Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Bacterium That (Almost) Ate the World

Excerpted from:
Nature's Operating Instructions: The True Biotechnologies

Elaine Ingham would never treat soil like dirt. She reveres it, as we all should, since this precious substance is the thin brown line between plenty and starvation. Given the necessity of topsoil to human survival, you'd think we'd have legions of soil biologists on the case, but Elaine is one of only a handful of serious scientists delving into this microcosmos that feeds the world and helps support life on earth.

Until recently an associate research professor of forest science at Oregon State University, Elaine has twenty-five years of experience in microbiology, botany, plant pathology, and soil and ecology research. She founded Soil Foodweb Inc. and is currently president of the Soil Foodweb Institute in Australia and research director of Soil Foodweb in New York. She serves on the boards of several sustainability organizations and is an active member of numerous prestigious microbiology and ecology associations. She has done stints as president of the Soil Ecology Society and program chair of the Ecological Society of America and has penned over fifty peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Elaine speaks to groups around the world on how to grow plants without the use of toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers while at the same time increasing soil fertility and crop production. She has led countless workshops and training sessions at which farmers are taught highly practical techniques for building soil health, using sophisticated composting methods, and enhancing microbiological communities for crop production. Unquestionably one of the world's leading specialists in soil health, she is an exceptionally creative innovator who has made major contributions to our understanding of the soil food web (as she likes to call it) and its structure and function in terrestrial ecosystems from arctic to tropical climates.

Her research spans agricultural. grassland, and forest ecologies, where she has analyzed the action of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, and mycorrhizal fungi from over 30,000 soil samples.

When a scientist of Elaine's stature warns us about the catastrophic potential of topsoil loss and the escape of genetically modified organisms into the already compromised environment, we do well to pay close attention.

Unnatural Selection: The Bacterium That (Almost) Ate the World

Elaine Ingham IN MY PROGRAM at Oregon State University in the early 1990s, we started testing the ecological impacts of most of the genetically engineered organisms being produced at that time. The question our lab was asked to address was, Did these engineered organisms have any impact out there in the real world?

The first fourteen species that we worked on - microorganisms, bacteria. and fungi - were organisms incapable of surviving in the natural environment. Putting them in the world would be like taking penguins from the South Pole and dropping them into the La Brea tar pits. Would there be any ecological effect if we dropped a penguin into the middle of the tar pit? Probably not; the impact would be rapidly absorbed by the system.

These first fourteen species of GMOs that we tested had a similarly negligible impact. On this basis. the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the regulatory agency that was determining U.S. policy on genetically engineered organisms, set a course that essentially said that a genetically engineered organism posed no greater risk to the environment than the parent organism does.

GMO number fifteen, however, was a very different story. Klebsiella planticola, the bacterium that is the parent organism of this new strain, lives in soils everywhere. It's one of the few truly universal species of bacteria, growing in the root systems of all plants and decomposing plant litter in every ecosystem in the world.

The genetic engineers took genetic material from another bacterium and inserted that trait in the GMO to allow Klebsiella planticola to produce alcohol. The aim of this genetic modification was to eliminate the burning of farm fields to rid them of plant matter after harvest. The idea was that you could, instead, rake up all that plant residue, put it in a bucket. and inoculate it with the engineered bacterium, and in about two weeks' time you would have a material that contained about 17 percent alcohol. The alcohol could be extracted and used for gasohol, for cleaning windows, or for myriad other uses: cooking with alcohol in Third World countries, for instance.

The genetic engineers thought this transformation would bring huge benefits. We would no longer have to burn fields, we would breathe better in the fall, and both the company and farmers would get a product that could be sold. There was actually a fourth win: the sludge at the bottom of the bucket is an organic fertilizer, and there are no waste products from that material.

So what's the problem? Suppose you're a farmer and you've got live, alcohol-producing Klebsiella planticola that you're going to spread on your fields (which might be easier than gathering up all the plant waste and putting it in buckets). Can it wash into the root systems of your plants? Most likely. Once it's there and growing in the root systems of your plants, it's producing alcohol. What level of alcohol is toxic to plants? It's one part per million. How much alcohol does this engineered organism produce? Seventeen parts per million. Very soon you will have drunk dead plants.

We did this experiment under controlled conditions in the laboratory because I wasn't going to take this kind of risk out in the field. We constructed three kinds of microcosms of a field, filled them with normal field soil as a growing medium, and planted wheat plants in the three separate systems - each consisting of multiple units - and put them in an incubator. In the first third of the units, we added only water. We added parent, non-GMO bacterium to the second group and the engineered Klebsiella planticola to the third.

About a week later, we walked into the laboratory, opened up the incubator, and said, "Oops, what did we do wrong?" Many of the plants were dead and were turning into slime on the surface of the soil. In all the units with just water in the system, the plants were doing okay. In those that had been inoculated with the parent Klebsiella planticola, the plants were even bigger, because increased nutrient cycling in the root system makes more nitrogen available, causing the plants to grow bigger. Clearly the parent organism was a benefit to the plant. But where the engineered bacterium was growing, all the plants were dead.

Later we tried this experiment using several different kinds of soils, but the result in every case was dead plants.

Take that information and extrapolate it to the real world. Given that the parent organism lives in the root systems of all plants, what's the logical outcome of releasing this organism into the natural environment?

Very possibly, we would have no terrestrial plants left. Some plants, such as riparian and wetland plants, have mechanisms for dealing with alcohol production in their root systems. But the logical extrapolation of that experiment is that we would lose terrestrial plants.

I have attended some of the United Nations biosafety protocol meetings. At the 1995 meeting in Madrid, the U.S. delegation was the strongest in saying, in essence, "Don't worry, be happy. Trust us. We don't need a biosafety protocol. Why would biotech companies ever do anything to harm people?"

To me, their words echoed those we've heard before from tobacco, pesticide, and fertilizer companies. At one such meeting, I related the story of Klebsiella planticola as an example of the lack of adequate testing for the ecological impact of genetically engineered organisms. The biotech companies object that it costs too 'much to do this kind of environmental testing. In my view, that's just hype, because I pointed out that our lab spent a very insignificant amount of money to do these simple experiments, especially considering that if this bacterium were let loose in the environment, we would have some very significant problems with our food supply.

No one in his or her right mind is going to test for the kind of risk Klebsiella planticola represents because once you release an organism, there is no way to get it back.

