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

Editor’s Note: The New Yorker carried an article in its 25 August 2014 issue “Seeds of Doubt” by journalist Michael Specter, dedicated ostensibly to Vandana Shiva and the anti-GMO campaign, but is in truth a none-too-subtle ploy to discredit both in the service of the biotech industry. Specter had already published a book in 2009, Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives, purporting to defend science from its critics in denial of scientific progress (see a review of the book here: This is her reply.

I am glad that the future of food is being discussed, and thought about, on farms, in homes, on TV, online and in magazines, especially of The New Yorker’s caliber. The New Yorker has held its content and readership in high regard for so long. The challenge of feeding a growing population with the added obstacle of climate change is an important issue. Specter’s piece, however, is poor journalism. I wonder why a journalist who has been Bureau Chief in Moscow for The New York Times and Bureau Chief in New York for the Washington Post, and clearly is an experienced reporter, would submit such a misleading piece. Or why The New Yorker would allow it to be published as honest reporting, with so many fraudulent assertions and deliberate attempts to skew reality. ‘Seeds of Doubt’ contains many lies and inaccuracies that range from the mundane (we never met in a café but in the lobby of my hotel where I had just arrived from India to attend a High Level Round Table for the post 2015 SDGs of the UN) to grave fallacies that affect people’s lives. The piece has now become fodder for the social media supporting the Biotech Industry. Could it be that rather than serious journalism, the article was intended as a means to strengthen the biotechnology industry’s push to ‘engage consumers’? Although creative license is part of the art of writing, Michael Specter cleverly takes it to another level, by assuming a very clear position without spelling it out.

Specter’s piece starts with inaccurate information, by design.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under GMOs, Health & Disease.

Russell Brand, a ‘controversial’ British comedian and Truth activist has been posting weekly YouTube videos, in a series called The Trews (True News) — “What the news would say if the news were true” — where he dissects weekly headline news and mainstream news outlets, with the aim to raise awareness about how ‘news’ is presented as fact to the everyday citizen. Brand calls into question the slant of certain mainstream media outlets.

In one of his latest videos, a reader’s comments edition entitled, “How Terrifying is the Food Industry? (E135)” Brand addresses a comment made by a person who calls them self ‘Down-Under Observer’ who writes to Russell:

Russell… I really think the Trews should cover the food industry, particularly meat and dairy and how the same globalist corporations that bankrupt us and control us also commit atrocities and modify our food under the cover of clever advertising – your thoughts mate? — Down-Under Observer

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Biodiversity.

Y Gododdin is one of the few surviving accounts by the Britons of what the Anglo-Saxons did to them. It tells the story of what may have been the last stand in England of the Gododdin – the tribes of the Hen Ogledd, or Old North – in 598AD. A force of 300 warriors – the British version of the defenders of Thermopylae – took on a far greater army of Angles at a town named in Brittonic as Catraeth: probably Catterick in Yorkshire. Like the Spartan 300, they fought for three days, during which all but four were killed.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Animal Housing, Insects, Working Animals.

A colony of bats in a mango tree

Permaculture designs, especially on a large-scale, incorporate domesticated animals. For organic gardening, it just makes life a lot easier. Manure is key in growing anything. A timed circulation of grazing means the land gets cleared, fertilized and tilled by the animals’ natural patterns as opposed to the farmer’s sweat. Then, at some point, animals equate to food. The efficiency and logic are there and simple, but domesticated animals aren’t always a possibility. There are housing restrictions, acreage issues, and even dietary choices to contend with; however, that doesn’t mean a garden should or needs to be without animals.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Community Projects, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres, Urban Projects.

To Sustainability and Beyond! Kickstarting a Permaculture school to teach people how to grow food, repair landscapes and build community.

Why an Education Centre for Permaculture?

Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints could be beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the health and well-being of our planet? This is the premise of Permaculture: a design science for creating resilient and efficient systems inspired by nature.

The call is simple — to get our homes and gardens in order so they shelter and feed us. However, the design of efficient systems does not stop there… the knowledge, wisdom and skill of efficient design is being applied to the creation of abundant systems of business, livelihood, and community.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Courses/Workshops.

The Fertile Roots Foundation is delighted to have Darren Doherty coming to teach our first PDC, on the site of the embryonic Al Fayda Permaculture Cooperative. This project involves 39 families and their land just north of Essaouira on the Atlantic Coast. It’s an area that was until recently semi-arid, but with the rainfall patterns of the last decade it is now well and truly arid. There is talk among many families of leaving the land and some have already done so. We think permaculture can turn it around and this bi-lingual PDC is the first step on a long road. Darren Doherty is a leading pioneer in regenerative agriculture and if you come and take part in this dynamic two weeks you will also be part sponsoring a place on the course for a local farmer.

Full course and booking details can be found at

Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Desertification, Economics, Education, Food Shortages, Global Dimming, Global Warming/Climate Change, Health & Disease, Peak Oil, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Village Development, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

The Arctic Death Spiral and the Methane Time Bomb (Duration: 1:11:11)
Please watch before continuing with the article.

Can we talk about transition, please?

Regular readers will have noted the semi-recent flurry of conversations over ‘crashing’ the system (if not, see here, here, here, here and here) and possible pathways to transition (see here and here). I’d like to see this conversation continued, as it is not insignificant. Hence this post.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Community Projects, People Systems, Village Development.

As a volunteer tourist I have really appreciated receiving tips before my trips from hosts. Now I return the favour. Here are some tips for volunteer managers, and many may also find the resources in the ‘References’ section at bottom of value.

Your ideal destination

Do you want to change the world? Most of us do, but how do we know we mean the same thing by this? To be more specific we might say ‘I want to bring about sustainability and justice’. Fine tuning further we could add ‘by stopping supermarkets’. However, none of these visions relate to our own field of interest. It is helpful to dig a little deeper, lest you may find your volunteers have different ideas and end up throwing the trowel in.

It is recommended that projects begin with a shared, written vision and a clear long term goal (1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10). This is to provide coherence and effective working relations (6; 9). Specialisation is efficient when contributing towards a common goal, so that practical and idealist personnel become complementary.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Compost, Fungi, Soil Biology, Soil Composition, Soil Rehabilitation.

Size of a pumpkin leaf: 42 cm, that’s 16.5″. Not bad for a sandy soil!

One of the problems a lot of people have is how to improve the fertility of sandy soil. One solution is to add more organic matter (compost, manure, wood chips), but unfortunately if you live in a hot and humid climate the stuff you put in the soil is going to decompose quickly, since microbial activity is so fast. That creates a serious problem, because your poor sandy soil is not holding nutrients. You can add fertilizers, but they are going to leech out of your soil very fast. Because of that your fruit trees, shrubs, and vines will be yielding poorly, and they will be susceptible to diseases and pest damage. What’s worse, the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor will taste plain and they will not have a lot of vitamins and minerals in them.

Read more »