Saturday, January 31, 2009

Agicultural Sanity for A Change

An Interview with Wes Jackson (at Counterpunch)

Future Farming By ROBERT JENSEN

As everyone scrambles for a solution to the crises in the nation’s economy, Wes Jackson suggests we look to nature’s economy for some of the answers. With everyone focused on a stimulus package in the short term, he counsels that we pay more attention to the soil over the long haul.

“We live off of what comes out of the soil, not what’s in the bank,” said Jackson, president of The Land Institute. “If we squander the ecological capital of the soil, the capital on paper won’t much matter.”

Jackson doesn’t minimize the threat of the current financial problems but argues that the new administration should consider a “50-year farm bill,” which he and the writer/farmer Wendell Berry proposed in a New York Times op/ed earlier this month.

Central to such a bill would be soil. A plan for sustainable agriculture capable of producing healthful food has to come to solve the twin problems of soil erosion and contamination, said Jackson, who co-founded the research center in 1976 after leaving his job as an environmental studies professor at California State University-Sacramento.

Jackson believes that a key part of the solution is in approaches to growing food that mimic nature instead of trying to subdue it. While Jackson and his fellow researchers at The Land Institute continue their work on Natural Systems Agriculture, he also ponders how to turn the possibilities into policy. He spoke with me from his office in Salina, Kansas.

Read the rest....

Acid Rain and Forest Dieback

In this compelling film, David Suzuki investigates the frightening phenomenon of forest dieback caused by acid rain.

Friday, January 30, 2009

When Money Has No Value...Make Your Own

Creating Currency For A Resilient Local Economy
from Financial Permaculture

By Crystal Arnold

Imagine a world of sufficiency where needs are met through a web of local relationships, where meaningful exchanges circulate goods and services independent of the availability of national dollars.

One of society’s most common misunderstandings about money is that it is an object, when it is actually an agreement of trust. According to Lewis Lapham, author of Money and Class in America, “Money ranks as one of the primary materials with which mankind builds the architecture of civilization.” Economic textbooks describe money according to its functions—a store of value, a medium of exchange, and a standard of valuation. Money itself is actually a symbol of exchange that carries value through agreement only. What would the numbers in our bank account be worth if no one would agree to accept them in exchange for goods or services?

In my view money is a social interface of provision, a tool for engaging with others to satisfy needs. As many people uncover their own behaviors and attitudes about money, they realize the way they relate with money is often the way they relate with most everything in life. Lyn Twist, in her book Soul of Money, writes, “Money is a current, a carrier, a conduit for our intentions.”

In dozens of communities across the United States, complementary currencies (CCs) have become powerful tools that generate resilience in local economies. CCs are created in a variety of forms including time hours, mutual credit systems, precious metals, and even seed or energy-backed coupons. Like national currency these new CCs are not mere coinage, they are a whole system of value transaction, exchange of credit, and agreement of mutual trust.

Complementary currencies exist parallel to the national currency, and, by design, fulfill a different role. CCs enable relationships and behavior to develop to match unmet needs with under-utilized resources, providing a way for people to engage in the local economy that is not limited by their access to dollars. Because diversity is a key element in resilient systems, which are able to adapt to change and reorganize wisely, these new exchange mechanisms reflect an evolving economic strategy of regions to encourage trade of local goods and services. New avenues of transaction open as latent human energy is accessed. Southern Oregon has a large elderly population and high unemployment rates, a CC would provide these populations with a means to plug into the local economy. Jeff Golden, local author and radio host, said recently, “Complementary currencies are at the heart of a localization movement.”

Read the rest of the article...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Get help....with art, illustration, product development, etc.

Don Baker, a very skilled and experienced graphic and commercial artist at just finished animating a new logo graphic for the Permaculture Activist. It's one we designed to use on our Design Course Certificates. Take a look at it on our front page. I just added Don to the Planetary Directory at

Kolea Baker uses her many years of experience in art direction, design, client relations, marketing, product development, copyright and licensing. Degree in Advertising Art

Don Baker employs his years of experience in design, illustration, art direction, identity and product development. Degree in Advertising Art.

Don and Kolea founded and maintain, a website promoting the positive and inspiring stories about what individuals, groups, and organizations are doing to improve our world.

You may wish to contact them for similar kinds of service.

Monday, January 26, 2009 Mama's got me locked up in chains...

Top of the Food Chain

by Richard Heinberg on November 25, 2008

Food webToday comes the startling news of a British government report showing a drop in oceanic zooplankton of 73 percent since 1960.

For many people, this may seem relatively inconsequential as compared to daily cataclysmic revelations about the state of the national and global economy. This reaction is understandable: we care first and foremost about our own immediate survival prospects, and a new and greater Depression will mean millions losing their homes, millions more their jobs. It's nothing to look forward to.

It takes some scientific literacy to appreciate the implications of the catastrophic loss of microscopic sea animals. We need to understand that these are food for crustaceans and fish, which are food for sea birds and mammals. We need to appreciate the importance of the oceanic food web in the planetary biosphere.

At the top of the global food chain sits a species that we really do care about—Homo sapiens. The ongoing disappearance of zooplankton, amphibians, butterflies, and bees is tied directly or indirectly to the continuing growth of our own species—both in population (there are nearly seven billion of us large-bodied omnivores, more than any other mammal) and in consumptive voracity (water, food, minerals, energy, forests—you name it).

