Posted by & filed under Global Warming/Climate Change.

Why is the government spending £1.6m on a geo-engineering experiment whose results can never be used?

by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom.

It’s atmospheric liposuction: a retrospective fix for planetary over-indulgence. Geo-engineering, which means either sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere or trying to shield the planet from the sun’s heat, is an admission of failure, a failure to get to grips with climate change. Is it time to admit defeat and check ourselves into the clinic?

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Community Projects, Deforestation, Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Plant Systems, Seeds, Trees.

School children take part in Nendo Dango in Argentina´s Rio Negro Province, Patagonia.

As part of a reforestation program around Argentina´s Eco Capital, El Bolsón, 21 schools have transformed their assembly halls into assembly lines for the production of over 25,000 seed clay balls utilizing the ancient technique of Nendo Dango. The method, re-invented by the ´father of natural farming´, Masanobu Fukuoka, was taught to the people of El Bolsón 3 years ago when Panos Manikis, Fukuoka´s most learned disciple, came to hold a series of workshops. Today, led by an inspiring group of permaculture activists, the technique is being used to do more than just rejuvenate the 1,200 hectares of forest that was incinerated in a 3-day fire earlier this year.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Consumerism, GMOs, Health & Disease.

Do you care about GMOs in your food? Did you know that being “certified organic” does not guarantee the food is not contaminated with GMOs? Contamination has been found in certified organic foods since 2002. That’s not a typo, folks. It’s horrifying to see how long we’ve been a part of the largest experiment in human history.

Let the food companies you support know you don’t want GMOs in your food. Write them a sample letter, like the one below. If you are in the US or Canada, suggest food companies become a part of the Non-GMO Project.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Commercial Farm Projects, Community Projects, Courses/Workshops, Demonstration Sites, Project Positions, Urban Projects.

In June, students underwent the PRI’s first Urban Landscape Design Course which aimed at formulating the skills required to successfully transfer the theoretical knowledge of Permaculture into a professional, efficient and effective small business operation. The course was an intensive 5-day, 12hr per day immersion into the world of professional consultancy and project management. The course offered students hands-on experience with a design project, building skills that can be translated into other areas such as aid work or paid work in either urban or rural environments, or even taking away the practical experience to better develop your own place.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops, Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Land, Medicinal Plants, Plant Systems, Trees.

The 3-day Food Forest Workshop at the PRI’s Zaytuna Farm, starting September 21st, is drawing near. Book now to secure your place.

This Black Sapote (sometimes called chocolate pudding fruit) sits in a pool
of light coming through foliage of surrounding support species

One of the main concepts of Permaculture is that of growing perennial plant poly-cultures that don’t require planting every year and provide for many of our needs such as food, fiber and fuel. This is a more regenerative approach that builds soil, instead of destroying it through repeated cultivation, and saves us from so much hard work.

By applying ecological principles through design we can assemble the species from which we wish to obtain a yield in a way that mimics nature so the system is productive, resilient and beautiful. Each different plant in the system fills a role and a niche and leaves little space for ‘weeds’. Productive vines, trees, shrubs, tubers, herbs and ground covers are all assembled as if they were a natural forest.

Put simply, it’s a food forest or forest garden.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Food Forests, Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Plant Systems, Trees.

A newly-planted section of bananas, papayas, and citrus on this organic
fruit farm near Siem Reap, Cambodia.

As I’ve wandered around southeast Asia for the last 10 months I’ve kept my eye out for interesting farming techniques among the locals, but have mostly been disappointed.

Whatever ancestral knowledge of organic, integrated agriculture that may have existed seems to have declined or been lost entirely among the general population of Indonesia, Thailand, and Laos in the last few decades as cheap chemical fertilizers and pesticides have become increasingly prevalent.

When I arrived in Cambodia, though, the story was different. The country is decades behind its neighbors in terms of development because of the famous purges of the Kymer Rouge and years of civil war.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Biofuels, Consumerism, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Peak Oil, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

Peak Oil: Security policy implications
of scarce resources
Download PDF (1.77mb)

In previous articles (here and here) we’ve linked to the German language version of a study recently undertaken by the German military on the topic of peak oil, and we also linked to a couple of English summary-only translations as well. Now we can link you to a full English translation!

It’s great that this landmark document is being made more accessible.

