Posted by & filed under Energy Systems.

Professor Reza Alam and his PhD students in Mechanical Engineering Department, University of California, Berkeley, are testing out a prototype of a device which can produce electricity and provide clean drinking water for coastal communities throughout the world.

Called a ‘wave carpet’, it harnesses the predictable wave power to obtain usable energy. As the waves roll through, the carpets motion produces hydraulic pressure energy. This energy can to used to turn turbines and generate electricity or to produce fresh water by reverse osmosis. Pressurised salt water is pushed through the membranes that extract the salt and provide fresh water.

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops, Presentations/Demonstrations.

We are approaching many limits to growth over the next several decades, and are consequently facing many challenges in our immediate future. Finance, energy, environment, resources and climate will all impact on the single-minded, one-dimensional trajectory human society has been on in our era of growth imperative. Our current path is unsustainable. It cannot and will not continue, so we must adapt our societies in order to build a new future.

The first challenges are being presented by the ongoing global financial crisis, which is far closer to its beginning than it end, and by the geopolitics of energy. Events in Europe, particularly in Cyprus, Detroit and latterly the Ukraine, represent a major wake up call that financial crisis is about to resume in earnest and that energy issues are moving towards criticality in many places. We must anticipate and navigate a period of rapid economic contraction and increasing risk of resource conflict, punctuated by the emergence of geopolitical wildcards.

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, Economics, People Systems, Society, Village Development.

Regular readers may remember an article I posted back in 2010 — Kings, Conquerors, Capitalism and Resilience Lost — where I covered a little historical ground for one particular former ‘East Bloc’ country; a history shared by several countries in central Europe. The article outlined how previously resilient land-based communities — which had lived and even thrived for centuries in close relation to each other and the land that sustained them — had struggled to cope with an onslaught, a rapid succession, of ideologies that were thrust upon them (Fascism, then Communism, and the final nail in the coffin, Capitalism). The article ended with a glimpse into the lives of some of the land-based people still remaining — stalwart and practical souls who do so little to harm the earth, but whose historical lives are being tragically impacted by political and economic forces outside of their control.

In the video above, John D. Liu covers similar territory — but over a wider geographic. Take a watch.

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Posted by & filed under Animal Forage, Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Plant Systems, Trees.

Acacia tree

With Autumn in the Southern hemisphere it is an ideal time to plant trees, as the sap of the tree is descending, and especially in hot environments the trees get a chance to acclimatize during the cooler weather and if you are in a winter rainfall area your trees can be well watered in before the hot summer days start again.

In all forests there are the pioneer trees that grow first and are mostly rapid growers. They then provide a canopy of shade and shelter for the slower and hardier trees to grow under. By the time your slow growers are strong and increased in size the pioneer trees are more or less at the end of their cycle and fall down to create space and sunlight for the new generation of large hardwood trees.

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Posted by & filed under Economics, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

In an extraordinary coup, farmers’ unions and the UK government have torpedoed the European Soil Framework Directive.

“British soils are reaching crisis point”. Don’t take my word for it — this is a quote from a loyal friend of the farming industry, Farmers’ Weekly.

You would expect farmers to try to protect their soils, which are the foundations of their livelihood, and many do. There are some excellent farmers in Britain, careful, well-informed and always thinking of the future. But across large areas of land, short-termism now triumphs over common sense. Farmers are often in debt to the banks, and seek to clear that debt as quickly as they can. Many are growing crops that are simply incompatible with protecting the soil. Some don’t seem to know very much about soil erosion and why it happens. Others — especially contract farmers working on other people’s land — don’t seem to care. Sensible land use is giving way to smash-and-grab exploitation.

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Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Desertification, Economics, Food Shortages, Peak Oil, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

Whenever such large shifts in temperature occurred in Earth’s history, they were not gradual but came in lurches. Resilience is the capacity of a system to continue providing essential functions after receiving that kind of shock.