How far does a single-point inoculation of a genetically engineered organism spread in one year? An engineered Rhizobium bacterium that was released in Louisiana in the mid-1990s spread eleven miles per year and has by now dispersed across the North American continent.

At these United Nations meetings I warned that corn pollen is going to move a lot more than three feet away from the plant. "Oh no," said the biotechnology representatives present. "Corn pollen falls out of the air three feet from the plant." I would say, "Wait a minute, you've never heard of bees? How about birds? and insects? and wind "Oh no, it falls out of the air within three feet of the plant." Why do our bureaucrats choose to to believe these "scientists"? Just open any plant textbook and you find that corn pollen can be found in the Antarctic and the Arctic. But if you listen to Monsanto, corn pollen can't possibly be there.
Armed with the knowledge of this peril, we need to convince members of Congress that appropriate ecological testing must be done prior to releasing GMOs into the environment. If this happens, it could help keep the problems that are already starting to occur from getting worse.

Addendum from Dave Blume:
I talk about the Klebsiella debacle in detail in my book, Alcohol Can Be A Gas, and it was actually a lot worse than this post relates. The original researchers threw out samples behind the lab and discovered the dead plants, got curious and discovered that the Klebsiella was alive and they had to dig up all the soil and incinerate it. Dr. Ingham subsequently elucidated the mechanism. I would add that the organism was engineered to eat cellulose and make alcohol. So in addition to the alcohol poisoning of the roots the bacteria was also eating the cellulosic root tips of the plants. I often tell this story and add that we really need to lock up all the genetic engineers in a very nice country club type prison since they have nearly ended life on earth several times already with bonehead projects like this.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Permaculture Senator for Mississippi?

Green Party of MississippiPermaculturist & twice guest editor for the Permaculture Activist journal John Wages is running as a Green candidate for US House of Representatives!! Right on, John!

District: 1st Congressional District, Mississippi

Speaking to friends and supporters on January 1, Wages announced plans to run for Congress,
“With respect for the past, hope for the future, and confidence in the rightness of this quest, in accordance with the State Election Code, I have submitted qualifying papers to the State Executive Committee of the Green Party of Mississippi, seeking its nomination for the 1st Congressional District.

America faces challenges unlike any we have ever faced before this time:
• An incredible burden of debt amassed by banks and other financial institutions threatens to dissolve our economy. We must begin to address this crisis not in terms of saving Wall Street, but of saving Americans who stand to lose their homes, savings, and retirement accounts.
• Even after the folly of NAFTA, Congress continues to approve free trade pacts that send America’s jobs overseas and that undermine workplace protections for American workers. We must replace NAFTA and similar treaties with Fair Trade agreements that benefit and protect American workers as well as their trading partners.
• Here in Mississippi, we have begun to experience global climate change firsthand in the twin disasters of a devastating hurricane and the ongoing drought. No one person, city, state, or nation can address this problem. Working with other nations, we can limit human suffering and the worst effects of climate change.
• Global petroleum production appears to have peaked in 2006. Our economy is based on the cheap energy contained in liquid petroleum. We must begin a crash course of implementing a national energy policy anchored in conservation and renewables.
• Hiding behind a curtain of lies, the Bush-Cheney administration launched an illegal war of aggression in Iraq. We must immediately end the war, dismantle our bases in that country, bring our soldiers home, and give our veterans the health care and support they deserve.
• Despite these daunting problems and the others space and time do not permit me to mention, the politicians we sent to Washington to represent us spend their time raising campaign cash, strategizing, and winning the popularity contests that our elections have become. Problems in education, healthcare, and other areas are never solved because of the influence of money in politics. We must enact radical campaign finance reform that outlaws all corporate contributions, severely limits contributions from wealthy individuals, mandates equitable media coverage for all candidates, and provides a fair and reasonable level of public financing for campaigns.
• Furthermore, we must call to account, whether by impeachment or by trials in a court of law, all members of the administration and Congress who have violated their oaths of office to support and defend the Constitution. This is not only the Constitutional remedy for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” it is the requirement and obligation of all those in elected office who take their responsibilities seriously under the Constitution.

Every challenge is also an opportunity. If we rise to the occasion, with grace and humility, we may not only overcome these problems, but enjoy the fruits of Liberty that are the unrealized vision of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. If chosen as the nominee, these are the things I will speak about during my campaign.”

Important Issues:
1. End the war in Iraq. Give our veterans the respect and support they deserve. Almost 4,000 Americans have died in Iraq...more than were killed on 9-11. Yet, America is less secure. Bring our soldiers home now.

2. Withdraw from NAFTA and other free-trade agreements that fail to protect American jobs. Corporations have benefited from these agreements, but working Americans have lost.

3. Healthcare for all Americans. No American should live in fear of an illness that bankrupts them or forces them to lose their homes or property. Canada, Britain, and France have national healthcare. America can learn from these existing systems and design one that is right for the US.

4. Establish energy independence for America. Emphasize conservation and renewables. On Jan. 2, 2008, the price of oil hit $100/barrel for the first time. It is time we stop tax breaks for oil and coal and started using solar and wind.

Ship happens

From Little Blog in the Woods

Oil burning ships are filthy filthy dirty. They put out more carbon than the airlines, by quite a bit; and it's way dirtier, to boot.

Since the oil is getting more expensive, it occurred to me to predict (privately alas) that commercial shipping would, in the near future, start going back to sail, and start moving away from oil. Sure, sail is slower. So? Not that hard to put X onto the ship a week earlier.

I predicted, specifically, that the Chinese would be the first- and they'd do it within 3 years.

Wrong, wrong wrong. It was the Germans- and the ship is on the ocean NOW; hauling containers. The "sail" doesn't resemble the old clippers - OF COURSE. I never expected them to go back to square-riggers. We know quite a few new tricks with wind; I expected a radical system.

It's a kite - not a sail. It's THREE TIMES more effective than the old sails. That's huge.
Read the rest....

Peak Soil

The Lowdown on Topsoil: It's Disappearing
By Tom Paulson
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Go to Original Truthout reprint

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Disappearing dirt rivals global warming as an environmental threat.

The planet is getting skinned.

While many worry about the potential consequences of atmospheric warming, a few experts are trying to call attention to another global crisis quietly taking place under our feet.

Call it the thin brown line. Dirt. On average, the planet is covered with little more than 3 feet of topsoil - the shallow skin of nutrient-rich matter that sustains most of our food and appears to play a critical role in supporting life on Earth.

