bloom now too.

The buzzing lawn with white clover and self-heal.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Learn, teach, grow!

Christina Crossingham (Patrick's sister) teaching a group at Easton Community Garden in Bristol
Since I began teaching permaculture I have been lucky enough to work with some amazing teachers, including Patrick Whitefield of course, his wife Cathy, Sarah Pugh, Matt Dunwell, Mike Feingold, Martin Crawford and more recently Klaudia Van Gool, Mel Lamb and Aranya. I have seen the core message of permaculture taught from many different perspectives with varying focuses and interpretations. It is fascinating to see how something can be so rooted in natural law that it can maintain its essence in so many different manifestations. The more interpretations I see, the more my faith in permaculture is confirmed.

I trained with Patrick and Cathy, so my interpretation was heavily influenced by Patrick’s practical land-based approach and Cathy’s sensitive, intuitive and spiritual approach. Both of them spoke to me in different ways and I have recently become aware of my own approach having been somewhat polarised. On the one hand I have a background and keen interest in soil, growing and cooking food. On the other hand I have spent time living in intentional community and have been well served by insight meditation and ‘deep ecology’ philosophies. Although these things are interconnected within myself, they have often felt more separate when I teach.
Patrick teaching students how to get to grips with soil

As I begin to work with more and more permaculturists I can see my approach broadening as the dots continue to be joined in my mind between permaculture and every aspect of our lives – as individuals, as families, communities and the world as a whole.  A couple of phrases that one seems to say frequently when teaching permaculture are ‘everything is connected’ and ‘it depends’! Permaculture enables us to see that these things are true; complexity, relationships and nuance are what our world is about. But this need not be daunting when we have such an effective tool box with which to make the very most of these characteristics and work with them rather than against them.

I have just finished teaching a 2 week residential permaculture design course at the beautiful educational centre High Heathercombe on Dartmoor. The centre is run by Mel Lamb who has evolved an enticing programme of events with a focus on the ‘people care’ side of permaculture – one could say the very foundations upon which the movement depends. Mel is an enthusiastic inspirer, offering everyone who passes through the centre an opportunity to grow, to glimpse potential and feel empowered to fulfill it, whether it be personal, practical or social. Perched high upon the rugged moorland with breath-taking views and huge starlit skies there could be no better backdrop for such work to take place. The combination of Mel’s energy and vision, with the awesome natural surroundings is fertile ground indeed.

Aranya teaching permaculture design at High Heathercombe

The lead teacher of the Heathercombe PDC is Aranya, a well-known, and respected teacher who 
has been a key member of the UK permaculture community and beyond for many years. Aranya has an incredible scientific mind, a wonderfully light-hearted teaching style and an infectious sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. He is able to dive into the depths of how water behaves on a molecular level or the intricacies of the soil food web with such ease and clarity that there is a tangible sense of ‘wow!’ in the room. He can then make connections and comparisons which allow us to realise that everything is operating by the same universal laws – we see the same patterns unfolding time and again, on every conceivable scale. When we understand these laws something can open up in our minds which has been long since buried beneath layers of conditioning which make us feel separated from the perceived chaos of the natural world. We start to think in spirals rather than straight lines, and suddenly everything makes sense.  
Steve Pickup teaching the wonders of willow at Ragmans Lane Farm
The core syllabus of a PDC is based upon guidance by the Permaculture Association which leaves a lot of room for variation between courses. Having worked on 3 very different PDCs I can see that the variation between courses can be huge and yet there is no real way of expressing and celebrating this variety….yet. It would be great to find a way to communicate the flavour of each course to prospective students so they can choose the course that appeals to them. For me personally I love having the chance to work on different courses and learn and grow from different approaches. Every single course that takes place is unique as there is a different group of people attending, each bringing their own flavour and wealth of knowledge, experience and skills to share.  I constantly feel humbled by the wonderful people I encounter in my work and it’s great to be reminded that, contrary to what mainstream media would have us believe, the world is full of wonderful people.

On that note I’d like to direct you to an inspiring videoclip by Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Patrick Whitefield: Friend and Mentor

This morning my dear friend, colleague and mentor Patrick Whitefield passed away in his sleep following several months of illness.

Patrick Whitefield 1949 - 2015

I could write pages about Patrick's achievements, and I probably will in other places, but here I will share who Patrick was to me, and the deep and lasting influence he has had on my life.

