Permaculture is Revolution disguised as Organic Gardening

Permaculture is Revolution disguised as Organic Gardening

Permaculture is Revolution disguised as Organic Gardening

‘Permaculture is Revolution disguised as Organic Gardening.’ Graham Burnett.

Over the past thirty-five years, he’s seen the seeds of permaculture  grow into a thriving global movement. During his recent “Transforming the Australian Dream” tour on the east coast of Australia, David shared a glimpse into the early sparks of permaculture and offered insights into some of the simple principles of growing and living that can now help us transform suburbia into a flourishing ecosystem of sustainable living on all levels.

“It is perhaps surprising to people that when I was a student in Hobart Design School in 1974, there was a huge interest in what today we would call sustainability. It was one year after the oil crisis of 1973 that changed a lot of thinking around the world. And it was two years after the Club of Rome Limit to Growth report which really showed that industrial society couldn’t keep going like it was. 1973 was also the year that E.F. Schumacher wrote the very influential book on my thinking, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.”

“So a lot of these ideas were around at that time and my interest was really in the overlap between landscape architecture as a design profession, the science of ecology and the practice of agriculture.”

It was at that time that David met Bill Mollison, who was teaching at another university in Hobart, and through their friendship and discussions started to gel the idea of what ultimately became permaculture.

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Five myths about economic growth


We were sent this by CASSE – the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. Love it – there are so few organisations pointing out the insanity of the quest for perpetual growth (image:

We particularly like the observation that the service economy can’t be de-materialised, and therefore can’t grow forever. Think about it – can you think of a service industry that doesn’t involve anything material? The information economy is often quoted, but where would that sector be without computers, electricity, mobile devices, phone masts, satellites, cables etc? And, of course, a growing information sector means that the amount of money paid as salaries in that sector grows as well. Then how do you ring-fence those salaries so that they’re not spent on material things? The answer is that you can’t, which means that the economy can’t grow forever, and neither can any sector of it.

Over to Brian.

Myth #1. It’s economic

To be economic, something has to be worth more than it costs. Economic activity, per se, is more beneficial than detrimental. Technically speaking, “marginal utility is greater than marginal disutility.”

If you liked a rug, but liked your grandkids more, it wouldn’t be smart to grab the rug out from under them. That’s basic microeconomics. Yet if we look around and reflect a bit, doesn’t it seem like all that economic activity is pulling the Big Rug out from the grandkids at large? Water shortages, pollution, climate change, noise, congestion, endangered species… it’s not going to be a magic carpet ride for posterity.

Growth was probably economic for much of American history. But we have to know when times have changed and earlier policy goals are outdated. In the 21st century, when we’re mining tar sands, fracking far and wide and pouring crude oil by the ton into the world’s finest fisheries, trying to grow the economy even further is looking like a fool’s errand. That’s basic macroeconomics.

Myth #2. Economic growth is often miraculous

Right now we’ve got the Chinese miracle. We’re supposed to be on the cusp of an Indian miracle. Seems like we already had a more general Asian miracle, having to do with “tigers.”

We’ve had Brazilian, Italian, Greek (yes Greek), Spanish and Nordic miracles. There’s been the Taiwan miracle, the miracle of Chile and even the Massachusetts miracle. Don’t forget the earlier Japanese miracle and more than one historic German miracle.

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Wood-based computer chips could be the answer to the electronic waste crisis


Wood-based computer chips are a reality, and they could make the recycling of electronics a much simpler task.

Developed at the University of Wisconsin by a group led by engineering professor Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma, the wood-derived computer chip is made by processing wood into nanocellulose paper, which is then used as a substitute for a silicon. Unlike the rigid silicon wafer that serves as a plate for transistors in most computer chips, Ma’s chip uses a translucent, bendable plate made of highly processed wood. According to a piece in the MIT Technology Review, using nanocellulose in lieu of conventional silicon requires just a tiny fraction of the semiconducting material otherwise needed in the process, and doesn’t sacrifice performance:

In two recent demonstrations, Ma and his colleagues showed they can use nanocellulose as the support layer for radio frequency circuits that perform comparably to those commonly used in smartphones and tablets. They also showed that these chips can be broken down by a common fungus.

The military, the MIT publication notes, has had an interest in electronics that could rapidly decay to avoid leaking sensitive information; but Ma’s ambition for biodegradable chips is mainly to help combat electronic waste.

Read more here.

Here’s How Climate Change Will Make Food Less Nutritious

A new study suggests that having more CO2 in the atmosphere will cause levels of zinc and iron in important staple crops to drop.

