If we lose the ash tree, we’ll lose culture as well as nature.
by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom.
Reading the shocking news about ash die-back, the disease that has now killed most of Denmark’s ash trees and many of those across the rest of northern Europe, I was reminded that when we lose our wildlife we lose some of our stories.
The death of a species, especially a species as significant as the ash, punches a hole not only in nature, but also in our culture.
I write this on the train from seeing a close friend of mine, imprisoned in HMP Holloway. A beautiful lifer who I gardened with for the entire 21 months of my own imprisonment in 2009/10. After 5.5 years into her sentence, she is at her lowest point. She has not eaten for 15 days. With the means of suicide taken from her, she says this is the only way she can die. Even with the knowing that she’ll get taken to hospital and administered a drip, she is determined to weaken her body to the point that she will no longer be part of this world. I do not try to talk her out of it, I simply sit in the hall and listen. The minute I tell her what to do, like every other screw in the place, she will close off and the only lifeline of compassion and support she has will be severed. Having listened to suicidal women most of my adult life, including those in prison during my time as a Listener with the Samaritans, I respect self-determination and honour the space to have these conversations about life and death, grief and hope.
Understanding that right doesn’t take away the fact that every piece of my heart feels like it’s breaking. Every cell in my body is filled with the rage at the injustice of her case. But most of what I feel is powerlessness in the face of the prison system. A system that has dominated and caused harm in my life since I was 16 years old. In most other ways I feel a woman of power; a community organiser, grower, permaculture practitioner. I know my sphere of influence and know how to stretch it strategically. There is not much I fear and not much I feel I can’t do if I put my mind to it. But the prison system dwarfs me and it’s time for that to change.
More than 150 data sets accompany Lester R. Brown’s latest book, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity. These tables and graphs help to explain the precarious situation in which humanity finds itself, as the world leaves an era of food surpluses and enters one of food scarcity. Here are some highlights from the collection.
Food Prices Rising
Between 2007 and mid-2008, world grain and soybean prices more than doubled. Record food price inflation led to food-related riots and unrest in some 60 countries. Prices eased somewhat due to the Great Recession, but even then remained well above historical levels. In late 2010 into early 2011, prices spiked again to a new record high, helping fuel the Arab Spring. As farmers struggle to keep up with soaring demand for grain and soybeans, this ratcheting upward of food prices ensures that many of the 219,000 new guests at the global dinner table each night are facing empty plates.
Forest gardening is about as close as any strategy comes to addressing all of the most pressing needs of humans in one great sweep. Climate change, peak oil, poverty, extinction, and civil strife– all are rooted in the ground, and in most cases, those roots belong to trees.
A few days ago I informed that you could watch the Genetic Roulette Documentary for free until October 17. Well, several organisations have kindly sponsored an extension of this free viewing period until the end of October. With Proposition 37 coming up on November 6 in California, there’s no time like the present to get the word out on GMOs. So, if you haven’t already, please take the time to watch it, and please do your best to share it with all your family, friends and colleagues!
If we can get mandatory labelling of GMOs happening in California, this can cascade across the U.S. — making it easier for people to recognise and reject ‘food’ items containing GMOs, and this in turn can cause boycotts of supermarkets who continue to stock them. Using the European example as evidence, we may only need about 5% of U.S. residents to start rejecting items containing GMOs, before supermarkets will feel the pinch and try to outcompete other supply chains by no longer stocking them.
And, below is a new 10-minute re-mix of the documentary, useful for those who just can’t make time to watch the full 1.5 hour film.
Wadeye is the Northern Territory’s largest aboriginal community. Having been here just over a year now I can say I have become quite acquainted with many of the indigenous locals and I will be quite sad when I soon leave. However, to paint a brief picture of reasonable accuracy, the town itself is the result of yet another white man horror story created on behalf of English royalty.
