Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Development & Property Trusts, Education, People Systems, Society, Village Development.

Sri Lankan tea plantation worker
Photograph © copyright Craig Mackintosh

For the past year, I have been circumnavigating the world as a curious observer, student, and wwoofer. After undergraduate studies, I wanted to balance the Darwinian culture of academia with a paradigm that encouraged humility and knowledge sharing within a global civil society. I took my first PDC at Occidental Arts and Ecology in California and continued on to Strawberry Fields Eco-lodge in Ethiopia (PDC with Rhamis Kent), the PRI of Australia (soil biology and aid worker course), Thailand (interned at Rak Tamachat and studied with Sangob, Fair Earth Farm, Pun Pun, and Tacomepai), and returned back to Quail Springs Permaculture in California (natural building apprenticeship and an International Development Professionals PDC).

As giving and receiving are one in the same, I want to give back to the permaculture movement by suggesting how permaculture can improve its theoretical diversity in order to be transparent and accountable to its tenet of fair share. Although the permaculture movement has inspired me, I am still grappling with its legitimacy within the world order. To promote the agency of its students and nurture the development of a global civil society, PDC curricula needs to increase its diversity.

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Posted by & filed under Dams, Demonstration Sites, Irrigation, Land, Water Conservation, Water Harvesting.

Permaculture Elder Tom Ward takes us on a 10-minute animated tour of Wolf Gulch Farm in Southern Oregon, USA. It was designed using permaculture principles and laid out using Keyline patterning. Tom’s narrated journey explores water supply and storage, soil building, wind and air drainage, cropping, and an enlightened perspective on the watershed and the future of farming in harmony with natural forces.

Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Alternatives to Political Systems, Biodiversity, Community Projects, Conferences, Consumerism, Deforestation, Demonstration Sites, Food Forests, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Peak Oil, Plant Systems, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Trees, Urban Projects, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

If you aren’t in a reading mood, and/or just came to look at the before/after photographs, click here to jump down the page.

Loess Plateau, Early September, 1995

Loess Plateau, Early September, 2009

Rio+20 has been and gone, and, in the big scheme of things, has achieved little, or worse. With this post I’d like to take the opportunity to jot down some thoughts, and images, that might help us shake off disappointment, disillusionment and despair, and give us something we can all consider, adjust and rally around. Our ‘leaders’ are taking us ‘down the garden path’, but, unfortunately, in the proverbial, rather than literal, sense. It’s truly time to forge new beginnings, create new economies, and to prioritise natural and social capital with the goal of restoring ecological and social health.

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

by Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute

No previous civilization has survived the ongoing destruction of its natural supports. Nor will ours. Yet economists look at the future through a different lens. Relying heavily on economic data to measure progress, they see the near 10-fold growth in the world economy since 1950 and the associated gains in living standards as the crowning achievement of our modern civilization. During this period, income per person worldwide climbed nearly fourfold, boosting living standards to previously unimaginable levels. A century ago, annual growth in the world economy was measured in the billions of dollars. Today, it is measured in the trillions. In the eyes of mainstream economists, our present economic system has not only an illustrious past but also a promising future.

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Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

So now what do we do to defend life on Earth?

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

It is, perhaps, the greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war. The Earth’s living systems are collapsing, and the leaders of some of the most powerful nations – the US, the UK, Germany, Russia – could not even be bothered to turn up and discuss it. Those who did attend the Earth summit last week solemnly agreed to keep stoking the destructive fires: sixteen times in their text they pledged to pursue “sustained growth”, the primary cause of the biosphere’s losses(1).

The efforts of governments are concentrated not on defending the living Earth from destruction, but on defending the machine that is destroying it. Whenever consumer capitalism becomes snarled up by its own contradictions, governments scramble to mend the machine, to ensure – though it consumes the conditions that sustain our lives – that it runs faster than ever before.

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Posted by & filed under Compost, Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Land, Soil Rehabilitation.

Clean up

Over the last two years, here in South West Pennsylvania, a snow and wind storm knocked down a few trees in the back yard. This provided both resources and opened up a nice hole in the canopy where I could put those resources to use. The first thing I wanted to do was collect all of the yard refuse, both to see what I had to work with and to view the uncluttered land.