It’s quite a fascinating analysis, where you can begin to envision some of the oft-not-discussed implications of peak oil — like how oil can be used by producer states as a weapon to enforce their particular ideologies and/or political and economic agendas on oil-dependent states. Current allegiances between nations may be broken up and reshuffled as politicians prioritise good relationships with oil-rich countries, no matter what those countries might be doing in other areas. Hypocrisy can become the new norm, as authoritarian regimes get empty for-show lectures on human rights on the one hand, whilst being mollified and propped up with oil dollars on the other.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Energy Systems, Global Warming/Climate Change, Peak Oil, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

It looks as if the UK government is allowing shale gas fracking companies to regulate themselves.

by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom.

Before the government approves a new industrial process in the UK it must have ensured that it won’t harm either people or the environment. Mustn’t it? That’s what any sane person would expect. Any sane person would be wrong.

One year ago, a company called Cuadrilla Resources began drilling exploratory shafts into the rock at Preese Hall near Blackpool, in north-west England, to begin the UK’s first experiments with extracting gas trapped in formations of shale. The process – called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking – involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and drilling fluids at high pressure into the rock, to split it apart and release the natural gas it contains. In June Cuadrilla temporarily suspended its operations as a result of two small earthquakes in the area, which might have been caused by the fracking. The experiment is likely to resume soon. Cuadrilla has also started exploratory drilling at two other sites in the region.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Consumerism, DVDs/Books, Economics, Food Shortages, Peak Oil, Society.

Download the Food and Democracy e-book
(1.75mb PDF)

To give some excellent reading for the readerholics amongst you, regular contributor Marcin Gerwin has put together an excellent collection of articles to create a highly readable e-book focusing on food sovereignty — the necessity for it, the challenges to achieve it, and the solutions associated with it.

Produced by 17 authors from around the world, attacking the same topic and interconnected issues from different angles, this is a great read and is not only a valuable overview of the crisis we face but ships with excellent holistic suggestions for how we can extricate ourselves from it.

Read it, enjoy it, and please do circulate it!

Nice work Marcin!

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

Editor’s Note: It’s a trend we’re increasingly seeing with permaculture unfortunately — that of the rise of permaculture perfectionists. Many readers have noticed this in comments on this and other permaculture sites, where people are quick to judge and criticise, feeling superior in their own problem-discovering skills, instead of taking pride in helping fledgling projects move forward, by way of encouragement and nurturing. I applaud Alex here for his dogged determination through blood, sweat and tears to keep building his much-needed permaculture demonstration site in one of the most needy parts of the world. I think we can all learn some lessons in humility here, and how to be appropriately constructive. For those who want to support Alex’s project in a more tangible way, consider attending Strawberry Field’s next PDC, starting October 17, 2011.

We ran a Training of Trainers course with Steve Cran at Strawberry Fields here in Ethiopia [editor's note - read much more about Strawberry Fields via Alex's author profile] in July, 2011. The course was not a great hit with many members of the group because they were unhappy with the living conditions at the lodge. Others felt it was over-priced. There was an outbreak of Typhoid amongst the group during the course and that put a big downer on things. Although, all agreed the training was top quality and we all learned a huge amount from the course.

It is true that it didn’t run perfectly for various reasons which I am going to give a detailed account of, from our perspective, over the next couple of weeks, along with more background on the history of the project, how we have got to where we are today, what we are doing now, and perhaps most importantly what we are planning to do in the future.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres, Irrigation, Land, Livestock, Plant Systems, Soil Rehabilitation, Urban Projects, Waste Systems & Recycling.

Latifa inspects project development from a unique vantage point

It’s been just over a year since I’ve visited the Jordan Valley Permaculture Project (aka ‘Greening the Desert – the Sequel’) site, and I’m keen to check out progress when I visit next month (September 2011). In the meantime, Geoff, who is in Jordan now to help organise the upcoming Tenth International Permaculture Conference & Convergence (IPC10), has sent through a few pictures I can share today.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Deforestation, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Population, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

by Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute

Photo © Craig Mackintosh

People do not normally leave their homes, their families, and their communities unless they have no other option. Yet as environmental stresses mount, we can expect to see a growing number of environmental refugees. Rising seas and increasingly devastating storms grab headlines, but expanding deserts, falling water tables, and toxic waste and radiation are also forcing people from their homes.

Advancing deserts are now on the move almost everywhere. The Sahara desert, for example, is expanding in every direction. As it advances northward, it is squeezing the populations of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria against the Mediterranean coast. The Sahelian region of Africa—the vast swath of savannah that separates the southern Sahara desert from the tropical rainforests of central Africa—is shrinking as the desert moves southward. As the desert invades Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, from the north, farmers and herders are forced southward, squeezed into a shrinking area of productive land. A 2006 U.N. conference on desertification in Tunisia projected that by 2020 up to 60 million people could migrate from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and Europe.

Read more »