Though too often vilified, both ‘cows’ and ‘plows’ have proven to be among our most effective and available tools for restoring healthy ecological and eco-agricultural systems in our landscapes. Bucking the trend in conservation that has denounced these tools from early on was Aldo Leopold – perhaps best known for his influential Land Ethic from 1948. In his earlier, groundbreaking book about working with ecosystems and wildlife, Game Management (1933), his preface made the visionary but provocative claim that “Game can be restored by the creative use of the same tools which have heretofore destroyed it — ax, plow, cow, fire, and gun.”
In El Salvador Mauricio and Gloria have bought an abandoned Hare Krishna complex. With this they have created something very special. They are growing an organic garden and teaching children from their local community about living sustainably, as well as English. This project has the opportunity to create such a positive impact on the local community, by keeping the children off the streets and giving them something to be passionate about and keeping them in touch with nature. They invite volunteers from all over the world to come and help them by sharing their skills.
This film, which I shot in March 2013, is created to show the amazing work Gloria and Mauricio have accomplished and to make other people aware of this superb project. I stayed with them for a week and had a truly amazing time. I would recommend this experience to anyone.
Here’s something remarkable I stumbled across while researching my column on Monday, but did not have room to include. I hope you’ll agree that it is worth sharing.
I was trying to understand the context for the new chief scientist’s cavalier treatment of scientific evidence, in an article he wrote opposing a European ban on neonicotinoid pesticides. These are the toxins which, several studies suggest, could be partly responsible for the rapid decline in bees and other pollinators.
Small double-stranded RNA (dsRNAs) that aim to interfere with specific gene expression are increasingly used to create GM crops; unfortunately they have many off-target effects and can also interfere with gene expression in all animals exposed to the crops.
Most commercially grown genetically modified (GM) crops are engineered to produce foreign proteins, but new ones are increasingly engineered to produce RNA of a special kind – double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) – that aims to interfere with the expression of a specific gene, usually to silence the gene  (Table 1).
Table 1 GM crops with dsRNA commercially approved or in the approval pipeline
Flav Savr tomato
Withdrawn from market
High oleic acid soybean lines G94-1, G94-19 and G168
Withdrawn from market
New Leaf Y and New Leaf Plus Potato
FSANZ* approved 2001
Withdrawn from market
High oleic acid soybean lind DP-305423-1
FSAMZ* approved 2010
Herbicde tolerant, high oleic acid soybean Line MON87705
Golden mosaic virus resistant pinto bean
Papaya ringspot virus resistant papaya
1996, Canada 2003, Japan
Altered grain starch wheat
Approved for field trials & feeding experiment
*CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
*Embrapa Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation
*FSANZ Food Standards Australia New Zealand
When god-like Odysseus returned from the wars in Troy, he hanged all on one rope a dozen slave-girls of his household whom he suspected of misbehavior during his absence. This hanging involved no question of propriety. The girls were property. The disposal of property was then, as now, a matter of expediency, not of right and wrong. Concepts of right and wrong were not lacking from Odysseus’ Greece: witness the fidelity of his wife through the long years before at last his black galleys clove the wine-dark seas for home. The ethical structure of that day covered wives, but had not yet been extended to human chattels. During the three thousand years which have since elapsed, ethical criteria have been extended to many fields of conduct, with corresponding shrinkages in those judged by expediency only.
Off the coast of Honduras, on a small island called Utila, lives a guy called Shane. Shane has broken away from all the social restraints and has built his own house. He is now building his own garden. However he is doing it slightly different from most people — he uses cardboard boxes! This short film talks about Shane’s key concepts and tips on permaculture.
This article is an excerpt from my forthcoming book Carbon Farming: A Global Toolkit for Stabilizing the Climate with Tree Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices, and is part of a series promoting my kickstarter campaign to raise funds with which to complete the book.
Breadfruit is a remarkable staple starch that grows on trees. This species should
be much more widely grown in the humid tropics. It represents a fully-developed
perennial staple crop. Photo Wikimedia Commons.
Staple fruits provide starch, protein, and fats from fresh fruits. This is a marvelous category of perennial foods and offers much promise in sequestering carbon. Sadly for those of us in cold climates, not even one of our perennial fruits are high enough in starch, protein, or fat to make the cut. In fact almost all of these are for humid tropical climates – probably because it takes a lot of sunlight and water to produce that much food value. My source for the data here is Janick and Paull’s remarkable Encyclopedia of Fruits and Nuts, with some help from Lost Crops of Africa Volume III, Plant Resources of Southeast Asia, and Useful Plants of Neotropical Origin. I’ll profile additional species in the book.
These ‘superfruits’ can and should play an important role in carbon-sequestering agriculture, agroforestry, and productive reforestation efforts.
I’ve been advancing my guerilla gardening efforts recently, with a significant new raised bed now beautifying my nature strip, as seen in the picture at right. I thought in this post I could provide a brief overview of how to build a cheap raised bed, either for use on your nature strip or in your front or back yards. This overview might seem a bit basic for the handy builders among you, so I direct this post to those who are beginning their journey into guerilla gardening and urban agriculture.
I was moved to write this post after attending an environmental festival recently where raised beds like the one I have built were priced between $800 and $1000! Mine cost considerably less than $100, including the soil and plants, and that’ll pay for itself soon enough. I also earned the joy of construction, making me doubly well off. Below I describe the method for building a raised garden bed that is two boards high, which provides good depth.
Maximum security, maximum return. Who doesn’t want that? In a world of uncertainty and change, more than a few people are reconsidering where it is they want their money.
I grew up being encouraged to save and invest in savings. The two are not the same thing. To invest in savings is to invest in money itself. To put your money into money… such a strange idea. But in a civilization bent on growth, how can your money not grow as well? It really isn’t a bad idea if you have faith that growth never ends….
I’m so blown away by the work of John Todd. He works on a huge scale cleaning horrendous toxins out of water. I suspect he knows a bit about permaculture. I saw Bill Mollison’s book listed on one of his websites.
Above is a video that I think gives amazing insight on using plants (and even snails) to clean toxins from water.
Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.