There are two things you want to get from a harvest. First there’s yield, the amount of grains, beans, or fruit you pull from the fields—and that’s where the focus is placed much of the time, both from the farmer’s perspective and in terms of plant breeding and global development conversations. The other, which isn’t so apparent on the farm, is nutrition. A study published this week in Nature suggests that as CO2 levels in the atmosphere increase in the coming decades, yields may increase. But even as farmers have more wheat, rice, and beans to harvest and eat, the nutrition levels in those staple crops—namely, zinc and iron—are going to drop.

Just last year, the world crossed the dubious threshold of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. By using CO2 jets placed around test plots, the study created growing conditions that approximate a future in which those levels creep upward of 500 parts per million. The grains and legumes grown in this environment had anywhere between 5 and 10 percent less iron, zinc, and protein too. The increase in nutritional deficiencies these drops could cause “represents the most significant health threat ever shown to be associated with climate change,” according to a Harvard press release.

Read more here.

Why land, on which to build a home and grow food, is our ultimate security


There’s a general feeling – and a growing one I think – that we’re headed for disaster, and that no-one is in control or able to steer us away from the precipice. Here are four categories of reasons that people give for pessimism about the near future:

  1. ecology: scientists are telling us that we’re seriously damaging nature, and that we’re already in a mass extinction event
  2. war: more and more countries are acquiring nuclear weapons, weapons technology is becoming deadlier, there are flashpoints all around the world, empires and blocs are waxing and waning and there is a distinct possibility that terrorist groups could acquire a nuclear capability at some point
  3. technology: several other technologies are being developed that could escalate beyond our means to control them, especially genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology
  4. population: from the first humans to 1960, the human population grew to 3 billion; but we’re now headed towards 10 billion by the middle of this century – all requiring food, shelter, energy and aspiring to cars, TVs and flights, from a planet whose nature is already degrading with 7 billion of us


We absolutely don’t have the models or tools to make accurate risk assessments, so I suggest that we ignore commentators who claim to have a handle on the likelihood of any of these scenarios and lean towards the precautionary principle. Civilisations have fallen before, but without affecting other areas of the world; this time it’s global, and we don’t have anywhere else to go.

Read more here.

How to find a company that is truly green

green packaging

Here are some tips on how to be a savvy shopper who consistently gets past the greenwashing.

Companies have caught on to the fact that going green means business. Everyone is jumping on the green bandwagon, making claims of being “all natural,” “non toxic,” and “eco-friendly” in hopes of attracting the attention of consumers. The problem is, these claims are often not authentic. There aren’t many regulations in terms of what companies can put on their packaging, which means that consumers have to use their own skills of critical assessment to determine whether or not a company is green for real. Here are some things to look for:

Watch for specific statements.

If an item has green-sounding phrases such as “natural” and “eco-friendly” without providing any further information, it’s probably not true. A company that has real relationships with certifiers such as organic, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Oeko-Tex, B Corp, etc. will make that loud and clear. They will sing their product’s virtues without hesitation and explain in considerable depth why and what they do.

Look for mission statements online.

A company’s mission statement can go a long ways toward revealing their true environmental intentions. Visit a website such as Patagonia’s, for example, and see how impressively different it is from most other clothing retailers. Patagonia lists the specific textile mills and sewing factories for every piece it sells, setting a high standard for transparency. This is different from other retailers, many of which have “environmental commitment” sections on their websites but actually say very little, when you examine them closely.

Read more here.

Who you callin' ugly? Join the campaign to end food waste now!

End Food Waste campaign

A petition calls on Whole Foods and Wal-Mart to start selling ugly produce instead of throwing it away -- an act that can benefit everyone.

It’s time to stand up for the uglies! Supermarkets have long discriminated against any fruits and vegetables that do not meet the absurdly high cosmetic standards for sale, with an estimated 26 percent of all produce in the United States tossed before it’s even given a chance on the shelves.

This makes no sense because ‘ugly’ produce is just as nutritious as attractive produce, and can even have more taste. In a world where there is so much concern about food shortages, greenhouse gas emissions from teeming landfills, water conservation, and dietary health, it’s only logical to embrace the uglies and welcome them into our food system.

Jordan Figueredo of the End Food Waste campaign has launched a petition to get Wal-Mart and Whole Foods to change their outdated policies on ugly produce and save billions of pounds of perfectly good fruits and vegetables from unnecessary rejection. He wants them to launch fun publicity campaigns, similar to France’s very successful Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables, the United States’ Imperfect Produce, and Canada's Naturally Imperfect line.

Read more here.

Imagine farming that actually heals the earth

holistic planned grazing of sheep photo

One of the most inspiring recent developments in the discussion about farming has been the shift from talking about "sustainable" agriculture to advocating for "regenerative" agriculture. Instead of seeking to be less bad, say a growing number of farmers and farming experts, the farming industry should be positioning itself to be good—to heal the harm being done to our planet.