It's at this point in the discussion that some of us start feeling guilty for being human, and others of us tune the conversation out because there's apparently not much we can do to fundamentally change the demographic and economic growth trends our species has been pursuing for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

But the current economic Armageddon (that we care about) is related to human-induced biodiversity loss (that many of us don't notice) in systemic ways. Both result from pyramid schemes: borrowing and leveraging money on one hand; on the other, using temporary fossil energy to capture ever more biosphere services so as to grow human population and consumption to unsustainable levels. Our economic pyramid is built out of great hewn blocks of renewable and non-renewable resources that are being made unavailable to other organisms as well as to future generations of humans.

The financial meltdown tells us these trends can't go on forever. How the mighty have fallen!—Masters of the Universe reduced to begging for billion-dollar handouts in front of a television audience.

Next will come a human demographic collapse (resulting from the economic crisis, with poor folks unable to afford food or shelter), as mortality begins to exceed fertility.

In all of this it's important to remember that the species on the lower levels of the biodiversity pyramid have been paying the price for our exuberance all along.

The pyramid appears to collapse from the top, while in fact its base has been crumbling for some time.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Going Local with Peak Moment TV

A Renaissance of Local

The 2007 “A Renaissance of Local” was the first annual Boulder county-wide community festival, conference and expo. This uplifting celebration of local food, local energy, local economy, local culture, and local community was an energizing focus for Boulder County Going Local! in their campaign to build community self-sufficiency and strengthen the local economy through partnership, collaboration, and engagement. Presented by Boulder County Going Local, co-sponsored by Post Carbon Institute.

The 6-DVD set includes the following presentations. Each DVD can be ordered separately. [Add the online link for each presentation on Google video]. Reduced price: individual DVDs $15, or six-DVD set or $70

Disc 1: Local Business and Economy

1 Local Living Economies: Green, Fair and Fun, Judy Wicks, White Dog Café (Philadelphia, PA)
2 Independent Business Alliances: A Movement Born in Boulder, Jeff Milchen, American Independent Business Alliance (Boseman, MT)
3 Earth, Economy, Equity: Integrating Green Principles in Small Business, Michael Johnson, ReDirect Guide (Portland, OR)
4 Local Sustainability: Economics from the Inside Out, Mark Wilding, Marpa Center for Business and Economics, Naropa University (Boulder, CO)
5 Going Green: Good for Business, Dan King, Ambassador of Cool, Boulder Outlook Hotel & Suites (Boulder, CO)
6 Challenges of a Locally-Owned Independent Business, David Hight, McGuckin Hardware (Boulder, CO)

Disc 2: Peak Energy

7 Peak Oil: When and Then What? Steve Andrews, Association for the Study of Peak Oil-USA (Denver)
8 Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines, Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute (Santa Rosa, CA)
9 The Truth About Everything, Richard Brenne (Boulder, CO)

Disc 3: Communities Preparing for Peak Oil

10 Preparing Our Communities for Climate and Energy Change, Julian Darley, Post Carbon Institute (Sebastopol, CA)
11 Post Carbon Cities: Planning for Energy and Climate Uncertainty -- Guidelines for Local Governments, Daniel Lerch, Post Carbon Institute (Portland, OR)
12 Envisioning the Post Fossil Fuel World, Leslie Glustrom, Clean Energy Action (Boulder, CO)

Disc 4: Energy and Resources

13 Colorado’s New Energy Economy, Tom Plant, Governor’s Energy Office, State of Colorado
14 Sustainable Energy: Going Local and Regional to Power the New Energy Economy, Aaron Perry, Rocky Mountain Sustainable Enterprises (Boulder, CO)
15 The Technical and Human Dimensions of Going Local, Mark Sardella, Local Energy (Santa Fe, NM)
16 The Nexus of Food, Energy and Water, Michael Bowman, (Wray, CO)

Disc 5: Living Locally

17 Relocalization: Making Friends with an Unthinkable Future, Michael Brownlee, Boulder Valley Relocalization, Boulder County Going Local!
18 Resources, Religion and War—Ethical Living in a World in Decline, Marshall Vian Summers, The Society for the Greater Community Way of Knowledge (Boulder, CO)
19 Waking Up to Humanity’s Greatest Challenge, John Feeney, Growth is Madness! (Boulder, CO)
20 A Permaculture Perspective: Living in Authenticity During Energy Descent, Bill Wilson, Midwest Permaculture (Stelle, IL)

Disc 6: Local Media

21 Whole Systems Sensing: Defibrillating Possibility, Brook Le Van, Sustainable Settings (Carbondale, CO)
22 Blending Local Art with Local Agriculture in Placer County, Joanne Neft, Placer County Agricultural Marketing Program (Auburn, CA)
23 A Video Buffet of Local, Janaia Donaldson, Peak Moment Television (Nevada City, CA)
24 The LOCAL as Transformative Tool, Bob Banner, HopeDance Magazine (San Luis Obispo, CA)

24 presentations: 25 to 70 minutes each.

6-DVD Set: $100.00 Sale price $70.00
Single DVD: $20.00 Sale price $15.00

Communities Preparing for Energy and Climate Change

These five presentations from "A Renaissance of Local" provide a conceptual framework for responding to climate change and declining energy resources, with examples of communities working toward self-reliance and strengthening their local economies.

  • Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines, Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute
  • Preparing Our Communities for Climate and Energy Change, Julian Darley, Post Carbon Institute
  • Post Carbon Cities: Planning for Energy and Climate Uncertainty -- Guidelines for Local Governments, Daniel Lerch, Post Carbon Institute
  • Relocalization: Making Friends with an Unthinkable Future, Michael Brownlee, Boulder Valley Relocalization, Boulder County Going Local!
  • A Video Buffet of Local, Janaia Donaldson, Peak Moment Television

5 presentations: 30 to 70 minutes each.

2-DVD set: Introductory price $25.00

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Porkorchard for pest-free fruit.

Sepp Holzer at the Krameterhof farm in Austria (where I took the photo) has been using pigs to keep his orchards free of pests and competing weeds and grasses. He has 30,000 fruit trees that require no pruning, fertilizing, or spraying thanks to the pigs. Here's a clip from his website about classes being offered in the Pacific Northwest:

"For more than 40 years now, Sepp Holzer, the agricultural rebel has been transforming his family farm in the Lungau district in the Austrian Alps into an eco-paradise of fishing ponds, ten thousands of fruit trees, shrubs, vines and highly productive vegetables and herbs. Here, at an altitude of 1500 meters (~5000 feet) in the "Siberia of Austria", he has created a self-sustaining landscape in which he produces many varieties of the best quality fish, fruits, nuts, vegetables, mushrooms, pork, poultry and even citrus without irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides or weeding.

By observing nature and experimenting with his own garden from childhood on, he developed his own form of Permaculture, which is already the subject of scientific research. He cleverly uses ecological relationships and cycles, letting nature do the work for him with minimal labor input while providing optimum living conditions for his plants and animals. In this way he creates an eco-paradise which also achieves maximized economic success from his farming activities.

He has become famous far beyond the German-speaking world. His farm, the "Krameterhof" has become a symbol for a new kind of farming with hundreds of busses of visitors touring it every year. Sepp also acts as a consultant to a large number of projects all over Europe and the world, including Scotland, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, and Thailand, creating new croplands from depleted soils in harsh and difficult conditions. The principles of Sepp Holzer's Permaculture are simple and can be applied in any climate, by anyone, on any scale. These principles can empower anyone to develop a more sustainable life style and create their own highly productive eco-paradise, from the balcony garden to the family farm.

From February 19th to March 14th, 2009, Sepp Holzer and his son Joseph Andreas Holzer, will be visiting the United States, conducting The Secrets of Eden series of interviews, talks, and two day workshops in the Pudget Sound region of Washington State and the Portland area in Oregon. In each hands-on workshop a Holzer Permaculture project will be explained and created, such as ponds, terraces, fertile mounds (Huegelbeds), earth-bermed chicken coops and horse shelters, herb and vegetable spirals and craters, companion planting and plant communities. In January and February, 2009, videos screenings throughout the Pudget Sound region will give an introduction to Sepp Holzer and his dynamic approach to Permaculture.

Here's further confirmation of the orcharding with pigs technique:

Apple Farmer Uses Pigs Instead of Pesticides

Who needs toxic chemicals when cute little piggies do the job?

Jim Koan is doing something revolutionary on his Flushing, MI farm. Or, is he? Instead of using pesticides to rid his orchard of a pest, Koan is going old school and using pigs.

Koan’s 120-acre apple farm in has been plagued by the Plum Curculio Beetle that lays its eggs in apples and makes the fruit drop too early from trees. He could have used frequent sprays of pesticides for years to get rid of the beetles, or he could use pigs. (He tried chickens and guineas, but they weren’t hard enough workers and the guineas were taken away by hawks. He contemplated sheep, too, but in the end hard-working pigs, too big for any hawk or coyote to steal, were the best bet.) Now he has a group of pigs who shuffle through the orchards when the apples infected with beetles start to fall. They eat the apples and the eggs that would have spelled disaster for next year’s crop, and clear the ground and eat weeds in the process. The pigs make short work of an apple orchard, eating every last contaminated apple. And, bonus: once the pigs have solved the beetle problem, Koan plans to sell them as organic pork.

So, revolutionary or not, pigs are a refreshing idea.

Original link...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sulfamethazine Salad: Antibiotics in Vegetables

For half a century, meat producers have fed antibiotics to farm animals to increase their growth and stave off infections. Now scientists have discovered that those drugs are sprouting up in unexpected places: Vegetables such as corn, potatoes and lettuce absorb antibiotics when grown in soil fertilized with livestock manure, according to tests conducted at the University of Minnesota.

Today, close to 70 percent of all antibiotics and related drugs used in the United States are routinely fed to cattle, pigs and poultry, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Although this practice sustains a growing demand for meat, it also generates public health fears associated with the expanding presence of antibiotics in the food chain.

People have long been exposed to antibiotics in meat and milk. Now, the new research shows that they also may be ingesting them from vegetables, perhaps even ones grown on organic farms.

The Minnesota researchers planted corn, green onion and cabbage in manure-treated soil in 2005 to evaluate the environmental impacts of feeding antibiotics to livestock. Six weeks later, the crops were analyzed and found to absorb chlortetracycline, a drug widely used to treat diseases in livestock. In another study two years later, corn, lettuce and potato were planted in soil treated with liquid hog manure. They, too, accumulated concentrations of an antibiotic, named Sulfamethazine, also commonly used in livestock.

As the amount of antibiotics in the soil increased, so too did the levels taken up by the corn, potatoes and other plants.

Read the rest here...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Transition Partnership with Relocalization!

