Posted by & filed under Animal Forage, Biodiversity, Livestock.

Periodic livestock grazing keeps invasive plant in check, helps restore views and biodiversity.


This image shows goats in a fenced test plot eating invasive Phragmites australis marsh grass.
Photo: Jennifer Brundage, Duke University

DURHAM, N.C. — Herbivores, not herbicides, may be the most effective way to combat the spread of one of the most invasive plants now threatening East Coast salt marshes, a new Duke University-led study finds.

Phragmites australis, or the common reed, is a rapid colonizer that has overrun many coastal wetlands from New England to the Southeast. A non-native perennial, it can form dense stands of grass up to 10 feet high that block valuable shoreline views of the water, kill off native grasses, and alter marsh function.

Land managers traditionally have used chemical herbicides to slow phragmites’ spread but with only limited and temporary success.

Now, field experiments by researchers at Duke and six other U.S. and European universities have identified a more sustainable, low-cost alternative: goats.

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Posted by & filed under Economics, Peak Oil.

The shale gas revolution was meant to bring lasting prosperity. But the result of the gas glut may be just a bubble, producing no more than a temporary recovery that masks deep structural instability.

Originally published March 2013

Recent headlines in the US press about the coming economic boom heralded by the shale gas revolution would lead you to think we are literally swimming in oil. A spate of reports last year, in particular the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook (WEO) in November 2012, forecast that the US will outstrip Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer by 2017, becoming, as Reuters put it, “all but self-sufficient in net terms” in energy production. According to the IEA, the projected increase in oil production from 84 mbpd (million barrels per day) in 2011 to 97 mbpd in 2035 will come “entirely from natural gas liquids and unconventional sources” — largely shale oil and gas — while conventional oil output will begin to fall from 2013.

These resources can only be mined at the cost of massive environmental pollution: their extraction involves hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”; pressurised injection of a mixture of water, sand and detergents to create new cracks in the rock to force out the gas), using the technique of horizontal drilling (1). But their exploitation in the US has brought about the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs and offers the advantage of cheap and abundant energy. Exxon Mobil’s 2013 Energy Outlook says the shale gas revolution will make the US a net exporter by 2025. But is the shale revolution all it’s fracked up to be? The ongoing fragility of the global economy should give pause for thought. Spain’s once-flourishing economy — the Eurozone’s fourth largest in 2008 — is now in dire straits as its supposedly unstoppable property bubble burst unexpectedly that same year, with house prices dropping by a third. But policymakers have learnt few lessons from the 2008 crash, and may be on course to repeat similar mistakes in the petroleum sector.

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

What: Permaculture for Development Aid: 5-day Course
When: 19-23 January, 2015
Where: PRI Zaytuna Farm, NSW, Australia

Are you interested in using Permaculture to assist development in the third world? If so, then this is the course for you.

This course addresses the basics of where to start, how to plan and what to do in establishing a Permaculture project in the developing world with the objective of assisting local community development and promoting environmental stewardship. It covers a range of practical solutions to major social and environmental challenges facing communities in the developing world today. It looks at how we as individuals or cooperative groups can use Permaculture to practically address these problems in real-world situations on the ground in the current global social-political climate. It considers how to research, plan and implement projects, establish legal frameworks, design organisational structures and project formats, cultivate community connections, research project potentials, acquire land, acquire capital, manage the logistics of implementation, jump through bureaucratic hoops, produce reports and publicise your work. It is a whistle-stop tour of the adventure that is establishing Permaculture aid projects in the developing world.

Find out more and register here!

Posted by & filed under Soil Rehabilitation.


Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)

We permaculturalists like to say there is no such thing as a weed, just a plant whose virtues we haven’t yet learned to appreciate. But when we talk about sheet mulching, we’re usually not concerned just with improving the soil, we also intend to smother the existing, unwanted vegetation so we can start fresh. In fact, I will bet you that every single time you hear someone say a sheet mulch "didn’t work",  what they mean is that it failed to kill the weeds. Let’s call a spade a spade: if you’re sheet mulching, you want the weeds to die, and if it doesn’t work the first time, you want to know why not.

In any given climate, some plants will be more difficult to smother than others. For example, some posters to permaculture forums have tried and failed repeatedly to smother Bermuda grass (Cynadon dactylon) and bindweed (Convolvulaceae), while I’ve had little trouble sheet mulching over these at any time of year in my own climate. I’ve now discovered one plant that requires special treatment in my climate — trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) — and I’d like to share my experience in attempting to eliminate it from my garden.