From slowing, and maybe even reversing global climate change through soil carbon sequestration to creating perennial food crops that mimic natural prairies and help protect our waterways, there are many methods that could be deployed to both reduce farming's negative impact and simultaneously start rebuilding natural ecosystem services that have previously been degraded.

In the UK, former natural history filmmaker Rebecca Hosking has been at the forefront of this conversation, returning to her parents' family farm and rethinking its operations as a resilient, sustainable and regenerative "farm for the future." That farm—which has become named The Village Farm—faces some fairly significant challenges in terms of soil conditions and topography, not least because previous management practices have degraded what was there. This from the Village Farm website explains more:

Read more here.

The global debt

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The global debt, that is the "money" owed by all countries, is currently at over US$230 trillion – please don't ask me no many zeros come after the 230, I have no idea – but the question we should ask is "who do those countries, including our own, owe this money to?"

Investment banks and such, you say. Really? Consider that the money that was lent – and is being lent – is not “real” money at all but has been created out of thin air. Same as with any loan that a bank gives. The money that is being transferred from the back into your account does not, actually, exist as "real" money, neither in paper nor in coin, nor in gold or silver. It is being created out of nothing. This is not even anymore the so-called fractional reserve banking; there are no reserves here at all. However, as collateral they demand real value, namely property, and if you do not keep up your repayments and the interest payments the banks will come after that collateral on which you “secured” the loan.

More interesting is also that, to all intents and purposes, the global debt can never be repaid.

If, for example, a world government, which we do not have but just imagine it, would try to pay this money back at the rate of US$1 (one dollar) per second it would take, according to some sources, 63,000 years to pay back; let me put that in words: sixty-three thousand years...

I just leave you with these thoughts for a moment... (Remember once again that no money lent ever existed)...

Now that you have, or have not, whichever the case may be, from the shock of the fact that this debt that all the countries of the world – and we are here only talking about “national debt” and not about the debt that individuals “owe” to banks in the form of mortgages and other loans – simply cannot, in reality, ever be repaid.

But then, as I said before, what is this debt actually? The so-called money never actually existed in the real world and was backed only by the assets of fresh, or not so fresh, whichever the case may be, air then we must but conclude that this so-called debt just cannot exist as the money never existed.

The entire monetary system, regardless whether it is paper money backed by nothing or backed by so-called “real” assets in the form of gold and silver (and I have put the word real in inverted commas for a good reason for also gold and silver have only the monetary value that we give them; they are not valuable at all except for use in electronics), is just based on an illusion. None of it is real wealth.

What has value is food, for we must eat, and water, for we must drink, and then the other resources from which to produce things to make our lives easier, whether shelter, clothing, or other products. We cannot eat paper money nor can we eat gold, silver or diamonds. Thus they actually have no value but the imaginary one that we place upon them by way of conditioning to believe that they represent a value.

The only thing other than the ones above, and upon this resource all our actions should be based, is time. The day, the hour, the half hour, and and hour of milking a cow should be valued as much as an hour of writing an essay, and article or a book. An hour mowing the lawn is equal to an hour of mending a bicycle. Every one's work is equally valued when we consider the hour as the rate of exchange. In the production of goods, or even in service tasks it may be necessary to add to this, in way of additional time segments, any fuel for a mower, or any materials, etc., but aside from those an hour of one kind of work must be exchangeable for an hour of another kind. But that, really, is the matter for another article and I digressed somewhat.

We need a completely new system as to what is wealth and must get entirely rid off this monetary and banking system that is around today.

P.S. OK, after having checked this as to the zero behind the 230 the figure would look like this 230,000,000,000,000,000,000 (that is 18 zeros behind the 230).

© 2015

Arnold Schwarzenegger: climate change is not science fiction

Terminator star calls global warming a ‘battle in the real world’ that’s bigger than any movie, at the first summit of conscience for the climate in Paris

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been chosen by the French government to join Nobel prizewinners, philosophers, UN secretary generals, spiritual leaders and theologians to make the moral case for the world to act urgently on climate change.

Talking at the world’s first summit of conscience for the climate on Tuesday – ahead of the crucial UN climate change meeting in the city in December – the Terminator star and former California governor declared the science debate over, saying planetary catastrophe could only be avoided with ethical action:

“I’ve starred in a lot of science fiction movies and, let me tell you something, climate change is not science fiction, this is a battle in the real world, it is impacting us right now.

“I believe the science is in. The debate is over and the time for action is now,” he told an invited audience of intellectuals and spiritual leaders from all faiths. “This is bigger than any movie, this is the challenge of our time. And it is our responsibility to leave this world a better place than we found it, but right now we are failing future generations.”

Read more here.