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

Editor’s Preamble: In a prevous editorial life, I used to make a decent attempt at commentary for these large international events — those organised with some pretention towards shifting us onto a ‘sustainable path — but I no longer have the energy for it. Pinning our hopes on politicians’ plans for ‘greening the economy’ is a bit like using your digital alarm clock. The alarm rings, then we hit ‘snooze’ periodically — with a multi-year interval between wake up calls…. All these meetings seem to do is cement a mindset of ‘leave it to the experts’, whilst these ‘experts’ obfuscate with shifting nuances of language. The results coming out of Rio+20 are certainly disappointing, but in no way surprising. It is said, and it’s not hard to believe, that a large industry can do more damage in a couple of hours than the average individual can make in their entire lifetime. While ‘consumers’ are generally targeted as the main culprits (it’s very convenient for industry, and the politicians that pander to them, to pass the blame to the little guy), incentivising or mandating change in industry is therefore of the upmost importance. (Indeed, some industries need to disappear entirely, whilst other new carbon-neutral/positive industries need to begin.) These industries do ‘serve’ consumers, however, so no matter what way we look at it, the end user is at least partly responsible for the resource use, emissions and pollution of the industries whose products and services they avail themselves of. But, due to the mass consolidation of industry over the last few decades, it has become increasingly difficult for consumers to have a choice — and even more difficult to really know the environmental cost of the products and services we use, as what we know about these usually far-removed industries is only what they tell us. Political frameworks/policies, industry, media and advertising largely shape social structures — so consumers can ultimately end up being captive participants in a system not of their making. These players will never reinvent the system for us, so we should quit waiting for that to happen.


The Rio Declaration rips up the basic principles of environmental action.

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

In 1992 world leaders signed up to something called “sustainability”. Few of them were clear about what it meant; I suspect that many of them had no idea. Perhaps as a result, it did not take long for this concept to mutate into something subtly different: “sustainable development”. Then it made a short jump to another term: “sustainable growth”. And now, in the 2012 Earth Summit text that world leaders are about to adopt, it has subtly mutated once more: into “sustained growth”.

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Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Conferences, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, GMOs, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

The summits which promise to save the world keep us dangling, not mobilising.

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

Worn down by hope. That’s the predicament of those who have sought to defend the earth’s living systems. Every time governments meet to discuss the environmental crisis, we are told that this is the “make or break summit”, upon which the future of the world depends. The talks might have failed before, but this time the light of reason will descend upon the world.

We know it’s rubbish, but we allow our hopes to be raised, only to witness 190 nations arguing through the night over the use of the subjunctive in paragraph 286. We know that at the end of this process the UN secretary-general, whose job obliges him to talk nonsense in an impressive number of languages, will explain that the unresolved issues (namely all of them) will be settled at next year’s summit. Yet still we hope for something better.

This week’s earth summit in Rio de Janeiro is a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago. By now, the leaders who gathered in the same city in 1992 told us, the world’s environmental problems were to have been solved. But all they have generated is more meetings, which will continue until the delegates, surrounded by rising waters, have eaten the last rare dove, exquisitely presented with an olive leaf roulade. The biosphere, that world leaders promised to protect, is in a far worse state than it was 20 years ago(1). Is it not time to recognise that they have failed?

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, Deforestation, Global Warming/Climate Change, Peak Oil, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

Editor’s Note: If you’re in the Northern Rivers area of NSW, Australia (or if you can otherwise make it!), please support this important initiative!

Coal Seam Gas (CSG) mining, or ‘fracking’ (see here and here), has potential to impact adversely on the natural environment and community.

In response to the threat of growth of the damaging CSG mining industry a troupe of volunteers based in Lismore, NSW has embarked on an ambitious musical educational adventure.

CSG The Musical is being produced along the lines of a musical theatrical extravaganza with humour, satire and high energy theatre to provide education and entertainment.

On show at the Lismore Workers Club on Thursday 28 June to Saturday 30 June the fun filled fast facts and laughter will raise much need funds for the battle against the damaging CSG industry.

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Posted by & filed under Alternatives to Political Systems, Biodiversity, Conferences, Consumerism, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Peak Oil, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Village Development, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

In a few days the international community will be meeting in Rio de Janeiro, to hold the most significant environmental conference since the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. As the planet’s ecosystems tremble under the weight of overconsumption, this conference surely provides one of few remaining opportunities for governments to take environmental issues seriously.

Will the world’s leaders dare to think beyond the growth paradigm that lies at the root of our environmental crises? Will they be bold enough to constrain the overconsumption of natural resources or even acknowledge the problem of stagnating oil supplies? Sadly, history provides little grounds for confidence. What is more likely is that the conference will simply warm the climate further through an exchange of hot air disguised as genuine commitment.

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