I first heard Patrick's name when I returned from my travels around Australia in 2003 with a head full of WWOOFing experiences and strange new concepts like 'permaculture'. I got back and immediately began to research permaculture, and there was one name that stood out - Patrick Whitefield. I can still remember the excitement of holding my very own copy of The Earth Care Manual in my hands - a heavy tome of a book with a striking cover - our beautiful green planet in an inky blue space. I confess that like many I was somewhat intimidated by the sheer size of it, but reading the introduction was enough to have me hooked.

"Every eco-system is composed of a vast web of beneficial relationships...This web of relationships is the fundamental principle which enables natural ecosystems to be highly productive without the [same] level of inputs [as a] wheat field. It's also the central idea of permaculture, and it can be applied to both food production and a wide range of other human activities."

Patrick's writing is non-academic, clear and easy to absorb - he was writing for everyone. His manner is light and humorous while clearly communicating his heart-felt belief in the permaculture ethics: earth care, people care and fair shares. There was no doubt in my mind that he was the teacher for me. I booked onto a full residential Permaculture Design course that he and his wife Cathy were running at Ragmans Lane Farm in Gloucesterhire. I was only able to do so because of Patrick's incredible generosity - allowing me a concession of almost 50% off the full course price because of my low income at the time. I already knew that this was a man who really walked his talk!

I am certainly not the first person to say that a PDC changed my life. Spending 2 weeks in a beautiful place with like-minded people and inspiring teachers who are changing the way you look at the world is bound to have a big impact, especially if you are at a turning point in life as I was. But this experience also gave me a mentor who would become a very great friend. During the course I had the chance to help with the cooking and it was then that I really connected with Patrick and Cathy and they invited me to be their course cook. I was delighted to oblige, and spent four very happy years working in the bunkhouse kitchen for their Design Courses and Sustainable Land Use Course (now run as an online course - The Land Course Online). I was also working as a food grower and gardener at the time, so it wasn't long before Patrick asked if I'd like to do a bit of teaching. Just practical demonstrations at first, but leading eventually to him offering me a teaching apprenticeship.

Me (front left) with Cathy's dog Luna, on my first PDC with Patrick and Cathy
(centre left) and fellow students in 2007.

Patrick knew that at some time he would need to retire - although I could never see him wanting to stop teaching, so he needed a co-teacher to take on more of the teaching as he would gradually do less. By the time he received his diagnosis in June, I was just about ready to run the course alone - although I didn't know it until I suddenly had to do so with very little warning when Patrick became ill. Now, thanks to Patrick's guidance I will continue to run his courses and continue his good work.

In my time working so closely with Patrick I was bowled over by his patience and generosity in sharing his knowledge and experience. He was incredibly humble and always open to discussion. It would make me laugh the way he would sometimes state something as a fact before having a 'thinking-out-loud' debate with himself and finally debunking his own statement. If someone asked a question he didn't know the answer to, he was happy to say so. On the rare occasions he made a mistake, he would happily be corrected.

'Permaculture is not about dogma. It's not about knowing the right answers, but asking the right questions, the answers to which will be different for each person and each place."

It was this lack of ego and the need to be 'right', which I found so inspiring in Patrick, and that he taught me is so essential in a good teacher. He is often referred to as a Permaculture Guru, but he hated that because while he loved being at the front of the room, enthusing about what he was teaching - it was the subject he loved, and the opportunity to pass it on, rather than the lime light itself.

He wasn't afraid to say what he really thought either, and he didn't mind if he fell out of favour for doing do. But I knew that if he praised my work, he really meant it. Equally I had to be prepared to take criticism, but he would deliver it gently and constructively, and always finish by telling me

"There are some people who teach who would be best advised to use their talents elsewhere. Then there are those who were born to teach, and you are one of them."

Patrick most certainly was. Behind our great working relationship we were kindred spirits and the time we spent together was a rich mix of deep conversation, a love of nature, shared ideals and a lot of laughter. He was an affectionate and caring person who laughed easily, infecting those around him with his warmth and humour. I loved his matter-of-factness, political astuteness and sense of the comic. He just had a way of putting things. On that note I will leave you with one of my favourite little snippets from The Earth Care Manual which sums up the Patrick I knew and loved.


Stating the ecological ethic can lead to rather silly debates around subjects like 'Does the smallpox virus have the right to exist?'

Certainly there is a conflict between our natural desire to defend our species against others which harm us and a belief in the right of all species to exist. It's much the same as the conflict between my desire to do the best I can for myself and my family and my belief in equal rights for all human beings. Sometimes these things will be in conflict and I will have to try to make a wise decision. 

The need to make wise decisions in complex situations is part of what it is to be human. The idea of a simple set of rules which we can obey without having to think is attractive but unrealistic.