Posted by & filed under Building, Compost, Soil Conservation, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Soil Rehabilitation, Waste Systems & Recycling, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

I just read a post on composting toilets here on the PRI site and remembered that I never posted about the composting toilets I made last year (for various projects) based on a similar principles, but a distinct design. Below I offer a few words of introduction and then post photos of the building process with instructions.

As part of various projects that I’ve helped organise over the last six months, I self-appointed myself the maker of composting toilets. Some people might have been happy to delegate such a job to others, but I wasn’t that generous to my collaborators. I wanted the job for myself, and in this post I briefly describe the process with pictures and a few notes.

Before getting to the building process, let me tell you why I find composting toilets interesting and important. First of all, in a world where two and half billion people still lack regular access to clean drinking water, defecating into drinking quality water strikes me as the height of insanity. Obviously, most of us have no existing alternative. But that doesn’t change the insanity of our current system. Composting toilets provide an alternative. Not only do they avoid the need to defecate into drinking quality water, they require almost no water at all.

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Posted by & filed under General.

We live in a world of unseeable beauty, so subtle and delicate that it is imperceptible to the human eye. To bring this invisible world to light, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg bends the boundaries of time and space with high-speed cameras, time lapses and microscopes. At TED2014, he shares highlights from his latest project, a 3D film titled "Mysteries of the Unseen World," which slows down, speeds up, and magnifies the astonishing wonders of nature.

Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

Geoff Lawton, the internationally beloved permaculture teacher, is headed to Calgary to film our site, so we couldn’t help but ask him to teach for us. Join us for this exclusive opportunity to learn from Geoff himself in this 3 hour session: “Establishing a Food Forest”!

What: Establishing a Food Forest 3-hour session with Geoff Lawton
August 14, 2014, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Where: SAIT Campus – MacDonald Hall (in the Stan Grad Lounge/Heritage Hall Bldg), 1301 – 16th Ave NW Calgary
Cost: $75

Note: Tickets will be sold at the door if still available, however, we recommend purchasing in advance because space is limited.

When once-in-a-lifetime opportunities arrive, we believe in sharing them…. So – thanks to a breathtaking honour for Verge – you’re invited to hear Geoff Lawton speak live, in person, on “Establishing a Food Forest” …for a bare-minimal fee!

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Posted by & filed under Food Forests, Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Medicinal Plants.

Leaves of a different cut

I love the tropics as a place for permaculture, specifically the ability to grow tropical fruits and the capability to plant stuff year round. I like the interplay between rainy and dry season, the way things get incredibly green and grow uncontrollably in the wettest of times, and all that fodder for composting when things get parched. Still, living here is not without its sacrifices.

One of the major issues I’ve run into is what can’t grow here because of the heat. When things can’t grow in cooler climates, people have the option of greenhouses, but I’ve not really discovered a good way for cooling the tropical climate down for some rhubarb or broccoli. And, the one that stings the deepest — especially for a salad-loving vegan such as myself — is the lettuce.

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Posted by & filed under Food Forests, Trees.

I’ve always been a bit confused about proper pruning techniques. You’ve got your winter pruning for spur-bearing fruit trees, winter pruning for tip-bearing fruit trees and summer pruning to keep your trees at a manageable height.

There are some people like Sepp Holzer and Masanobu Fukuoka that even advocate against pruning at all, although they both specify that your unpruned fruit trees need to be propagated and managed in a certain way from the start.

With that said, I’ve seen some old, overgrown and unproductive fruit trees brought back to production with just a few years of good pruning management.

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Posted by & filed under Commercial Farm Projects, Education Centres.

I was contacted back in October last year for an initial consult, on pre-property purchase in Tatong, Victoria, Australia. Since then the project has come along in leaps and bounds. Below is a photolog of the events, trials and tribulations of the project this far. My first job after purchase was to secure the dam and install what will become a secondary spillway, but for now it’s the primary spillway — it’s as simple as putting the next spillway in 50mm lower than the current one which is set at 1m below the dam wall height, giving us a 1m freeboard. I call it the insurance policy!

