Pemban woman planting ‘mtondoo’ (Callophylum innophlum) for bank stabilization (Photo Zach Melanson, 2014)
The problem . . .
Tanzania’s Zanzibar islands were once a bastion of the global spice trade, an exchange that drove the world’s economy from the Middle Ages into modern times. The region, and mainly the island of Pemba, remain famous for the production of cloves – those aromatic flower buds that look like tiny claw & ball feet. Remnant clove plantations still dominate the hilly landscape across the entire western half of Pemba. During the prime harvest season from September through November their distinct perfume fills the island air.
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“When the Water Ends” tells the story of climate change conflicts in East Africa. For thousands of years, semi-nomadic pastoralists have followed fresh water sources and grazing land. They are accustomed to harsh environments and surviving with limited resources. But with the impacts of climate change, competition for water and pasture is escalating. Increased drought and decreased rainfall is fueling violent conflict over water and grazing lands.
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Maybe you heard of them back in 2012, purportedly the ‘Year of the MOOC’. But the top platforms have come a long way since 2012, with new partners and great new classes that can interest almost anyone. Interested in Science, Computing, Satellites or Math? Surely you must take a peek at the course catalogue, because there are dozens of interesting offerings. But here I would like to highlight a few current and upcoming classes that focus in and around topics associated with Permaculture.
These massive courses are free and open and offered by accredited and respected universities. Although most now do offer to sell you an official certificate, you can access and review the materials for free. Many (all at edx.org) still offer free Statements of Accomplishment, printable certificates for those that get passing grades on whatever assignments and exams the professors invent for that course. There is a lot of variability even today between courses, ranging widely in length, depth, and production quality. The two main sites, edx.org and coursera.org, will both require you to create an account with them, and then will let you register for as many courses as you want.
The ethics of openness and how it is beginning to be reflected in education is a topic for another post, but for now here are my selections. Feel free to follow the links and read more about any of the courses, and if they interest you, by all means, sign up and meet people from around the world interested in the same topic. I personally have taken more than fifteen online courses, and in my opinion the discussions are a lot better with more perspectives involved. The more conscious people there are involved, the more people that can potentially wake up, and become conscious.
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“The idea literally went around the world and back again in less than a year and I knew we were onto something. The growth wasn’t something we could rush, just like an organic garden, it has taken patience, vision and persistence and we seem to have hit some kind of tipping point which is very exciting.”–John VanDeusen Edwards, founder of Food is Free
Interview with Food is Free Project Founder Discussing New Farm, The Project’s Growth, and How to Start a Project in Your Community.
I’m a firm believer that food is a universal human right which speaks in a universal tongue, and is indeed the foundation of human culture–a facet of daily life that, when utilized as a force for change, can move mountains. I interviewed John VanDeusen Edwards, the founder of Food is Free, an inspirational permaculture project with local and global influence, to gain some insight into how exactly this mountain–moving takes place.
But First, What Exactly is The Food is Free Project?
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With English Subtitles
Chai Jing’s daughter had a benign tumor, that was discovered while Chai was pregnant. Following her daughter’s birth, Chai undertook a self funded year-long investigation into China’s environmental problems, specifically the air pollution. The result is this documentary called Under the Dome. It was released online on March 1, 2015 and by March 3, 2015 it had been viewed more than 150 million times.
The video runs for just under an hour and forty-five minutes and is compelling viewing
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Greening the Desert II, Dead Sea Valley, Jordan
Photos: Rawan Risheq
October-November 2014, at the end of a long dry summer before the winter rains.
You can also download the whole pdf here
From its very inception, a natural system is involved in a continuous evolution, an ongoing succession of different stages toward increasing diversity and complexity, toward increasing stability, fertility and productivity until, eventually, the system reaches its climax – a final stage of relative stability where most of the energy is no longer used for growth but for maintenance and where the species composition remains relatively unchanged until a disturbance occurs, from a lightning that blows down a single tree to a catastrophic fire to human intervention.
When designing for a food forest, we are harmonizing with the succession that naturally occurs in nature, speeding up that process that leads to an increase in biomass and biological activity, an increase in the energy and nutrients that get harvested, stored and cycled and, eventually, an increase in the quantity and quality – structure and fertility – of the soil itself.