"We're losing more and more of it every day," said David Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington. "The estimate is that we are now losing about 1 percent of our topsoil every year to erosion, most of this caused by agriculture."

"It's just crazy," fumed John Aeschliman, a fifth-generation farmer who grows wheat and other grains on the Palouse near the tiny town of Almota, just west of Pullman.

"We're tearing up the soil and watching tons of it wash away every year," Aeschliman said. He's one of a growing number of farmers trying to persuade others to adopt "no-till" methods, which involve not tilling the land between plantings, leaving crop stubble to reduce erosion and planting new seeds between the stubble rows.

Montgomery has written a popular book, "Dirt," to call public attention to what he believes is a neglected environmental catastrophe. A geomorphologist who studies how landscapes form, Montgomery describes modern agricultural practices as "soil mining" to emphasize that we are rapidly outstripping the Earth's natural rate of restoring topsoil.

"Globally, it's clear we are eroding soils at a rate much faster than they can form," said John Reganold, a soils scientist at Washington State University. "It's hard to get people to pay much attention to this because, frankly, most of us take soil for granted."

The National Academy of Sciences has determined that cropland in the U.S. is being eroded at least 10 times faster than the time it takes for lost soil to be replaced.

The United Nations has warned of worldwide soil degradation - especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where soil loss has contributed to the rapidly increasing number of malnourished people.

Healthy topsoil is a biological matrix, a housing complex for an incredibly diverse community of organisms - billions of beneficial microbes per handful, nitrogen-fixing fungi, nutrients and earthworms whose digestive tracts transform the fine grains of sterile rock and plant detritus into the fertile excrement that gave rise to the word itself ("drit," in Old Norse).

As such, true living topsoil cannot be made overnight, Montgomery emphasized. Topsoil grows back at a rate of an inch or two over hundreds of years. Very slowly.

"Globally, it's pretty clear we're running out of dirt," Montgomery said.

Ron Myhrum, state soil scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's office in Spokane, agreed that global soil loss is a huge problem. But Myhrum said erosion rates in the Northwest region have improved recently because of better conservation farming practices, including federal payments to farmers to leave some natural ground cover in highly erodible areas.

"We don't have the kind of dust storms here we used to have," Myhrum said. "What's more alarming to me than erosion is conversion of farmland to urban use."

That is indeed another way to lose soil - paving it over. Judy Herring, manager of King County's farmland preservation program, said the county has lost 60 percent of its farmland since the 1960s. In 1979, Herring said, voters approved a bond program that buys back farmland to protect it from development (and has done this for 13,200 acres so far).

But while some land is lost to development, pollution or changing weather patterns, Montgomery, Reganold and others say global soil loss is a crisis mostly rooted in agriculture.

"Erosion rates have improved here, but that doesn't mean they're good," Reganold said. Topsoil clearly is still being stripped off faster than it can be regenerated, he said.

Aeschliman, the Palouse farmer, a stocky and energetic man who doesn't seem to notice that he's in his 60s, stood on a dirt road looking at the difference between his land and that of a neighbor. Because most neighbors are relatives, he did not provide any names here.

"Just look at that!" he bellowed, pointing to a series of water-carved cracks and gouges running down a recently tilled field of wheat. Every year, he said, these fields are tilled and the rains come, washing the soil down into the road so deep the county routinely has to dig it out. The rest of the soil runs off to the Snake River and, eventually, to the Pacific.

"Here, look at this stuff," Aeschliman said as he held up a handful of the fine brown silt that had eroded off his neighbor's (cousin's) hillside. "Now, look over here."

He walked across the road to his no-till wheat field. Unlike the rolling hills of loose dirt on the tilled field, Aeschliman's field looks more like a shag rug, with its rows of dead wheat stubble. He reached down into the dirt and pulled out a coarsely textured, much darker clump of dirt, roots and debris.

"This soil is full of worms, bacteria and all sorts of life," Aeschliman said. "And it stays put. That stuff over there (waving his thick hand back behind him) is just powder, brown dust. It's dead. There's no worms, no life in it."

Thirty years ago, Aeschliman was one of the first in the Palouse to grow his grains using no-till farming methods. He's an ardent no-till proselytizer today, but he didn't abandon tilling the fields based on some organic epiphany or desire to save the world.

"I just got tired of all the mud," Aeschliman said. The family home, built in the 1880s, sits at the base of a long drainage off the rolling wheat fields. Every spring, with the tilling and the rain, his home would be a foot deep in muddy runoff.

No-till farming could do a lot to reduce topsoil erosion, Reganold said, but it's not without its downsides. Switching to no-till farming requires heavy upfron

Organic farming methods also can reduce soil loss, Reganold said. He cited his own research, which has shown a marked increase in soil health, water retention and regrowth when organic methods are used rather than the traditional methods.

A regional association of farmers and other proponents of no-till agriculture, also known as direct-seed farming, is holding its annual meeting in Kennewick next week. Aeschliman is one of the founders of the organization, the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association, and is happy to see that no-till farming is growing in popularity. (For a very innovative non-toxic approach to no-till, see Rodale's / New Farm magazine No-till+)

"It's both good for the soil and good for your pocketbook," he said.

MRSA and Honey

MRSA killed 19,000 Americans in 2005 (17,000 died of AIDS in the same period) and incidence is on the rise largely due to CAFOs and their indiscriminate use of antibiotics, without which the animals would probably die in mass numbers. Instead they become food for most Americans.

ACRES USA reports further that the bacteria was found on 45% of the farms in Ontario, 25% of the pigs, and 20% of the farmers. Attendees at the 2005 International Veterinary Convention were tested for the disease and of the 27 positives, 23 were Americans. 81% of all Dutch hog farms had one or more infected pigs and 39% of pigs at slaughter carried the bacteria and Dutch pig farmers had 760 times as much as regular patients admitted to hospitals. The greatest incidence occurred on farms where large amounts of antibiotics were used (duh). No one is systematically testing for it in the USA.

Here's a treatment for the flesh-eating bug from, oddly, Wired magazine.

Monday, January 21, 2008

by Richard Heinberg

.......The economists could think only in terms of money; basic necessities like water and energy only showed up in their calculations in terms of dollar cost, which made them functionally interchangeable with everything else that was priceable - oranges, airliners, diamonds, baseball cards, whatever. But, in the last analysis, basic resources weren't interchangeable with other economic goods at all: you couldn't drink baseball cards, no matter how big or valuable your collection, once the water ran out. Nor could you eat dollars, if nobody had food to sell. And so, after a certain point, people started to lose faith in their money. And as they did so, they realized that faith had been the only thing that made money worth anything in the first place.....