To all members of the Transition US community:

It is with great pleasure that I write to tell you that we have secured seed funding to support the growth of the Transition movement in the US. This funding, which comes as a combination of cash and in-kind services, is being provided by Post Carbon Institute, with whom we expect to develop a strong strategic alliance. The agreement not only provides us with funding sufficient to support an Executive Director but also gives us immediate non-profit status.

Post Carbon Institute will no longer be providing active support to the Relocalization Network (RN). Instead we will be working with members of the RN to inspire them to join Transition US, where they will be able to share their experiences and know-how with other Transition Initiatives. Please help in the process of welcoming RN members into Transition US and supporting them in whatever ways you can.

We are in the process of forming a Board of Directors for the non-profit Transition US. For purposes of moving forward quickly, the initial members of the Board are to be Pamela Gray and Jennifer Gray, founders of Transition US, together with Asher Miller, Executive Director of Post Carbon Institute and Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. Peter Lipman, Chair of the Transition Network Board of Trustees has been asked and has agreed to join the Transition US Board. Together with Pamela's participation as a Transition Network Trustee, this will enable us to stay in close touch with decisions taken in the UK.

The negotiations for this agreement took place very quickly in the last few weeks of 2008. It was a surprise to all involved that we could find a way to work together to the benefit of both organizations without coming across barriers that would cause delays. Please accept my apologies for not involving more of you in the decision-making but it was not possible to do so in the time allowed. In the future we will be posting news of developments on the Transition US web site. Our web site will be redesigned and developed over the next few months as a result of the investment.

Following the tremendous success of the trainings that took place in the latter part of 2008, and the steady stream of new Transition Initiatives that are appearing in the US, 2009 will be a year of rapid growth for the US Transition Movement. We must act collectively to prepare our communities to build resilience in the face of change. By continuing to work together, sharing ideas, resources and experiences wherever possible, we will be able to show communities the way to a future that holds the promise of being happy, healthy and strong.

Best wishes and Happy New Year,

Transition US
Transition Network - tackling peak oil and climate change together
Pamela A Gray, PhD
Trustee, Transition Network
77 Del Casa Drive
Mill Valley, CA 94941

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It Could Be Worse.....

Reasons for Good Cheer
By Sharon Astyk

In the last couple of months, several major peak oil activists have confided to me that they have had moments of despair. In each case, these were not ”doomers” or people who have long since thrown up their hands - instead, these are people making a difference, with viable plans for shifting the way we live, and they suddenly came up against painful economic reality - that the investments they’d hoped we [would] make, many quite modest - simply aren’t going to get made.

For many people who imagined peak oil as a steady build up in energy prices, or marked volatility, but trending upwards and leading only eventually to an economic collapse, the sudden shift into credit crisis is a crisis indeed - all of the signals that high energy prices were sending are erased now, and while demand is falling, so is the ability to invest in infrastructure.

On the other hand, since I never thought most people or governments would be able to make massive infrastructure changes, I’m probably less traumatized. And in the vast and traumatic mess that we are facing, I’m seeing some surprising signs of hope - not that we’ll magically reshape our society into the renewable paradise a lot of us would like to see, but that people are well, not acting like complete idiots - that they are responding to things fairly appropriately, even wisely sometimes.

For example, yesterday, NPR reported that the CEO of Walmart noted that people were spending a lot less - and most remarkably, they were saying how good they feel about not spending that money. In the context of a convention of American retailers, this was not good news. In the context of the human future, this news should have been trumpeted from the rooftops.

In fact, the people are turning out to be rather clever (as long as we don’t look to closely at SUV sales) - that is, even though every freakin’ economist and policy advisor, not to mention CNBC were lying to us and saying the crisis wasn’t much and if it was much it was practically over, Americans actually figured out what was going on, stopped spending so much, and started the hard and painful work of retrenching. Even at Christmas they managed to resist the increasingly plaintive calls of retailers to spend more money on stupid crap. It is easy to understate how radical this is - the people understood we were in a crisis that required a massive behavior change long before almost everyone else did. This is the sort of thing that restores faith in the value of democracy.

Meanwhile, in a speech, Barack Obama, who isn’t even President yet, actually used the “S” word - the one I’ve been begging people to use for years now. He called for sacrifice from the American people - and the response so far was heartening, as I expected - people think that this is being taken seriously, because, after all, they are being asked to help out.

Oh, and Obama is moving his mother in law into the White House with him and his family. Not only is this a really good thing for his kids, since the parents will be on the busy side, but it is also a damned good thing for the nation, which is filled with people who have been told over and over again that they couldn’t possibly live with their families - that doing so means you are pathetic and worthless, and that families are awful. And now they will have no choice - so seeing someone do it voluntarily can only help.

Meanwhile, gardening is booming - seed companies are topping last year’s records, and there are more and more people looking to food production as a strategy for weathering the tough times.

Nearly everyone I know who has spent the last few years talking about coming tough times is starting to hear shifts in the culture - people are taking this seriously, and that means that it is possible for many of us to find someone else in our neighborhood or community to share the burden with.

Now there’s plenty of awful news. The economy sucks. The situation sucks. A whole lot of stuff is going badly - this is not meant as mere cheerleading. But the point is this - on some level, we all know we’re probably on our own. And there are some real signs that ordinary people, left to themselves, are responding more gracefully and imaginatively than might have been expected. And that is reason for cheer.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Learning to Feed Ourselves - Growing Power

If crisis offers any yield at all its the efforts of regular folks like this honing their skills as they respond to the opportunities and challenges of rapid change. Something like this should, and could, appear and serve communities everywhere.

