Fertile Edges is a collection of short pieces selected from editorials by Maddy Harland for Permaculture magazine – of which she is co-founder, and editor from 1996 to 2017. Gathered together, they form an engaging narrative of the rise of permaculture within the political and environmental context of the last 25 years. The narrative intertwines global events with Harland’s reflections and examples illustrating the vision and passion of individuals and communities who refuse to give in to hopelessness.

If you are a reader of the magazine you will already know that these editor­ials don’t tend to describe the contents of that issue, but instead focus on one particular theme, be that the political or environmental issue of the day, a specific permaculture principle or Harland’s personal experience.

That makes this collection a great insight into what permaculture and environmental activism have gone through in the last few decades; but it is more than that, as Harland’s writing has a deeply personal and spiritual dimension. It pulls the reader into a more intimate connection with the issues, and engages not just the mind, but also the heart and spirit that yearn for that other world that she makes us believe is possible.

Many of the topics are still very relevant: war, peak oil, climate change, genetically modified seeds, industrial farming and a troubled global food system are still as concerning today as they were when Harland wrote these columns 10, 15 or more than 20 years ago.

Each section opens with a summary of key world events, followed by information on permaculture projects, publications or events and a brief personal update from Harland, as well as a comment on how Permaculture is doing. Her personal commentaries are glimpses into her story. On occasions these are updates on her daughters’ lives. This information is, of course, part of her life and her strength, but it felt a bit more distant to me as a reader.

Harland’s style is intimate, nourishing and brave, and in her writing she moves back and forth between scientific facts, activist strategies and the landscapes she visits, people who have inspired her and stories she’s heard. She weaves these diverse threads into a pattern to articulate the need for everyone to act and be counted in whichever way each is capable of, but always by positive and persistent action.

Throughout the book, Harland chronicles the solutions, projects and people that are bringing about change, and with it the incremental shift in consciousness that offers hope and inspiration. She won’t let you sink into the muddy waters of our troubled world: in every section she offers a buoy of hope and a quote of inspiration.

This is a book about the history of Permaculture, its ethics and guiding principles; about the people who made it happen and why it needs to keep spreading until the critical mass needed to turn our world around is achieved. Fertile Edges will teach you things, make you angry, give you strength and fill you with the urge to be part of the solution.

Sara Melendro-Oliver runs an organic market garden in Devon and campaigns on environment, food and agriculture.