Amish Farmers Study Plant Immunology, Avoid Using Pesticides Completely

Amish farmers are studying plant immunology in order to grow healthy organic produce free of harmful chemicals.

amishorganic102114Amish farmers avoided the draft during WWII, even choosing to face jail time over going to war because they didn’t believe in combat, and now they are taking up a different fight altogether – peacefully – by studying plant immunology in order to grow healthy organic produce without pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful chemicals that biotech companies are lavishing on crops like cheap perfume on an uncouth lady.

Samuel Zook, an Amish farmer recently explained to a reporter:

“If you really stop and think about it, though, when we go out spraying our crops with pesticides, that’s really what we’re doing. It’s chemical warfare, bottom line.”

Zook should know what its like to try to grow without pesticides and still get rid of pests that would ravish his crops. He owns a 66-acre farm that was once riddled with fungus and other plant-killing insects that he could scarcely eradicate.  The 39-year old farmer talked at length about trying to run a homestead that had been in his family for five generations, and how miserably he was failing. He became disillusioned with the Big Ag methods promoted as ‘agriculture’ when they are nothing more than war on the natural world.  His frustration led him to the writings of an 18-year old Amish farmer from Ohio, named John Kempf.

This young upstart is the founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, a consulting firm the farmer established in 2006 to promote science-intensive organic agriculture. That’s right – it wasn’t just going to be an inconclusive guessing game about what to grow and how to grow it – his achievements would make any pro-GMO agriculturalist or biotech scientists eat their genetically modified words.

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The Impossible Hamster

What the impossible hamster has to teach us about economic growth. A new animation from nef (the new economics foundation), scripted by Andrew Simms, numbers crunched by Viki Johnson and pictures realised by Leo Murray.

We wanted to confront people with the meaning and logical conclusion of the promise of endless economic growth. We used a hamster to illustrate what would happen if there were no limits to growth because they double in size each week before reaching maturity at around 6 weeks. But if a hamster grew at the same rate until its first birthday, wed be looking at a nine billion tonne hamster, which ate more than a years worth of world maize production every day. There are reasons in nature, why things dont grow indefinitely. As things are in nature, sooner or later, so they must be in the economy. As economic growth rises, we are pushing the planet ever closer to, and beyond some very real environmental limits. With every doubling in the global economy we use the equivalent in resources of all of the previous doublings combined.
Concept, script and narration: Andrew Simms
Animation: Leo Murray & Thomas Bristow
Sound: Louis Slipperz
Scientific Adviser: Victoria Johnson

Man Facing Jail Time For Having a Windmill on His Own Property, Just Bucked the System!

The turbine of turbulence (photo by Bruce Bisping) Star TribuneThis summer, we reported on the story of a Minnesota man named Jay Nygard, who was risking jail time because he refused to remove a wind turbine from his property.

Jay owns a company called Go Green Energy, which sells wind turbines in other areas of Minnesota, but he isn’t able to do so in Orono where he lives because of permit and licensing laws. These are the same laws that are preventing Nygard from building on his own property.

The local government and a few nosy neighbors had been disputing the construction of this turbine for over 4 years, since it was built in 2010.

Recently, Jay reached out to us to share some good news about his case.

Jay has finally won the battle against his local government, and can now operate wind turbines on his property without the fear of being arrested.

In a statement to The Free Thought Project, Nygard said that “I am happy to announce that the Hennepin County District Court has chosen to honor MN state law and overturn the City Of Orono’s complete ban of wind turbines. This is a big victory for Green Energy, and my company, Go Green Energy, in it’s long standing push to bring Micro Wind Turbines to the Minnesota market. I am personally thrilled to see that the district court has affirmed my position of the importance of Green Energy in our society. I am also pleased to see clearly stated in the order the property rights that I have been denied during my continued litigation with the City of Orono.”

Unfortunately, this rule does not change the law entirely, but gives Nygard the right of way to build and operate wind turbines in this specific case.

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First Great British Bee Count reveals allotments make the best bee habitats

Allotments produced more bee sightings than parks, gardens and the countryside over the 12-week summer count

Aerial view of allotmentsAllotments are the best habitat for bees according to the results of the first Great British Bee Count this summer.

More bees were seen on allotments than on any other habitat including parks, gardens, and the countryside during the 12-week bee count from June to August.

