Highlights from the Berlin conference that attracted 200 commoners from 30 countries.
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The Heinrich Boll Foundation just released a detailed, educational, and inspiring report [PDF inset] summarizing the international conference it hosted in Berlin, Germany May 22-24, 2013. Two hundred commoners from around the globe converged at the Economics and the Commons Conference (ECC) to explore the commons as an alternative worldview to market-fundamentalism, to catalyze the commons movement, and to lay the foundation for the commons to become a core paradigm of today’s politics, economics, and culture.
The report highlights the most salient ideas presented during ten keynote talks and provides summaries of the five conference streams. Short overviews of significant side events held during the conference are also included, in addition to resources generated at the event (most notably the ECC communications platform). The Commons Strategies Group, a co-host of the conference, also offers final reflections on what the ECC means for the commons movement.
Anyone interested in the commons movement can use this report as a kind of primer. It’s also likely that the report will become an invaluable resource for activists, academics, and others working to advance the commons framework as a powerful tool for managing civic life, natural resources, urban spaces, the Internet, and other realms. Only by sharing and implementing important ideas can we work toward defeating what the Heinrich Boll Foundation calls “one of the most significant impediments to positive social change”: the entrenched power of market-fundamentalism as a political, economic, and cultural paradigm.
My message to Permaculturists: Known or unbeknownst to you — you are an exceptionally valuable and powerful human being. You are armed with the knowledge and information to bring you and the people around you into a place of abundance and harmony. You are powerful, and if you choose to be, are a pillar in your community for guidance and leadership. Know that through your knowledge of natural systems and patterns you hold the keys to the future of humanity — being able to provide the best options and decision-making processes for an abundant future. Understand your value and worth. We are going to need you — start now!
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Every so often an individual is given exposure to another individual so wildly dynamic that it confuses, entertains, but most of all, inspires. This is how I would describe meeting Dr. Hariharan Chandreshekar, CEO of Biodiversity Conservation India Limited (BCIL), the company that designs and manufactures some of the most renowned eco-homes on the planet.
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Real democracy does not just mean the right to vote. People must also have access to the information they need to make an informed choice; that’s why scientists must be free to tell the truth and express their views accordingly on scientific issues.
by Prof Peter Saunders
Shaping science to politics
When US scientists produced a report warning that the current level of greenhouse gas emissions would almost certainly lead to unsustainable climate change, the Bush administration did not simply ignore their findings. Instead, they changed the report to make it appear that the scientists’ conclusions supported the administration’s policy of doing nothing to reduce carbon emissions ( Scientific Integrity in Washington, SiS 49, ). That was not just a bit of political spin; it was a fundamental denial of democracy. Fortunately, the true picture on climate change could not be suppressed for long. The research had involved scientists in different countries and the results could not be concealed even by a body as powerful as the US government.
At the time, the episode may have looked like yet another excess of an administration notorious for relying more on faith and instinct than on reality . Now, however, more governments seem inclined towards policy-based evidence. We can see this in many fields, especially in supporting how effective government policies have been [4, 5], but it is in science that it is most marked.
In other areas, both the government and the public accept that there is a great deal of subjectivity and scope for differences of opinion, as for example, in economics. So a government does not have to be too concerned if there are economists, even highly prestigious ones, who disagree with its policies. As long as the government can find some other economists on its side, and it is pretty much bound to, it can claim to be following the best economic advice.
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by Jim Salinger
Stormy weather hits New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. Flickr.com/wiifm69 (Sean Hamlin)
A recent headline – Failed doubters trust leaves taxpayers six-figure loss – marked the end of a four-year epic saga of secretly-funded climate denial, harassment of scientists and tying-up of valuable government resources in New Zealand.
It’s likely to be a familiar story to my scientist colleagues in Australia, the UK, USA and elsewhere around the world.
But if you’re not a scientist, and are genuinely trying to work out who to believe when it comes to climate change, then it’s a story you need to hear too. Because while the New Zealand fight over climate data appears finally to be over, it’s part of a much larger, ongoing war against evidence-based science.
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Geoff Lawton’s latest video is one of my favourite films on his site — mainly because it reminds me of a quote I read as a kid and never forgot: “A garden without water is like a meal without wine.” In a well stocked pond, you can grab a fish anytime you like and behold its beauty in the process.
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What? Why would anyone want to tunnel back into school? Well, I have no idea, but in the past six years have I have been investigating how to build living tunnels in school grounds and gardens and have learned a thing or two about willow tunneling.
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A fully referenced version of this paper is posted on ISIS members website and is otherwise available for download here.
The world is running short of phosphate ore for chemical fertilizers; recovering phosphate from waste and reducing phosphate use in phosphate rich countries can alleviate the shortage and simultaneously prevent environmental pollution.
by Prof Joe Cummins
Phosphorus a limiting nutrient
Earth seems to be growing sicker every year along with threats to global food security. One threat that has been widely ignored is the diminished availability of phosphorous fertilization for crops due to rapidly declining sources of the ore used to produce the fertilizer and rising prices for the fertilizer. Countries across the world fall into three groups: the rich phosphate fertilizer users, the phosphate poor that suffer from food shortages due to low food crop production and even human disease from phosphorous deficiency and the inability to purchase expensive phosphate fertilizer, and the few remaining countries that are rapidly mining out phosphate ore . Organizations dealing with crop yield in Africa tend to focus on introducing varieties with increased yield in optimum soil fertility but such varieties do not do well in the vast areas lacking nutrients such as phosphate . Phosphorous is a limiting nutrient for humanity. Phosphorous is key to the storage of genetic information in DNA and RNA; it plays a crucial role in cell membranes and in practically all energy transactions through ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and other organic phosphate molecules. Phosphates are ubiquitous in life chemistry as they are involved in just about every function .
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All photos by David Ashwanden
When interacting with any animal it is important to develop a certain kind of presence, or focus; and goats are no exception. Having also worked with chickens, dogs, donkeys, horses, pigs, rabbits and sheep I have noticed that the same techniques are necessary to deal with all; although all are different as well.
In many ways the only way that you can develop this focus is by being with the animals and experimenting for yourself. But there are some guidelines which could be of use; and I shall endeavour to outline a few below based on my time as a goatherd.
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I thought PermacultureNews readers might be inspired by some of the work Planting Justice and the Insight Garden Program are doing in our prison system to teach permaculture ethics and practices. Here is a video about a recent project at San Quentin State Prison, CA.
The Planting Justice team worked with Beth Waitkus and the Insight Garden Program to build four raised beds on the grounds of the H-Unit at San Quentin State Prison — one of the only sanctioned vegetable gardens in California. Over four days, men enrolled in the Insight Garden Program helped break up asphalt on the prison grounds to make way for the new vegetable garden and put in some much-needed hard work on the construction of the perimeter fence, filling the beds with over 10 yards of compost, mulching the area surrounding the beds, and planting them up with young vegetables and herbs.