Of all the countries in Europe, Spain could be arguably said to be the most destructive and irresponsible when it comes to agriculture: widely condoned cultivation of genetically modified crops (see for example 1), high-input intensive farming and notably heavy use of chemicals for fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides (see for example 2). This is especially true in Andalucía, where the most common method of agriculture is use of controlled environments requiring high chemical input inside plastic greenhouses (2).
Yet despite these trends, Andalucía is also home to some of the most inventive and experimental land-based projects on the continent, one of which is the newly opened permaculture demonstration project and retreat centre La Loma Viva (3).
Last month I spent two weeks working at La Loma Viva and finding out about the project, much of which is inspiring highly inspiring for others interested in this kind of work.
The view in full moonlight from La Loma Viva. Photo by David Ashwanden.
NIOO Seminar by Chinese-American filmmaker John D. Liu. Title: ‘The Healing of the Earth’. The seminar took place on 26 January 2015 in the Colloquium Room at NIOO-KNAW in Wageningen.
Using excerpts from his films, Liu talks about his life’s work of convincing the world that ecosystems damaged by human activity can in fact be repaired by human activity. Why, Liu asks, aren’t more students, academics and others embracing ‘the great work of our time’?
I have been a regular visitor to Nepal over the last 4 years and have made a deep connection with this country, its kind hearted people and stunning environment. Permaculture in Nepal is very established and practiced by a huge amount of Nepali Farmers. This is much connected to the long term efforts of people like Chris Evans and Govinda Sharma plus many, many more.
My friend,mentor and teacher Govinda and I in South India near Auroville
This World Bank/TerrAfrica documentary showcases Ethiopia’s success in sustainable land and water management. It highlights how a landscape approach was used to manage land, water and forest resources to meet the goals of food security and inclusive green growth. The lessons drawn are relevant for other countries in the region and other parts of the world fighting land degradation and climate change issues.
This video shows the change from dry barren hillsides to healthy productive lands.
As rampant manufacturing and productions of goods are causing huge harm to human physical well-being, farming, ecosystems, and world climate, the sustainability movement is gaining popularity and importance among all who are concerned about the environment. Many third world countries are compromising business ethics to raise their growth of products and they are constantly ignoring the environmental issues that matter a lot to sustainability movement.
China is one of the countries that have the most polluted air in the world, however an extensive amount of the nation’s products are manufactured for the demand of products for the countries such as the United States and other countries. Now the USA and other developed countries are planning to devise new agenda and strategy to protect the environment from degradation caused by the countries that produce large amount of goods. In fact, consumers are putting pressure on the countries that flout environmental laws and policy to gain maximum profit out of their production. So the importance of sustainable environment is on the increase and many consumers are giving top priority to ethical business that safeguards sustainability of the environment. As the third world counties produce goods by taking advantage of the weak, fragile and relaxed laws and regulations existing in these countries, they do not take into consideration the protection of the environment and they cause extensive harm to the environment. Moreover poor and cheap labor available in these countries also contribute to large amount of production that have adverse effects on the environment. That is why the consumer society is focusing on ethical manufacturing and pushing the manufacturers to produce goods ensuring sustainability of environment.
After a year full of very hard work establishing the system, it was time to begin to allowing nature to do the work for us. At first, the title of this section may seem a bit contradictory. How can you, at the same time, consolidate and diversify?
By consolidate, I mean to hold on to the gains that we made in the first year and reinforce them while concurrently reducing the amount of time and energy we would invest. The age old method
of cover cropping: hardy, multi functional species improving the soil and occupying the majority of the niches available would prove to be a valuable tool in this effort. I wanted to use the second year to increase biomass production on site and replenish the soil’s nitrogen. Expanding comfrey to widen our nutrient net was also a high priority (and is ever so easy to accomplish).
One of Bill Mollison’s famous quote’s is, let your site demonstrate its evolution.
Earthworks hydrology construction is one of the first big steps in getting a property established and can be an invaluable investment into its future, so it is something you want to get right. Earthworks going wrong can be very expensive and a major setback for you and your property.
We have had a bit over 12 months to watch, observe and interact with the site. We have watched how the major mainframe earthworks changed the dynamics and zoning of the site.
