Welcome to Goastelliou, our old farm steading on the north coast of Finistere in France – and home to our project in progress to explore sustainable living for a post-carbon future.

Like many small but once thriving family farms, Goastelliou was abandoned as agriculture became larger and more mechanised.

Seeking to live lightly – and free of debt – we scraped together the funds to buy the empty property in 2008.

On this site you will find photographs, sketches and practical information about how we are going about regenerating the semi-derelict buildings and plot of land into our home – and a centre providing experiential courses and resources to discover what sustainable living means in a world of finite and declining resources.

Sustainability by design

We are approaching the project using the design principles of Permaculture – (perm-anent or sustainable culture); a way of integrating our homes and buildings, energy needs, water supply, waste treatment systems and food production with wildlife and the natural environment in a sustainable way.

Our house is rural but these ‘systems design’ principles are equally applicable to the urban homes and communities in which most people live as they are to us here. 


A note on ‘sustainability’ and on our motivation

“If we want a sustainable future, we need to understand what sustainability really means…”

The word ‘sustainability’ is too often misused to suggest that with only minor adjustments to our rich-world lifestyles, we can continue to enjoy the extraordinary benefits of economic growth whilst at the same time extending these to more and more people in the poor world.

In particular, the concept of ‘sustainable development’ does not adequately challenge the assumption that our present globalised culture of consumption growth can continue indefinitely into the future.

Because the reality is that for humans to continue to thrive on this finite planet, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and, proportionally, our consumption of energy and material goods – by (at least) 80% in the next thirty or so years. And we need to do this in a context of a rising global population, increased competition for water, food, energy and other natural resources, and an escalation of the economic and geo-political upheavals that, as a consequence, are already unfolding around the world.

The evidence of climate science is clear that, whatever measures we take now to mitigate climate change, our past emissions have made future climate disruption inevitable. At the same time, unless drastically modified immediately, our global market systems will ensure continuing high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and growing conflict over increasingly scarce energy, viable agricultural land and other natural resources. The timescale to respond to these unprecedented challenges is now so short that, even if new green technologies were already fully developed and operational, these can nowhere near replace the cheap fossil fuel energy that has hitherto enabled the lifestyles of abundance we take for granted today.

So our immediate choices are to keep on avoiding the ecological facts until we run up hard against them  – or else to begin to adopt much more localised lifestyles of much less social complexity. If we are to hope to flourish into the future, we need to embark on a transition to less energy intensive and more mindful ways of living that pay close attention to the natural eco-systems that actually do sustain us on the planet.

So in our efforts to learn about sustainability here at Goastelliou, we aim to explore ways of living that – unlike our present over-dependent over-connected global industrial culture – could possibly continue into the future. This means differentiating between what is ecologically sustainable and unsustainable in our needs and desires and using our ingenuity and creativity to compensate for the loss of some accustomed privileges –  which in practice only our small affluent part of the world has enjoyed and which we can no longer ecologically or ethically justify. 

Ecological sustainability need not entail reverting to the physically harsh and impoverished lives of some of our ancestors on the land. Instead it means working towards a synergy of the conservative use of modern technologies, the re-making of our institutions and economies to operate for mutual benefit rather than individual gain, and the learning and re-learning of the ecological and indigenous skills we need to live in harmony with the natural world instead of in exploitation of it.

To work towards this goal by a small endeavour such as ours might seem futile when weighed against the hugely improbable shifts in collective behaviour and cultural expectations that are necessary.

But our motivation to act is a simple one. Any species that uses up the non-renewable resources that sustain it ceases to exist. And it surely cannot be that half a million years of human evolution is destined to end because a generation or two could not find more meaning to life than our present culture of dubious celebrity, instant obsolescence, digital distraction and too-often pointless and trivial employment.

So our intention to explore and share our learning in collaboration with others is neither optimistic nor pessimistic about what difference we might make. We are mostly interested in what is possible for each of us to do.