Read the complete article....


By Jerry Mander

The following list is an attempt to articulate the obligatory rules by which corporations operate. Some of the rules overlap, but taken together they help reveal why corporations behave as they do and how they have come to dominate their environment and the human beings within it.

The Profit Imperative: Profit is the ultimate measure of all corporate decisions. It takes precedence over community well-being, worker health, public health, peace, environmental preservation or national security. Corporations will even find ways to trade with national "enemies"—Libya, Iran, the former Soviet Union, Cuba—when public policy abhors it. The profit imperative and the growth imperative are the most fundamental corporate drives; together they represent the corporation's instinct to "live."

The Growth Imperative: Corporations live or die by whether they can sustain growth. On this depends relationships to investors, to the stock market, to banks and to public perception. The growth imperative also fuels the corporate desire to find and develop scarce resources in obscure parts of the world.

This effect is now clearly visible, as the world's few remaining pristine places are sacrificed to corporate production. The peoples who inhabit these resource-rich regions are similarly pressured to give up their traditional ways and climb on the wheel of production-consumption. Corporate planners consciously attempt to bring "less developed societies into the modem world" to create infrastructures for development, as well as new workers and new consumers. Corporations claim that they do this for altruistic reasons to raise the living standard—but corporations have no altruism.

Theoretically, privately held corporations—those owned by individuals or families—do not have the imperative to expand. In practice, however, their behavior is the same. Such privately held giants as Bechtel Corporation have shown no propensity to moderate growth.

Competition and Aggression: Corporations place every person in management in fierce competition with each other. Anyone interested in a corporate career must hone his or her ability to seize the moment. This applies to gaining an edge over another company or over a colleague within the company. As an employee, you are expected to be part of the "team," but you also must be ready to climb over your own colleagues.

Corporate ideology holds that competition improves worker incentive and corporate performances and therefore benefits society. Our society has accepted this premise utterly. Unfortunately, however, it also surfaces in personal relationships. Living by standards of competition and aggression on the job, human beings have few avenues to express softer, more personal feelings. (In politics, non-aggressive behavior is interpreted as weakness.)

Amorality: Not being human, corporations do not have morals or altruistic goals. So decisions that maybe antithetical to community goals or environmental health are made without misgivings. In fact, corporate executives praise "non-emotionality" as a basis for "objective" decision-making.

Corporations, however, seek to hide their amorality and attempt to act as if they were altruistic. Lately, there has been a concerted effort by American industry to appear concerned with environmental cleanup, community arts or drug programs. Corporate efforts that seem altruistic are really Public relations ploys or directly self-serving projects.

There has recently been a spurt of corporate advertising about how corporations work to clean the environment. A company that installs offshore oil rigs will run ads about how fish are thriving under the rigs. Logging companies known for their clearcutting practices will run millions of dollars' worth of ads about their "tree farms."

It is a fair rule of thumb that corporations tend to advertise the very qualities they do not have in order to allay negative public perceptions. When corporations say "we care," it is almost always in response to the widespread perception that they do not have feelings or morals.

If the benefits do not accrue, the altruistic pose is dropped. When Exxon realized that its cleanup of Alaskan shores was not easing the public rage about the oil spill, it simply dropped all pretense of altruism and ceased working.

Read the remaining seven rules, Hierarchy; Quantification, Linearity, Segmentation; Dehumanization; Exploitation; Ephemerality; Opposition to Nature; Homogenization
Watch this Flash slideshow on Peak Oil from Powerswitch.org.uk

California conference features non-proprietary approaches to pest control and organic production

"You know that a revolution in pest management is happening when the pest management specialist of a big Salinas Valley produce company shows a photo of a young, aphid-infested romaine lettuce plant, and says “I don’t worry about this anymore because I know the beneficial insects will catch up and eat them all."

Lots of promising research on biofumigants, beneficial insects, parasite-suppressing soils, habitat management for pest control, cover crops and compost—despite university administrations fixated on attracting the big money for research into proprietary biotechnologies.

By Don Lotter, Ph.D.

Every year the evidence builds to show that biological control and agroecological and organic methods could supply most of what we need to grow all of our food. A conference at the International House at UC Berkeley from July 15-17 covered research being done at the University of California, all over the state, on biological pest management and research related to organic production systems. The three-day conference devoted two days to biological control in general, with a third day devoted to general organic farming systems research.

The subject of cutbacks in research funds was brought up repeatedly as a severe constraint by the researchers at the conference. Those of us who work in this area have a huge obstacle: a mainstream scientific, government, and media community that has been completely swept away by proprietary biotechnological approaches to food production. Nearly all of the agroecological techniques we use, many described below, are non-proprietary, that is, they can’t be patented. Therefore the private sector, with its enormous investment capital, is not interested in funding us. The proprietary biotechnology sector gets huge amounts of this money, easily in the tens of billions. The problem is that they are also getting our much smaller pool of public, federal funding, taking somewhere in the ballpark of 85% of agricultural research funds. We, the agroecologists and biological control specialists, with only farmers and consumers as our backers and beneficiaries, literally get thrown the crumbs.

There is a building awareness that public moneys, federal tax dollars, should be devoted to research on non-proprietary approaches to food production and not to proprietary technologies that already have huge sources of funding in the private sector. After all, the agroecological approach will likely provide most of the solutions to food production constraints in the future.

Below I review the conference presentations, many of which are good examples of what I mean when I talk about non-proprietary approaches to agriculture. All in all, the conference was very informative, showing an impressive amount of organic-relevant research coming out of the UC system. But despite the results from the researchers discussed below, most are looking at cutbacks in their funding.

Biofumigation, part 1. Krishna Subbarao of the UC Davis reviewed his research on using cruciferous cover crops to reduce diseases, known by some as biofumigation. Broccoli is particularly effective on the Verticillium wilt fungus, V. dahliae. His early observation is that the numbers of certain actinomycetes and bacteria increase by 100- to 1000-fold. Each cruciferous crop has its own type of glucosinolate, and broccoli’s is effective on V. dahliae.

