Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Society.

Rural policy is once again the preserve of the elite, and wildlife and people suffer as a result.

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

I might have solved a minor mystery. Last week, after a public outcry(1,2), the government dropped its proposal to spend our money on capturing buzzards and destroying their nests to help pheasant shoots(3). The scheme was championed by Richard Benyon, the minister charged, as one of David Cameron’s little jokes, with protecting wildlife and biodiversity. Benyon is the owner of a huge stately home called Englefield House, and the 20,000-acre walled estate that surrounds it(4). The estate employs gamekeepers to stock it with pheasants and kill the animals that might eat them.

The rationale for this proposal was the weakest I have ever seen. The government intended to find new ways of persecuting buzzards, on the grounds that “anecdotal evidence” suggests that their predation of pheasants “can be significant at the local site level.”(5) No reference was given. Research held by DEFRA shows that just 1-2% of young pheasants are taken by all birds of prey(6). So where did the “anecdotal evidence” come from?

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

Editor’s Note: To follow, I think, is a very important look at Ted Trainer’s work — one that broaches an oft-avoided but critically essential conversation. I must confess to only having read a single article from Ted Trainer previously, which I posted here, but from that article, and the document below, I sense that similar thought processes in my own experience, and Ted’s, have led to the similar conclusions. Some of my thoughts along similar lines are evidenced here, here, here, here, here, here and here, as a few of many examples. In short, permaculture must be taken to mean ‘permanent culture’, and not just ‘permanent agriculture’ (as some would have it, as evidenced by the wrath I endure whenever we discuss economics and politics on this site…). And, for those interested, in regards to the ‘debate’ between Ted, Rob Hopkins and Brian Davey (see section 6), I empathise and agree with each perspective, as it happens. For me they’re all different sides of the same form, but none of the points raised eliminate the need for a systemic rework of socio-economic political systems. Rather, Rob and Brian’s perspective just emphasise how much work we have to do to get people on board and working to the same fruitful end. The final quoted passage from Theodore Roszak (bottom of article below) tells me we’ve come to similar conclusions, where he states the need for tangible living examples of happy low-tech implementations of how to live — the very purpose behind my work in creating the Worldwide Permaculture Network, to showcase and inspire people with what is possible, so permaculturists can share their own learning journey and insights into the how of it.

1. Ted Trainer and the Simpler Way

For several decades Ted Trainer has been developing and refining an important theory of societal change, which he calls The Simpler Way. His essential premise is that overconsumption in the most developed regions of the world is the root cause of our global predicament, and upon this premise he argues that a necessary part of any transition to a sustainable and just world involves those who are overconsuming accepting far more materially ‘simple’ lifestyles. That is the radical implication of our global predicament which most people, including most environmentalists, seem unwilling to acknowledge or accept, but which Trainer does not shy away from and, indeed, which he follows through to its logical conclusion. The Simpler Way is not about deprivation or sacrifice, however; it is about embracing what is sufficient to live well and creating social and economic systems on that basis. This essay presents an overview of Trainer’s position, drawing mainly on the most complete expression of it in his latest book, The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World, an analysis which is supplemented by some of his more recent essays. My review is designed in part to bring more attention to a theorist whose work has been greatly underappreciated, so the review is more expository than critical. But in places my analysis seeks to raise questions about Trainer’s position, and develop it where possible, in the hope of advancing the debate and deepening our understanding of the important issues under consideration. I begin by outlining the various elements of The Simpler Way and proceed to unpack them in more detail.

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops, Trees, Waste Systems & Recycling.

I purchased my portable sawmill four years ago to enable me to value add to my sustainable forestry business and take more control as a landholder of forest management techniques. I have certified timber grown and harvested under the Private Native Forestry Code of Practice.

The reason I could value add was due to the low cost of operation and low input costs while gaining high log recovery and gaining the ability to individually mill each piece of timber, giving greater satisfaction and accuracy to each piece, bringing out the characteristics of each piece.

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Posted by & filed under Animal Housing, Biodiversity, Biological Cleaning, Bird Life, Building, Commercial Farm Projects, Compost, Consumerism, Courses/Workshops, Demonstration Sites, Education, Education Centres, Energy Systems, Fencing, Food Forests, Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Irrigation, Land, Livestock, Nurseries & Propogation, Plant Systems, Potable Water, Society, Soil Conservation, Soil Rehabilitation, Structure, Trees, Village Development, Waste Systems & Recycling, Water Conservation, Water Harvesting.

Paradise Dam, April 2012, from the now-climaxing food forest
Photos © Craig Mackintosh (unless otherwise indicated)

Zaytuna Farm Video Tour, duration 41 minutes
Note: Switch YouTube player to HD if your internet connection allows

Having spent the last few years seeking to establish and assist projects worldwide, and hearing some readers requesting more info on our own permaculture base site, I thought it high time I take a moment away from promoting other projects to shine a little light on our own work!

It had been a long time since I last visited Zaytuna Farm. Arriving in April 2012, more than two and a half years after my September 2009 visit, I was somewhat taken aback…. Back in 2009 the farm could somewhat be described as an unruly child — full of energy and enthusiasm, and flush with life, but not at all mature. Now, as I see Geoff Lawton’s vision for the property being played out more fully, we could compare the farm to more of a blossoming and beautiful teenager, still fresh in youth, but demonstrating a clearer sense of direction.