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Posted by & filed under DVDs/Books.

By Sandor Ellix Katz. Review by Sher June.

This book should be read by everyone who eats. Sandor Ellix Katz first takes on corporate agriculture, extensively detailing how it poisons and depletes our foods and the earth. He then introduces the alternative food revolution of individuals and communities retaking control of their food and working for food justice, safety and security. In his own words, "This revolution will not be genetically engineered, pumped up with hormones, covered in pesticides, individually wrapped or microwaved…. This revolution is nourishing and sensual. This revolution reinvigorates local economies. This revolution rescues traditional foods that are in danger of extinction and revives skills that will enable people to survive the inevitable collapse of the unsustainable, globalized, industrial food system."

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

Permaculture Essentials for the Pacific NW, 36-hour class, only $5 per hour — schedules vary by location.


Photos © Kerry McQuaid

Permaculture is “Earth Care, People Care, and Return of Surplus,” combining traditional and innovative methods that are sustainable and energy saving, enriching to the soil and all life. Design a system to feed your family, or complete additional short classes to earn your certificate and work as a consultant.

Permaculture Essentials for the Pacific NW covers permaculture history and ethics and goes into depth on the core concepts for creating sustainable systems by observing connections and capturing energy. Explore the energy transactions of trees, the roles of fungi, and the many functions of living soil. Learn pH, mineral availability, and enriching your soil with worm beds, weeds as repair tools, and compost fixing strategies. Study landscape effects on climate and temperate climate design for your home and landscape from balcony or kitchen gardens to main crops and food forests. This course prepares you to design a sustainable system for your yard or small farm in the Pacific NW.

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Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Community Projects, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres.

Summary

Our demonstration gardens reduce reliance on chemical pesticides and fertilizers while increasing agricultural productivity and providing better nutrition. This project will help children in six Cameroon schools design, plant and maintain a demonstration garden. Their new knowledge, tools and skills will help the whole community eat more nutritiously with less work for years to come. Surplus produce can be sold to generate extra income.

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Posted by & filed under Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Plant Systems, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Village Development, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

Governments must shift subsidies and research funding from agro-industrial monoculture to small farmers using ‘agroecological’ methods, according to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. And as Nafeez Ahmed notes, her call coincides with a new agroecology initiative within the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Modern industrial agricultural methods can no longer feed the world, due to the impacts of overlapping environmental and ecological crises linked to land, water and resource availability.

The stark warning comes from the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Prof Hilal Elver, in her first public speech since being appointed in June.

“Food policies which do not address the root causes of world hunger would be bound to fail”, she told a packed audience in Amsterdam.

One billion people globally are hungry, she declared, before calling on governments to support a transition to “agricultural democracy” which would empower rural small farmers.

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Posted by & filed under Peak Oil, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.


Download report (2.7mb PDF)

In many ways, fracking is the environmental issue of our time. It’s an issue that touches on every aspect of our lives — the water we drink, the air we breathe, the health of our communities — and it is also impacting the global climate on which we all depend. It pits the largest corporate interests — big oil and gas companies and the political leaders who support them — against people and the environment in a long-term struggle for survival. It is an issue that has captivated the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of people across the United States and across the globe. And it is an area in which, despite the massive resources of the Frackopoly — the cabal of oil and gas interests promoting this practice — we as a movement are making tremendous strides as our collective power continues to grow.

Food & Water Watch is proud to work shoulder to shoulder with communities across the country and across the world in this effort. With mounting evidence about the harms of fracking and the immediacy of the impending climate crisis, this report lays out the urgent case for a ban on fracking.

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Posted by & filed under Animal Forage, Commercial Farm Projects, Livestock, Plant Systems, Soil Rehabilitation, Trees.

Permaculture principle #11:

Use edges and value the marginal. The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place, these are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system. — Holmgren

Let’s talk about clearcuts in Northern BC. Clearcuts are edges, between the forest and cleared land where fast growing broad-leafed plants like fireweed and alder outcompete conifer seedlings. We think of clearcuts as ugly but they are a valuable food source for browsers like deer and sheep.

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

What is a Weed?

When we look at the ecological definition of a weed; we are looking at something that is a pest, reproduces rapidly, grows very quickly, an opportunistic kind of organism, it produces a huge number of offspring. In the case of a weed, we are looking at something that grows best in a soil that lacks oxygen and structure and is often compacted.

If we don’t have structure in our soil and we are preventing those roots from growing deep, and now the weed and some other plant is competing with each other, the weed wins.

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