Remember, most of the ecovillages of the world do not require building, they're already there, called neighborhoods. What's needed is to connect more of each neighborhood to more of itself. Some neighbors simply haven't recognized where they are and who's there with them.

When yield shows up in tangible and tasty ways like this (with training included) the adoption of successful practices can be more easily spread.

More power to us all.

In 1993, Growing Power was an organization with teens who needed a place to work.

Will Allen was a farmer with land.

Will designed a program that offered teens an opportunity to work at his store and renovate the greenhouses to grow food for their community. What started as a simple partnership to change the landscape of the north side of Milwaukee has blossomed into a national and global commitment to sustainable food systems.

Since its inception, Growing Power has served as a ”living museum” or “idea factory” for the young, the elderly, farmers, producers, and other professionals ranging from USDA personnel to urban planners. Training areas include the following: acid-digestion, anaerobic digestion for food waste, bio-phyto remediation and soil health, aquaculture closed-loop systems, vermiculture, small and large scale composting, urban agriculture, perma-culture, food distribution, marketing, value-added product development, youth development, community engagement, participatory leadership development, and project planning.

Community Food Centers are local places where people can learn sustainable practices to grow, process, market, and distribute food. The prototype for Community Food Centers, as mentioned in our mission, is the Growing Power facility at 5500 W. Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

This historic two-acre farm is the last remaining farm and greenhouse operation in the City of Milwaukee. Since 1999, our Community Food Center has provided a wonderful space for hands-on activities,large-scale demonstration projects, and for growing a myriad of plants, vegetables, and herbs.In a space no larger than a small supermarket live some 20,000 plants and vegetables, thousands of fish, and a livestock inventory of chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits, and bees.

Will Allen, Chief Executive Officer thinks, "If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community. I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system."

A simple goal: to grow food, to grow minds, and to grow community. Growing Power began with a farmer, a plot of land, and a core group of dedicated young people. Today, our love of the land and our dedication to sharing knowledge is changing lives.

Projects and Growing Methods
- Growing Power demonstrates its easy to replicate growing methods through on-site workshops and hands-on demonstrations. There are farms in Milwaukee and Merton, Wisconsin, and in Chicago, Illinois. Growing Power has also established satellite-training sites in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Mississippi.

Education and Technical Assistance
- Growing Power's educates folks through local, national, and international outreach for farmers and communities. We also run youth programs, have an active volunteer base, and actively work on policy initiatives regarding agriculture.

Production and Distribution - Food production occurs in the organization's demonstration greenhouses, rural farm site in Merton, and urban farms in Milwaukee and Chicago. We also distribute produce, grass-based meats, and value-added products through the activities of over 300 small family farmers in the Rainbow Farmers Cooperative and the organization's year-round food security program the Farm-to-City Market Basket Program.

The urban farm currently includes:
  • six greenhouses growing over 12,000 pots of herbs, salad mix, beet greens, arugula, mustards, seedlings, sunflower and radish sprouts. These greenhouses also host production of six hydroponic systems growing Tilapia, Perch, and a variety of herb and salad greens, and over 50 bins of red wriggler worms; with two independent fish runs and growing beds for additional salad mix and seedlings; growing a mixture of salad greens;
  • a worm depository an apiary with 5 beehives;
  • three poultry hoop houses with laying hens and ducks;
  • outdoor pens for livestock including goats, rabbits, and turkeys;
  • a large plot of land on which the first stage of the organization’s sophisticated composting operation is located including 30 pallet compost systems;
  • an anaerobic digester to produce energy from the farm's food waste;
  • and a small retail store to sell produce, meat, worm castings, and compost to the community.
The center offers schools, universities, government agencies, farmers, activists, and community members opportunities to learn from and participate in the development and operation of Community Food Systems.

Monday, January 12, 2009

EROEI - The Eros of Energy

Energy Investment - Energy Return

Independent financial consultant Jim Hansen runs every investment through the “peak oil test”. In this presentation from the ASPO-USA 2008 conference, he explores traditional energy investments; opportunities in renewables, rail, and electrifying the transportation system; areas to avoid like airlines and trucking; and what to watch, like electric cars and the unwinding of globalization.

In this interview, ecologist and professor Charlie Hall looks at energy return on energy invested. Whether it’s a cheetah chasing antelope, or humans making ethanol — the energy we get back has to exceed the energy we put in, or the story is over. He compares oil’s energy return in the 1930’s (1 calorie invested returned 100 calories of energy) with the current situation (1:12) and still declining.

Presenters respond to the final question in the Q&A session at the close of ASPO-USA’s 2008 conference: how do we better harness the intellect, energy and commitment at this conference, and what one thing would you have people ask an elected official to do about peak oil?
This is seventh Peak Moment Conversation videotaped at ASPO-USA 2008. Other programs include:
Energy investment banker Matthew Simmons on "Oil and Gas - The Next Meltdown?"
Financial consultant Jim Puplava on "Making Financial Sense of the Coming Energy Crisis"
Energy analyst Randy Udall on "Peak Oil and Its Effect on Climate Change"
"Two Views of a Post-Oil Future" with author James Howard Kunstler (The Long Emergency) and Post Carbon Institute Founder Julian Darley
"Shocks, Shortages, and Scenarios - Planning for a Post-Oil Future" with Megan Quinn Bachman of Community Solutions, and Bryn Davidson of Dynamic Cities Project.
"Broadening the Peak Oil Conversation" with senior energy analyst Robert Hirsch and Kyle Saunders, "Professor Goose" of The Oil Drum website.

