Recently I had the privilege of interviewing Ron Berezan, aka The Urban Farmer, who was one of the first people in Alberta to get permaculture kick-started. Ron has been teaching and running permaculture tours in Cuba now for many years and has a very unique perspective on Cuba, permaculture, and how permaculture has played a major role in Cuba’s transition from industrial high input agriculture to organic hyper-local production. Ron will be attending the 11th International Permaculture Convergence as well as teaching a permaculture design course in Cuba in 2014.
Click on the play button below to listen to our conversation!
Interview with Ron Berezan
A couple of months ago I wrote about the ecovillage project that I am involved in, a project that is based on the vision of radical simplicity expressed in Entropia. I am uber excited to announce that our first build for the ecovillage is going to be an Earthship-inspired ‘mini-ship’, taking place this December in Victoria, Australia. Want to be involved? Read on!
Earthships and other natural building methods are capturing the world’s imagination. Earthships Australia – a group of highly skilled and experienced Earthship builders – is offering an Earthship-inspired workshop this December in Victoria, Australia. Applications have just opened, so if you want to be a part of this exciting adventure, inspired by Earthship Biotecture, here’s your chance! No experience necessary.
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For the last four years, I have been dreaming of retrofitting a small town with a group of like-minded individuals with a diverse set of skills. I talk a lot about this in my courses, and it always gets a group of people charged up. It seems as though there are a lot of people that are tired of living in these massive, hyper-urban environments that meet our basic needs of food, shelter, and water, but do a terrible job of meeting our need for self realization, community, peace and quiet, and debt-free living.
North America is full of small dying towns that are loaded with perfectly good infrastructure, cheap lots and small homes on large lots. They have commercial centers, water systems, parks, social structures and are surrounded by cheap to rent – and sometimes own – agricultural land. They are walkable, bikeable, quiet and usually human-scaled. It would seem that these would be bursting with young families trying to make a go at a new way of life. There is certainly the interest, I see it all the time in our students. So what is stopping folks from taking the plunge? I believe there are two major barriers that stop folks from pouncing on this opportunity:
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About two years ago, my wife and I started researching permaculture as another tool to our independence. We aspired to an off-the-grid life filled with freedom and presence. Our permaculture journey started in the Himalayas, as we helped an inspiring Indian visionary establish his Himalayan Farm Project. Until today, I have read a hearty chunk of the permaculture literature out there, watched more documentaries and clips than YouTube could offer and worked in several farms across the world. I eventually attended a PDC in my native south of France and have finally been granted permission to establish our home on a ‘virgin’ piece of land, tucked away in the desert hills of Oaxaca, in Mexico.
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This year I made a hugelkultur area in my veggie garden. I love it — they bring a nice shape into my flat garden and now we have so much pumpkin and squash, because of the hugelkultur, that we can’t eat them all, and so we give them away.
All the other gardeners around were laughing about me and my wood chips and now the hugelkultur. But they don’t laugh anymore — they are wondering now, how this could happen. All their gardens are mostly already empty for the winter and I still eat strawberries, salad, raspberries, pumpkins and so much more. My garden is still green. Today I finished my second hugel, so that it will be ready for next year. So my joy is going on and on…
Society needs to realize growth does not equal prosperity.
The word that sticks in the craw of many who cogitate over economics is growth. The condition that the word refers to has proven disturbingly problematic in recent years, especially as the world’s population continues to expand exponentially and the global ecology suffers in response. In fact, Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881) called economics “the dismal science” in direct reference to the work of the Rev. Thomas Malthus, because the Malthusian conclusions were so unappetizing — that sooner or later rising human populations would outstrip the world’s capacity to provide for them.
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UK government starts mining agricultural wastes for renewable energy as municipal and household wastes are becoming scarce.
by Dr Mae Wan Ho
On Farm Anaerobic Digestion Fund
The UK government has set up the On Farm Anaerobic Digestion Fund to help farmers in England install small scale anaerobic digesters on site [1, 2].
The scheme, formally launched 12 October 2013 by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Secretary Owen Paterson, allocates £3 million for farmers to apply for loans up to £400 000 to help finance anaerobic digestion (AD) plants on farm, or for a grant of up to £10 000 initially to investigate the environmental and economic potential of AD to deal with the farm wastes.
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A food forest is a lovely and interesting place to visit. Unfortunately, visitors only ever see the food forest as it is on that particular day when they visit. For example, if a person came to the food forest today, they would see lots of ripe citrus, some large unripe almonds and swelling apricots. However, things would be quite different if their visit was a month later. This is because it is still early days in the growing season! There are lots of plums, pears, apples, nectarines and peaches amongst other species, but the fruit is only tiny at this stage of the season. Other trees like chestnuts and walnuts have only just broken their dormancy and are yet to even flower.
It occurred to me that it is hard for visitors to see the growth and effects of the climate here on the food forest over a period of time.
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It hasn’t been a good week for Monsanto and the rest of the biotech industry.
Just three days ago, Mexico banned genetically engineered corn. Citing the risk of imminent harm to the environment, a Mexican judge ruled that, effective immediately, no genetically engineered corn can be planted in the country. This means that companies like Monsanto will no longer be allowed to plant or sell their corn within the country’s borders.
At the same time, the County Council for the island of Kauai passed a law that mandates farms to disclose pesticide use and the presence of genetically modified crops. The bill also requires a 500-foot buffer zone near medical facilities, schools and homes — among other locations.
And the big island of Hawaii County Council gave preliminary approval to a bill that prohibits open air cultivation, propagation, development or testing of genetically engineered crops or plants. The bill, which still needs further confirmation to become law, would also prohibit biotech companies from operating on the Big Island.
But perhaps the biggest bombshell of all is now unfolding in Washington state. The mail-in ballot state’s voters are already weighing in on Initiative 522, which would mandate the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Knowing full well that 93 percent of the American public supports GMO labeling, and that if one state passes it, many others are likely to follow, entrenched agribusiness interests are pulling out all the stops to try to squelch yet another state labeling effort.
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In 1973, Lyall Watson, a South African botanist, claimed that plants had emotions that could be recorded on a lie detector test. His research was fiercely dismissed by many in the scientific community. Recently, researchers at The University of Western Australia relaunched the debate by revealing that plants not only respond to sound, but that they also communicate to each other by making "clicking" sounds. (The article was published in the journal Trends in Plant Science.)
There is a silent and oftentimes invisible plant intelligence. We now know that cabbage plants emit methyl jasmonate gas when their surfaces are cut or pierced to warn their neighbors of danger such as caterpillars or other predators (aka hungry humans). Studies also found that when the volatile gas was emitted, the surrounding cabbage plants appeared to receive the urgent message and immediately released toxic chemicals on their leaves to ward off potential predators. Similar studies gave similar results with many other plants (many of them are presented in the video at top).
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