Posted by & filed under GMOs, Health & Disease, Society.

That a former Monsanto scientist should find himself in charge of a specially-created post at the very journal that published two landmark studies questioning the safety of that company’s products should surprise no one who is aware of the Monsanto revolving door. This door is responsible for literally dozens of Monsanto officials, lobbyists and consultants finding themselves in positions of authority in the government bodies that are supposedly there to regulate the company and its actions.

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

Next weekend, the community of Boolarra, Victoria, Australia will declare itself coal and gasfield free. This will be the first town in the Latrobe Valley to do so. The Latrobe Valley has recently witnessed the worst impacts of uncontrolled coal mining, with the Hazelwood coal fire causing a severe health crisis for the residents of the adjoining town of Morwell. The town and the wider La Trobe community has mobilised in response.

We need to turn this growing community concern into real political action.

If we can raise enough money to run a successful state election campaign, Victoria could become Australia’s first Gasfield Free State. Achieving a permanent ban on unconventional gas on agricultural and residential land in Victoria would put huge pressure on state governments in NSW and Queensland to follow suit and protect communities from gasfields.

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Posted by & filed under Building, Community Projects, Village Development.

Previously on this series, I featured a video on the Permaculture Institute of El Salvador. Today, we move to the south of this beautiful continent for an exploration of bio-construction in the Argentine Patagonia.

Take a look at this meditative video that features images from a bio-construction event that took place in the town of El Bolsón, Patagonia, in 2011.

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Posted by & filed under Animal Housing, Building, Community Projects, Insects.

We are all too familiar with the Colony Collapse Disorder afflicting our precious bees. So much needs to be done to educate the mass (and beekeepers) about what bees truly need. The Open Source Beehives project is another powerful initiative marrying traditional designs with high tech equipment to promote healthier beekeeping practices. They have designed two downloadable beehives that can easily be printed and carved on wood sheets.

They are currently crowdfunding their research and making their designs available to all. Do you want to help us make a buzz about it?

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, Peak Oil, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

Coal Seam Gas (‘fracking’) in the Pillaga Forest, NSW, Australia

It was revealed last week that groundwater has been poisoned with uranium and heavy metals from Santos’s coal seam gas development in the Pilliga forest (Map).

Just two days after the Environmental Protection Agency gave a paltry $1,500 fine for the contamination spill, the NSW Government signed a memorandum of understanding with Santos to fast-track approvals for a massive coal seam gas field in the Pilliga — a recharge area for the Great Artesian Basin and the largest forest west of the Great Dividing Range left in New South Wales.

Our water to too precious to be threatened by a massive coal seam gas field, and the community is fighting back.

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Posted by & filed under Medicinal Plants, Plant Systems, Soil Biology, Soil Rehabilitation.

All of us who have studied permaculture have heard some impressive claims about comfrey. It is a dynamic nutrient accumulator; it improves the soil; it is “a slow motion fountain” of nutrients, bringing them up from the subsoil to improve the topsoil. We’ve heard lots of anecdotal evidence, but where is the empirical data for these claims? Peter Harper’s article in The Land last summer, “Permaculture: the Big Rock Candy Mountain,” made me want to find the scientific basis behind some of the anecdotal claims I’d heard other permaculturalists make, that I’d previously absorbed without question.

I ran to my books. From Introduction to Permaculture by Mollison and Slay to Gaia’s Garden by Hemenway to Edible Forest Gardens (Volume I & Volume II) by Jacke and Toensmeier, it is difficult to tell where any specific piece of information comes from, since all these books lack footnotes or endnotes. The Wikipedia article is peppered with “[citation needed]” and has been for years. The online database that comes closest to citing a source is Plants for a Future, which says comfrey’s value in compost was established by “a small booklet” (no indication where to obtain it) and the New RHS Dictionary of Gardening, which “contains a number of silly mistakes.” Clearly some newer and more conclusive evidence is in order!

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Posted by & filed under Society.

Soviet soldier waving the Red Banner over the central plaza of Stalingrad in 1943

The rule is as old as human war and conflict: If you are to prevail, you must know the mind of your adversary. Chess masters know this. Winning football coaches know this. Victorious generals know this. Successful diplomats know this. If they did not – if they all ignored this fundamental rule – they simply could not succeed.

The relative virtue or depravity of the opponent is irrelevant. The rule applies to even the most evil of opponents. In World War II, it was essential that the Allies understand the strategic planning of Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto and of Hitler’s general staff. The breaking of the Japanese naval codes turned the tide of the Pacific War at the Battle of Midway. Similarly, the success of the D Day invasion at Normandy turned on the Allies understanding, thanks to the Bletchley Park code-breakers, that they had successfully convinced Hitler that the landing would be at the Pas de Calais.

Similarly, if the current conflict with Russia over Ukraine and Crimea is to end peacefully, both sides must diligently strive to understand the minds and motivations of their opponents.

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Posted by & filed under Biofuels, Desertification, Food Shortages, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

How the perverse consequences of a great idea are destroying the natural world.

In principle it’s a brilliant solution. Instead of leaving food waste and sewage and animal manure to decay in the open air, releasing methane which contributes to global warming, you can contain it, use micro-organisms to digest it, and capture the gas.

Biogas from anaerobic digestion could solve several problems at once. As well as a couple of million tonnes of sewage sludge, the UK produces between 16 and 18 million tonnes of food waste, much of which still goes into landfill. Farms here generate around 100 million tonnes of animal manure and slurry, a major cause of water pollution. It could all be processed in digesters. A tonne of food waste can produce about 300 kilowatt hours of energy: the UK’s discarded food, the renewable industry says, could generate enough electricity for 350,000 households. The residue can be used as fertiliser.

It was also a brilliant idea to turn waste chip fat into biodiesel. But the incentives to produce biodiesel, often justified by the claim that they would make use of waste, have created multiple ecological disasters. They have encouraged farmers to feed cars rather than people and financed the conversion of rainforests in Indonesia, Malaysia and West Africa into oil palm plantations, driving orangutans and many other species to the brink of extinction. In most cases, biodiesel, as a result of the changes in land use, has much higher greenhouse gas emissions than the fossil fuel it replaces.

Biogas is now going the same way. Provide the money to do the right thing and if you’re not careful it will be used to do the wrong thing.

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Posted by & filed under Animal Forage, Animal Housing, Bird Life, Commercial Farm Projects, Compost, Fencing, Land, Livestock, Soil Rehabilitation, Waste Systems & Recycling, Working Animals.

Trailer only — watch full video here!

"Who can weld?" Geoff asks. Keen to impress, my hand goes up. “I will see you at the shed after dinner tonight then”, a twinkle of excitement in his eye. This is the story of the chicken tractor on steroids from concept to birth.

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Posted by & filed under Building, Energy Systems, Waste Systems & Recycling.

Alfredo Moser with his solar water bottle bulbs


Thomas Alva Edison lit up the world with his electric bulb in the nineteenth century. In this century it is the solar bottle bulbs of Alfredo Moser which are illuminating thousands of houses of under-privileged people in many countries. This simple invention of the Brazilian mechanic is going viral and is been implemented in remote villages throughout the world. This article is the story of this invention — the solar bottle bulb or “Moser lamp” and how it is transforming people’s lives.

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