Twenty different clans (who feuded from time to time) were not meant to be bought together to live in one community, so there is much violence amongst them — every night of late — and it’s the reason I am awake at 2:13am writing this.
Final Project for the Master of Arts in Environmental Conservation Education, NYU, Submitted August, 2011
by Lee Frankel-Goldwater
Click to download (300kb PDF)
The system of Permaculture design is an appropriate and well-defined model for teaching and implementing the goals of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). When the United Nations declared the years from 2005-2014 to be a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), the field of ESD was launched into a period of heightened global awareness and growth. Through a comparison of the core principles of Permaculture and ESD, thereby weaving the two systems together, it is hoped that the benefits of applying Permaculture towards the goals of the DESD can be made clear.
Permaculture is a conjunction of the words ‘permanent’ and ‘culture’, a point that hints at its founding principles. It is mainly a design system that, through the careful observation of nature, seeks to combine traditional wisdom with modern ecological knowledge to aid in the development of sustainable human habitats. It was developed in the global environmental context of the 1970’s to be a compact, dynamic system of thought, drawing on a wide variety of design techniques, that could be easily taught and applied to any climate or cultural setting.(1) In the time since its founding, Permaculture has been refined and has become a highly regarded system with many potential applications for addressing critical, present day issues related to sustainability and education.
Water — without it life on earth could not exist and yet it is often treated with little care or respect, especially by more affluent communities. Clean drinking water is actually a valuable and diminishing resource, due to all the toxins that are carelessly allowed to make their way into our water systems.
These statistics about water may surprise you and give you a greater understanding about just how important it is that we protect water, especially our potable water.
75% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water — however 97% of that water is the salt water of our oceans. That only leaves 3%, but 2% of that is frozen and only 0.5% is actually usable fresh water! Just 0.5% of all the water on Earth. Kinda brings the point home, doesn’t it?
As you can probably see, it is therefore vital that we help our children understand the value of water, the importance of protecting it and ways in which they can use it more sustainably.
Below are some ideas for introducing these concepts to your children… some of them quite a bit of fun, but with very important messages behind them.
13-year old Aidan Dwyer designed a more efficient model for solar power by studying Fibonacci sequences. Today, he divides his time between junior high and collaborations with research organizations like the University of Madison’s Resilience Research Center. – YouTube
Have you heard about the problems with growing canola in seed-production regions? Did you know canola can harm the farmers that grow your food crops, as well as your own ability to garden and save seed? Have you given your testimony yet?
Right now, Western Oregon, U.S.A., is faced with a serious risk to our food and seed farmers. The Willamette Valley is one of the last five great seed-growing regions in the world and has been a protected zone since the late 1990s. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is trying to allow canola to be grown on thousands of acres in the Willamette Valley for biodiesel production. This goes directly against the scientific research done by our agricultural university, Oregon State University (OSU). Their findings clearly demonstrated that canola would be harmful to our vegetable seed, clover seed and fresh market and organic farmers.
What: Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course with Lesley Byrne Where: Rusinga Island, Kenya When: December 4 — 17, 2012
Rusinga Island is one of the bigger islands in the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria. It’s the home of ancient fossils from before Homo Erectus and was once a green and luscious island, home of unique bird species and tall indigenous trees. The Rusinga Island of today is ravaged by deforestation as an exploding population tries to carve out a livelihood on the islands already scarce resources. In the last few years, the local community has for the first time experienced the total loss of harvest during the droughts caused by increasingly unreliable weather patterns.
The problem was how do you drain a duck pond in a way that
directs the overflow to the same exit pipe as when you drain it totally
doesn’t involve reaching your hand to the bottom of a pond full of duck poo
lets you easily drain out every last millimetre of sludge, and
lets you refill the pond without having to wait around to turn the tap off when it’s full.
Below is the design in which this conundrum arose. The duck pond is just above the tank in the lower left (under an apricot) and the infiltration path/trench it feeds is the worm-like thing curving up and around under the fruit trees….
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).