Editor’s Note: It is intensely infuriating when people in suits make wholly inaccurate, ignorant statements about incredibly important issues, and due to their position get it published in the mainstream media, where far too many people take it at face value. The rapid conversion of the world from small-scale, diverse ecological farming systems towards factory-floor agribusinesses is causing untold woes, and yet the ‘solution’ to the multiple crises born of industrialised agriculture, we are told, is the further takeover by large corporate interests and even more industrialised agriculture…. I wholly endorse the reaction, found below, to this madness.
Common statement of La Via Campesina — GRAIN — Friends of the Earth International (FoE) — Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC) — Re:Common — World March of Women — ETC group — Latin American Articulation of Movements Toward ALBA
We are shocked and offended by an article co-signed by Jose Graziano da Silva, Director General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and Suma Chakrabarti, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), that was pusblished in the Wall Street Journal on September 6, 2012.(1) In the article, they call on governments and social organisations to embrace the private sector as the main engine for global food production.
Reducing the solar radiation that reaches Earth will have potentially significant consequences beyond limiting the mean temperature of the planet; it may reduce annual rainfall, especially in the Americas and northern Eurasia.
Harvard geoengineers are set to spray sun-reflecting chemical particles into the atmosphere to cool the planet from a balloon at 80 000 feet over Fort Sumner, New Mexico . Chief investigator David Keith manages a multimillion dollar research fund awarded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and has already commissioned a study by a US aerospace company that made the case for large-scale deployment of solar radiation management technologies. The experiment, to be conducted with James Anderson within a year, will release tens to hundreds of kilograms of particles to measure the impacts on ozone chemistry and test ways of making sulphate aerosols the appropriate size.
Many scientists are opposed to geoengineering experiments, preferring to study the impacts of sulphuric dust emitted by volcanoes, and to use modelling to identify the risks. A British field test involving a balloon and hose-pipe to pump water into the sky, which was part of the government-funded Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (Spice) project (see  Skyhook to Save the Climate?) was cancelled after public outcry.
But there are good reasons why geoengineering should not be considered.
With the U.S. and other countries caught in unprecedented droughts, and arid areas of the world growing in tandem, this simple method for speeding revegetation at scale offers a lot of promise.
The barren, arid landscapes of the world are notoriously hard to revegetate. Indeed, the earth in these regions is usually very hard to describe as ‘soil’. As vegetation dies off, the soil gets exposed to intense heat and evaporation, and any seeds that are present, or applied, are then unable to get the moisture they need to germinate and survive. With plant roots, organic matter and microorganisms no longer present in the soil, it rapidly loses any of the structure it once possessed. Soil erosion from rain events and harsh winds then easily undermine nature’s attempts at natural, progressive restoration, by sending any accumulated soil particles elsewhere, or out into the ocean.
Human intervention has been, in many cases, the driving force in starting this destructive cycle, and, as evidenced by the rapid advancement of desertification worldwide, it’s also clear that it will only be through human intervention that we can reverse it.
On Sunday Polly travelled down to Bristol to speak at the Annual Green Party Conference about the law of Ecocide and how it will trigger a green economy. She was absolutely delighted to arrive and be told that the Party had in fact already voted in favour of supporting the law of Ecocide the day before.
It was a day of celebrations; Natalie Bennet has taken over as their new leader and many members were eager to discuss further plans for taking the law of Ecocide (see here and here) to Green Parties elsewhere.
The Green Party believes that the international legal framework should include so-called "third generation" rights. These are not individual rights but they concern matters which affect us all. They include the right to a healthy environment. An international law of Ecocide enshrines these rights in law and will lead to government policies which put people and planet first.
The issue of food resilience has been discussed often in permaculture circles. We talk about the need for not just sustainable but regenerative agriculture, cultures that are permanent and communities that work together to achieve some form of network that can sustain life through a food crisis or major event.
Christchurch, New Zealand, among other global locations, has had one of those events. It is through the rebuilding of these communities that we have seen some big shifts in people coming together and standing strong in unity. When Lyttleton near Christchurch was cut off due to the earthquake, one of the realisations was that food shortage and availability was a major issue. Out of that, among other projects, is the focus on creating a food resilient harbour basin.
Part of that project is long time New Zealand Permaculture educator, Robina McCurdy from the charitable trust, Earthcare Education Aotearoa.
The report “Castles in the Air: The Spanish State, public funds and the EU-ETS” from Carbon Trade Watch was launched in Barcelona in June at the first meeting of the Alianza por una alternativa ecológica, social y urgente al capitalismo. Two weeks ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the report reveals the role of the Spanish State in the carbon market and the polluting industries in Spain being bankrolled by much needed public funding.
