Earth Learning, the South Dade Economic Development Council, the Financial Permaculture Institute, and Miami Dade College will host community investment/financial experts, permaculture designers and sustainability entrepreneurs for this dynamic gathering and integrative learning experience to begin building resiliency in our community. We will address economic and ecological challenges of the 21st century as we explore creating money cycling, local investments, and forward-looking businesses that optimize the local natural systems and human capacities to implement models of regenerative business and local resiliency!
The workshop will run January 21-25, 2013 in Homestead, Florida, USA. Register using the coupon code ET88 and save $80!
Part of the Earth Learning team outside their
cafe/kitchen/market food hub building.
As you’ll have noticed, I’ve been using this time of year (when people are, hopefully, doing family- and/or outdoor-oriented activities, rather than sitting in front of a computer) to take a break from putting articles up on the site. I’m still keeping somewhat busy though, using the time for some necessary admin-oriented stuff.
Anyway, I’m just putting up this short post on the last day of 2012 to thank you all, our valued readers and supporters, for all your input and help over this last year. The PRI is still growing and developing. It’s not without a lot of hard work, challenges and growing pains, but along with those we are excited by the many successes we’re seeing, as the world wakes up and begins to join the dots and take systemic problems more seriously. We are making connections with great potential for future development, and we have high hopes that 2013 will be a very constructive year.
I thought it appropriate to share the video at top with this end-of-year post, as it sends a very positive message about dogged determination in challenging circumstances. Please watch and enjoy. I just loved the biological artwork Adam created in the urban desert he found himself in — and particularly loved how he, instead of creating circular garden beds to fit within the constraints of the abandoned lot he was working in, instead made them larger, working on the assumption that the walls these beds jutted up against would inevitably fall against the pressure of the advancing garden. It gives me a take-home message of hope, and I think tells us all that we should think and act beyond our perceived limitations and work in the hope that the supposed barriers to positive change can fall under the pressure of our collective efforts.
And yet, with the tragic destruction of this beautiful garden, we also get a clear message about our need to systemically change ‘the system’ and its misdirected priorities.
I wish you a healthy, happy and constructive 2013!
2012 is our eighth year of small scale farming in France and has seen us move from income dependence to financial security and independence. Looking back over the last eight years at our mistakes and our successes in getting to this point demonstrates the value of an integrated approach.
When we arrived in France we had a single idea to provide us with income; that of breeding pigs and selling high quality organic free range pork and pork products. This worked well for three years but in our fourth year, 2008, a poor global grain harvest sent the price of grain skyward almost doubling the price from our local farmer. This gave us cause to rethink our future dependency on outside sources for anything which the global market could affect — this is of course everything!
So how do we remove ourselves as far from external influences and gain self-reliance at the same time?
As we approach the winter solstice and the end of one long count and the beginning of another, our understanding of the Mayan world is rapidly being transformed by new knowledge.
The traditional Mayan narrative in western literature is perhaps best exemplified by the writings of Jared Diamond and Joseph Tainter, who ascribe the collapse of the Classic Period to an over-exploitation of resources, and in particular, a deforestation of the lowlands that exacerbated climate swings, leading to extreme drought, fire and famine. Some now-familiar scenes in Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto were of lime-quarry workers, dusted head-to-toe in white powder, slaking lime to make renders for buildings and pyramids. These images resonate with our stereotypes of tone-deaf ruling classes directing their work-slaves to perform catastrophically civilization-destructive activity.
There is another story of Mesoamerica that is emerging through the work of biologists, botanists, and ethno-agronomists exploring and attempting to replicate the ancient systems that produced traditional foods. One example now familiar to permaculturists can be seen the chinampas of Xochlimilco, near modern-day Mexico City, which combined urban waste-disposal, canal dredging, and plant and animal production from both aquatic and terrestrial horticultural complexes. The Aztec’s elegantly interconnected system, which was not confined to just that society or to the tropics, produces more food per hectare than any system discovered before or since, and it does it by cooperating with nature.
Farmers planting nitrogen fixing trees on their farms
As a group challenging the growth paradigm, one of the most common questions that we hear is, ‘But don’t we need economic growth to lift the poor out of poverty?’. While growth has been successful to this end in certain ways, there are also some unwelcome consequences of growth. We prefer to ask other questions, like ‘Do we need to target economic growth to help those in need?’ and even better, ‘How are people currently breaking the poverty cycle in sustainable and inspiring ways?’. This piece demonstrates how a group of incredible people are doing just that.