The first known use of the Infinite Improbability Drive was initiated by Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian on the starship Heart of Gold. Its major consequence was rescuing Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect from open space, at the probability of two to the power of 276,709 to one against. Other events that occurred, including those that occurred at a time of abnormality, include:

  • Lots of paper hats and party balloons appeared from a hole in the universe and drifted off in space.
  • A team of seven three-foot-high market analysts came from the hole and died from a combination of asphyxiation and surprise.
  • 239,000 lightly fried eggs fell out of the hole and onto the famine struck land of Poghril in the Pansel system. This caused the one surviving man of the Poghril tribe to die from cholesterol poisoning some weeks later.
  • Arthur and Ford appeared to be at the sea front at South End, and were passed by a man with five heads and the elderberry bush full of kippers. (Hitchhiker Wiki)

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Posted by & filed under Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Plant Systems, Trees.

Applying the bone sauce

Bone sauce is a product of the destructive distillation of bones — a process which separates the volatile organic components (aka bone sauce, or Dippel’s oil) from the inorganic components (aka bone char — mostly calcium, carbon and phosphorous compounds).

Bone sauce has a potent smell, somewhere between wood-creosote and rancid meat. When applied to the bole, branches, and shoots of dormant woody perennials it deters browsing by a range of herbivores. From wild animals like deer, elk and moose, to domestic stock such as sheep and cattle.

Keep in mind that bone sauce is proven to be effective with herbivore’s and not with generalists/omnivores such as a pigs or rodents.

For those working on a large scale, bone sauce is a fast, natural and highly economical way of protecting trees from browsing when compared with individual tree protection tubes or fencing.

When used in combination with thick rough woody-mulches to deter from physically getting close to trees, we have found bone sauce to be almost 100% effective in keeping herbivores off woody perennials. This is particularly true when there is plenty of other herbaceous understory plants for them to eat.

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Posted by & filed under General, Presentations/Demonstrations, Village Development.

Looking Down on La Juanita Finca Verde

TED Talks, for some time, have been something I’ve loosely disregarded. They were interesting, informative, and free, but my friend Bryant Hand was just a little too eager to share them with me. Perhaps I thought I was too young (2 years less than him) and too hip (I have a beard past my figurative collar while he actually wears dress shirts), but maybe I should’ve given my old friend a bit more credit. Bryant never managed to turn me into a fan, and I never expected visiting Colombia would turn me into another TED enthusiast. But, it did.

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops, GMOs, Health & Disease.

Register Now for GMO Speaker Training with Jeffrey Smith

Are you so concerned about the safety of genetically modified foods that you want to do something about it?

You may have read the studies, seen the documentaries or even participated in labeling initiatives in your community. If you’re like most who are somewhat familiar with the science, you’re worried about the short and long-term effects that GMOs will have on your health and the health of your clients or loved ones. You are outraged at the influence that Monsanto and the government has over public food policy, and you’re determined to be a voice for the families and individuals who want to live long and be healthy in a flourishing environment.

But you may also understand how difficult it is to overcome media misinformation when trying to educate those you care about or individual’s resistance in ‘getting’ the seriousness of the issue.

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Posted by & filed under Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Medicinal Plants, Nurseries & Propogation.

CERES plant propagation brings back some memories. I volunteered for a day when it was first launched. The CERES team was prepping the site for the first polytunnel and I spent the day potting on dozens of herbs with a handful of other volunteers.

Five years later and the propagation enterprise has grown steadily. They now have a dedicated propagation area, sheltered from the elements with benches at the perfect height so you’re not hunched over and messing up your back. They’ve built two more polytunnels and have a shade house to harden off the seedlings before planting out on the farm.

They rely on volunteers to help prepare the seedling trays, plant the seeds and pot on the seedlings but CERES propagation is never short on volunteers! Trading work hours to learn the ins and outs of plant propagation is a pretty good deal — I’d know, I spent six months volunteering there.

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Posted by & filed under GMOs, Health & Disease.

New findings in genetics show that evolution happens by precisely targeted natural genetic engineering and not by the natural selection of random mutations, says leading molecular biologist James Shapiro, but what are the implications for the safety of GMOs and social policies?

by Dr Mae Wan Ho

A fully referenced version of this article is posted on ISIS members website and otherwise available for download here.

Cut and splice vs random accidents

I have been awaiting his latest papers for years ever since he first introduced the concept of ‘natural genetic engineering’ in 1997 [1], referring to organisms themselves using ‘cut and splice’ techniques to meet environmental challenges, same as those used by human genetic engineers in the lab. It was a major inspiration for my book [2] Genetic Engineering: Dream or Nightmare? (ISIS publication) warning of dangers from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) released into the environment.

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