New research reveals that the windfall profits gained in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) by the top eight polluters in Spain were mostly from the steel and cement industries. The report critiques the inconsistencies in the Spanish State’s climate plan and its continuous assistance to companies that undermines reducing emissions at source while increasing conflicts in Southern countries.
This 13-day practical and demonstrative PDC will take place in Konso, south Ethiopia, from December 10th – 22nd, 2012, at Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge. It will have a special focus on the application of permaculture to communities in the developing world. It will involve practical demonstrations both form Strawberry Fields’ own model permaculture site and from school sites in the area which are participating in the Permaculture in Konso Schools Project. There will also be the chance to do field trips into other climate zones in the Ethiopian highlands.
Lead Facilitator: Alex McCausland Co-facilitators: Abel Teshome and Asmelash Dagne Dates: December 10th – 22nd, 2012 Location: Konso, South Ethiopia Venue: Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge Cost: US$850 ($600 for Ethiopians) [10% early-bird discount available before 15th October, 2012] Includes: Course fees, food and accommodation for the period of the course Excludes: Transport, accommodation en-route, travel insurance, etc.
September estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show 2012 U.S. corn yields at 123 bushels per acre, down by a fourth from the 2009 high of 165 bushels per acre. Yields are the lowest since 1995 and well below the average of the last 30 years. The summer heat and drought also hit U.S. soybean yields, which are down 20 percent from their 2009 peak.
High temperatures have combined with the worst drought in half a century to wreak havoc on American farms and ranches. Some 80 percent of U.S. farm and pasture land experienced drought. The average temperature across the contiguous United States from January through August 2012 was far higher than in any past year, a full 4 degrees Fahrenheit above the twentieth century average, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The summer of 2012 was the third hottest on record. Only the summers of 2011 and 1936—the latter during the Dust Bowl—were warmer.
I’m enjoying working on a job connecting up extensive irrigation in the mountains of Extremadura, Spain, and relaxing for a couple of days after a successful and effective Dryland Water Management intensive at the budding Permaculture Institute, Vale De Lama, near Lagos in the South of Portugal.
This week we have been looking at all aspects of water design, focusing mostly on this varied site where all manner of interventions are necessary to halt the onslaught of the desertification process and regenerate the diverse mixed polycultures and rich soils that had a biological diversity comparative to more tropical regions at one time.
Something that is clear after working so intensively with integrative and regenerative systems design around the globe in different climate zones is that most places I turn up at have been degraded heavily and the localized cultural approach and ecological understanding is often limited by familiarization with the current conditions and often destructive agricultural practices.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has, of course, a lot of resources at its disposal. Unfortunately it’s been shown that those resources have not always been utilised in ways that actually assist the people they purport to want to help. I’d like to believe that this disconnect is just due to ecological ineptitude, rather than impure motives, but it’s impossible for me to tell, or judge, from the swivel chair I’m sitting in. If I got rich from coding DOS, I’m sure I might also come to consider ‘technology’ as being the answer to all things, and, after a lifetime in offices, would probably also have a very limited understanding of the great biological ‘operating system’ — the interdependencies found within our biosphere, and the productivity that can be found in harnessing those interdependencies, instead of ignoring and overriding them and continuing to try to forcefunctions.
But, today I want to highlight a grant opportunity offered by the foundation. It is an opportunity to showcase sensible, appropriate, productive design systems not only to the African farmers who desperately need to find better ways of working, but also to Gates Foundation members themselves. I dare to dream that the vast resources of the foundation could begin to leverage the work of permaculturists, rather than continuing to finance the spread of unnecessary biotechnology, etc. I would encourage lucid and experienced permaculturists — particularly those with documented successes in places like Africa and India — to read through this grant offer, and to do us proud….
Writing the series about Food Forests has made me aware of how much interest there is in them and how they can vary from region to region, but it also highlighted to me just how difficult it may be for people to actually visit a food forest.
However, thanks to the wonders of the internet and YouTube, people have the opportunity to take a virtual tour of a food forest and see how it progresses over time without leaving their chair!
Curious what goes on at the PRI Zaytuna Farm? If you live close to the farm, or are passing by, you're welcome to book yourself on a farm tour (Wednesdays at 11am only). Contact the farm manager and we'll see you soon.
We will take a minimum of 3 people at $35 p/p (groups of less than 3 adults are $50 p/p). Large groups please call to discuss pricing (at least 48 hours prior required).