Geoff’s long term strategies are becoming evident, and it really is a sight, and site, to behold!

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

The government’s new energy bill puts a match to its climate change commitments.

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

Energy policy in the United Kingdom looks like a jam factory hit by a meteorite: a multi-coloured pool of gloop, studded with broken glass. Consider these two press releases, issued by the Department for Energy and Climate Change last week.

Tuesday: the government’s new energy bill will help the UK to “move away from high carbon technologies”(1). Wednesday: applications for new oil and gas drilling in the North Sea have “broken all previous records”. This is “tremendous news for industry and for the UK economy.”(2)

The government knows that these positions are irreconciliable. Natural gas is mainly used for producing electricity. The draft energy bill, launched last week, says that if the government’s legal obligation to cut 80% of greenhouse gases by 2050 is to be met, electricity plants “need to be largely decarbonised by the 2030s.”(3) (This is a subtle slippage from December’s Carbon Plan, which said 2030(4)). The only hope of reconciliation lies in the universal deployment of carbon capture and storage: technology which removes the carbon dioxide emanating from power stations and buries it. But the government has made it clear that it does not believe this is going to happen.

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

Four years ago


A few weeks ago we had our amazing interns prepare a soil sample to be sent off to the Soil Food Web Lab in Vulcan, Alberta. (See the blog, Testing Our Soil for a Nutrient Dense Garden). A few quick weeks later, our analysis came back, and we were told by the lab that our “sample’s biology numbers were one of the best we have seen for garden samples”.

We’ve been telling people for years now that compost is the most effective way to improve soil texture, nutrient density, tilth, carbon content and overall health, and now the results are in.

When we started our garden almost four years ago, growing anything in our backyard seemed hopeless. You can see (top right) what our soil looked like when we started. It was basically chunks of sand and clay with the consistency of concrete. Not a very welcoming home for new seeds.

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Posted by & filed under Building.

The roof plays a primal role in our lives. The most primitive buildings are nothing but a roof. If the roof is hidden, if its presence cannot be felt around the building, or if it cannot be used, then people will lack a fundamental sense of shelter. – Christopher Alexander

Traditional farmhouse from Løten, Norway

So, the question is, why not? Why does this taboo exist? What is this funny business about having to prove you are a modem architect and having to do something other than a pitched roof? The simplest explanation is that you have to do these others to prove your membership in the fraternity of modern architecture. You have to do something more far out, otherwise people will think you are a simpleton. But I do not think that is the whole story. I think the more crucial explanation… is that the pitched roof contains a very, very primitive power of feeling. Not a low pitched, tract house roof, but a beautifully shaped, fully pitched roof. That kind of roof has a very primitive essence as a shape, which reaches into a very vulnerable part of you. But the version that is okay among the architectural fraternity is the one which does not have the feeling: the weird angle, the butterfly, the asymmetrically steep shed, etc. — all the shapes which look interesting but which lack feeling altogether. The roof issue is a simple example. But I do believe the history of architecture in the last few decades has been one of specifically and repeatedly trying to avoid any primitive feeling whatsoever. Why this has taken place, I don’t know. — Christopher Alexander

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Posted by & filed under Health & Disease.

Kay Baxter with seed from an old barley variety
Photo © Craig Mackintosh

As a life long gardener and permaculture garden designer, I have never seen a design for a food garden that actually takes into account the fats, minerals and vitamins human beings need for optimum health, according to science and history.

One of our research programs here at the Koanga Institute looks at relationships between human health, soil health, plant health, and animal health. We’ve concluded that if we wish to be eating food that nourishes our bodies and maintains our DNA for the long haul, we need to follow principles or ‘Laws of Nature’ around how energy becomes matter, how we grow and maintain health, and how our plants and animals grow and maintain their health.

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Posted by & filed under Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Plant Systems, Society.

In Nature, all things are interconnected to each other, and in permaculture we strive to understand the relationships that comprise the ecological web of life. Through understanding the relationships in an ecological system, we can model these to  build similarly sustainable systems.

Of all the ecological relationships we might encounter, possibly the most important (to us) is the relationship of humanity to the rest of Nature. One of the greatest realisations that come from studying permaculture is that we are not above Nature, we are part of it, an integral part of the system so to speak, and when we assume out rightful and proper place, our relationship to Nature changes profoundly.

The aim of this article is to examine humanity’s relationship to Nature, how it has changed over time, how we can reclaim our unique ecological niche, and the benefits gained from reclaiming our rightful place in the ecological scheme of things.

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Posted by & filed under DVDs/Books, GMOs.

The Idiot Cycle – trailer

I am Emmanuelle Schick Garcia, the director of the award-winning documentary The Idiot Cycle that investigates the connections between the chemical, cancer and GMO industries (the film focuses on Dow Chemical, Monsanto, Bayer, Dupont, BASF and Astrazeneca).

I am contacting you because we have started a campaign to transfer The Idiot Cycle into the public domain, so anyone, anywhere can see the film.

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Posted by & filed under Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Medicinal Plants.

Climbing bean flowers have only one axis of symmetry

A practical thing botany teaches is too look at similarities and differences or patterns in plants. When growing vegetables you start to see resemblances between the plants and it can be useful to develop some general knowledge about how plant families are classified. I have found this knowledge particularly useful for:

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