More than 23,000 people across the UK took part in the count using a smartphone app to log their sightings of 830,000 bees.

An average of 12 bees per count were spotted on allotments compared to 10 in the countryside, eight in gardens, seven in parks and only four on roadside verges.

Bumblebees were the most frequently seen type of bee in all regions with 304,857 sightings including common species such as the buff-tailed bumblebee, garden bumblebee and white-tailed bumblebees. Honeybees were the second most-seen bee with 193,837 sightings. Of these, 42% were in rural areas, 30% in suburbs and 28% in towns and cities. The ginger-tufted tree bumblebee, which is often found nesting in bird boxes, was the third most identified bee with 69,369 sightings. It only arrived in southern England from mainland Europe in 2001, but the survey shows it has now spread throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Great British Bee Count was developed by charities Friends of the Earth and Buglife and retailer, B&Q, with the aim of providing annual comparable data and trends that will give a broader picture of bee health. Bee experts believe the mild winter, warm spring and long summer created good weather conditions for bees to thrive this year.

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Year-Round Mulching

leaves_mulchFor those of us who are now raking leaves and fussing about keeping our lawns clean, it’s interesting to step back and see “lawn debris” as having a purpose. I suspect Mother Nature actually has a plan in laying down her leafy blanket before winter arrives. For example, the layers of leaves create an insulating blanket for winter over the small seedlings of the forests. When warm weather returns, these leaves break down to enrich the soil. We can emulate nature by mulching our plants and help protect them for the coming winter.

Various Roles of Mulch

Mulch has other important roles besides insulation, however. A heavy layer of mulch conserves moisture in the garden to help plants survive hot and dry summers. Mulch is also a tremendous aid in smothering weeds. When gardening, I much prefer to concentrate on vegetables than spending time and energy weeding. Continual mulching also improves the soil’s structure and fertility. We are rewarded with more nutritious and tasty produce when there’s mulch to provide constant nutrition for plants.

Another benefit of mulch is to keep vegetables off damp soil and thereby prevent produce like cucumbers and tomatoes from getting dirty and even moldy. Additional mulching before winter prevents roots and bulbs from freezing and the soil from heaving and disturbing roots. 

What Materials to Use 

Mulching, like composting, is a basic practice of organic gardeners. We might think of “organic gardening” only as gardening without chemicals. Just as importantly, however, organic means using “carbon compounds,” or materials from animals and vegetables for mulch and fertilizers. Therefore, mulching is usually done with materials like grass clippings, shredded leaves, hay, straw, compost, sawdust, shredded corn cobs or newspaper. Some people also use polyethylene products for mulch. I don’t use those because they’re made from petroleum, and I also dislike the waste they create. I’d rather use materials that break down and enrich the soil and therefore don’t need me to clean them up!

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Hands-Holding-Seeds1-1200x520While governments, scientists, civil society and others convened at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the U.N.’s weather agency reported that 2011 was the 10th hottest year since records began in 1850. Though politicians and pundits may still debate the origins and impacts of climate change, there is a general consensus in the scientific community that we are experiencing a significant shift in the earth?s climate. This shift has particular significance for people living in the developing world and those who depend primarily on both subsistence and commercial agriculture for their livelihoods. Farmers are on the frontlines of climate change and are confronted with daily evidence, facing ever chaotic and extreme weather conditions.

2011 marked a flashpoint for many small farmers and fair trade producers. Fair trade producers from Mexico and Colombia to Ghana and Indonesia experienced a record number of climate change influenced disasters, including landslides, severe floods and crop failure. According to Fairtrade International (FLO), fair trade farmers are experiencing up to 28% reductions in yield due to erratic weather patterns and droughts. Small farmers, already vulnerable from a lack of financing options, limited market access and/or volatile markets, among other factors, are now faced with lower yields, ?natural? disasters and higher costs to adapt to and mitigate climate change impacts.

Climate change is impacting specific crops in very specific ways. A recent report by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) detailed how a significant percentage of Ivory Coast and Ghana, the two biggest cocoa producing countries, will be too hot for cocoa by 2030. Compounded by erratic and unpredictable weather patterns, flooding and new pests, cocoa and cocoa producers have a very bleak future. Sadly, this pattern is replicated in other crops like coffee. Coffee producing regions are experiencing a dangerous combination of lower rainfall and higher temperatures, which some speculate will render production unsustainable in lowland countries and regions by 2050. While coffee plants may be able to adapt to higher altitudes in search of cooler temperatures, small farmers are tied to their land, both historically and financially. The United States Agency for International Development?s (USAID) work with the Global Climate Change Initiative recently published a study that analyzed a number of intersections of climate change, poverty and agriculture. Key to the study is an index of ?country vulnerability? with many of the countries with significant fair trade presences ranked as ?extremely? vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.