Peak Moment: Community Responses for a Changing Energy Future is an online television series showcasing perspectives and initiatives for local self-reliant living. The half-hour programs feature host Janaia Donaldson's conversations and on-site tours with individuals and communities preparing for accelerating energy decline, climate chaos, and economic uncertainty. 137 programs are on the net at and are cablecast on about two dozen community access TV stations nationwide.

Peak Moment Television is produced by Robyn Mallgren and Janaia Donaldson, Yuba Gals Independent Media of Nevada City, California. Contact: If you do not wish to receive these press releases, please contact me at above email address.

Know Your Shit...Manure and Antibiotics

By Al Brooks

In our embrace of organic farming, we used to shun chemical fertilizers, and rightly so. They do harm to soil microorganisms and produce bloated crops with less flavor and nutrition. But some new studies have uncovered problems with manure, our favorite fertilizer for organic crops, that now cause us to examine where a particular batch of manure comes from and what went into the livestock that produced it.

According to tests conducted at the University of Minnesota, many food crops absorb the antibiotics leaching into the soil from the manure of livestock fed these chemicals. Antibiotics are introduced into livestock feed in order to increase growth and prevent infections. We have long understood the environmental harm, done by the application of excess manure, to our waterways because of runoff. But the researchers at the University of Minnesota discovered that vegetables such as corn, potatoes and lettuce absorb antibiotics when grown in soil fertilized with livestock manure.

Close to 70 percent of the total antibiotics and related drugs produced in the United States are fed to cattle, pigs and poultry, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. And about 90 percent of that is excreted in the urine and manure. According to an article in Rachel's weekly #993:

"The Minnesota researchers planted corn, green onion and cabbage in manure-treated soil in 2005 to evaluate the environmental impacts of feeding antibiotics to livestock. Six weeks later, the crops were analyzed and found to absorb chlortetracycline, a drug widely used to treat diseases in livestock. In another study in 2007, corn, lettuce and potato were planted in soil treated with liquid hog manure. They, too, accumulated concentrations of an antibiotic, named Sulfamethazine, also commonly used in livestock."

Heat (cooking and canning) and other processing can reduce the levels of some antibiotics in foods, but Sulfamethazine, for one is not affected by heat. Of greatest concern are those vegetables that are commonly eaten raw, like lettuce and cabbage, and those tubers that are in contact with the soil and may absorb greater quantities, like potatoes, carrots, and radishes.

Health officials fear that eating vegetables and meat laced with drugs meant to treat infections can promote resistant strains of bacteria in food and the environment. Past studies have shown overuse of antibiotics reduces their ability to cure infections. Over time, certain antibiotics are rendered ineffective. But scientists have evidence that there may be other serious consequences. Antibiotics also may have contributed to the explosive rise in asthma and allergies in children over the last 20 years. Again, quoting from Rachel's Weekly:

"Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, following 448 children from birth for seven years, reported that children who received antibiotics within their first six months had a higher risk of developing allergies and asthma."

"Such health concerns led the European Union (EU) in 2006 to ban antibiotic use as feed additives for promoting livestock growth. But in the United States, nearly 25 million pounds of antibiotics per year, up from 16 million in the mid 1980s, are given to healthy animals for agriculture purposes, according to a 2000 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists."

Composting of manure, since heat is generated by this process, can break down some of the antibiotics. But if a farmer or gardener wishes to be free of this contamination entirely, s/he must know the pedigree of the manure applied to the food crops. Until we put in place regulations similar to those in the EU, where antibiotics can be given only to sick animals, we must each, individually apply the precautionary principle and avoid using even "natural" fertilizers whose source is unknown.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Peak Moment Features Robert Hirsch & Kyle Saunders

Broadening the Peak Oil Conversation

from Peak Moment Television

aspo-usa_notice.jpgpm135_150.jpgSenior energy analyst Robert Hirsch reflects on the immediate liquid fuels problem, and the rebuilding of our entire energy system which will take at least twenty years. He reflects on comments made during the ASPO-USA 2008 conference presentations, noting that he remains optimistic about American response to the daunting challenges ahead.

Political science professor is the “Professor Goose” behind the Oil Drum website. He champions the need to learn from one another about complex, interdependent topics like the economy, energy, noting that every piece of information we can get can reduce uncertainty. In the question-and-answer session at the close of ASPO-USA’s 2008 conference, presenters respond about the current financial chaos and resource scarcity, how to encourage intelligent political action, the need for a peak oil high-visibility champion, peak oil’s relationship to climate change, and suggestions for household energy reduction. []

Umm...plant more trees maybe?...Terra preta?..Carbon Farming?

How humans cooled the earth -- 500 years ago


One of the tell-tale signs of a really thought-provoking book is that soon after reading it, you start seeing its thesis replicated everywhere you look. So it has been with one of the tomes I referred to in yesterday's post "Polynesian Chickens in Peru and other Mysteries," Charles Mann's "1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus."

The massive depopulation of the Americas via smallpox, hepatitis and other diseases introduced by Westerners (perhaps as much as 95 percent of the existing population died in vast pandemics) and the large landscape-altering scale of agriculture practiced across the "New World" by pre-Columbian cultures are two of the big themes of "1491." Both popped up in a presentation made by two scientists at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union last December. (Thanks to MongaBay for the tip.)