Biofumigation, part 2. Oleg Daugovish of UC Cooperative Extension, Ventura County, described how “biofumigation” with yellow and oriental mustard cover crops reduced citrus nematode and Phytophtora root rot by 90%. Biofumigation may not be the correct term, as Daugovish noted that beneficial fungi such as Trichoderma have been found at much higher levels in the mustard treated soils. This does not occur when the soil is fumigated with chemicals. Mustard cover crops are now commonplace in the Salinas Valley.

Mustard’s effects on weed seed germination can be significant in the lab, but field trials have not shown significant results. The mustards had no effect on Verticillium, contrary to the significant effect that its cousin broccoli (all are Brassicaceous) had on this pathogen.

Tripping up the thrips threat. Mark Hoddle of UC Riverside has reduced the emergence of thrips by half from soil under avocado trees by mulching with compost. As with many orchard pests, thrips pupates in the orchard soil. Predatory mites, Collembolans, beetles, and entomopathogenic fungi and nematodes may be responsible for the reduction in thrips. He saw higher levels of the entomopathogenic fungus Beauvaria bassiana in the mulched soils. [Entomopathogenic is a big word that simply means that these fungi and nematodes are a threat to insects.]

Soils that suppress plant parasites. J. Ole Becker of UC Riverside discussed the development of soils that are suppressive to plant parasitic nematodes. This type of suppressiveness, such as of cyst nematode in sugar beet, develops only after five or six years of growing the same crop in the same soil. The suppressiveness is transferable with small amounts of soil from one soil to another, and appears to be microbiological.

Read the rest of the story at the Rodale New Farm website.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ecovillage Design Curriculum

We live in a rapidly changing world that is transforming before our very eyes. Humanity is now being challenged as never before to grow in wisdom, maturity, and understanding.

A plethora of deep and pressing concerns is calling for our immediate attention, concerns
such as: Earth's environmental degradation, including the loss of precious topsoil and forest cover, the encroachment of deserts, the depletion of fisheries and aquifers, the loss of habitat and the extinction of species, etc.; the glaring and increasing disparity between rich and poor leading to exploitation, poverty, and the associated regimen of malnutrition and over-population; the disintegration of families, communities, even entire cultures; unrestrained urbanization resulting in social alienation, displacement, and feelings of disconnection with the natural world; the dimming of a sense of spiritual awareness and purpose; global warming and ozone depletion; etc. And now, looming on the horizon is “peak oil,” with its coming adjustments and retrofits, including the probability of ongoing conflict over access to the remaining energy reserves.

All of these problems are quite real and, by now, well-documented; but gaining awareness of the extent of the problems is only half the project of becoming educated these days. Amidst these intense challenges, and largely catalyzed by them, lies the prospect for tremendous growth in human potential and consciousness.

People and communities all
over the globe are coming together to reclaim responsibility for creating their own living situations – at local and regional levels. In the process, they are overcoming prior limitations and developing new talents, skills, knowledge and approaches. Paradoxically, many of the most innovative solutions rely on a timeless, perennial kind of wisdom that seems to have been disregarded recently. The potential for a refreshed, renewed, revitalized humanity goes hand-in-hand with meeting the challenges of our present Age.

The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) believes the most promising and effective way to deal with all these issues is through education – not a typical education but a new kind of global education, specifically designed to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century:
  • This is an education where a thorough and objective assessment of the state of the planet is followed by regional, community, and place-based solutions;
  • an education that empowers individuals and communities with the knowledge for shaping their worlds and becoming more self-reliant;
  • an education that is universal in scope but local in application, directed toward preserving precious cultural diversity;
  • an education where investigating theory is followed by practical application;
  • an education that imparts useful and instrumental life-skills as part of the curriculum;
  • an education relevant to peoples of both developed and developing countries, rural and urban regions;
  • an education focused on the complexly interwoven, transdisciplinary issues pertaining to the transition to sustainable culture;
  • an education promoting and facilitating healthful planetary evolution;
  • an education exploring and expanding the perceived limits of human potential;
  • an education identifying and reconnecting all these essential considerations to a meaningful, dignified, high-quality life for all the world’s people...
This is the Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) – an education preparing the way for a sustainable future. The EDE is being introduced to the world at this time to complement, correspond with, and assist in setting a standard for the United Nations’ “Decade of Education for Sustainable Development – 2005-2014.” Download the complete 7.46MB PDF Ecovillage Design Curriculum document from which this was excerpted. More info at Gaia Education

The Ecovillage Design Curriculum has the endorsement of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research- UNITAR and is an official contribution to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development- UNDESD.

Download Gaia Education Report and find out all about current trainings around the world and future trends...

Download the Gaia Education 4 Keys book on Social Design- Beyond You and Me- Inspiration and Wisdom for Building Community

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Permaculture Design Course - Belize

Permaculture Design Course
Dates: 10-23 March 08
Place: Maya Mountain Research Farm, Toledo District, Belize
Instructors: Albert Bates, Andrew Goodheart Brown, Maria Antonieta Martinez Ros, and many local guest instructors
Cost: $1200 (US) includes organic, farm fresh meals, all course materials and expeditions, comfortable accomodations on the farm, and a Certificate of Permaculture Design upon completion.
For Details and Registration: please contact Christopher at: info@mmrfbz.org
or locally (Asheville) for basic info:
Andrew Goodheart Brown (828) 298-0426 permaheart@earthlink.net

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

LED Grow Lights

LED Grow Lights

LED grow lights are a good choice if you are interested in growing indoors without a lot of hassle. Traditional grow lights generate a lot of heat and use large amounts of electricity, which raises your monthly electric bill by noticeable amounts. These LED grow lights stay cool, and use only a minuscule amount of energy.

Each “SolarOasis Ruby Grow Light” uses less than 2 watts of power. They are designed and optimized for plant growth, not human vision. They produce only red and blue light which the plants can use. See more details on this page. The LED lighting strip seen here is available from LEDTronics for $159.95. There are also some more powerful and expensive LEDs available at LEDGrowLights.COM

The Waking Up Syndrome

by Sarah Anne Edwards and Linda Buzzell

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality." — T. S. Eliot

Just dealing with our daily lives keeps most of us too busy to worry about whether or not the sky is falling. We focus on getting to and from work, paying our bills, doing our errands, and, if our time-stressed schedules allow, enjoying a little time to relax with friends and family.

But we’re deluged of late with dire pronouncements from high-profile newscasts, documentaries, and scientific reports about global warming, melting ice caps, dwindling oil supplies, and a looming imminent economic collapse. Closer to home, we’ve experienced climate-related disasters: floods, wildfires, hurricanes, wildfires, and severe droughts.