After observing the spillway above the overflow for around 6 months, we have decided to take advantage of current resources and install some cool aquaculture elements. This can be seen in the photo’s below:
150,000 litre fishpond
150m of swale
3 more level sill spillways
We have the ability to flood the system to form multiple storage opportunities, all of these are gravity feed we can deluge our main crop terrace, or any of the other elements, with nutrient rich fishpond water.
Samuel Alexander of the Simplicity Institute, who has written numerous articles for Permaculturenews.org, has just published Prosperous Descent: Crisis as Opportunity in an Age of Limits. A paperback of the book is available here. Samuel has made available a free PDF version of his book, please visit his site here for more details.
INTRODUCTION TO PROSPEROUS DESCENT
I sometimes tell my students that I am an ‘apocaloptimist’. While, in truth, I am neither apocalyptic nor optimistic, this neologism serves as a fruitful conversation starter. It allows me to begin stating the case for why we, the human species, are facing overlapping crises of unprecedented magnitude – crises that are threatening the very persistence of our civilisation. At the same time, I explain why all of these problems are of our own making and, indeed, that their solutions already exist and are within our grasp, if only we decide that solving them is seriously what we want. I also maintain that the process of solving or at least responding appropriately to these problems can be both meaningful and fulfilling, if only we are prepared to let go of dominant conceptions of the good life. This means embracing very different ways of living, while also re-structuring our societies to support a very different set of values – especially the values of frugality, moderation, and sufficiency. In short, I argue that the problems we face today are as grave as the solutions are available and attractive, and this tension is reflected in the title of this book – PROSPEROUS DESCENT – which I use provocatively to signify a paradox whose meaning will be unpacked in the following pages and chapters.
You’ve never seen buildings like this. The stunning bamboo homes built by Elora Hardy and her team in Bali twist, curve and surprise at every turn. They defy convention because the bamboo itself is so enigmatic. No two poles of bamboo are alike, so every home, bridge and bathroom is exquisitely unique. In this beautiful, immersive talk, she shares the potential of bamboo, as both a sustainable resource and a spark for the imagination. “We have had to invent our own rules” she says.
What Our Grandparents Knew About Ecology, Genetics and Ethics:
“What does an animal need to have a good life? I don’t mean a good life physically. We know a lot about what kind of food, water, exercise, and veterinary care animals need to grow well and be healthy…
What does an animal need to be happy?”
Dr. Temple Grandin
Raising livestock is rooted in so much more than reading directions from dry tomes spouting food and shelter basics. The concept of cultivating animals as one would set seeds for a crop of wheat or pour some oil into a tractor is finally been seen as waaay off the mark. It doesn’t matter how hard agriculture tries to disembody cows, pigs, chickens or sheep, the animal REMAINS. And those animals need to exhibit normal behavior in order to thrive. Stress and growing conditions impact the productivity of plants (and even this is becoming a problem… with GMO’s), but plants do not have minds. As Dr. Jaak Panksepp reminds us, animals have brains. Their brains are connected to their bodies and unlike plants; a living thing with emotions needs to have its intellect valued if it is to flourish. The livestock of our grandparents’ farms were bred to withstand conditions, co-exist within a community, produce at a reasonable level that prevented chronic distress, reproduce naturally and further genetics for vigor and disposition. So what happened? Breeding for super production and other agricultural practices have slowly eroded the foundation blocks of sustainability and balanced unnatural yields or body traits that render animals in consistently precarious states, are in direct opposition to good and rational husbandry.
Slovenia food self-sufficiency index (the rate between home production and consumption) is considered low when compared to countries of Western Europe. It’s not easy to find reliable figures on what this exactly means thus I invite anyone finding reliable sources to please publish them in the comment session of this article. I have provided some reference from which I extracted the figures provided next.
An article on the Slovenia Times states that self-sufficiency in Slovenia is 93%, lowered to 78%, if we consider that Slovenia imports 99% of its feed (old issue of feeding animals instead of people?)
Slovenia is a net importer of vegetables, grains, potatoes and beef (though for our globalized absurd system it also exports a certain amount of these) as reported in the FAO agricultural commodities balance sheets.
Documented these figures, I must say that, at least in some parts of the country, villages seem well geared to maximize food resiliency. I wonder how this backyard production is accounted for in the mentioned statistics and what role it plays in feeding the population.