Ram pumps are fascinating because they achieve the seemingly impossible task of pumping water to a higher height than the water supplying the pump, and they do it with no added energy input. This is often misunderstood as needing no energy, but a casual lesson in the laws of thermodynamics tells us this is impossible. A ram pump harvests energy from a high volume of water as it flows through the pump from a low head source, with a low volume of water, to a higher head. Head is the height of the water relative to the pump.
Imagine water running through a pipe with an internal diameter of 100mm and length of 25m. The pipe would be carrying a water weight of 200kg, since one liter of water weighs 1kg. It is similar to an oil drum full of water.
As Albert Einstein famously said – “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” In my opinion, there is no area where this statement holds more relevance today than in relation to our tendency to view problems in isolation, to oversimplify complex discussions – reductionism.
There can be no doubting that reductionist approaches to science have helped us achieve a remarkable ability to influence and control the world around us. Unfortunately, these same approaches have also resulted in the situation where we have influenced the world around us to the extent that our own impact on the environment has begun threatening the very existence of humanity as we know it.
The pivotal problem of our time has become – how can we reverse the rapid destruction of the global environment to which we are so intrinsically linked, whilst at the same time learning to live in harmony as part of it? Viewed via the context of Einstein’s statement above – reductionism is the “kind of thinking” that we used to create this problem, it is not, therefore, the way we will solve it.
This essay represents an attempt to highlight a reductionist approach to science and the complexity inherent within it, via the case study of genetic engineering. Whilst genetic engineering is by no means the only area where reductionist science sits at the forefront of the mainstream view, it is perhaps one of the starkest examples – a proverbial house of cards, built on a series of outdated, reductionist principals and approaches.
Sustainable agriculture is by nature, an ethical industry. By definition it is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way (Permaculture Design Manual), and leads to farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities and animal welfare. Those of us who are drawn to practicing or supporting these techniques inherently know it is the right way to live in the world in which we dwell. The philosophy behind sustainable agriculture was a response, mostly by small family farmers, to over industrialized agriculture beginning in the early 1900’s. As time progressed the movement gained more and more followers and in the 1960’s it grew to include voices from the greater public with the emergence of the green and “back to the land” movements. It was at this time when people fled their urban and suburban lives both in an effort to debunk the societal “system” and to take part in caring for the earth and its people. This was a pivotal cultural time, however, more energy was given to everyday moments and fighting against current day injustices than was given to planning for the larger picture and finding solutions for a more sustainable future. Although major environmental and agricultural problems were identified and fought to overcome with organic farming in the 1960’s, a grounded system and cultural philosophy that made a long-standing difference would take more time to evolve.
This is precisely from where the permaculture philosophy was born. That is, seeing a need to find a lasting way forward and three ethical foundations set the stage for another movement. Let’s take a moment and revisit these ethics that are at the core of our mission as agriculturists.
Environmentalists, including one of the world’s most “powerful” women, have called on the United States Government to withdraw the award it has given to controversial “Golden Rice,” which is widely labelled a hoax.
Highly respected Indian scientist, physicist and ardent environmentalist, Dr. Vandana Shiva responded vehemently to the announcement that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) were to award the Golden Rice Project with the prestigious Patents for Humanity Award on Nutrition for 2015. The claim made by the three scientists who invented Golden Rice, which was patented in 2012, is that it provides a miracle cure for hunger and malnutrition, specifically in terms of vitamin A deficiency.
This Open Day has been canceled due to the extreme weather conditions expected over the weekend and for the safety and wellbeing of people attending.
Coinciding with International Permaculture Day, The Permaculture Research Institute will host a free tour of Zaytuna Farm on May 3rd, 2015. People who will be in northern NSW, Australia might want to make themselves available and make a truly International Permaculture Day of it!
-Extreme nutrient scarcity pushes plant roots in Australian kwongan bushlands to cook up ingenious strategies to survive
For a general onlooker, the Australian Outback is nothing more than a bland empty void with low scrubs and bushes. But the kwongan bushland found in the south-west Australia has an unusually rich biodiversity even though subsisting on some of the world’s most infertile soils. In fact, the soil is so barren, that it is impossible to practice agriculture without adding tons of fertilizer and manure to improve the soil fertility.
To adapt to the infertile soils, plants develop phosphorus efficient leaves, which are tough, lasting many years. But below-ground, the story is all together different. Plant roots have all the known adaptation tricks in the text book, to capture the phosphorous they need.
Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the health and well-being of our planet? This is the premise behind permaculture: a design process based on the replication of patterns found in nature. INHABIT explores the many environmental issues facing us today and examines solutions that are being applied using the ecological design lens of permaculture. Focused mostly on the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the United States, Inhabit provides an intimate look at permaculture peoples and practices ranging from rural, suburban, and urban landscapes.
For all of you who have pre-purchased, please enjoy, it is a great watch. For all of you who haven’t you can now watch it HERE
There is nothing new about free-range chickens and fresh, organic eggs, except that nowadays more people want them – mostly because they are healthier and tastier than other eggs. This has led to a trend in many parts of the world, of keeping chickens for eggs in the backyards of ordinary suburban homes.
By keeping their own hens, people are assured that the eggs they eat are 100 percent organic and totally free from any form of medication, including antibiotics, as well as synthetic colouring that conventional battery hens are commonly pumped with. In addition, the chickens will be healthier and happier than those forced to live in the crammed battery cage conditions of commercial chicken farms in most parts of the world.
Having hens at home is also great for children; not roosters – because they’re noisy and don’t lay eggs. Apart from the fact that they become quite tame (although not very responsive to house training), children love to feed chickens and collect fresh eggs for the table. It’s an ideal way to introduce farm livestock to the suburbs on a small scale, give children a taste of the country, and get them involved in basic husbandry, helping to clean the coop and care for the birds. The chickens will, in turn, do their bit by eating the insects and unwanted bugs they come across in your now pastoral backyard environment.
“The problems of the world are becoming increasingly complex but the answers remain embarrassingly simple” – Bill Mollison
David Spicer and Salah Hammad are joining forces in this year’s Winter Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Course at The Permaculture Research Institute, Australia with a guest lecture from Geoff Lawton. It will run for two weeks from Monday the 6th to Friday the 17th of July, 2015.
“There’s a glowing appreciation for the rarity and value of truly fertile soil”
- Film Journal International, Chris Barsanti
In honor of the International Year of the Soils and the global effort to create soil consciousness, Symphony of the Soil, are allowing us to share their streaming Symphony of the Soil for the week of April 20 – 26 in English with French subtitles for free (The DVD is available in English with subtitles in seven languages – English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese and Spanish). You can watch directly from our site above or it can be embedded and shared. You can support the film and the International Year of the Soils by holding a public screening, giving an educational collection to your local library or school, or giving a DVDs to friends. Enjoy and happy International Year of the Soils!
This is a great watch and we appreciate Symphony of the Soil for allowing us to share this with you. If you enjoy the film, please do visit their site and purchase a copy to keep.