Posted by & filed under Dams, Food Forests, Irrigation, Land, Swales, Water Conservation, Water Harvesting.

by Rob Avis

Michelle, Rowen and I were driving home from a vacation in the mountains when we passed by a swale on a farmer’s field in the middle of Alberta cattle country. Naturally, it piqued my curiosity and I had to stop the car to investigate. It was such a great example of how this simple technique can catch and store water on a large scale, we decided to make a short video about it….

What’s a Swale?

Rob walking along a swale after a huge rain
event at the Permaculture Research Institute
of Australia

Simply put, swales are water-harvesting ditches, built on the contour of a landscape. Most ditches are designed to move water away from an area, so the bottom of the ditch is built on a modest slope, usually between 200:1 to 400:1.

Swales, however, are flat on the bottom because they’re designed to do the opposite; they slow water down to a standstill, eliminate erosion, infiltrate the surrounding area with water, and recharge the groundwater table. When water moves along the flat bottom of a swale, it fills it up like a bathtub — that is, all parts of the bath tub fill at the same rate. The water in a swale is therefore passive; it doesn’t flow the way it would on a slope.

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Posted by & filed under Building, Society, Village Development.

Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy. Photo: Edgar Barany/Flickr

I was recently struck by photographs of energy-efficient houses that were described as ‘sustainable’ — built mostly with natural or recycled materials and even finished with environmentally friendly paint — however, they looked like regular modernist buildings. Can modernist architecture be called sustainable, if only ecological techniques are used? Or, is there still something missing?

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, Food Shortages, Population.

by Sara Rasmussen, Earth Policy Institute

The Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they take in more than 20 percent of the world’s grain exports. Imports to the region have jumped from 30 million tons of grain in 1990 to nearly 70 million tons in 2011. Now imported grain accounts for nearly 60 percent of regional grain consumption. With water scarce, arable land limited, and production stagnating, grain imports are likely to continue rising.

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Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Building, Irrigation, Waste Systems & Recycling, Water Conservation, Water Harvesting.

A finished tyre tank stand

You may remember reading about the work of FoodWaterShelter to develop a sustainable home for vulnerable women and children in Tanzania. And you may recall their innovative approach to water storage. Well here’s another innovative use for old tyres — and one that may alleviate some potential concerns of unwittingly contaminating the environment through alternative uses of tyres.

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Posted by & filed under Community Projects.

Bill Mollison and David Holmgren developed permaculture through a combination of years of study and observation, many late night discussions and practical testing in the field (in fact it was a garden!) What has emerged since is a powerful network of action learners busy putting permaculture theory into practice the world over. But can we do it better? Is there more to learn? I think there is. For many years the Permaculture Association has focussed on supporting learners and educators, but more recently we have begun to realise that to do this well we need to be doing more research. Research is essentially a refined learning method that gives us the capacity to understand how things work, how well different methods work, how we could improve practice, and what we might learn from others.

To get an understanding of who is already conducting permaculture research — either as academics, or as practitioners using a research approach in their project work — we have put together a series of surveys that will be rolled out over the next six months:

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

Our intern program is centred around learning by doing. Here at Mulloon Creek Natural Farms there’s a great mix of both the established bread and butter commercial operations, as well as a lot of innovative development that’s taking place over the coming years within our ecological agricultural practices. If you’re interested in the large-scale design and implementation side of landscape health within a productive farm environment, be sure to visit our website to find out more.

Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Consumerism, Fish.

The UK’s marine reserves offer no meaningful protection to the life of the sea.

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

What do the terms “marine reserve” and “marine protected area” conjure up for you? Places in which, perhaps, wildlife is protected? In which the damaging activities permitted in other parts of the sea – such as trawling and dredging – are banned? Wrong.

A marine protected area in the United Kingdom is an area inside a line drawn on a map – and that’s about it. In most cases, the fishing industry can continue to rip up the seabed, overharvest the fish and shellfish, and cause all the other kinds of damage it is permitted to inflict in the rest of this country’s territorial waters. With three tiny exceptions, our marine reserves are nothing but paper parks.

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Posted by & filed under Education, Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Medicinal Plants, Plant Systems.

Hands-on experience in getting the most out of a garden is going to be an invaluable skill in the challenging times ahead and getting kids enthusiastically involved, in their early years, is important for their future resilience. Giving your garden (or part of it) a theme can help inspire children and this particular garden theme — a Resilience Garden — may particularly appeal to boys, which is not to say girls won’t enjoy it also, of course!

A Resilience Garden helps provide some of the things you may need, that can be grown rather than obtained from an outside source, if necessary, thereby making your family more self-sufficient. The following are some ideas you might like to have your children try in your Resilience Garden. Some of them only take a short time to grow to a useable state, other things are more long term projects… but you’ve got to start somewhere!

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Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Food Shortages, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

In our travels to Tom’s old stomping grounds, we were shocked to find WA’s breadbasket degraded, eroded and overtaxed.

by Zaia Kendall, Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast

Bare Paddock in WA, with some rocks and Pademelons visible

We recently went to Western Australia to see Tom’s family. Tom hasn’t lived in WA for 10 years now, and he was shocked by the severe degradation seen driving South from Perth.

There was evidence of overgrazing (it’s mainly sheep in that area) and excessive chemical use. The overgrazing has compacted the earth — there is no organic material left and when it rains the ground cannot absorb any water. There were some puddles in places on the side of the road. There seemed to have been a reasonable amount of precipitation over the summer. The average rainfall in that area is 500mm per year. A lot of erosion was visible, there are now bigger culverts than 10 years ago, so there must be more runoff which means more topsoil loss. There is evidence of salinity with trees dying in the lower levels.

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