This 13-day practical and demonstrative PDC will take place in Konso, south Ethiopia, from December 10th – 22nd, 2012, at Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge. It will have a special focus on the application of permaculture to communities in the developing world. It will involve practical demonstrations both form Strawberry Fields’ own model permaculture site and from school sites in the area which are participating in the Permaculture in Konso Schools Project. There will also be the chance to do field trips into other climate zones in the Ethiopian highlands.
Lead Facilitator: Alex McCausland Co-facilitators: Abel Teshome and Asmelash Dagne Dates: December 10th – 22nd, 2012 Location: Konso, South Ethiopia Venue: Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge Cost: US$850 ($600 for Ethiopians) [10% early-bird discount available before 15th October, 2012] Includes: Course fees, food and accommodation for the period of the course Excludes: Transport, accommodation en-route, travel insurance, etc.
September estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show 2012 U.S. corn yields at 123 bushels per acre, down by a fourth from the 2009 high of 165 bushels per acre. Yields are the lowest since 1995 and well below the average of the last 30 years. The summer heat and drought also hit U.S. soybean yields, which are down 20 percent from their 2009 peak.
High temperatures have combined with the worst drought in half a century to wreak havoc on American farms and ranches. Some 80 percent of U.S. farm and pasture land experienced drought. The average temperature across the contiguous United States from January through August 2012 was far higher than in any past year, a full 4 degrees Fahrenheit above the twentieth century average, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The summer of 2012 was the third hottest on record. Only the summers of 2011 and 1936—the latter during the Dust Bowl—were warmer.
I’m enjoying working on a job connecting up extensive irrigation in the mountains of Extremadura, Spain, and relaxing for a couple of days after a successful and effective Dryland Water Management intensive at the budding Permaculture Institute, Vale De Lama, near Lagos in the South of Portugal.
This week we have been looking at all aspects of water design, focusing mostly on this varied site where all manner of interventions are necessary to halt the onslaught of the desertification process and regenerate the diverse mixed polycultures and rich soils that had a biological diversity comparative to more tropical regions at one time.
Something that is clear after working so intensively with integrative and regenerative systems design around the globe in different climate zones is that most places I turn up at have been degraded heavily and the localized cultural approach and ecological understanding is often limited by familiarization with the current conditions and often destructive agricultural practices.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has, of course, a lot of resources at its disposal. Unfortunately it’s been shown that those resources have not always been utilised in ways that actually assist the people they purport to want to help. I’d like to believe that this disconnect is just due to ecological ineptitude, rather than impure motives, but it’s impossible for me to tell, or judge, from the swivel chair I’m sitting in. If I got rich from coding DOS, I’m sure I might also come to consider ‘technology’ as being the answer to all things, and, after a lifetime in offices, would probably also have a very limited understanding of the great biological ‘operating system’ — the interdependencies found within our biosphere, and the productivity that can be found in harnessing those interdependencies, instead of ignoring and overriding them and continuing to try to forcefunctions.
But, today I want to highlight a grant opportunity offered by the foundation. It is an opportunity to showcase sensible, appropriate, productive design systems not only to the African farmers who desperately need to find better ways of working, but also to Gates Foundation members themselves. I dare to dream that the vast resources of the foundation could begin to leverage the work of permaculturists, rather than continuing to finance the spread of unnecessary biotechnology, etc. I would encourage lucid and experienced permaculturists — particularly those with documented successes in places like Africa and India — to read through this grant offer, and to do us proud….
Writing the series about Food Forests has made me aware of how much interest there is in them and how they can vary from region to region, but it also highlighted to me just how difficult it may be for people to actually visit a food forest.
However, thanks to the wonders of the internet and YouTube, people have the opportunity to take a virtual tour of a food forest and see how it progresses over time without leaving their chair!
An Ecological Model for Whole Community Sustainability Education
Nicole Foss and Raul Ilargi Meijer at
our home in April
In the last five months, our small city in New Zealand has had the privilege of hosting two of the most outspoken voices on the Internet regarding peak oil, climate change and financial collapse. In April, Nicole Foss spoke to an overflow crowd on debt deflation and building ‘lifeboats.’ In July, Guy McPherson spoke to a capacity crowd on climate change and some predicted consequences. Both talks had the following in common:
the dominant hair colors of audience members were white and grey;
most audience members left scared shitless;
building community resilience is important in the face of climate extremes, energy price volatility, and financial collapse.
Raul Ilargi Meijer had some interesting back-of-the-house commentary on the first two of these during Nicole’s excellent talk, and shared the story of a community project in Australia that had recently impressed him. But like James Howard Kunstler and other Cassandras on the web, Guy, Nicole and Raul are much better at providing detailed commentary on the potential problems we face than detailed descriptions of how to respond to those problems. I do not see this as a flaw in their approach, but simply as outside their niche in what might be called the resiliency movement. Where these talented thinkers and writers leave off, others pick up. Like any natural ecosystem, diversity in the resiliency movement contributes to robustness and integrity.