Since 2011 the Adunni Susanne Wenger Foundation in Nigeria, in Cooperation with the German NGO SONED Brandenburg e.V., built up the Environmental Education Centre called Permaculture Forest Garden at Gberefu Island, in Badagry, Lagos State. Beside the sustainability of the local environment, the project’s focus is on health care, food security, nonviolent communication and the support of democratic processes. Permaculture Forest Garden is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and The German Foundation Stiftung Nord-Süd-Brücken. The beneficiaries of the project are the inhabitants of the surrounding settlements, students, teachers, farmers and landowners from Badagry and Lagos.
When most people hear the term “dust bowl,” they think of the American heartland in the 1930s, when a homesteading wheat bonanza led to the plowing up of the Great Plains’ native grassland, culminating in the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Despite warnings from researchers and some farmers, history repeated itself in the Soviet Virgin Lands Project in the 1950s to early 1960s. Some 100 million acres (40 million hectares) of grassland were plowed under in Russia, Kazakhstan, and western Siberia during Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s push to produce ever more food from the land. When drought hit, the topsoil started to blow away. By 1965, nearly half the newly planted area was degraded by wind erosion. Yields plummeted. Ultimately farmers staged a retreat, abandoning much of that land.
Unfortunately, dust bowls are not just relics of the past. Today two new dust bowls are forming: one in northern China and southern Mongolia and the other in Africa south of the Sahara. Whereas the dust bowls in the United States and the Soviet Union were the result of overplowing, the main culprit in Asia and Africa is overgrazing. Although arid or semiarid grasslands are typically better suited for grazing livestock than for farming, once they are overstocked their protective grass covering deteriorates and they face erosion all the same.
I’m often asked “What can I do to help?” to restore the Earth. Over the years I’ve struggled with the answer.
Sometimes I feel like it is unfair to ask me what someone else should do because even if I told them what I thought they probably wouldn’t do it. I think that each person should look inside their heart and decide what they will do.
However, gradually I’ve come to see ecological restoration as the “great work” of our time — the one most important thing that all the people who are alive today need to understand and do together. I’ve come to realize that to do restoration at scale requires some very specific skills and also requires a type of lifestyle change. It also requires a change in the way we perceive work and the economy.
Whenever I contemplate the spectacular mischief that we humans have wreaked on our world, I am compelled to ask how this could have possibly happened. The despoilment of our planet seems to be the exact opposite of how I would expect a thinking, feeling, caring creature to treat their home. What could have driven us to this, and what perverse qualities could have allowed us to ignore the consequences of our actions for so very long?
Fresh onto the interweb is a project that I had on my own things-to-do list for some time now, but this new site may well have saved me the pain. It’s a great new plant database, with over 7400 plant profiles and the very cool ability to drill-down to suitable plants by ticking off what you’re looking for based on the micro-situation of the spot you want to plant in (sun tolerance, water requirements, pH, soil type, etc.).
Being a wiki site, it’s open for everyone to help improve. And, unlike similar databases I’ve seen, this one is permaculture-oriented. As the name suggests, it is profiling ‘practical plants’ — i.e. plants with a use — as opposed to just edible plants.
Take a look around, and let me know your thoughts via comments below. My first impressions are that it’s an excellent start towards creating an extremely valuable resource.
by Dr Samuel Alexander, co-director of the Simplicity Institute and a lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs, University of Melbourne.
Introducing my post-electric washing machine, which I call the Deindustrial 2020. It’s of the future, not the past – although it does look rather like the old-style, Medieval 1450. It was made for only $2.
As you should be able to see from the picture, the Deindustrial 2020 is made up of two hi-tech elements, a black plastic tub (which I salvaged from the side of the road), and an old crutch (which I purchased for $2 from the tip-shop). With these two pieces of technology I was able to construct a post-electric washing machine, which functions perfectly and doesn’t use any fossil fuels in operation. You could probably find appropriate materials around the house or in the shed.
“Mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts … These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”(1) Every parent can connect with what Barack Obama said about the murder of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut. There can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people of that town.
It must follow that what applies to the children murdered there by a deranged young man also applies to the children murdered in Pakistan by a sombre American president. These children are just as important, just as real, just as deserving of the world’s concern. Yet there are no presidential speeches or presidential tears for them; no pictures on the front pages of the world’s newspapers; no interviews with grieving relatives; no minute analysis of what happened and why.