The scientists contend that after the die-off, massive reforestation on abandoned agricultural land occurred on a large enough scale to contribute significantly to the period of global cooling between 1500 and 1750 known as the "Little Ice Age."

After examining soil samples and sediment cores from numerous locations in Central and South America, Richard Nevle, a visiting scholar at Stanford's Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Stanford, and Dennis Bird, also from Stanford, concluded that the reforestation sequestered as much as 10 to 50 percent of the carbon necessary to cool the earth. Up until 1500, the soil samples showed a steady increase in charcoal content, likely generated from human-caused fire used to clear forest. After 1500, the scientists discovered a drastic drop in charcoal content. No more burning.

The scientists acknowledge that reforestation was just one factor in contributing to global cooling. It may not even have been the most critical factor. But the research is sobering nonetheless, in its hint as to humanity's power to alter the fundamental characteristics of life on this planet, long before we were burning fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow. We did it back then, we're doing it now, and maybe, just maybe, if we exert our collective will in the proper direction, we can fix our mistakes.

Let's just hope it doesn't require another vast die-off to set things to rights.

Transition Indiana / Bloomington Launch on Cable Access

At the 7:00 PM Thursday Peak Oil Task Force meeting on Jan 8, Zach Mermel and Keith Johnson will introduce the Transition Movement to the task force members and on the following evening the meeting will be broadcast on the local Community Access Television Services on Channel 12 (dedicated to Bloomington City Government meetings and events). This will be a more or less formal and public launch of both Transition Indiana and Transition Bloomington.

We anticipate that this could generate new members and co-participants in the redesign process for a transition to a sustainable regional culture.

A general plan is emerging to create alliances with other local groups to create events and merge memberships for a broader outreach. For more information and opportunities to get involved go to these websites:

Transition Indiana
Transition Indiana on Blogspot
Transition US
Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy
Permaculture and Regenerative Design News
Bloomington Permaculture Guild

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Weather (catastrophe) or not.

When contemplating the imminence of climate change and peak oil you may find it useful to remember that catastrophe is a matter of perspective. My sister forwarded this notice from 'The Mining Journal', Marquette , Mi.
The text is purportedly from a county emergency manager out in the western part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan after a snow storm last winter. (Snopes has declared it an urban legend.)

Up here in the Northern part of Michigan we just recovered from an Historic Event --- may I even say a "Weather Event" of "Biblical Proportions" --- with an historic blizzard of up to 44" inches of snow and winds to 90 MPH that broke trees in half, knocked down utility poles, stranded hundreds of motorists in lethal snow banks, closed ALL roads, isolated scores of communities and cut power to 10's of thousands.

George Bush did not come.
FEMA did nothing.
No one howled for the government.
No one blamed the government.
No one even uttered an expletive on TV.
Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton did not visit.
Our Mayors did not blame Bush or anyone else.
Our Governor did not blame Bush or anyone else either
CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, or NBC did not visit - or report on this category 5 snow storm
Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards.
No one asked for a FEMA Trailer House.
No one looted.
Nobody - I mean NOBODY - demanded the government do something.
Nobody EXPECTED the government to do anything either.
No Larry King, no Bill O'Reilly, no Oprah, no Chris Mathews and no Geraldo Rivera.
No Sean Penn, no Barbara Streisand, no Hollywood types to be found.
Nope, we just melted the snow for water, sent out caravans of SUV's to pluck people out of snow engulfed cars.
The tow truck drivers pulled people out of snow banks and didn't ask for a penny!
Local restaurants made food, and the police and fire departments delivered it to the snow bound families....
Families took in the stranded people - total strangers.
We fired up wood stoves, broke out coal oil lanterns or Coleman lanterns.
We put on an extra layers of clothes because up here it is "Work or Die".
We did not wait for some affirmative action government to get us out of a mess created by being immobilized by a welfare program that trades votes for "sittin' at home" checks.
Even though a Category "5" blizzard of this scale has never fallen this early, we know it can happen and how to deal with it ourselves.
"In my many travels, I have noticed that once one gets north of about 48 degrees North Latitude, 90% of the world's social problems evaporate."
It does seem that way, at least to me.
I hope this gets passed on..
Maybe .... SOME people will get the message... The world does NOT owe you a living."

Ok, so Yoopers (as they are called) barely blink when their world is inundated by conditions that would cripple most communities. And, as this report illustrates, there's a bit of "Nyahh, nyahh, you pussy wusses" attitude. Can they deal as effectively with an economic crisis of "Biblical" proportions or a changing climate that delivers similar weather more often? Will they have the funds to maintain and fuel the army of snow plows? Time will tell. Still it makes you think. Are they truly more prepared and resilient?

Call for submissions to Permaculture Activist #72

"Permaculture Abroad" will be the theme of issue #72. May 2009. What's going on, permaculturally speaking, in the rest of the world will be the topic, with significant focus on permaculture in Africa, the continental host of the International Permaculture Convergence #9 in 2009, The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2009.
Please read the Writer Guidelines before submitting articles.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Nonviolent pate' from happy geese a la Sousa

At the Taste3 conference, chef Dan Barber tells the story of a small farm in Spain that has found a humane way to produce foie gras. Raising his geese in a natural environment, farmer Eduardo Sousa embodies the kind of food production Barber believes in.

Dan Barber is a chef and a scholar -- relentlessly pursuing the stories and reasons behind the foods we grow and eat. He's the chef and co-owner of Blue Hill, in New York and Westchester.