While the sky may not be falling, this day-after-day onslaught of alarming news is making it more difficult simply to overlook the triple threat of environmental, climatic and economic concerns. It’s leaving many of us feeling like Alice in Wonderland, being sucked down a Rabbit Hole into some frighteningly grotesque and unfamiliar world that’s anything but wonderful.

Few of us are eager to contemplate, let alone truly face, these looming changes. Just the threat of losing chunks of the comfortable way of life we’re accustomed to (or aspiring to) is a frightening-enough prospect. But there’s no avoiding the current facts and trends of the human and planetary situation. And as the edges of our familiar reality begin to ravel, more and more people are reacting psychologically. A noticeable pattern of behavior is emerging.

We call this pattern the Waking Up Syndrome, and it unfolds in six stages, though not necessarily in any particular order.

Stage 1 - Denial.
When we first get an inkling of the shifting environmental reality and its potential impact on both the national economy and our daily lives, most people begin by denying it. We slip into one of four common ways to discount things we’d rather not deal with:

“I don’t believe it.”
We simply deny the existence of any such concerns and refuse to consider them. This might include latching eagerly onto any few remaining naysayers for confirmation and comfort. But as the number of reputable naysayers dwindles, more people are forced to face the fact that “something” is happening.

“It’s not a problem.”
We may admit there’s a change taking place, but deny that it’s significant, seeing such things as climate change and economic fluctuations as part of a normal pattern that is nothing to concern ourselves with. Or we may incorporate the changes we see happening into our spiritual and religious beliefs, regarding them not as a problem, but a test of faith, a sign of a global spiritual awakening, or evidence of a long-awaited Apocalypse. Some may believe focusing on such problems makes them worse and that we should instead visualize, meditate, or pray for the world to be as we want it to be.

“Someone will fix it.”
We may admit major problematic changes are underway but conclude that there’s nothing we personally can do about them and we needn’t worry because technology, scientists, the government, or some expert authority will come up with a solution in time to save us.

“It’s useless.”
We may believe there’s nothing anyone can do about macro-problems, so why do anything, except perhaps eat, drink and be merry. What will be, will be.

Read the rest at Hopedance Magazine

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ego-Illogical Illiteracy by Brock Dolman, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

On the PC idea/language of “Invisible Structures” while I absolutely support the design recognition of these ‘socio-cultural sectors’, I must admit that from an etymological/linguistic/meme perspective I think you get what you say – which often is the continued invisibility of the very behaviors that the PC movement is so valiantly striving to daylight or make transparent as drivers of good design. Need a new word?

It is all “visible” structures, if you will, – it is just that some folks are more pattern literate or experienced with interpersonal and social processes, like some can read the seemingly invisible history of a landscape by it’s morphology and vegetation. We are explicitly clear & proactive in our PDC curriculum to educate on reading the social process landscape as a core design tool for PC students.

I have often stated that the greatest epidemic we collectively face on this planet today is Eco-logical Illiteracy. And yet more and more, for myself, I have come to realize that at the core what most limits our responding to this grave (as in heading towards the grave) epidemic is actually Ego-Illogical Illiteracy!

Issues with Zone Zero intra-personal management skills or lack thereof appear to be a critical microcosm of our larger collective challenge of societal zonation design with our grand time-motion experiment. Where do you place the elements of your social focus of intensive vs. extensive effort in the realm of relationships? How often do you visit/cultivate certain relations and what level of tending do you exert there and with what frequency? Maybe all the family visiting with the inlaws during the HolyDaze has got me pondering such things??

Living for the past 13+ years on co-owned/shared land in the Sowing Circle intentional community of 14 folks and running the non-profit collective business OAEC (with 50 folks on payroll), where in both cases, all significant decisions are made via a consensus based process - has led me to be clear that this “invisible” community-maintaining work is the most Permacultural thing I do with my life and we do with our organization - as it functionality enables our pragmatic Permaculture platform the capacity to manifest (and womanifest) all that we actualize here in the so-called Permaculture “visible” realm.

Permaculture as StorySeller??
Seems to me one of the most powerful aspects of Permaculture is our storyline and myriad cast of gifted storytellers spinning responsive tales of the fast approaching future. What is the story that holds power for you? Is the Planet a community or commodity? What creation myth holds power for the Permaculture community? And can we
Re-Story our relationship with ourselves to motivate the real regenerative work of the day that must first and foremost begin with the ReStoryation of our Ego-Systems towards collaborative and efficacious right relations with living systems and natural cycles?

All other members in the Community of Life await our ability to permaculturally put our Multi-Storyied Ego-System vision forward in a manner that restores our “invisible” selves simultaneously with our “visible” self, as we are all but interconnected expressions of our living Planet Water!

Foodsheds and Food Circles

The Foodshed and The Food Circle

The foodshed and the food circle are two concepts gaining recognition as models or conceptual frameworks for describing local food systems.

The foodshed concept, most often attributed to Arthur Getz's in his 1991 Urban Foodsheds article in Permaculture Activist, uses the analogy of a watershed to describe 'the area that is defined by a structure of supply'. Getz used the image of a foodshed to answer the question of "Where our food is coming from and how it is getting to us" and to picture how the local and regional food supply system works. Inherent in this concept, he emphasized, was 'the suggestion of a need to protect a source, as well as the need to know and understand its specific geographic and ecological dimensions, condition and stability in order for it to be safeguarded and enhanced.'

Today the Madison, Wisconsin area Foodshed Working Group along with an active coalition of food coops, csa associations, farmer's markets, producer coops, bakeries and other food processors, a natural food warehouse/ distributor, UWMadison and other active participants is the best example of a local food system identifying with the foodshed concept.

The Food Circle is a dynamic, community-based and regionally-integrated food systems concept/model/vision. In effect, it is a systems ecology. In contrast to the current linear production-consumption system, The Food Circle is a production-consumption-recycle model. A celebration of cycles, this model mirrors all natural systems and is based on the fact that all stable, biological and other systems function as closed cycles or circles, carefully preserving energy, nutrients, resources and the integrity of the whole.

The graphic model is a wheel of concentric circles, illustrating how an integrated food system flows from ag inputs and production through consumption and waste recycling. Starting with the individual at the center and moving outward through the family and community circles,this model shows the food system and its parts work, integrating political, economic, communication and other factors. For example, the CSA farmer in the production sector is directly across the circle from the CSA consumer members, showing the direct marketing relationship.

