Posted by & filed under Soil Biology, Soil Composition, Soil Conservation, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Soil Rehabilitation, Structure.

Fred Kirschenmann has been involved in sustainable agriculture and food issues for most of his life. He currently serves as both a Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, and as President of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. He also still provides management oversight of his family’s 2,600 acre organic farm in south central North Dakota. He was recently named as one of the first ten James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards which recognizes visionaries in creating more healthful, more sustainable, and safer food systems. He is the author of a book of essays which track the development of his thought over the past 30 years; Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays by a Farmer Philosopher, published by the University of Kentucky Press.

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, Economics, Society.

This bill of rights for corporations will blow up the sovereignty of parliaments.

On this day a year ago, I was in despair. A dark cloud was rising over the Atlantic, threatening to blot out some of the freedoms our ancestors lost their lives to secure. The ability of parliaments on both sides of the ocean to legislate on behalf of their people was at risk from an astonishing treaty, that would grant corporations special powers to sue governments. I could not see a way of stopping it.

Almost no one had heard of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US, except those who were quietly negotiating it. And I suspected that almost no one ever would. Even the name seemed perfectly designed to repel public interest. I wrote about it (1) for one reason: to be able to tell my children that I had not done nothing.

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Posted by & filed under Alternatives to Political Systems, Bio-regional Organisations, Commercial Farm Projects, Community Projects, People Systems, Society, Village Development.

This film examines a cooperative of the Brazilian Landless Movement (MST) in the South of Brazil, which struggled for access to land and then transitioned to ecological agriculture, or agroecology. This MST cooperative is demonstrating the possibility of an alternative model of flourishing rural life, which provides thriving livelihoods for farmers, produces high quality and low cost food for the region, and rehabilitates the earth.

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Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Biological Cleaning, Building, Community Projects, Compost, Land, Plant Systems, Soil Rehabilitation, Urban Projects, Waste Systems & Recycling, Waste Water, Water Conservation.

Note: If you haven’t already, you can read Part I here.


A Dead Sea Valley family home with their typical front ‘lawn’.
Photo © Craig Mackintosh

The title may lead you to think we are talking about people who manage pasture or have access to wide areas of rangeland. In fact, we are talking about people whose parents and grandparents were nomadic pastoralists that ranged flocks of animals across vast areas of land with the changing of the seasons. Rangelands in the Middle East were traditionally managed by tribal councils. This form of community-managed rangeland, called the Hima system (PDF), was one of the longest standing and most successful forms of rangeland management in known history. However with the arrival of nation states, the tribal systems of regulation were subordinated to state governments, run by bureaucrats living in the cities. Borders were drawn on the map, cutting across traditional patterns of land use and seasonal migration. Land was nationalised and tribal structures disempowered. In the case of Palestine it was worse, because much of the population was physically displaced, first in 1948 then again in 1967. Many of the latter wave of refugees who were pushed into Jordan have never gained citizenship. Of course the Palestinians in Jordan are now in quite a good situation compared to the Palestinians left in Palestine, but they still lack control over the land resource and hence have no chance to manage broad-scale rangelands as their forefathers did.

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, Deforestation, General, Peak Oil, Society.

Think of the Industrial Revolution as the start of carbonifeous capitalism. — Dr. Ian Stewart

Many a contemporary scientist has commented that they started talking about climate change 20-30 years ago and figured once they educated people, they could go back to their respective fields of research. That never happened. They learned that knowledge does not necessarily lead to action, because humans are not motivated by logic but emotions. So it seems that the key is to make us more deeply aware of what is happening in the world, to motivate us to change for selfish motives as well as a concern for future generations. Learning from the past is a good place to start.

I love history. It allows you to look at the big picture, make connections with past events, and learn about repeating patterns. One of the pleasures of learning is having a ‘light bulb’ moment where you suddenly understand something on a more fundamental level. If you explain it to someone else, it can sound lame and obvious. But personal experience is what makes us grow and change. So today I am indulging in telling you about some of my ‘eureka’ moments even though I am saying nothing new.

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Posted by & filed under Food Plants - Annual, Health & Disease, Medicinal Plants, Recipes.

Basil – Ocimum spp.
Lamiaceae

Herbs are often included in the permaculture design process and constitute a vital role in the garden for integrated pest management and bee fodder. They are also included because of their culinary properties and find themselves located near to the kitchen for easy access. However, these ‘culinary’ herbaceous plants are often underutilised as medicines. It is curious that many plants, and spices, get labelled as ‘culinary’ without much heed paid to their highly valuable medicinal properties. This series of articles aims to provide precise, simple information on how to use more medicinal plants in the permaculture garden. Knowing how to use medicinal plants and using locally available plants for medicine is an integral part of building self-sufficiency and resilience. Herbal medicine is part and parcel of a holistic, low-tech approach to sustainability.

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Posted by & filed under Community Projects, GMOs, Seeds.

Revolutionizing American agribusiness from the ground up, one seed at a time


Photo: Dave Calder

From a distance, Jim Myers looks like an ordinary farmer. Most autumn mornings, he stands thigh-deep in a field of wet broccoli, beheading each plant with a single, sure swipe of his harvest knife. But under his waders are office clothes, and on his wrist is an oversized digital watch with a push-button calculator on its face. As his hand cuts, his eyes record data: stalk length and floret shape, the purple hue of perfect heads and the silver specks that foretell rot. At day’s end his broccoli goes to the food bank or the compost bin—it doesn’t really matter. He’s there to harvest information.

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Posted by & filed under GMOs, Health & Disease, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

If you are still reeling from the news of the latest round of approvals for “Agent Orange” corn and soy, please sit down. More hopped up toxic combinations are on the way. Monsanto has a new “triple stack” GMO cotton up for deregulation with tolerance to dicamba, glyphosate, and glufosinate herbicides. They call it another “tool” for fighting superweeds. These glyphosate-resistant weeds have more than doubled since 2009 and are currently spread over 70 million acres.

Dicamba is a strong herbicide that has been associated with a number of health and environmental effects including reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, not to mention that dicamba, like 2,4-D, is toxic to fish, toxic to birds, and harmful to pets.

People are becoming increasingly alarmed about the escalation to greater and greater amounts of toxic chemicals, and what appears to be an extraordinary insensitivity to public opinion. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), and other members of Congress are speaking up. “Right now we are witnessing agribusiness attempt to wield its powerful influence over federal regulators. They want EPA and USDA to rubberstamp another set of genetically engineered crops rather than listen to the scientific community,” says Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-Oregon).

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