Inequality is bad for most people not just the poor, bad for business and political stability; and it can be cured.
by Prof Peter Saunders
Two recent books deal with inequality and some of the myths surrounding it (see ISIS reviews, SiS 63). In Capital in the Twenty-first Century , the French economist Thomas Piketty argues that the natural tendency of capitalism is to generate ever increasing inequality. We, lay people and economists alike, don’t realise this because we have lived most of our lives in abnormal circumstances: the destruction caused by two world wars and a depression, and the measures that were taken to recover from them. Until recently, most of us have seen our countries become more equal year by year, as well as a marked rise in social mobility.
In Australia, you can’t mention permaculture without mentioning Geoff Lawton. Zaytuna Farm is the demonstration property he runs with his wife, Nadia, and a team of dedicated permaculturists. It is a ‘must-see’ on the world permaculture touring map and luckily, it is only a couple of hours away from Brisbane. I visited recently and my head is still spinning from everything that I saw — it’s an amazing place.
While, like most eco-minded people, I often fantasize about owning a large rural property, I have to admit that I am more of a villager than a farmer. Still, I was interested to see what lessons I could take away from the 66-acre property that I could apply to an urban abundance project.
My top 10 lessons (in no particular order) from Zaytuna farm:
Recently Michelle, Rowan, Naomi and I embarked on a cross-country train trip to attend a family reunion in the eastern townships of Quebec. With a little extra time left over after the festivities, I decided to connect with Stefan Sobkowiak of Miracle Farms for a day, having come across Stefan’s work in the amazing YouTube video above.
Over the course of the day, I gleaned some great ideas and tips from Miracle Farms. I’m excited to share my three top insights with you.
Humanure, which one is it – embarrassing waste product or invaluable, free fertiliser? Heh, what do you reckon?!
The human body has within its waste products (faeces and urine) pretty much all the suitable nutrients needed to help grow the food we need to keep ourselves healthy and well fed. Everyday we produce this free fertiliser and flush it down the toilet when it could be being collected, managed correctly and transformed into truly amazing compost. Right now most of us live within a broken loop consisting of:
Soil is one of the basic resources that we have when beginning to work with land. Along with water, climatic patterns, and existing ecosystems, soils form the canvas on which we paint our agro-ecological life support systems.
In the US the Web Soil Survey (WSS) managed by the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service operates one of the largest soil resource information systems in the world.
Soils of more than 95% of the counties in the continental United States have been mapped as part of the National Cooperative Soil Survey. That data is available online through an easy to use map-interface, and a wide range of data is freely available for download as a (well formulated) PDF or as tabulated and spatial data for Geographical Information Systems (GIS) program.
In this article I’ll show you how to navigate the WSS interface, and where to find soil data which is most relevant for initial site assessments for permaculture design.
Friday night. For something like seven years I’ve been wondering what to do with Friday night. You know — party, spend quality time at the pub, drink, dance, vomit and go home to a weekend filled with the things that people do on the weekend. Hmm….
I’m even more moderate than that.
On Friday night I’ve spend inordinate amounts of time twiddling my thumbs, ho-hum, wondering what the hell I should be doing if I’m not blasting my head off in a night club or chilling with a lover. I’ve learned a lot about Googling and cooked a lot of unnecessary cakes. Today after my zen seven years of Friday nights (not) I came up with a brilliant idea. Sharpen the chisels.
The herb spiral is more or less an ubiquitous installment at the permaculture farm, so when we came to work on a property in Panama, building a spiral as near to the kitchen as possible was a top priority. Not only would it supply us with fresh and flavorful meals, but it wouldn’t take long to establish a useable system, a harvestable, sustainable crop. At least, with a herb spiral, we could start eating sooner rather than later.
Last week, newly-published research (1) in the Nature journal links a type of pesticide whose use has been restricted in the EU to the decline of bird population in the Netherlands.
The study, which focussed on a particular type of neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, found that where the chemical was present in a “high concentration” — more than 20 nanograms (ng) per litre of surface water — it has led on average to a 3.5 percent annual decline of insectivorous birds (1). Considering that the EU has defined the amount of pesticides allowed in drinking water as 100 ng per litre for each compound and 500 ng per litre for overall pesticide count (2), the findings seem a little worrying in terms of human health.
The tsunami of construction that washed over Spain in the decade of the 2000s has drawn back, leaving behind some very odd jetsam. Unused airports, white elephant projects like the City of the Arts and Sciences in Valencia, uninhabited housing developments in the middle of nowhere — and massive debts, public and private.
But nearly all that concrete has been poured into a few places: around the main cities, the Mediterranean coast and islands. There’s another Spain where nothing much has happened — and it just goes on happening, decade after decade.
Neonicotinoids appear to have devastating effects across the natural world: we need a global moratorium.
Here’s our choice. We wait and see whether a class of powerful pesticides, made by Bayer and Syngenta, is indeed pushing entire ecosystems to oblivion, or we suspend their use while proper trials are conducted. The natural world versus two chemical companies: how hard can this be?
Papers published over the past few weeks suggest that neonicotinoids, pesticides implicated in killing or disabling bees, have similar effects on much of life on earth. On land and in water, these neurotoxins appear to be degrading entire foodchains. Licensed before sufficient tests were conducted, they are now the world’s most widely used pesticides. We are just beginning to understand what we’ve walked into.
Curious what goes on at the PRI Zaytuna Farm? If you live close to the farm, or are passing by, you're welcome to book yourself on a farm tour (Wednesdays at 11am only). Contact the farm manager and we'll see you soon.
We will take a minimum of 3 people at $35 p/p (groups of less than 3 adults are $50 p/p). Large groups please call to discuss pricing (at least 48 hours prior required).