The goal of The Food Circle is to consciously develop networks of sustainable, community- based and regionally-integrated food systems, capable of providing the basic food needs of their members, providing markets for local food and agricultural producers, providing cooperative communications and trading exchanges as clearinghouses for goods, services and information. Finally, the concept fosters an awareness of food stewardship. The bottom line is energy, values and the preservation of life.

In contrast to the current linear food "chain" or food system resembling a gas and energy guzzling snake with two funnels at each end, The Food Circle depicts a fundamental closure, integration and healing of the food system we desperately need. The Food Circle embraces the whole web, including the food system connections, from a regional perspective.

The beauty of The Food Circle lies in its addressing a host of associated issues, making it adaptable to a broad range of multidisciplinary interests as an organizing vehicle, a teaching model, a community economic development and planning model, even an entrepreneurial model.

This Food Circle is actually a blueprint model I have been developing and nurturing for a number of years, first publicly used by myself and other organizers of New York's first organic conference, Closing the Food Circle, held at Ithaca in 1984. Since then the concept has grown slowly, organically, through writing, presentations, university research, local organizing projects, local and regional workshops, and now the budding of plans for the first multidisciplinary foodsystem conference, The Food Circle Network: Campaign for Sustainable Food Systems, targetted for 1996. The Food Circle WWW page is also now under construction.

Several communities, including Kansas City/Columbia, Missouri and Champaign-Urbana, Illinois are developing local food circles. The Kansas City model incorporates a food policy council and membership in a statewide foodsystems task force, including a developing network of producers, consumers and neighborhood based local food circle projects have been organized. Two yearly conferences have been held.

The Champaign-Urbana Food Circle, sprouting shoots in this Silicon Prairie testbed community, is still an informal consortium of csa's, food coop, vegetarian restaurant, farmer's market, farmer's market nutrition coupon project, UIUC, organic/sustainable producers in a Sustainable Agriculture Network and other activists, but also includes the local electronic Prairienet/freenet as a component of its nervous system. Local currency options, especially incorporating electronic information/creditsystems, are being researched.

One key component of the local food circle operating model is communication. As Food Systems Development Coordinator with U of I , this past year I have been working with the Sustainable Agriculture Network and other groups to develop specialty/organic/ LOVA (locally- owned, value-added) approaches for Illinois and Midwest producers. An electronic marketing information service, including electronic marketing directory and marketing network development, has been proposed. Meanwhile, we are working with the local CCNet (business net) Ag committee to get at least 50 farmers up on Email before the summer.

The work takes time, growing organically, for the people must develop conviction in the ecological basis for the model and then reorient their working or consuming relationships. Barriers abound, from the centralized, technocratic structure of agriculture to consumer obsession with speed and convenience. Likewise, as emphasized in the June 1994 Defining Sustainable Communities Conference, sponsored by the Tides Foundation, "Sustainable communities require a different value system than the one which predominates in America today". Yet, the change will come, the conversion will happen. Inevitably, whether by choice or through economic collapse, we will end up returning to a locally-based food system.

More Local Food Security and Food Systems Development Issues

Other approaches to local food security and food systems development have been focused on formation of local/municipal food policy councils. Ken Dahlberg, at the Dept. of Political Science, Western Michigan University, has done extensive research, written several papers on this top-down approach to local food systems development. He is currently coordinating the Local Food Systems Project, funded by W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which has been active in financial support and leadership in this area.

Charleston, SC; Kansas City, Mo; Knoxville, TN; Philadelphia, PA; and St. Paul, MN, plus Onondaga County, (Syracuse) NY have or have had food policy councils to coordinate local food systems in their municipalities, with varying degrees of success. Some other cities with strong local food systems are Hartford, CT, Ithaca, NY, and Toronto, Ontario. Food systems developments in Los Angeles and East St. Louis, IL have been spearheaded by Urban and Regional Planners, rather than by food advocates per se.

In their paper "Community Food Security: A Food Systems Approach to the 1995 Farm Bill", Andy Fisher and Bob Gottlieb of UCLA's School of Architecture and Urban Planning, brought out key issues to those activists attending the first Community Food Security Coalition's organizational meeting, August 25th, 1994:

"... the concept of food security is often associated with the phenomenon of hunger. However, food security differs from hunger in certain crucial ways. First, food security represents a community need rather than an individual's plight, as with hunger. In this context, we define food security as 'all persons obtaining a culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through non-emergency (conventional) sources at all times.' Second, whereas hunger measures an existing condition of depravation, food security is decidedly prevention-oriented, evaluating the existence of resources -- both community and personal -- to provide an individual with adequate acceptable food...

A food security analysis extends .. into an examination of the food system. Questions of equity and sustainability are vital to the development of food security.... A food system offering security should have sustainability such that the ecological system is protected and improved over time.. and equity, meaning as a minimum, dependable access for all social groups".

Within the organizing framework of these models, local food systems/community food security can provide a vehicle for coalition-building among those interested in anti-hunger advocacy, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, urban agriculture, local food policy and community development and other related issues.

We are approaching a time of integration, where growing numbers of food, agriculture and other professionals are recognizing the need for an integrated local/regional f ood systems approach to really address, analyze and solve the current challenges in food and agriculture today. In this visually-oriented world, such models are critical tools in this emerging discipline. They can help increase understanding of our current food system, identify barriers and constraints to sustainability and give us a vision and roadmap for realizing -- making real -- an optimum food system.

Resources and References

A partial listing of References and Resources on foodsheds, food circles, community food security and local food systems issues and information.


An Introduction to The Food Circle: A Stewardship 'Technology' for the New Paradigm, by Nancy Lee Bentley, EcoCity Journal, Winter 1994, available from The Food Circle.

Community Food Security: A Food Systems Approach to the 1995 Farm Bill, by Andy Fisher and Robert Gottlieb, UCLA , for The Community Food Security Coalition.

Food for the Future: Conditions and Contradictions of Sustainability, edited by Patricia Allen, 1993. New York, John Wiley.

Defining Sustainable Communities, Report from the Conference, June 2-4, 1994, $5.00 from Neighborhood Funders Group, 1001 South Marshall Street, Suite 55, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 27101; 910-724-9070.

Food Policy Councils: The Experience of Five Cities and One County, by Kenneth Dahlberg, Paper presented to the Joint Meeting of the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society and the Society for the Study of Food and Society, Tucson, AZ, June 1994

Hendrix College Project. by Melissa Beck Yazman, available from Gary Valen, Hendrix College, Conway, AR 72032.

