Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Earth Policy Institute June 27, 2012
by Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute
No previous civilization has survived the ongoing destruction of its natural supports. Nor will ours. Yet economists look at the future through a different lens. Relying heavily on economic data to measure progress, they see the near 10-fold growth in the world economy since 1950 and the associated gains in living standards as the crowning achievement of our modern civilization. During this period, income per person worldwide climbed nearly fourfold, boosting living standards to previously unimaginable levels. A century ago, annual growth in the world economy was measured in the billions of dollars. Today, it is measured in the trillions. In the eyes of mainstream economists, our present economic system has not only an illustrious past but also a promising future.Comments (5)
Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Paul B Farrell June 15, 2012
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.Comments (17)
Conservation, Food Forests, Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Food Shortages, Land, Plant Systems, Rehabilitation, Salination, Soil Biology, Soil Composition, Soil Conservation, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Angelo Eliades June 6, 2012
Currently, approximately 80% of the food crops grown in the world are annual plants, and it’s been this way for quite some time. Perennial plant food crops are pretty much in the minority in terms of how the human race derives its nutrition.
Permaculture strongly emphasises the importance of using perennial plants in our food production systems. When we consider the permanent agriculture aspect of permaculture, it should be apparent that we would need to utilise perennial plants to construct a permanent system, rather than using annual crops to create temporary systems, which are there one season, and return to bare earth the next.
The preference for perennial plants is stated explicitly in the seventh permaculture design principle — Small Scale Intensive Systems. It describes the use of perennial plants instead of annual plants as one of the features that differentiates permaculture small scale intensive systems from either conventional commercial or peasant farming systems.
To many people, the reason we use perennial plants is simply because they don’t need to be replanted each year, and don’t die down each year, saving us a lot of effort digging, sowing seeds, and cleaning up at the end of the season — and then they simply leave their understanding at that.Comments (69)
Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Education, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Nuclear, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Samuel Alexander June 5, 2012
Editor’s Note: To follow, I think, is a very important look at Ted Trainer’s work — one that broaches an oft-avoided but critically essential conversation. I must confess to only having read a single article from Ted Trainer previously, which I posted here, but from that article, and the document below, I sense that similar thought processes in my own experience, and Ted’s, have led to the similar conclusions. Some of my thoughts along similar lines are evidenced here, here, here, here, here, here and here, as a few of many examples. In short, permaculture must be taken to mean ‘permanent culture’, and not just ‘permanent agriculture’ (as some would have it, as evidenced by the wrath I endure whenever we discuss economics and politics on this site…). And, for those interested, in regards to the ‘debate’ between Ted, Rob Hopkins and Brian Davey (see section 6), I empathise and agree with each perspective, as it happens. For me they’re all different sides of the same form, but none of the points raised eliminate the need for a systemic rework of socio-economic political systems. Rather, Rob and Brian’s perspective just emphasise how much work we have to do to get people on board and working to the same fruitful end. The final quoted passage from Theodore Roszak (bottom of article below) tells me we’ve come to similar conclusions, where he states the need for tangible living examples of happy low-tech implementations of how to live — the very purpose behind my work in creating the Worldwide Permaculture Network, to showcase and inspire people with what is possible, so permaculturists can share their own learning journey and insights into the how of it.
1. Ted Trainer and the Simpler Way
For several decades Ted Trainer has been developing and refining an important theory of societal change, which he calls The Simpler Way. His essential premise is that overconsumption in the most developed regions of the world is the root cause of our global predicament, and upon this premise he argues that a necessary part of any transition to a sustainable and just world involves those who are overconsuming accepting far more materially ‘simple’ lifestyles. That is the radical implication of our global predicament which most people, including most environmentalists, seem unwilling to acknowledge or accept, but which Trainer does not shy away from and, indeed, which he follows through to its logical conclusion. The Simpler Way is not about deprivation or sacrifice, however; it is about embracing what is sufficient to live well and creating social and economic systems on that basis. This essay presents an overview of Trainer’s position, drawing mainly on the most complete expression of it in his latest book, The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World, an analysis which is supplemented by some of his more recent essays. My review is designed in part to bring more attention to a theorist whose work has been greatly underappreciated, so the review is more expository than critical. But in places my analysis seeks to raise questions about Trainer’s position, and develop it where possible, in the hope of advancing the debate and deepening our understanding of the important issues under consideration. I begin by outlining the various elements of The Simpler Way and proceed to unpack them in more detail.Comments (17)
Aid Projects, Community Projects, Conservation, Consumerism, Dams, Deforestation, Demonstration Sites, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Irrigation, Land, Plant Systems, Population, Potable Water, Regional Water Cycle, Rehabilitation, Society, Soil Biology, Soil Conservation, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Swales, Terraces, Trees, Village Development, Water Contaminaton & Loss, Water Harvesting — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor May 24, 2012
As most of our readers will know, John D. Liu caught a vision years ago, and, thankfully, he ran with it. We’ve shared John’s excellent media work before (see here and here), and today have the pleasure of doing so again….
