We know, we know, Starbucks is convenient, I mean come on, they are everywhere! Starbucks has tasty ways to trick up your caffeine fix, various forms of sugary treats, and even some organic options, to accompany that grande latte, and Starbucks even offers free wifi!
But did you know Starbucks also uses 93 million gallons of milk per year from cows fed on GMO soy and corn? 93 million. Think about that number. That’s A LOT of GMO corn and soy. When you consider that only two percent of genetically modified (GM) soy is directly consumed by people, you start to understand the vast business GM animal feed has become worldwide.
The wealthy island city of Singapore with an area of 710 square km and a population of 5 million, is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. With most parts of the island’s land utilized for urban development, the remaining 250 acres of farmland is hardly sufficient to feed the growing population. As a consequence, more than 90 percent of Singapore’s food consumption is met by imports from over 30 countries. This dependency on the external world makes the country highly vulnerable to turbulence in food supply and prices.
The only way out of this problem is to maximize the use of land for food production. For the island of Singapore, where real estate is at a premium and the land rates are exceptionally high, the only viable option is to go vertical to make the island more self-sufficient in food.
There is a powerful means of addressing the challenges of carbon capture and climate change — promoting photosynthesis! This means good old fashion farming and gardening — covering the earth with a vast range of trees, flora and crops.
Amongst other benefits, a rich diversity of plant species and agricultural practice that is poly-cultural and perennial in orientation, enriches the soil, promotes healthy microbiology, sequesters carbon, fosters more effective hydration of the soils, greater climate change resilience and more abundant, nutrient-rich food production and security.
Permaculture is a holistic design system that arranges human habitat and agriculture in a way that regenerates and revitalises the environment. It incorporates practices and processes that mimic the natural world. Permaculture utilises the synergy of relationships that abound in the diversity of species and environmental elements. As a consequence, greater abundance in production is realised as its practice brings together a variety of appropriate eco-technologies, both ancient and modern.
Stephen Barstow with Angelica atropurpurea, a North American species.
In a garden which can freeze solid down to the bedrock for three months a year, Stephen Barstow supplies himself with a wide selection of fresh vegetables throughout the year. Over 2000 edible plants are found in his unique garden.
Many consider the Norwegian climate to be a challenge for growing food with its long, snow-rich winters, but Stephen finds his location in Malvik to be an advantage.
A new agricultural paper describes the wild, uncultivated fruit that have long been an excellent source of nutrition and ayurvedic medicines in India (Paul, 2013). Due to rapid urbanisation and the concurrent erosion of traditional knowledge, these crops are under threat. Conservation plans need to be developed in order to re-popularise these fruits and preserve their sacred value to local people.
Can any more destructive and regressive measures be crammed into one bill?
Already, the Infrastructure Bill, which, as time goes by, has ever less to do with infrastructure, looks like one of those US monstrosities into which a random collection of demands by corporate lobbyists are shoved, in the hope that no one notices.
So far it contains (or is due to contain) the following assaults on civilisation and the natural world:
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.