Local Food Systems: Policies and Values Influencing their Potential, by Kenneth Dahlberg, 1993. National Science Foundation supported project, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI.

Planting the Future: Developing an Agriculture that Sustains Land and Community, edited by Ann R. Bird, Gordan L. Bultena, and John C. Gardner. 1995. available from Iowa State University Press, 2121 S. State Avenue, Ames, IA 50014-8300.

Regional Food Guidance: A Tool for a Sustainable Food System, by Jennifer Wilkens, Presented at the joint meeting of the Association for the Study of Food and Nutrition and the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society, Tucson, AZ, May 1994.

Sustainable Community Values Project Preliminary Report, Workshop presentation by Verna Kragnes and others, Eating Closer to Home CSA Conference, Dec. 1994. University of Wisconsin, River Falls.

The Community Food Security Empowerment Act, January 1995, available from The Community Food Security Coalition c/o Hartford Food System.

Urban Foodsheds, by Arthur Getz. 1991, Permaculture Activist: Vol VII, No.3.


The Community Food Security Coalition; Mark Winne, c/o the Hartford Food System, 509 Wethersfield Ave. Hartford, CT 06114. 203-296-9325; 203-296-8326 fax

Andy Fisher, Robert Gottlieb, UCLA Department of Urban Planning, 405 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90095 310-825-1067; 310-206-5566 fax

Kate Fitzgerald, Nessa Richman, Sustainable Food Center, 1715 East Sixth St., Suite 200, Austin, TX 78702; (512) 472-2073; (512) 472-2075 fax; hn2953@handsnet.org

Kenneth Dahlberg, Local Food Systems Project;, Department of Political Science, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008, (616) 387- 5686; (616) 387-3999 fax

Anne deMeurisse, Minnesota Food Project, 2395 University Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55114. (612) 644-2038.

Kate Clancy, Department of Nutrition and Food Managerment, 034 Slocum Hall, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York; 13244-1250; (315) 443-4554.

Robert L. Wilson, consultant to City of Knoxville Food Policy Council, (615)-588-7168. or Gail Harris, City of Knoxville, Food Policy Council, PO Box 51650, Knoxville, TN 37950-1650. (615)-546-3500.

Sally Leong, Foodshed Working Group, 793A Russell Laboratories, UW-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706 (608) 262-5309

Nancy Lee Bentley, The Food Circle, The Food Circle Network, PO Box 3083, Champaign, IL, 61826-3083, (217)-586-3846, xx200@prairienet.org for a packet of informational material including graphic linear and Food Circle models and a reprint of the Eco-City Journal "An Introduction to The Food Circle" article, send $6.95 to The Food Circle.

Ben Kjelsus, The Food Circle Project, 7121 Park Road, Kansas City, MO 64129. (816) 924-3003.

Verna Kragnes, Philadelphia Community Farm, Box 668, Osceola, WI 54020; (715) 294-3136.

Rod MacRae, Toronto Food Policy Council, 277 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario Canada M5B 1W1 416-392-1107: 416-392-1357 fax

Nancy Lee Bentley The Food Circle Network PO Box 3083, Champaign, IL, 61826-3083
(217)-586-3846 xx200@prairienet.org

For a packet of informational material including graphic linear and Food Circle models and a reprint of the Eco-City Journal "An Introduction to The Food Circle" article, send $7.95 payable to The Food Circle, address above.

Seeds for Afghanistan

Seeds for Afghanistan
By Jennifer Heath, with photography by Sheryl Shapiro

We're riding along the Shomali road north of Kabul, Afghanistan, with a van full of seeds and engineers.

This highway was once called "The Green Tunnel," there were so many trees lining it on both sides. In 1979, as Soviet tanks trudged toward Kabul, they knocked them down, every one, for fear of mujahidin snipers. This is farm country: vineyards and wheat and orchards or fruit trees for family use shading the fields from the hard arid summer sun. In the 1990s, the Taliban, mostly Pakistanis, with young fundamentalist-trained Afghans in tow, came up from the South to conquer Afghanistan and in the process ripped all the grapevines and small fruit trees out by the roots to send back to Peshawar. They burned the homes and villages nearest the Shomali road. We drive past stubs of scorched vines here and there that the Taliban missed, past ruins of mud-brick buildings that now look like rock formations in Moab.

There are few trees left in Afghanistan. War combined with abject poverty contributed to an almost absolute deforestation throughout the country. The capital city of Kabul, the prize for all the brutal factions fighting across twenty-three years of war--once pristine, clean, full of glorious pines and spruce--is today a dusty landfill, a dump with tall empty dried trunks, few gardens, and none of the exquisite flowers that Afghans love. There's not a shrub left in what was once a magical, fragrant Land of Lilacs.

As if this weren't enough, Afghanistan has suffered a five-year drought and the famine that goes with it. War is a major cause of environmental destruction, worldwide. In post-war Afghanistan, the water is polluted, the climate changed by the constant heat of bombs and fire, and animals die or flee. It was a joy, and a surprise, just to see doves and magpies, to realize they had somehow survived.

I am an American who grew up in Afghanistan. I've been involved with that country's fate, one way and another, for decades. When the United States began bombing the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, I saw, as did many Afghans, the opportunity at last for reconstruction. I am by profession a writer, and by passion, a gardener and environmentalist. So it was natural for me to think immediately of Seeds for Afghanistan. I put a call out through the internet, to friends and family by e-mail, made flyers and distributed them everywhere, and alerted the newspapers to my project. I asked only this: bring me seeds-- vegetables and flowers, anything that will grow in Zone 4, and I will see to it the Afghans receive them.

Of course, I had no idea how, in fact, I would get the seeds to Afghanistan, but as a believer in the "if you build it, they will come," theory of living, this seemed like the least of my worries.

Read the rest at http://www.seedsofchange.com/enewsletter/issue_35/afghanistan.asp

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


By William Thomas

What do you suppose will happen when faltering oil supplies and skyrocketing demand run head-on into the roaring Godzilla of Climate Change?

If you answered, “Bad juju,” go to the head of the class.

If you shouted, “I'm not listening to any more hysterical green commie pinko doom drivel!”, better make sure there's still water coming out of your kitchen taps before checking the fuel gauge of your own personal carbon burner. That's right, Bubba. There's a tiger in all our tanks. And he's ravenous enough to devour every life we've known.

Read the rest of the story...