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, Economics, Society.

The Natural Capital Agenda looks like an answer to the environmental crisis. But it’s a delusion.

Below is the transcript of George Monbiot’s SPERI Annual Lecture, hosted by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. The lecture was delivered without notes, and transcribed afterwards, so a few small changes have been made for readability, but it’s more or less as given. You can watch the video at bottom.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing the death of both the theory and the practice of neoliberal capitalism. This is the doctrine which holds that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. It holds that people are best served, and their prosperity is best advanced, by the minimum of intervention and spending by the state. It contends that we can maximise the general social interest through the pursuit of self-interest.

To illustrate the spectacular crashing and burning of that doctrine, let me tell you the sad tale of a man called Matt Ridley. He was a columnist on the Daily Telegraph until he became – and I think this tells us something about the meritocratic pretensions of neoliberalism – the hereditary Chair of Northern Rock: a building society that became a bank. His father had been Chair of Northern Rock before him, which appears to have been his sole qualification.

While he was a columnist on the Telegraph he wrote the following:

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, GMOs, Health & Disease.

We know, we know, Starbucks is convenient, I mean come on, they are everywhere! Starbucks has tasty ways to trick up your caffeine fix, various forms of sugary treats, and even some organic options, to accompany that grande latte, and Starbucks even offers free wifi!

But did you know Starbucks also uses 93 million gallons of milk per year from cows fed on GMO soy and corn? 93 million. Think about that number. That’s A LOT of GMO corn and soy. When you consider that only two percent of genetically modified (GM) soy is directly consumed by people, you start to understand the vast business GM animal feed has become worldwide.

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Posted by & filed under Building, Commercial Farm Projects, Land, Urban Projects, Waste Systems & Recycling.

Sky Greens’ vertical farm


The wealthy island city of Singapore with an area of 710 square km and a population of 5 million, is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. With most parts of the island’s land utilized for urban development, the remaining 250 acres of farmland is hardly sufficient to feed the growing population. As a consequence, more than 90 percent of Singapore’s food consumption is met by imports from over 30 countries. This dependency on the external world makes the country highly vulnerable to turbulence in food supply and prices.

The only way out of this problem is to maximize the use of land for food production. For the island of Singapore, where real estate is at a premium and the land rates are exceptionally high, the only viable option is to go vertical to make the island more self-sufficient in food.

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Posted by & filed under Global Warming/Climate Change, Soil Biology, Soil Composition, Soil Conservation, Soil Rehabilitation, Water Conservation.

There is a powerful means of addressing the challenges of carbon capture and climate change — promoting photosynthesis! This means good old fashion farming and gardening — covering the earth with a vast range of trees, flora and crops.

Amongst other benefits, a rich diversity of plant species and agricultural practice that is poly-cultural and perennial in orientation, enriches the soil, promotes healthy microbiology, sequesters carbon, fosters more effective hydration of the soils, greater climate change resilience and more abundant, nutrient-rich food production and security.

Permaculture is a holistic design system that arranges human habitat and agriculture in a way that regenerates and revitalises the environment. It incorporates practices and processes that mimic the natural world. Permaculture utilises the synergy of relationships that abound in the diversity of species and environmental elements. As a consequence, greater abundance in production is realised as its practice brings together a variety of appropriate eco-technologies, both ancient and modern.

The Rodale Institute has recently published a White Paper titled "Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming" (650kb PDF). It is important reading and very encouraging!

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Posted by & filed under Demonstration Sites, Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Health & Disease, Plant Systems, Trees, Urban Projects.

Stephen Barstow with Angelica atropurpurea, a North American species.

In a garden which can freeze solid down to the bedrock for three months a year, Stephen Barstow supplies himself with a wide selection of fresh vegetables throughout the year. Over 2000 edible plants are found in his unique garden.

Many consider the Norwegian climate to be a challenge for growing food with its long, snow-rich winters, but Stephen finds his location in Malvik to be an advantage.

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