Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Peak Oil, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

Editor’s Preamble: In a prevous editorial life, I used to make a decent attempt at commentary for these large international events — those organised with some pretention towards shifting us onto a ‘sustainable path — but I no longer have the energy for it. Pinning our hopes on politicians’ plans for ‘greening the economy’ is a bit like using your digital alarm clock. The alarm rings, then we hit ‘snooze’ periodically — with a multi-year interval between wake up calls…. All these meetings seem to do is cement a mindset of ‘leave it to the experts’, whilst these ‘experts’ obfuscate with shifting nuances of language. The results coming out of Rio+20 are certainly disappointing, but in no way surprising. It is said, and it’s not hard to believe, that a large industry can do more damage in a couple of hours than the average individual can make in their entire lifetime. While ‘consumers’ are generally targeted as the main culprits (it’s very convenient for industry, and the politicians that pander to them, to pass the blame to the little guy), incentivising or mandating change in industry is therefore of the upmost importance. (Indeed, some industries need to disappear entirely, whilst other new carbon-neutral/positive industries need to begin.) These industries do ‘serve’ consumers, however, so no matter what way we look at it, the end user is at least partly responsible for the resource use, emissions and pollution of the industries whose products and services they avail themselves of. But, due to the mass consolidation of industry over the last few decades, it has become increasingly difficult for consumers to have a choice — and even more difficult to really know the environmental cost of the products and services we use, as what we know about these usually far-removed industries is only what they tell us. Political frameworks/policies, industry, media and advertising largely shape social structures — so consumers can ultimately end up being captive participants in a system not of their making. These players will never reinvent the system for us, so we should quit waiting for that to happen.


The Rio Declaration rips up the basic principles of environmental action.

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

In 1992 world leaders signed up to something called “sustainability”. Few of them were clear about what it meant; I suspect that many of them had no idea. Perhaps as a result, it did not take long for this concept to mutate into something subtly different: “sustainable development”. Then it made a short jump to another term: “sustainable growth”. And now, in the 2012 Earth Summit text that world leaders are about to adopt, it has subtly mutated once more: into “sustained growth”.

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Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Conferences, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, GMOs, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

The summits which promise to save the world keep us dangling, not mobilising.

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

Worn down by hope. That’s the predicament of those who have sought to defend the earth’s living systems. Every time governments meet to discuss the environmental crisis, we are told that this is the “make or break summit”, upon which the future of the world depends. The talks might have failed before, but this time the light of reason will descend upon the world.

We know it’s rubbish, but we allow our hopes to be raised, only to witness 190 nations arguing through the night over the use of the subjunctive in paragraph 286. We know that at the end of this process the UN secretary-general, whose job obliges him to talk nonsense in an impressive number of languages, will explain that the unresolved issues (namely all of them) will be settled at next year’s summit. Yet still we hope for something better.

This week’s earth summit in Rio de Janeiro is a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago. By now, the leaders who gathered in the same city in 1992 told us, the world’s environmental problems were to have been solved. But all they have generated is more meetings, which will continue until the delegates, surrounded by rising waters, have eaten the last rare dove, exquisitely presented with an olive leaf roulade. The biosphere, that world leaders promised to protect, is in a far worse state than it was 20 years ago(1). Is it not time to recognise that they have failed?

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

Editor’s Note: If you’re in the Northern Rivers area of NSW, Australia (or if you can otherwise make it!), please support this important initiative!

Coal Seam Gas (CSG) mining, or ‘fracking’ (see here and here), has potential to impact adversely on the natural environment and community.

In response to the threat of growth of the damaging CSG mining industry a troupe of volunteers based in Lismore, NSW has embarked on an ambitious musical educational adventure.

CSG The Musical is being produced along the lines of a musical theatrical extravaganza with humour, satire and high energy theatre to provide education and entertainment.

On show at the Lismore Workers Club on Thursday 28 June to Saturday 30 June the fun filled fast facts and laughter will raise much need funds for the battle against the damaging CSG industry.

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Posted by & filed under Alternatives to Political Systems, Biodiversity, Conferences, Consumerism, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Peak Oil, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Village Development, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

In a few days the international community will be meeting in Rio de Janeiro, to hold the most significant environmental conference since the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. As the planet’s ecosystems tremble under the weight of overconsumption, this conference surely provides one of few remaining opportunities for governments to take environmental issues seriously.

Will the world’s leaders dare to think beyond the growth paradigm that lies at the root of our environmental crises? Will they be bold enough to constrain the overconsumption of natural resources or even acknowledge the problem of stagnating oil supplies? Sadly, history provides little grounds for confidence. What is more likely is that the conference will simply warm the climate further through an exchange of hot air disguised as genuine commitment.

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Posted by & filed under Alternatives to Political Systems, Community Projects, Conferences, Consumerism, Eco-Villages, Economics, Peak Oil, People Systems, Population, Presentations/Demonstrations, Society, Village Development.

It is the start of Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, and the Global Ecovillage Network has a strong contingent here from all over the world. We have erected a dome at the People’s Summit in Cupala dos Povos (Flamingo Park) and are providing a “Speaker’s Corner” for ecovillages, Transition Towns, Occupy, and others to strut their stuff. So what is it that ecovillages and permaculture bring to this discussion?

The late philosopher Ivan Illich, in his 1974 book, Energy and Equity, observed that conventional wisdom would have it that “the well-being of a society can be measured by the number of years its members have gone to school and by the number of energy slaves they have thereby learned to command.” This conventional wisdom would seem to be now widely shared by both non-governmental organizations and UN intergovernmental agencies working on issues such as education, the rights of women and minorities, and indigenous peoples. Illich challenged it.