Visit the Blue Hill Farm Know Thy Farmer page.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Males of All Species Are Becoming More Female

I first learned about endocrine disruptors about 14 years ago. The problems have only grown since then.

Pollution Puts Men in Danger

Thousands of chemicals released into the environment are interfering with animal and human endocrine systems, resulting in physical changes. Comprehensive research indicates that these chemicals, nicknamed “gender-benders,” are causing the males in many species to become feminized.

In British lowland rivers, 50 percent of male fish were found to be growing eggs in their testes, the Independent reported. Other discovered anomalies include hermaphrodite polar bears or deer with abnormal antler growth.

The full report of the Chem TRUST study, “Effects of Pollutants on the Reproductive Health of Male Vertebrate Wildlife—Males Under Threat,” is available on the organization’s Web site. It emphasizes that the study, which focuses primarily on animals, is also relevant for humans, because “All vertebrates have similar sex hormone receptors.” Thus, the feminization of other animals could indicate a similar pattern in humans. The study also lists the symptoms found in each of numerous species tested, some of which include testicular cancer.

The ill effects of these chemicals have in fact been documented for the human male populations as well. A study led by the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology at the University of Rochester examined baby boys from three different regions of the United States whose mothers had been exposed to substances containing phthalates. Researchers tested expectant mothers for the presence of these chemicals in their urine. Mothers with higher levels of the chemical tended to give birth to baby boys with smaller penises and in some cases, incompletely descended testicles.

Manufacturers of these chemicals, which are used in nail polish, hairspray and perfume bottles, suggested that it was unwise to jump to conclusions based on just one study. However, researchers have also found that male mice exposed to the chemical grow up to have more feminine physical traits, and have found similar results in human boys.

I've got a nitrogen fixation......

Nitrogen Fixing Trees - The Multipurpose Pioneers

Animal Forage, Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Fungi, Plant Systems, Rehabilitation, Soil Biology, Trees — by Craig Elevitch

The myths about the wonders of nitrogen fixing trees are many. Craig Elevitch (see bio at bottom) and Kim Wilkinson explain how to use them effectively.

Nitrogen Fixing Trees for Permaculture

Flowers of the leguminous tree, Kowhai,
the national flower of New Zealand

Nitrogen fixation is a pattern of nutrient cycling which has successfully been used in perennial agriculture for millennia. This article focuses on legumes, which are nitrogen fixers of particular importance in agriculture. Specifically, three legumes (nitrogen fixing trees, hereafter called NFTs) are especially valuable in subtropical and tropical permaculture. They can be integrated in a permaculture system to restore nutrient cycling and fertility self-reliance.

On unvegetated sites, "pioneer" plants (plants which grow and thrive in harsh, low-fertility conditions) begin the cycling of nutrients by mining and accumulating available nutrients. As more nutrients enter the biological system and vegetative cover is established, conditions for other non-pioneering species become favourable. Pioneers like NFTs tend to benefit other forms of life by boosting fertility and moderating harsh conditions.

Nitrogen fixing trees are often deep rooted, which allows them to gain access to nutrients in subsoil layers. Their constant leaf drop nourishes soil life, which in turn can support more plant life. The extensive root system stabilises soil, while constantly growing and atrophying, adding organic matter to the soil while creating channels for aeration. There are many species of NFTs that can also provide numerous useful products and functions, including food, wind protection, shade, animal fodder, fuel wood, living fence, and timber, in addition to providing nitrogen to the system.

Craig Elevitch is based in Hawaii and has been working for island resource self-sufficiency since 1989. He directs Agroforestry Net, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to empowering people in agroforestry and ecological resource management. The organization’s internationally recognized publications have guided thousands of readers in becoming more proficient in ecological food production, agroforestry, and permaculture. Craig edits The Overstory, a monthly agroforestry journal with over 8,000 subscribers in 185 countries. His books include Agroforestry Guides for Pacific Islands (2000), The Overstory Book: Cultivating Connections with Trees (2004), and Traditional Trees of Pacific Islands: Their Culture, Environment, and Use (2006), all of which promote diverse agricultural systems that produce abundant food and other resources. Further information and free downloads at

Read the rest here...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Permaculture Mediacology

Bridging media literacy with ecoliteracy, Mediacology seeks to redefine media education so that it harmonizes with ecological design principles.

Traditional media literacy models are mostly left-brained, inherited from the legacy of alphabetic literacy, the Gutenberg press revolution, and industrial mass media production. New digital media radically alter the environment. Their nonlinear, multisensory, field-like properties are more right brain oriented. Consequently, rather than focus exclusively on deconstructing the products of design objects (such as an advertisement “text”), digital learning should respond to the design of the system itself, including cultural and cognitive bias.

Mediacology proposes a design-for-pattern approach called “Media Permaculture,” which restructures media literacy to be in sync with new media practices connected with sustainability and the perceptual functions of the right brain hemisphere. In the same way that permaculture approaches gardening by establishing the natural parameters of its ecological niche, Media Permaculture explores the individual’s “mediacological niche” in the context of knowledge communities. By applying bioregional thinking to the symbolic order, Media Permaculture redresses the standard one-size-fits-all literacy model by taking into account diverse cognitive strategies and emerging convergence media practices.

Drawing on his extensive experience as a grassroots mediamaker and time spent teaching media at Native American schools, Antonio Lopez applies a practical knowledge of alternative media, crosscultural communication and ecology to build a meaningful theory of media education.

Media Permaculture