The upsidedownness of our world really gets to me. The people doing the most critical work (like producing food and clothing) get paid the least, and the people busy producing crap we don’t really need at all get paid much more, and by an order of magnitude. Worse, the people who produce nothing at all, but just shift numbers around on a screen, capitalising on the work of the afore-mentioned two groups, get paid exponentially more again.
Warning: Don’t play if you don’t appreciate bad language!
Somewhere along the line we’ve lost perspective. We’ve lost our sense of wonder, our recognition of the ‘magic’ of the world we live in — that all the best things in life are actually free — instead overlaying an entirely human intervention called ‘the economy’, or ‘the system':
An explosion had blown their ship apart. Each one grasped the first bit of wreckage that came to hand. And when it was over, there were five left, five huddled on a raft which the waves carried along at their will. As for the other victims of the disaster, there was no sign of them.
Hour after long hour their eyes searched the horizon. Would some passing ship sight them? Would their make-shift raft finds its way to some friendly shore?
Suddenly a cry rang out: “Land! Look! Over there, in the direction the waves are carrying us!”
And as the vague silhouette proved itself to be, in fact, the outline of a shore, the figures on the raft danced with joy.
We are in the early stages of a global food crisis, the likes of which has never previously been seen. Nearly 1 billion people (or 1 in 7) experience chronic hunger and another 1 billion are faced with serious nutritional deficiencies. Meanwhile, reports suggest that nearly 2 billion people are overweight. Combine these figures and you realise that approximately 4 billion people suffer from food related health issues — more than half of the world’s population. This statistic alone is evidence enough of the need for urgent discussion about our food system.
by Dr Samuel Alexander, co-director of the Simplicity Institute and a lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs, University of Melbourne.
Our understandings and expectations of the world have been shaped by our experience of economic growth. The dynamic stability of that growth has habituated us to what is ‘normal.’ That normal must soon shatter. – David Korowicz
Cutting Off Destructive Growth (image courtesy of Desazkundea, via flickr)
1. Preparing for Life After Growth
In this report I wish to develop some of the ideas outlined in my paper ‘Peak Oil, Energy Descent, and the Fate of Consumerism,’ which I published through the Simplicity Institute last year (Alexander, 2011a). Building upon the ‘limits to growth’ perspective (Meadows et al, 2004), and drawing upon the work of various energy analysts (Ayers and Warr, 2009; Murphy and Hall, 2011a-b), my paper was based on the view that, in order to grow, industrial economies require a cheap and abundant supply of energy, especially oil. When the costs of oil increase significantly, this adds extra costs to transport, mechanised labour, and industrial food production, among many other things, and this pricing dynamic sucks discretionary expenditure and investment away from the rest of the economy, causing debt defaults, economic stagnation, recessions, or even longer-term depressions. That seems to be what we are seeing around the world today, with the risk of worse things to come (Tverberg, 2012a). Since crude oil production has been on an undulating plateau since 2005 while demand has increased (Hirsch et al, 2010), this has put huge upward pressure on the price of oil, and several commentators have drawn the conclusion that these high oil prices signify the end (Heinberg, 2011; Rubin, 2012) or at least the twilight (Alexander, 2011a; 2012a) of economic growth globally. If this is true, we are living at the dawn of a new age, and should be bracing for impact.
Four O’Clock plants have a long history of cultivation and use around the world as well as serve many useful functions, with more to experiment with — like as a dye and dynamic accumulator.
Our family lives in a historic neighborhood of Chico, California called the Barber Neighborhood. Our neighborhood was named after O. C. Barber, the founder of the Diamond Match Company, who had a factory built nearby to process lumber for matches at the turn of the twentieth century. Our home was built in approximately 1909. Because of the age of this neighborhood we have found in around our property an abundance of old trees and shrubs of what many this day would consider cottage garden or great-grandma plants. One of these is the four o’clock plant, growing prolifically near our garage and mandarin tree. Not many people go out of their way to buy and grow this plant in their gardens anymore. Why? I couldn’t say as I’ve found it is a really interesting and beautiful plant with a long history of cultivation.
Julious Piti is a Permaculture designer and teacher, organic farmer, and conflict facilitator based in Zimbabwe. Julious has been using permaculture in Africa to restore the health of both land and community. A founding member of the Chikukwa Ecological Land Trust (CELUCT) and now the Director of PORET (Participatory Organic Research Extension and Training), Julious’ work shows that degraded land can be transformed. PORET supports farmers in dry-land areas and works to address hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. In 2007, PORET won the Zimbabwe National Environmental Award.
In the name of saving the natural world, governments are privatising it.
by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom.
The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying "this is mine", and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not anyone have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows, "Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody"(1).
Jean Jacques Rousseau would recognise this moment. Now it is not the land his impostors are enclosing, but the rest of the natural world. In many countries, especially the United Kingdom, nature is being valued and commodified so that it can be exchanged for cash.
The effort began in earnest under the last government. At a cost of £100,000(2), it commissioned a research company to produce a total annual price for England’s ecosystems. After taking the money, the company reported – with a certain understatement – that this exercise was “theoretically challenging to complete, and considered by some not to be a theoretically sound endeavour.”(3) Some of the services provided by England’s ecosystems, it pointed out, “may in fact be infinite in value.”
It was recently reported in a research study conducted by Michigan University that predatory insect attracting plants saved American farmers “an estimated $4.6 billion last year on insecticides.” Let us hope they continue to up their creativity in their predatory insect attractant planting techniques and quit using insecticides at all!
Having predatory insect attracting plants will dramatically improve your garden’s safety and health, especially from herbivorous insect plagues. And the best part is that you probably already have a lot of insect attracting plants in your garden already!
Trying to live more sustainably and save a buck or two….
Sustainability and economics
Almost every time, more sustainable systems are far more expensive than our regular way of doing things. This may be the most difficult obstacle to overcome when converting. However, this observation only takes money and cash flow into consideration. There are other points of view that need to be included in a truly objective discussion of this topic.
We may tend to see things in absolutes, and the easiest ‘absolute’ to monitor is the amount in your bank account. In the case of sustainable systems, however, there is a lot more to evaluate. Even though it may be difficult to assess these benefits, they are as real as cash and you should consider them as tangible as the temperature you’re experiencing.
Looking out over the lifeless brown quilt of drought-stricken Midwest corn monoculture from the window of a Boeing 747, it was immediately apparent to me that permaculture farming practices would have prevented this ecological catastrophe. The hottest summer on record in the United States combined with aggressive commercial farming practices has created the potential for a biblical famine!
During June this year Tanzania hosted its second ever permaculture design course. Twenty-eight participants from around the globe gathered in the bustling northern town of Arusha for 11 wonderful days of learning and sharing. The Australian based non-government organization (NGO) FoodWaterShelter (FWS) initiated the organization of the PDC, motivated by their desire to see permaculture spread into wider circles throughout East Africa through the ‘ripple in the pond effect’.
Germinating Your Seeds is Fun and Easy. Methods vary by plant type. Seeds of annual plants have a shallow dormancy and do not need a winter to germinate, they only live one season. Annuals generally are buried to a depth equal to the size of the seed in moist well drained soil. Some, like tomatoes and peppers, require warm soil or a heat mat to germinate.
Perennial Seeds Need a Winter
Long-lived perennial plant seeds have mechanisms to prevent germination until conditions are right for successful growing. Perennial seeds go dormant over the winter and then need their dormancy broken in the spring. The techniques below are for perennial seeds only, do not use these techniques on annual or bi-annual vegetable, herb or flower seeds.