UK government starts mining agricultural wastes for renewable energy as municipal and household wastes are becoming scarce.
by Dr Mae Wan Ho
On Farm Anaerobic Digestion Fund
The UK government has set up the On Farm Anaerobic Digestion Fund to help farmers in England install small scale anaerobic digesters on site [1, 2].
The scheme, formally launched 12 October 2013 by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Secretary Owen Paterson, allocates £3 million for farmers to apply for loans up to £400 000 to help finance anaerobic digestion (AD) plants on farm, or for a grant of up to £10 000 initially to investigate the environmental and economic potential of AD to deal with the farm wastes.
Read more »
A food forest is a lovely and interesting place to visit. Unfortunately, visitors only ever see the food forest as it is on that particular day when they visit. For example, if a person came to the food forest today, they would see lots of ripe citrus, some large unripe almonds and swelling apricots. However, things would be quite different if their visit was a month later. This is because it is still early days in the growing season! There are lots of plums, pears, apples, nectarines and peaches amongst other species, but the fruit is only tiny at this stage of the season. Other trees like chestnuts and walnuts have only just broken their dormancy and are yet to even flower.
It occurred to me that it is hard for visitors to see the growth and effects of the climate here on the food forest over a period of time.
Read more »
It hasn’t been a good week for Monsanto and the rest of the biotech industry.
Just three days ago, Mexico banned genetically engineered corn. Citing the risk of imminent harm to the environment, a Mexican judge ruled that, effective immediately, no genetically engineered corn can be planted in the country. This means that companies like Monsanto will no longer be allowed to plant or sell their corn within the country’s borders.
At the same time, the County Council for the island of Kauai passed a law that mandates farms to disclose pesticide use and the presence of genetically modified crops. The bill also requires a 500-foot buffer zone near medical facilities, schools and homes — among other locations.
And the big island of Hawaii County Council gave preliminary approval to a bill that prohibits open air cultivation, propagation, development or testing of genetically engineered crops or plants. The bill, which still needs further confirmation to become law, would also prohibit biotech companies from operating on the Big Island.
But perhaps the biggest bombshell of all is now unfolding in Washington state. The mail-in ballot state’s voters are already weighing in on Initiative 522, which would mandate the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Knowing full well that 93 percent of the American public supports GMO labeling, and that if one state passes it, many others are likely to follow, entrenched agribusiness interests are pulling out all the stops to try to squelch yet another state labeling effort.
Read more »
In 1973, Lyall Watson, a South African botanist, claimed that plants had emotions that could be recorded on a lie detector test. His research was fiercely dismissed by many in the scientific community. Recently, researchers at The University of Western Australia relaunched the debate by revealing that plants not only respond to sound, but that they also communicate to each other by making "clicking" sounds. (The article was published in the journal Trends in Plant Science.)
There is a silent and oftentimes invisible plant intelligence. We now know that cabbage plants emit methyl jasmonate gas when their surfaces are cut or pierced to warn their neighbors of danger such as caterpillars or other predators (aka hungry humans). Studies also found that when the volatile gas was emitted, the surrounding cabbage plants appeared to receive the urgent message and immediately released toxic chemicals on their leaves to ward off potential predators. Similar studies gave similar results with many other plants (many of them are presented in the video at top).
Read more »
A group of 93 scientists from all over the world deplore the disinformation over the safety of GMOs and expose the lack of empirical and scientific evidence on which the false claims of “consensus” on safety are being made.
Sign the statement "No consensus on GMO safety"
Find the List of Signatories Here (PDF)
The full statement is reproduced below.
As scientists, physicians, academics, and experts from disciplines relevant to the scientific, legal, social and safety assessment aspects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) , we strongly reject claims by GM seed developers and some scientists, commentators, and journalists that there is a “scientific consensus” on GMO safety   and that the debate on this topic is “over”.
We feel compelled to issue this statement because the claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist. The claim that it does exist is misleading and misrepresents the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of opinion among scientists on this issue. Moreover, the claim encourages a climate of complacency that could lead to a lack of regulatory and scientific rigour and appropriate caution, potentially endangering the health of humans, animals, and the environment.
Read more »
Rob Hopkins, instigator of the Transition Towns movement, is on tour in the U.S. This video is a 90 minute presentation that was given in Oakland, California, on October 10th, 2013. If you’re U.S.-based, and want to get involved in helping to start a Transiation Town, head here to find out more. There’s no time like the present….
