Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres.

Photo: Peter Axisa

The sun goes down on another PDC and another 11 students are glowing and growing. This time the sun sets on a little mystical island in the southern reaches of Thailand, a little island called Koh Phangan. Their teacher and inspiration was, and still is, Rhamis Kent (author profile, WPN profile), a magnificent PRI-accredited teacher and now a great friend. On behalf of the class, I would like to thank Rhamis for our new outlook on life and the empowerment to know we can make a change. But more about Rhamis in a bit, we’ll save the best till last and head back to that little mystical island that a few of us will always remember.

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Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Consumerism, Economics, GMOs, Health & Disease.

by William Park, Eco Ola, Peru

Heritage varieties of Quinoa outside Alausí, Ecuador

Can consumer choice be a driver of change? The answer is yes, provided that consumers make informed decisions based on awareness of how their purchases impact others and our planet.

If, however, all the available products are produced by the same corporations using the same shortsighted and destructive methods and there is no meaningful labeling, then consumer choice amounts to nothing.

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Posted by & filed under Processing & Food Preservation.

by Ernest Rando

This post is a general how-to for preserving apples. We have a 3-ish acre orchard (mostly apples) that is quite mature and in need of some tender loving care. We have many apple trees that could be replaced and we believe the orchard is in need of greater tree diversity as well. But it is still an amazing orchard to spend time in with friends or just by yourself. This year we built two chicken coops and experimented with raising chickens in the orchard. We learned a lot of things and are eagerly anticipating next year while enjoying the meat from our harvest throughout the winter. (For more about the chickens, visit this Midwest Permaculture Blog post.)

This year we harvested over 25 bushels of apples. We made over 50 gallons of hard and soft cider, 12 lbs of frozen apple bits, a few gallons of applesauce, several bags of dried apples, and we also canned a bunch of jars of apple chunks as well. We did as much as time allowed us to do and we were able to have many community events where folks in the neighborhood helped out and got to learn and practice their apple preserving skills.

So here are some pictures, helpful tips, and elaborations of this year’s apple journey:

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Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Earth Banks, Gabions, Land, Material, Soil Conservation, Storm Water, Swales, Terraces.

by Daniel Halsey

This year I have been in Haiti after a downgraded hurricane, and then in New Jersey a week after Sandy. While in New Jersey two tornadoes passed by my old house. What do they have in common?

In each case water was being limited in its flow by developement or the removal of natural structures that diffuse its energy. While working in Haiti and trying to build large enough swales to catch water, it was instantly apparent after the first five-inch rain that what we needed to do was slow it down and catch the sediment.

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Posted by & filed under General.

We’ve just started a new Q&A series in our forums, adding a new sub-forum titled ‘Put Your Questions to the Experts!‘, where our forum members (a very nice bunch of people by the way), put their questions to various experts we’ll approach over the weeks and months ahead. First up to be the target of our combined curiosities and the salve of our perplexities, is the PRI’s own Geoff Lawton. Geoff, currently teaching at the Greening the Desert ‘Sequel’ site in Jordan, spends 78 minutes with us, sharing from his wealth of experience. You’ll find the questions Geoff is responding to here.

If you have your own questions for Geoff Lawton, we’ve just started Round 2 of the Q&A series, so don’t be bashful — we’re here to help if we can. If you’re not a forum member already, it’s easy to sign up, and when Geoff and other experts aren’t answering your questions, you’ll find many more experts in their own right lurking in the various sub-forums — a friendly bunch who are always ready to lend an attentive ear and share from their experiences.

P.S. Those looking for other video responses in this series can search for ‘put your questions to the experts‘ on this site.

Posted by & filed under Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Livestock.

Robbing the poor, trashing the natural world: Europe’s farm subsidies are an obscenity.

by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom.

Photo: Jim Bain via Wikimedia

There’s a neat symmetry in the numbers which helped to sink the European summit. The proposed budget was €50bn higher than the UK government could accept(1). This is the amount of money that European farmers are given every year(2). Britain’s contentious budget rebate is worth €3.6bn a year(3): a fraction less than our contribution to Europe’s farm subsidies(4).

Squatting at the heart of last week’s summit, poisoning all negotiations, is a vast wobbling lump of pork fat called the Common Agricultural Policy. The talks collapsed partly because the president of the European Council, pressed by the Francois Hollande, proposed inflating the great blob by a further €8bn over six years(5). I don’t often find myself on their side, but the British and Dutch governments were right to say no.

It is a source of perpetual wonder that the people of Europe tolerate this robbery. Farm subsidies are the 21st century equivalent of feudal aid: the taxes mediaeval vassals were forced to pay their lords for the privilege of being sat upon(6). The single payment scheme, which accounts for most of the money, is an award for owning land. The more you own, the more you receive.

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Posted by & filed under Aquaculture, Biological Cleaning, Global Warming/Climate Change, Land, Regional Water Cycle, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Storm Water, Waste Water, Water Conservation, Water Contaminaton & Loss, Water Harvesting.

by Jason Gerhardt

The author scopes out an oyster reef in Pamlico Sound, NC
Photo Credit: Jason Gerhardt

Being a resident of the dryland Western US, I should probably be thinking more about wildfire and drought than storm surge and coastal erosion, but for some reason, I’ve been drawn to the shoreline recently. As I have yet to come across any significant permaculture analysis or design strategy for barrier islands and associated coasts, most of this discussion is drawn from applying permaculture design thinking to other research. My hope is that this article will inspire others to develop and contribute more specific permaculture content for such important ecosystems and communities.