This new video, Green Gold, was first aired last month on Dutch TV, and will be shared at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (to a captive audience of influential representative delegates during their dinner!), which is being held next month in Brazil (20-22 June 2012).
The video takes you to China, Jordan (more background on the PRI Jordan project here), Ethiopia, Rwanda and Bolivia, and features the PRI’s own Geoff Lawton (and a cameo appearance from Nadia!), who adds impetus and technical know-how to John’s impressive toolbox, as well as the ‘Permaculture Princess‘ (Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan), and others.
It’s the story of healing landscapes at scale, and, with it, restoring life, livelihoods, security and a future.Comments (6)
APC11 Presentation: Permaculture Disaster Response to Japan’s 2011 Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster, by Toru Sakawa
Aid Projects, Community Projects, Conferences, Food Shortages, Nuclear — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor May 17, 2012
At the recent Australasian Permaculture Conference (APC11) held in Turangi, New Zealand, one of the highlights for me was hearing Toru Sakawa’s tale of permaculture aid work in very unusual circumstances. I say unusual, as the triple woes of having an earthquake and tsunami followed by a nuclear disaster is somewhat unprecedented. Some parts of Japan were suddenly left without food, fuel, water and many other supports that we generally take (a little too much) for granted, and efforts to help oneself were restricted for many by the need to stay inside, out of radioactive harms way.
It was inspiring to hear Toru share how he and his peers did their best to help people in coastal areas, and how permaculture played some part in enabling them to do so. Toru and his friends, with fuel supplies cut, made their own biofuels from waste oil, and used it to transport their permaculture produce, and other supplies, to the people who needed it. They also brought people back to care for them, and to give them time away from the more radioactive areas.
It should help remind us what permaculture is really about; that being to not only create permanence, but also resiliency against abrupt shocks to the system, and the compassionate care of the people around us.Comments (0)
Consumerism, Food Shortages, Population — by Earth Policy Institute May 14, 2012
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.
Biodiversity, Food Shortages, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Zaia Kendall May 10, 2012
In our travels to Tom’s old stomping grounds, we were shocked to find WA’s breadbasket degraded, eroded and overtaxed.
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.Comments (5)
Consumerism, Deforestation, Food Shortages — by Earth Policy Institute May 2, 2012
by Janet Larson, Earth Policy Institute
More than a quarter of all the meat produced worldwide is now eaten in China, and the country’s 1.35 billion people are hungry for more. In 1978, China’s meat consumption of 8 million tons was one third the U.S. consumption of 24 million tons. But by 1992, China had overtaken the United States as the world’s leading meat consumer—and it has not looked back since. Now China’s annual meat consumption of 71 million tons is more than double that in the United States. With U.S. meat consumption falling and China’s consumption still rising, the trajectories of these two countries are determining the shape of agriculture around the planet.
Alternatives to Political Systems, Consumerism, Eco-Villages, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, People Systems, Society, Village Development, peak oil — by Pietro Zucchetti March 22, 2012
This is an interview with Rob Hopkins, the founder of the Transition Town movement founded in Totnes, United Kingdom. The interview is about what Transition Towns mean, and how he came up with this idea as a permaculture teacher. The interview also covers how is this concept important now, during the present global crisis, and how the Transition Town movement can get involved in educating people to cope with a future in energy descent, which is starting not tomorrow, but right now! It ends with his prediction for the near future.
