I recently saw a new film, Queen Of The Sun: What are the bees telling us?, about the global honeybee crisis and colony collapse disorder. From a holistic perspective the movie tells a story of transformation of beekeeping and the relationship of humans and bees to explore what is really going on. Once there were times when honey was so appreciated it could not be sold but only given away, yet now we have moved into an era of ruthless one sided exploitation in the search of economical profits, both in beekeeping as well as the agricultural and land use practices surrounding it. As most of us are aware, we have now come to face the consequences of this transformation. Queen of the Sun is a fascinating prelude to rediscovering the synergistic relationship between humans and bees, and is complemented on a practical level by natural beekeeping. Bee guardianship, a natural beekeeping approach taught by Corwin Bell from Boulder, Colorado, encourages and appreciates the beeness of bees and helps to nurture their currently delicate existence by integrating top bar hives into our own backyards, gardens and farms. I think permaculturists could do a lot of good by linking up with these people.
Here are the Summer permaculture tips and tricks from the Southern Oregon Permaculture Institute — enjoy and pass them on.
1. Permaculture blueberries. After two years of hand-weeding our two acres of blueberries we have let them go wild. The plants are five years old now and can compete with the former hay field grasses with the help of us discharging the mowing trimmings back into the blueberry rows as mulch. The tall grass deters birds from eating berries. Last year we lost our first harvest to birds before we got a Bird Gard Pro and reflective tape from Oregon Vineyard Supply. The blueberries started in fully tilled rows with 3” of fresh sawdust. Wood chips will also do. We also added initially enough soil sulfur to bring the pH down from about 6.2 to 5.2. Prune in the winter to encourage new growth, remove disease and wandering branches. We salted the field with pecan trees. Blueberries are a medium term 15–20 year crop and will be pushed out when the pecans are in full swing, so we have already designed in the succession. Several rows are also capped with Honeycrisp apples.
In my two decades working for Permaculture magazine I have met many fascinating and wonderful human beings but my recent meeting with the barrister and campaigner, Polly Higgins, was a turning point. She prompted a leap in my understanding of the power of law and our collective capacity to change the world overnight. I had heard of Polly’s campaigning work but I had not fully realised the far-reaching potential of international law. Polly deftly stretched my worldview. Bear with me if the subject of ecocide sounds grim… the outcome of these meetings was utterly inspirational.
What is Ecocide?
There are already four international Crimes Against Peace: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, and Crimes of Aggression. Polly says there is a missing 5th Crime Against Peace and that crime is Ecocide: the destruction of large areas of the environment and ecosystems. Obviously ecocide can be caused by severe weather events like tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, not directly attributable to specific human activity but there is another category: Ascertainable Ecocide. This is the destruction, damage or loss to the territory, caused by human activity – people, corporations, and nations. Activities such as nuclear testing, the exploitation of resources, mining practices like tar sands extraction, the dumping of harmful chemicals or the use of defoliants, the emission of pollutants or war. Examples of ascertainable ecocide affecting sizeable territories include:
Years ago at a red light I looked into the car beside me and saw the frowning driver’s hair blowing into the back seat as though she were leaning into a mighty storm. But her windows were up. The gale was coming from her air conditioner — on a beautiful day when an open window could just as easily cool and refresh. Then I coughed, and looked back at her tail pipe spewing out toxic exhaust. I was on a bicycle, and loving the day, except for the coughing. And that’s when the simple realization hit me.
We had an over-abundant supply of yacon that had to be harvested. Yacon (also known as ground apple) grows very easy in our (sub-tropical) climate — one plant produces many rhizomes for division and re-planting. It needs very little attention when in the ground and Tom is of the opinion that it improves the soil where it has grown.
One can only eat so much yacon and we do not like wasting resources, and after visiting a health shop and noticing the latest health craze is yacon syrup, I decided to try and make some.
The US Dept of Agriculture just dropped a bomb on GMO regulations in America. Their announcement, released on the Friday afternoon before the July 4th weekend to reduce the media coverage, eviscerated government oversight over a whole new class of GMOs. The USDA announced that Roundup Ready Kentucky bluegrass would be exempt from regulation. That means that a new variety GM grass, produced by Scotts Miracle-Gro, will hit US markets without any government review, not from the USDA, EPA, or FDA. The modified grass, destined for lawns, playgrounds, soccer fields, and golf courses, is designed to survive applications of the weed killer Roundup. This will dramatically increase the use of the toxic herbicide, which is linked to birth defects, cancer, and reproductive problems. Its overuse will also speed up the spread of Roundup-resistant superweeds, requiring a return to other acutely toxic herbicides scrapped decades ago.
In late August 2005, as Hurricane Katrina approached the U.S. Gulf Coast, more than 1 million people were evacuated from New Orleans and the small towns and rural communities along the coast. Once the storm passed, it was assumed that the million or so Katrina evacuees would, as in past cases, return to repair and rebuild their homes. Some 700,000 did return, but close to 300,000 did not. They are no longer evacuees. They are the first large wave of modern climate refugees.
One of the defining characteristics of our time is the swelling flow of environmental refugees, including those displaced as a warmer climate brings more-destructive storms and rising seas. The prospect for this century is a rise in sea level of up to 6 feet. Even a 3-foot rise would inundate parts of many low-lying cities, major river deltas, and island countries. Among the early refugees will be millions of rice-farming families from Asia’s river deltas, those who will watch their fields sink below the rising sea.
The video above — Farmer to Farmer: The Truth About GM Crops — narrated by UK farmer Michael Hart, tells us that U.S. GMO farmers are not necessarily GMO farmers out of choice any more. The seeds cost too much, the chemicals cost too much, and they now need to use a lot more chemicals than they had to before — yet the pesticide treadmill has mutated into the GMO treadmill, leaving farmers grappling with spiraling costs and super weeds whilst essentially making them captive customers; prisoners on their own land.
In northern Jordan during the summer of 2009, I was on a mission to document a modern-day Roman-era cistern resurgence. I met with Engineer and Permaculture Project Manager Sameeh Al-Nuimat at the Care International office outside Amman. He was great. He has rural hardworking roots, loves native plants and traditional ways, is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about whole-system design, and decided we’d begin the day by having an Arabic breakfast with everyone in the office. We all grouped around a very small, low table piled high with hummus, pita, olives, falafel etc, and ate with our hands. What a wonderful way to bring everyone together as the day begins!
Have you heard about the Australian Government’s proposed National Food Plan? Nope? Neither had we until we read an article in the most recent newsletter from Green Pages stating that Senator Joe Ludwig has extended the deadline for submissions until September 2. Don’t get us wrong, we’re supportive of extending the deadline but we are very concerned that this is the first time we’ve heard anything about the government’s efforts to develop a national plan for our food production, supply and consumption.