As large hurricanes continually batter the Eastern coast of the United States, causing catastrophic damage and human suffering, it is time to think about how permaculture design applies to human communities in such environments. From 100-year floods to wildland fire to coastal superstorms, modern infrastructure is proving to be insufficiently designed to deal with such destructive forces of nature. As permaculture designers, we attempt to work with nature, harmonizing what we design with natural forces, while using those forces as a resource, patterning after them, pacifying them, or deflecting them.

The inherent nature of barrier islands and associated coastline is one of rapid and constant change — literally a foundation of shifting sands. Constant disturbance is perhaps the antithesis of permaculture (permanent-culture), so the question must be asked: how does permaculture apply in a place like this? Do we attempt to create greater stability or do we work with the changing nature of the place? Or, do we suggest that people shouldn’t be living in such places at all?

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Posted by & filed under Alternatives to Political Systems, Consumerism, Economics, Food Shortages, Peak Oil, People Systems, Society, Village Development.

Editor’s Preamble: I would exhort readers to ignore the potentially off-putting length of this piece, to instead step into, and allow yourself to be absorbed by, this important and worthy attempt at future-visualising. Readers who have been following my own work over the last several years will recognise and appreciate the themes covered. From my own perspective, what follows is a highly pragmatic view on the potential near-future of civilisation, and I truly feel that the speed and shape of progression (i.e. objectively and cooperatively planned and peacefully implemented), or, regression (i.e. unplanned, reactive, desperate, monopolistic and individualistic), and ultimate form of that future will largely depend on how many people are objectively considering these themes and adjusting their lives, and their influence, accordingly.

Photo © Craig Mackintosh

by Dr Samuel Alexander, co-director of the Simplicity Institute and a lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs, University of Melbourne.

When [we have] obtained those things necessary to life, there is another alternative than to obtain superfluities; and that is, to adventure on life now, [our] vacation from humbler toil having commenced. – Henry David Thoreau

1. Introduction

If a society does not have some vision of where it wants to be or what it wants to become, it cannot know whether it is heading in the right direction – it cannot even know whether it is lost. This is the confused position of consumer capitalism today, which has a fetish for economic growth but no answer to the question of what that growth is supposed to be for. It is simply assumed that growth is good for its own sake, but of course economic activity is merely a means, not an end. It can only ever be justified by some goal beyond itself, but that is precisely what consumer capitalism lacks – a purpose, a reason for existence. It is a means without an end, like a tool without a task. What makes this state of affairs all the more challenging is that the era of growth economics appears to be coming to a close, due to various financial, ecological, and energy constraints, and this is leaving growth-based economies without the very capacity for growth which defined them historically. Before long this will render consumer capitalism an obsolete system with neither a means nor an end, a situation that is in fact materialising before our very eyes. It seems that today we are living in the twilight of growth globally, which implies that the dawn of a new age is almost upon us – is perhaps already upon us. But as we turn this momentous page in history we find that humanity is without a narrative in which to lay down new roots. We are the generation in between stories, desperately clinging to yesterday’s story but uncertain of tomorrow’s. Then again, perhaps the new words we need are already with us; perhaps we just need to live them into existence.

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Posted by & filed under Energy Systems, Waste Systems & Recycling.

by Tim Barker

The basic unit, minus the rocket stove and piping

In my last post, I showed a picture of a wood powered water heater, so now we’ll roll up our sleeves and get into how this was designed. But first a warning! Boiling water is easy to do, but boiling water in a closed container and not blowing yourself up is much trickier — in fact I’ve heard it said that there is the equivalent of a stick of dynamite in 500 grams of boiling water! So if you blow yourself up, be it on your own head. Having said that, I have spent a fair bit of time creating a design that is simple to build, safe and efficient.

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Posted by & filed under Energy Systems, Village Development.

by Bob Corker and Tim Barker, PRI New Zealand (Koanga Institute)

So where does the ‘appropriate’ in ‘Appropriate Technology’ come from? To me, it is technology that ‘fits’ well into a place or setting. You’re not further enlightened? Okay, I’ll make some generalizations and go from there. For the ‘technology’ part, I like W. Brian Arthur’s definition, whereby technology is the capture or use of a phenomena for a specific purpose. So this could be everything from construction of a compost pile (consciously promoting the action of bacteria to break down organic matter for whatever reason) to a system of community governance. The ‘appropriate’ comes in when you recognise that some ways of developing local communities resonate better with human behavior than others — say, community land trusts as opposed to landlord/tenant arrangements.

The appropriate part is generally covered by the following:

  • it is human centered and human scaled
  • it is easily replicable and understandable
  • it focuses on locally available resources
  • it tends to be labour intensive but energy efficient.

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Posted by & filed under People Systems, Society, Village Development.

A lot of people look to Barack Obama as the enlightened leader, the psychopomp who will lead the world away from the brink of catastrophe and into a new era. I see him in a somewhat different light. I see his election as the American expression of a global shift in consciousness that is already well underway. He may or may not be able to fulfill his promise of hope in any specific policy area, but the fact of his election speaks to a dramatic sea-change in the global Zeitgeist.

An individual in crisis may experience a sudden transformation or awakening as a response to an intolerable situation. The current crisis of civilization is starting to impact hundreds of millions of individuals around the globe, especially since the world was plunged into the economic crisis that is further compounding our accelerating ecological, environmental, energy and social crises. The sense of imminence created by this convergence is causing enormous numbers of people to wake up and wonder WTF has been going on while we dutifully lived out the consumerist dream. While we were sleeping that dream seems to have become a nightmare as the materialist utopia we were promised morphed into a cruel, life-destroying hoax .

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