Biodiversity, Deforestation, Economics, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by George Monbiot July 10, 2012
Enclosure and dispossession have driven us, like John Clare, all a little mad.
by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom.
The land around Helpston, just to the north of Peterborough in Northamptonshire, now ranks among the most dismal and regularised tracts of countryside in Europe. But when the poet John Clare was born this coming Friday in 1793, it swarmed with life. Clare describes species whose presence there is almost unimaginable today. Corncrakes hid among the crops(1), ravens nested in a giant oak(2), nightjars circled the heath(3), the meadows sparkled with glow worms(4). Wrynecks still bred in old woodpecker holes(5). In the woods and brakes the last wildcats clung on(6).
The land was densely peopled. While life was hard and spare, it was also, he records, joyful and thrilling. The meadows resounded with children pranking and frolicking and gathering cowslips for their May Day games(7); the woods were alive with catcalls and laughter(8); around the shepherds’ fires, people sang ballads and told tales(9). We rightly remark the poverty and injustice of rural labour at that time; we also forget its wealth of fellowship.Comments (3)
Community Projects, Eco-Villages, Seeds, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Village Development, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor
Current evidence indicates that New Zealand may well be "the youngest country on earth". Possible fellow competitors for this claim are Greenland, Iceland and Madagascar. All of these landscapes were so isolated they managed to avoid human settlement until relatively recent times. But these entrants in the competition look to be a couple of centuries behind — all being settled prior to 1000AD, unlike New Zealand, which is believed to have had no human presence prior to 1200AD.
With campaigns and videos like the one at top, New Zealand has managed to generate a kind of green aura around itself. Stunning Lord of the Rings landscapes, pristine snow-capped mountain ranges, dripping forests, clean rivers and an outdoor lifestyle to kill for, all spring to mind amongst millions of people worldwide who have never been there, but dream of going. It is a gorgeous country, to be sure, but that’s not the whole story….Comments (3)
Biodiversity, Biofuels, Consumerism, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor July 4, 2012
I thought I’d add to George Monbiot’s recent post highlighting moves to persevere with fossil fuels by sharing a little piece on how feeding our oil addiction is taking us to ever-dirtier lows.Comments (12)
Hope for a New Era: Before/After Examples of Permaculture Earth Restoration – Solving Our Problems From the Ground Up
Aid Projects, Alternatives to Political Systems, Biodiversity, Community Projects, Conferences, Consumerism, Deforestation, Demonstration Sites, Food Forests, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Plant Systems, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Trees, Urban Projects, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor June 28, 2012
If you aren’t in a reading mood, and/or just came to look at the before/after photographs, click here to jump down the page.
Loess Plateau, Early September, 1995
Loess Plateau, Early September, 2009
Rio+20 has been and gone, and, in the big scheme of things, has achieved little, or worse. With this post I’d like to take the opportunity to jot down some thoughts, and images, that might help us shake off disappointment, disillusionment and despair, and give us something we can all consider, adjust and rally around. Our ‘leaders’ are taking us ‘down the garden path’, but, unfortunately, in the proverbial, rather than literal, sense. It’s truly time to forge new beginnings, create new economies, and to prioritise natural and social capital with the goal of restoring ecological and social health.Comments (15)
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, Global Warming/Climate Change, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by George Monbiot
So now what do we do to defend life on Earth?
by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom.
It is, perhaps, the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war. The Earth’s living systems are collapsing, and the leaders of some of the most powerful nations – the US, the UK, Germany, Russia – could not even be bothered to turn up and discuss it. Those who did attend the Earth summit last week solemnly agreed to keep stoking the destructive fires: sixteen times in their text they pledged to pursue “sustained growth”, the primary cause of the biosphere’s losses(1).
The efforts of governments are concentrated not on defending the living Earth from destruction, but on defending the machine that is destroying it. Whenever consumer capitalism becomes snarled up by its own contradictions, governments scramble to mend the machine, to ensure – though it consumes the conditions that sustain our lives – that it runs faster than ever before.Comments (4)
Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by George Monbiot June 24, 2012
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”.Comments (3)
Biodiversity, Conferences, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, GMOs, Global Warming/Climate Change, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by George Monbiot June 23, 2012
The summits which promise to save the world keep us dangling, not mobilising.
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?Comments (2)
Consumerism, Deforestation, Global Warming/Climate Change, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Gordon Fraser-Quick
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!
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.Comments (1)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Biodiversity, Conferences, Consumerism, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Village Development, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Samuel Alexander June 21, 2012
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.Comments (0)
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)
Biodiversity, Fish, Global Warming/Climate Change, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor June 13, 2012
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….
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)