This year’s very dry autumn, winter and spring in Lesotho is ringing alarm bells throughout the country. The capital city, Maseru, is down to a very limited supply of potable water. There is no significant rainfall forecast until the summer season, December / February. Last year’s grain crop was slightly better than the two previous years. This improved situation still left 40% of the population, some 725,000, reliant on food aid. And, a series of very low grain crop yields over previous years is having a very severe effect on the population’s future food supply.
Read more »
Why do conservation groups help to keep our wildlife in a state of extreme depletion?
by George Monbiot
I returned from the meetings filled with amazement, and the stirrings of a hope which has been all too rare in recent years. First, at the launch of Rewilding Europe’s Wildlife Comeback report three weeks ago, I heard about the remarkably rapid spread of large wild animals back into places which lost them long ago(1).
Then, at the World Wilderness Congress ten days ago, I heard how people and nations with very few resources, under almost impossible circumstances, were protecting or reintroducing “difficult” wild animals, species which are most controversial and which require the largest habitats(2).
Amid the hope and wonder, what hit me hardest was this: while in Britain we applaud the courage of people in poorer nations and celebrate their successes, while we send money abroad to conserve large wild animals and, rightly, become upset if people start killing them, we seem determined not to participate. Protecting species towards the top of the food chain, with all the difficulties that can involve, is something other people should do: we would rather stand back and watch.
Read more »
Major PDC at Fuzhou, mainland China, marks an important step for permaculture making inroads into China.
by Robyn Francis
Fuzhou, a city near the coast of southern China, has seen a flurry of a decade or so of rapid development. It is evident in the glass and concrete forests of tower blocks — many newly completed and still uninhabited and many more under construction. I’m driven through the city to the rural fringe where I’m teaching a PDC (Permaculture Design Course) in a small village on the edge of the metropolis.
Read more »
Editor’s Note: Some time ago I asked one of my permaculture contacts in Syria if they could give us some reports, with their particular on-the-ground views on the ongoing crisis there. I did so in the hope of our gaining a more rounded back-story viewpoint. With the mainstream media largely owned and controlled by vested interests, I think it’s critical that websites such as this one can be used as a platform upon which to share the opinions of everyday people on the ground in these tragic situations. I also think you’ll find this first report very interesting. Please be advised that the author’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
Internal and external displacement is one of the many striking features of the Syrian war. While media focus lies on external displacement, internal displacement is not less important.
Social trends prevailing here add to the tragedy of displacement: Despite the high real-estate prices, Syrians tend to own their own homes. They invest a lot of money in purchasing, decorating and furnishing their houses, therefore losing a house can be as harsh as losing lives. Additionally, Syrians usually have deep roots in the areas they live in. a family may inhabit the same area for generations. In some cases they start small businesses where they live to reduce travel costs. So when violent conflict started, many people lost not only their homes but also their sources of income.
I live in Damascus. Almost all the towns around Damascus city, called ‘Rural Damascus’, were affected. The people who live(d) there are mostly in the medium to low income bracket. Some left their houses carrying only the clothes they wore, while some had time to collect at least some of their stuff. When fragile truces were announced between the fighting sides, many people attempted to visit their houses and shops to rescue other items, exposing themselves to sniper attacks. Some have lost their lives in such attempts.
Read more »
The Planet Fund: Crowdfunding the restoration of environment and communities.
It’s been an extremely exciting month since the launch of The Planet Fund. Registrations and contact from projects all over the world are coming in and showing interest – but moreso, hope and inspiration.
Read more »
Having a garden is having your own apothecary. It’s great to be able to walk into your garden and harvest foods and plants which are full of nutrients to help you stay happy and healthy. I love growing herbs which I can use for medicines, tinctures and teas. I tend to dry some and also use the fresh herbs to make tinctures in apple cider vinegar which will keep for a long time, so I always have homemade medicines at hand.
Lemon balm (Melissa Officinalis), also known as Melissa, and Lavender, are two herbs which I have found a lot of people growing here in the UK, and as lemon balm is a sun-loving herb I can imagine it is grown in many other areas also. These two particular herbs are easy to find and so very useful for the beginner.
Read more »