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If America cared about the planet as much as the NFL, this is what it would look like

110What if people showed the same zeal toward environmentalism as they did sports? That’s the premise of BuzzFeed Yellow’s new video, “If We Cared About The Environment Like We Care About Sports.” The clip imagines greenies going wild over the rejection of a mountaintop removal bill, watercooler banter about a presidential address (“Did you see Obama’s climate speech last night?” “Oh no no no! Don’t spoil it! I had to DVR it.”), and one beer buddy telling another, “John Muir was the best American preservationist of all time. Period.”

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Jen Gale’s Simple Kitchen Energy Saving Tips!

If you are anything like Jen, you might spend a reasonable amount of time thinking about food-what to make, new recipes to try out etc etc.

But how many of us put much thought into how much energy we use cooking our food? Eating is after all, essential. But are there ways we can eat well and save energy (and money!) at the same time?

The answer is yes! Here are Jen’s top tips for cooking with less (energy).

  • Batch cook-in the ‘good-old days’, it was not uncommon to set aside one day a week to baking everything that would be needed for the coming week. It saves all the energy that would be needed heating up the oven each time. Batch cooking savoury dishes also works well (and saves you time). Freeze what you don’t eat ready for another day
  • The energy saving-ness (not a word we know) of Slow Cookers has been independently verified. By me For a ‘roast chicken’ they use less than a third of the energy. Apparently you can also use slow cookers for jacket potatoes, and cakes- potentially life changing..!
  • Pre-soak rice and pasta in cold water to reduce the cooking time. Another method that has been tried and tested with some success, is to put the pasta in the pan with cold water, bring it up to the boil, with a lid on, then turn the heat off and leave it to cook in the residual heat. It takes a few minutes longer, but it does work.
  • Get a wonderbag, or make yourself a wonder box, or haybox
  • Halogen cookers are supposed to be lower in energy than conventional electric ones, as areRemoska mini-electric ovens
  • If you have a combi microwave, it can also act as an oven and a grill, and uses much less energy, as it is a smaller space to heat

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Food expiration dates are garbage. Here’s a new label that’ll make you think before you toss.

Food expiration dates are for wussies. No seriously, they’re really not that important. Dates on labels like “best by,” “best-before,” or “enjoy by” are actually just guidelines from food manufacturers advising retailers when they think their food will be the tastiest. More often than not, most food is edible for days or weeks after the suggested date on a label.

That means most of us are probably throwing away hard-earned groceries. We toss about 40 percent of all the food we buy, or more than 20 pounds per person each month. Cue Bump Mark, a new food label meant to safeguard against unnecessary tossing.

The label is made of four different layers from top to bottom: plastic film, a layer of gelatin, a plastic bump sheet, and another piece of plastic film. As the food inside the package starts to decay, so does the gelatin in the label. By the time both the food inside and the gelatin have expired, all that’s left on the label is the layer of bumps. As long as the label is still smooth to the touch, the food is still OK to eat. The Washington Post reports:

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'It Is Not Hopeless,' says World's Chief Climate Scientist

As Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change opens meeting to finalize latest report to the world, head of agency says meeting challenge of global warming will not be easy, but that it can be done

"It is not hopeless."

That was the key message delivered in Copenhagen on Monday by Rajendra Pachauri, chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as the agency met to finalize the findings and language of its pending Synthesis Report, the last installment of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), designed to provide the world's policymakers with a comprehensive scientific assessment of the risks of human-caused global warming and climate change.

"The Synthesis Report will provide the roadmap by which policymakers will hopefully find their way to a global agreement to finally reverse course on climate change," said Pachauri. "It gives us the knowledge to make informed choices, the knowledge to build a brighter, more sustainable future. It enhances our vital understanding of the rationale for action—and the serious implications for inaction."

What was critical for world leaders, policymakers and the global public at large to understand, he said, was that though it won't be easy to avert the worse impacts of the world's changing climate, it is possible.

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