The great difference between a natural system and a designed human-managed system is that, in nature, only a tiny part of the global yields is directly available to us, since we are only a tiny part of the whole natural species assembly, while in a human-managed system almost every species is selected to provide us with some form of direct or indirect yield. We call “support species” those plants whose primary function is to support the growth of our main productive species, performing a key role in regulating the incoming energies of sun, wind and water, hydrating the soil and stabilizing the water cycle, harvesting nutrients from the air (i.e. nitrogen-fixation) and from different soil depths, creating new niches to welcome a diversity of living organisms both above and under the ground and, generally, putting the ecosystem back into function.
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Permaculture (permanent agriculture but also permanent culture) is a system of design aimed at creating “productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way“. It is a working with, rather than against, nature: what species, what natural elements can we partner with to meet all our needs while benefiting life in all its forms? How can we transform degraded ecosystems into lush edible landscapes?
A PDC is an intensive 72-hour Permaculture Design Course that will lead to an accredited Permaculture Design Certificate. The course will be based on, but not limited to, Bill Mollison’s A Designers’ Manual:
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Everyone is at least somewhat familiar with the plant kingdom but the fungi kingdom is very little known and understood and yet the more we look into mushrooms the more they seem to offer. Some mushroom species have the ability to clean up serious toxins in our environment and some offer valuable medicine. They all play a part in the decomposition process by pulling apart lignin and cellulose in fallen trees and woodchips in our garden.
Growing mushrooms is both an art and a science. At times they can be tricky and uncooperative and other times when you’re just about ready to give up on them they’ll surprise you with the biggest, tastiest crop you’ve ever seen.
For a while I was making mushroom kits so that people could grow gourmet mushrooms at home. It was a fun job and really pushed my education in mushroom cultivation forward but it never felt all that rewarding. I much prefer teaching people the process so that they have the skills to grow gourmet mushrooms from scratch. Teach a person to fish right?
It all starts with mycelium. The more mycelium you grow the more mushrooms you grow so the process of mushroom growing can be seen as different steps to expand your mushroom mycelium. Mushroom cultivator their own method. I like to keep it simple and straightforward. You can start the mycelium growing process in a number of different ways but the most tried and true method is growing them on petri dishes.
Growing Mushroom Cultures on Petri Dishes
First I mix the media that I use to pour into my petri dishes. You can use a handful of different ingredients but I prefer to use malt extract powder, agar agar and a pinch of yeast.
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“Your Potty is a Wonderland”
With only three more days to fund the Kickstarter “Poo to Peaches – a Composting Toilet Book”, we need your help! We are still about $3,800 shy of our goal. We hope this video, a spoof on John Mayers’ “Your Body is a Wonderland”, will inspire you to drop a little nutrient on us and help us with this last big push to realize our goal. We’re relying on our permaculture community to help us make low-cost, permittable composting toilets a reality.
We hope you enjoy the goofiness of “Your Potty is a Wonderland” .
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Please click above to watch the Trailer
INHABIT – A Permaculture Perspective
Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the health and well-being of our planet? This is the premise behind permaculture: a design process based on the replication of patterns found in nature. INHABIT explores the many environmental issues facing us today and examines solutions that are being applied using the ecological design lens of permaculture. Focused mostly on the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the United States, Inhabit provides an intimate look at permaculture peoples and practices ranging from rural, suburban, and urban landscapes.
This is Part two of a series of Articles, that critically discuss’s the Nottinghill Forest Garden Project from Analysis – to Implementation – to Future Idea’s.
Part one can be found here
Site Preparation Discussion
Although observation and basic design began in 2010, we did not commence the garden in earnest until January of 2011. After analyzing our site’s conditions and forming a basic long-term vision for the garden, I had to figure out a path to get us there.
The most pressing matters to begin solving fall under what Geoff Lawton likes to call “mainframe design.” Water, access, and soil are fundamentals that need to be examined before moving onto finer details; getting these right (or close to it) from the start will make the rest much easier. Before examining how these were designed, let us look at the overall strategy for each.
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A short video showing animal and people systems in place at “Maungaraeeda”, home of the Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast. Permaculture educator Tom Kendall talks about how PRI Master Plan sites like Maungaraeeda are able to empower people.
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