This is an urgent call for support of the Marda Permaculture Farm, which is in dire need of financial support to bring it beyond day-to-day survival into a thriving, ecologically and economically sustainable farm and training center. At this time, its finances are at an all-time low, and immediate support is needed to maintain it until further funds are raised through produce sales and grants.
On a scanty budget of about $15,000 to $20,000 per year, the Marda Permaculture farm has hosted hundreds of international interns and volunteers, provided Permaculture Design Courses for nearly 50 local farmers, agricultural engineers, activists, and backyard gardeners, and about as many international students.
With support from local and international partners, the Marda Farm has transformed into a thriving model of all-organic local permaculture design featuring traditional Palestinian terraces, swales, a greenhouse, plant guilds, construction using natural building and recycled materials, an orchard, bees, chickens, pigeons, compost system, and much more. It is the only fully developed permaculture farm of its kind in the West Bank.
What: Geoff Lawton Advanced Permaculture Intensive – Earthworks, Watershed Design, & Food Forests Where: GreenFriends Farm – Castro Valley, California When: Oct 16 – 19, 2012
This course is a rare opportunity to learn key earthworks, watershed design, reforestation, and food forest strategies from an experienced veteran in the field on an amazing broad-acre permaculture demonstration site in the heart of California’s rolling landscape. Earthworks construction, reforestation initiatives, or food production projects can be a rewarding investment in your property and for your family, community, and bioregion. Improving the functionality, restoring ecosystem health, enhancing aesthetic appeal, and increasing the value of your landscape are all realistic and achievable potential outcomes. However, it can be intimidating to undertake large projects like ordering heavy machinery onto your property, or designing and installing a large food forest orchard. Getting it wrong can be discouraging and very expensive. This course will give you the knowledge, practical experience, and confidence to get the design and implementation plan of your earthworks and follow-up strategies right the first time around.
This video from ReasonTV covers ground we’ve covered before many times, but since little to nothing has changed on this front, we must necessarily persevere in getting the message across any way we can. Essentially, we need to stop incentivising ecological madness, waste, disease, and inequality through public subsidising of the largest agricultural criminals.
Current agricultural subsidies in the U.S. mean that agribusinesses are selling ‘food’ (in inverted commas, as much of it is genetically modified and nutrient deficient) at less than the cost of production. This is damaging to the environment, to U.S. small-scale farmers, the U.S. economy as a whole, and it is particularly hard on struggling small-scale farmers in two-thirds world countries, who watch ‘cheap’ food getting dumped on their doorsteps at prices they cannot compete with and which often see them leaving their land to take up residence in ever-growing city slums, as I outlined in detail in Orchestrating Famine – a Must-Read Backgrounder on the Food Crisis.
To be sure, buying a nice piece of land requires a lot of effort and a few happy accidents. Things have to happen ‘just right’ in order for you to acquire a highly valuable property with little cash and a lot of complications, but, who said it was going to be easy?
As with everything in this life, when you overcome great complications, you feel like you’ve accomplished a great thing, and tend to think that things afterwards will be easier. Most of the time, things go the other way: once you’ve proved to yourself that you can do great things, you’ll probably find an even greater challenge lying ahead, so you can prove again that you have more capabilities than you ever thought you had.
So, this has been the case with La Angostura project.
Polly Higgins, Lawyer for the Earth, is the founder of the campaign to make Ecocide the 5th international Crime Against Peace. Here she gives the latest update on the Ecocide Campaign, and sends a personal message to all permaculture people.
"Setting the Stage for a More Peaceful Planet" — What Does the Ecocide Campaign Attempt to Achieve?
"Our cycle of damage and destruction is spiralling onwards and upwards with increasing speed. This is Ecocide. The impacts are enormous and over a very short period of time we can see the consequences. Morally we know now that causing mass damage and destruction is wrong. This is why I am calling on the United Nations to make Ecocide an international crime." This is Polly Higgins, speaking about her wish to introduce Ecocide as the 5th international Crime Against Peace, in order to close the door once and for all to mass damage and destruction.
Remarkably, causing mass damage and destruction, whether it be through tar sands extraction, nuclear testing or logging, is not a crime. Named ‘one of the world’s most unreasonable people’, Polly has refused to accept this current situation, and speaks on platforms across the world; to UN Ambassadors, governments, lawyers and anyone who can help seed out her message.
As said in the introduction to this lecture held in spring 2011, Christopher Alexander has started a fire that keeps on burning, spread by the ‘wind’ throughout the world. But in the wake of this fire there’s no ash, but only beauty and true living structure. As in the new cosmology of Alexander, matter is not inert anymore — it has spirit, revealed in the field of centers. This means that beauty is seen as a fact of the wholeness found in nature and the universe.
Beauty is the manifestation of secret natural laws, which otherwise would have been hidden from us forever. — Goethe
These natural laws are not so secret anymore. Though Alexander in the beginning of his lecture says he has only taken the first initial steps toward our understanding of living structure, I believe in the end it will turn out that these steps were gigantic. If we survive as a civilization, something we can only do if we start creating living structures, not as something added on, but as the very core of a new civilization where nature and culture are one.