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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Posted by & filed under Community Projects, Conferences, Courses/Workshops, Presentations/Demonstrations, Social Gatherings.

For those who cannot make it to the IPC10 in Jordan next month (September 2011), my announcement here should hopefully be gladly received! PRI Australia has put up the funds for the additional equipment I needed to enable me to live-stream the International Permaculture Conference (IPC10) to the internet. I’ll be live-streaming the 1-day Conference, and with a bit of luck perhaps even parts of the 4-day Convergence (the latter I’m not so confident about as I need to see if the internet connection is up to par when I physically get there, but from reports it’s looking positive).

Even if you cannot make the exact times of the live-streams, the system we’re using will subsequently have the streams available on-demand — so you can play them later.

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Posted by & filed under Animal Forage, Animal Housing, Insects, Plant Systems, Working Animals.

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.

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Posted by & filed under Commercial Farm Projects, Compost, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres, Fencing, Food Forests, Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Irrigation, Plant Systems, Seeds, Soil Rehabilitation, Trees.

by Chuck Burr, Southern Oregon Permaculture Institute (SOPI)

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.

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Posted by & filed under Alternatives to Political Systems, Biodiversity, Community Projects, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Ethical Investment, Global Warming/Climate Change, Peak Oil, People Systems, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

Editor’s Note: At time of writing, Polly is on a speaking tour of Australia and New Zealand — check out dates and locations here.

Maddy Harland meets Polly Higgins, a barrister who is campaigning for the United Nations to adopt an additional crime against peace: Ecocide.

by Maddy Harland, editor of Permaculture magazine – inspiration for sustainable living

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:

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