Duration: 23 minutes
Community Projects, Consumerism, Demonstration Sites, Food Shortages, Plant Systems, Village Development, peak oil — by Anthea Hudson March 7, 2012
Animal Forage, Biodiversity, Biofuels, Deforestation, Food Forests, Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Land, Medicinal Plants, Plant Systems, Regional Water Cycle, Rehabilitation, Soil Conservation, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Trees, Village Development, Water Contaminaton & Loss, Water Harvesting — by Eric Toensmeier March 1, 2012
Trees are one of our most powerful tools to pull carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the soil for long-term storage. This is why reforestation and protecting intact forests are such important parts of plans to address climate change. Conventional climate change science tells us that the planet’s capacity for reforestation is limited, however, by the need to preserve land for agriculture.
But movements like agroforestry and permaculture show us that farming and trees are not mutually exclusive. From tree crops to contour strips of nitrogen fixing trees between bands of annual crops, there is a wealth of techniques that can give us the best of both worlds. These techniques, should a global effort get behind their implementation on a large scale, could have a major impact on climate change. They would also have numerous other benefits to the planet and its people.
A century ago, writer-farmers like J. Russell Smith coined the term “permanent agriculture” to describe food forestry and other farming practices that combated a key issue of their day — erosion and degradation of farmland. From Smith and his compatriots we in permaculture have taken the name of our movement, though our movement has grown to encompass much more than food forestry. Today these visionary ideas are more essential than ever, to address an environmental crisis on a scale Smith and his contemporaries could not have imagined.Comments (4)
Aid Projects, Biodiversity, Community Projects, Deforestation, Developments, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Land, Population, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Trees, Village Development, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Elin Lindhagen February 28, 2012
FMNR workshop, Feb 2012, Kenya
Rusinga Island is situated in Lake Victoria in the Western parts of Kenya. It is known for its prehistoric findings of primate fossils dating from 17 million years ago and for being the birthplace of the famously assassinated Kenyan politician, Tom Mboya, whose scholarship fund enabled Barack Obama’s father to study abroad. Not too many years ago it was still known to be a beautiful forested island, rich in unique bird species and with access to great fishing. Today the island is considered a vulnerable ecosystem with marginal agricultural land, leading one author to call it ‘one of the driest and most environmentally marginal agricultural zones in the region’(1).
Rapid population growth in the 1980s led to intensified pressure on natural resources such as trees and fish. At the same time, other communities started coming into Rusinga’s fishing waters to exploit the fish resources. Fish stocks started declining and the fishermen of Rusinga were forced to start looking for other ways of making an income. Many turned to agriculture but the Luo’s on Rusinga were traditionally fishermen, not farmers. Trees were cut down to make houses for a growing population, firewood to feed an increasing number of hungry stomachs and charcoal to make an income. Within a generation, what was once a richly forested island had become bare — suffering increasing droughts, soil erosion and crop failures due to the loss of trees.Comments (1)
Biodiversity, Biofuels, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Nuclear, Society, peak oil — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor
This video is hands down the best I’ve seen yet at covering all the bases of our present converging dilemmas in one quick (35 minute) hit. Over the years I’ve presented all of the issues covered in this video — hitting them from various angles and in different ways to try to drive the point home — but it’s excruciatingly difficult to cover each element sufficiently whilst giving the casual or intermittant reader a full overview simultaneously. The excellent use of imagery has enabled the creators of this little video to touch on each subject whilst joining up all those dots into the fuller picture.
I’d encourage you to watch, and share widely. When sharing, you might want to do it by way of linking to this blog post, as I’ll put below a smattering of articles on these topics which some may look to for more details after watching:Comments (22)
Community Projects, Consumerism, Food Shortages, Land, Society, Urban Projects, Village Development — by Wyan Carter
My partner and I have recently bought a house in Melbourne. I’m proud to say that we have deliberately avoided any pressure to buy a large house; our entire property is 170 square metres, and at least half of that is garden. I realise that’s not tiny, but it’s plenty smaller than places owned by a number of my friends and family. One of my cousins has recently built a house on a block of land, and his house alone would swallow our entire property three times over.
But as proud as I am of our small house mentality, I’ve started to realise that this does put some serious constraints on our ability to be independent and self-sufficient. Personally I’ve never been that committed to the dream of being self-sufficient on a good sized, rural block; I’d much rather be community-sufficient within a city suburb. But I don’t want to be vulnerable to crises and shocks, and growing food, fibre and fuel yourself is a big part of reducing that vulnerability.Comments (2)