“The energy crisis focuses concern on the scarcity of fodder for these slaves,” he said. “I prefer to ask whether free men need them.”

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Posted by & filed under Global Warming/Climate Change.

The shocking standards of tabloid weather reporting.

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

I suppose I should have seen this coming. In January, I discovered that the forecasters employed by a company called Positive Weather Solutions, whose inaccurate predictions were widely used by the newspapers, don’t exist.

Its website carried photos of young women with, er, prominent credentials, who were named as the company’s forecasters, and who appeared in news reports issuing its predictions. But a picture search revealed that these were remarkably busy people. One of them was also employed, under a variety of other names, as a mail order bride, a hot Russian date and a hot Ukrainian date. Another offered her services as an egg donor, a hot date, a sublet property broker in Sweden, a lawyer, an expert on snoring, eyebrow threading, safe sex, green cleaning products, spanking and air purification.

Their pictures, and those of two other forecasters employed by PWS, in other words, were generic shots, used to promote a wide variety of products and services.

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Posted by & filed under Animal Housing, Bird Life, Breeds, Building, Fencing, Livestock, Urban Projects, Working Animals.

by Dan Palmer, Very Edible Gardens

When designing edible gardens, a site-specific problem will often crop up. One of the most enjoyable aspects of permaculture design for us is devising site-specific solutions to those problems. In this short series we give four examples, all bona fide VEG originals, with a new one each month for the next four months.

Part One – the Chook/Fox Filter

The Site-Specific Design Problem

In 2005 Dan from VEG lived in a Melbourne sharehouse with abundant veggie gardens, a woodrow-style chook tractor and several chooks, as shown below. Another chook tractor is shown in the next photo to give a better idea of what the thing looked like — a lightweight moveable bottomless chook pen.

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Posted by & filed under Compost, Courses/Workshops, Fungi, Soil Biology, Soil Composition, Soil Conservation, Soil Rehabilitation, Soil Salination, Structure.

Paul Taylor, the main teacher of our ‘How to Make Your Own Natural Fertilizer’ biological soil science course, is the managing director of Trust Nature Pty Ltd. Paul has been working as a recognized educator and sustainable design consultant for the past 30 years. Paul has Australian Federal Government FarmReady approval as an educator, is a recognized Permaculture Teacher and organic soil management specialist and has completed his Certificate IV in Education, Training and Assessment, qualifying him as an educator under the Australian Federal Government VET (Vocational Education and Training) guidelines. Paul has worked extensively as a consultant and educator in Australia, India, the Middle East and the U.S.A.

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres, Land, Swales.

by PRI Sunshine Coast

A swale dry rock wall built by WWOOFers and revamping some garden beds.

To further improve our kitchen garden swales, we have rock-walled a number of them. This stops erosion of the garden beds, since soil falls or is washed down into the swales. It also creates a beautiful frog and lizard habitat, and levels the garden bed, instead of having it on a slope.

By using the combined resources of WWOOFers and our creek rock, and PDC student Andrew’s experience in rock walling (he showed the WWOOFers how to build the dry rock wall), the swale rock wall took only three days to build. This included getting rock from our creek bed, sorting the rock and laying it. It has made the garden bed more functional and more productive, and as we build the soil and raise the garden beds we can add more rocks to the rock wall to keep all the beautiful soil where it belongs — in the garden bed.

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

Editor’s preamble: It’s refreshing and even somewhat reassuring when a major stock market website runs an article like the one below….

Everything you know about economics is wrong

A stray dog stands on a rubbish dump at the seafront
in Sidon, southern Lebanon.

Yes, everything you know about economics is wrong. Dead wrong. Everything. The conclusions of economists are based on a fiction that distorts everything else. As a result economics is as real as one of the summer blockbusters like “Battleship,” “The Avenger” or “Prometheus.”

The difference is that the economic profession is a genuine threat, not entertainment. Economics dogma is on track to destroy the world with a misleading ideology.

Why? Because all economics is based on the absurd Myth of Perpetual Growth. Yes, all theories and business plans based on growth are mythological.

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Posted by & filed under Building, Energy Systems, Land, Retrofitting, Waste Systems & Recycling.

Photo © Craig Mackintosh

It turns out that very few of those that do a PDC end up being consultants. It took me a while to actually become a paid consultant and I’ve only been doing it for a little while. I took so long to become one as I truly thought everyone who’d done a PDC would become a consultant and that I would just end up being ‘another consultant’. Wow, was I wrong! Of course, not everyone has to be one, many of us have other interests to pursue, but there are lots of us who do want to be consultants, but become defeated by things like a lack of knowledge, experience, confidence and other obligations (family, secure job, etc.).

What I decided to do for you my friend was to set myself up as an example of what is possible. So at the age of 33, with second child in wife’s belly, I decided to take the plunge and become a full time consultant. We had little money — nothing that would help establish a business. I did, well, jump into it head first. This could be bad advice as I am not into ruining lives! Well, maybe a little bit and for the best, wink wink.

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Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Fish, Global Warming/Climate Change, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

Take a fish’s eye view of the world. It’s both beautiful and fascinating. You’ll be peering under the waves to look at the least understood part of our world, the ocean and its hidden mysteries. In this video, you’re looking at the basis of your own existence….

Of course, not all is well in the plankton department. Climate change and its associated ocean acidification, along with widespread pollution, are threatening the building blocks of life….

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