Waking Times » Permaculture http://www.wakingtimes.com Entering a Time of Natural Health, Elevated Consciousness, Sustainable Living and Total Freedom. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 03:00:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 The Changing Face of Revolution – 3 Inspiring People Who are Undermining the Matrix http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/04/03/changing-face-revolution-3-inspiring-people/ http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/04/03/changing-face-revolution-3-inspiring-people/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 01:07:17 +0000 http://www.wakingtimes.com/?p=37475 Alex Pietrowski, Staff Writer
Waking Times

The matrix has us. It surrounds and keeps us busy working diligently within its nifty little paradigms, hard at work at our own enslavement and self-destruction. Behind the scenes of every aspect of life are codes, regulations, rules and agendas we cannot see, but … More

The post The Changing Face of Revolution – 3 Inspiring People Who are Undermining the Matrix appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
Flickr - Shovel - erix!Alex Pietrowski, Staff Writer
Waking Times

The matrix has us. It surrounds and keeps us busy working diligently within its nifty little paradigms, hard at work at our own enslavement and self-destruction. Behind the scenes of every aspect of life are codes, regulations, rules and agendas we cannot see, but yet are there to keep us in line and disconnected from true health and prosperity.

If you’ve mustered the consciousness to see through at least some of the illusions that govern our sickly world, then you already know that the truth about the human condition and human potential does not have a voice in the history books, and that double-speak and programming are the lead factors in turning practical concepts into impractical, unachievable feats of defiance.

Take the notion of revolution, for instance.

Just the word revolution conjures up certain images, different for all, to be sure, but usually inclusive of blood, guts, chaotic battle, betrayal, struggle, loss and so on. This is what the word has come to represent for many in our world today, thanks in part to the programmers who write the lexicon and indoctrinate the masses. Revolution has a negative connotation, and is associated with hazard, hopelessness and futility. It is almost always exclusively militaristic, involving brute force and warfare. It is thought of as a scary, dangerous proposition, with no place in a civilized society of laws and rules and order. It is a last resort for the scandalous, those willing to out themselves as betrayers of the system at large.

Revolution, by dictionary definition is the overthrow or radical restructuring of a government or political system, or a sudden or complete change or restructuring of something. It can also mean a complete turning of something. By this understanding, the term holds many more possibilities for human action than just taboo political warring.

Because our world is so poorly managed, abused and in such terrible condition, it is incumbent upon thoughtful people to radically reform and completely change their own lives, and to engage in and participate in action that effectively undermines and chips away at the status quo systems and paradigms that control us and keep us bound to self-destructive behaviors and indebted to corrupt rulers.

In this light, there are ample opportunities for an individual or a community to participate in a new kind of revolution which seeks to dramatically change the systems that govern our life. Take, for example the works and inspiration of these 3 modern day revolutionaries, who are undermining the matrix with their common sense and innovation.

1. The Garbage Warrior, architect Mike Reynolds has for the last 30 years bee waging a revolution in how we live. Known as the creator of the ‘Earthship,’ his ideas for constructing sustainable, self-contained housing out of recycled materials has sparked a global movement to develop the next generation of buildings. Motivated by the imminent prospect of global environmental catastrophe, he has faced criticism and even punitive legal action to prevent his ideas from going viral, yet today, earthships are growing in popularity around the world and workshops that teach his design philosophies and techniques can be found almost any weekend.

Watch this award-winning documentary about the birth of the Earthship movement:

2. Joel Salatin is the king of organic farming and owner of Polyface Farm in Virginia. Joel has become the nation’s top advocate for natural, cruelty-free animal products and direct farm-to-customer marketing. He is the author of many excellent books that will get you fired up to fight the system by being creative and outspoken, including, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better WorldYou Can Farm: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise, and Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front. Joel is a leader in the movement to get more young people involved in farming both as a career and as a hobby, and his humorous and inspirational demeanor, and his striking common sense are truly revolutionary in a time when the FDA and big corporations are destroying farming for all of us.

Here is a recent interview of his where he discusses GMO’s, his farm, and the future of food:

3. Ron Finley is the guerrilla gardener from South Central Los Angeles who after growing disgusted with the lack of fresh foods in his neighborhood, where too many people were becoming overweight and falling ill to chronic diseases like diabetes, he became a leader for urban farming and community gardening. In February of 2013, Ron gave a TED talk that quickly inspired many new urban farming movements and rekindled the urbanites interest in fresh foods. He is both humorous and hard-working and his charisma and passion for quality food is contagious.

Check out his inspiring talk here:

Conclusion

Its no secret, the powers that be work overtime to ensure that the masses are unhealthy, disconnected from their food supply, and coerced into living meaningless materialistic and overly-consumptive lifestyles. By following the example of these great pioneers of modern violence-free revolution, it will be easy for you to participate in the cultural reset that is needed to bring an end to the self-destructive control freak world we have today.

About the Author

Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and an avid student of Yoga and life.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

The post The Changing Face of Revolution – 3 Inspiring People Who are Undermining the Matrix appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/04/03/changing-face-revolution-3-inspiring-people/feed/ 3
Serving the System – How Free Are You, Really? http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/02/19/serving-system-free-really-cares-judgment/ http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/02/19/serving-system-free-really-cares-judgment/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 23:36:54 +0000 http://www.wakingtimes.com/?p=35460 Alen Mischael Vukelić, Contributor
Waking Times

The system teaches us that we are dumb creatures who just don’t get it. Somehow we are always too late, too slow, too uneducated to fulfill the guidelines that are put there in front of us. It teaches us that we are incapable of … More

The post Serving the System – How Free Are You, Really? appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
Flickr - Cuffs - banspyAlen Mischael Vukelić, Contributor
Waking Times

The system teaches us that we are dumb creatures who just don’t get it. Somehow we are always too late, too slow, too uneducated to fulfill the guidelines that are put there in front of us. It teaches us that we are incapable of observing the world in which we live in.

All decision making has been eliminated from of our lives; the only decision you can make is to cooperate with the authorities who rule upon every aspect of your life. The old woman is never satisfied with us; she says we can do much better if we work just hard enough.

Observation is a natural gift given to all beings on this planet to be able to sustain themselves independently, and exactly this independence is the basis for a harmonious life with others.

Are You Independent?

First of all, everything you will read in this article is based on my personal observations and studies, and not on scientific evidence. ‘Scientific’ in the sense that it was neither tested in a laboratory nor artificially reproduced. Will this material still be of any value for you? Find out.

Everything Which is Not ‘Scientifically Proven’ – Does Not Exist

Whenever I write something which is not ‘scientifically proven’ – I can be sure to have a fierce debate down in the comment section, where everything will be torn apart into particles to ‘prove’ that everything I said is ‘incorrect’.

I’m amazed at the level of credit the scientific community has gotten through the years; it has reached levels of an astonishing follower-ship, where information put forward from institutions is taken ‘as is’ – no questions asked.

Their status is really huge since the inception of the rule that everything must be scientifically proven. We’ve finally got rid of quasi-knowledge, religious hysteria, and most of all ‘personal opinions’.

So that if you want to prove that something exists, you must be able to reproduce it artificially in a controlled environment. However, I need to stretch that not anyone is allowed to do that but people who have the proper education to do so.

Even while writing this article, I always have in mind the scientific approach; I need to give you the whole story, the proper balance, the pros and cons, so that you might be able to draw your own conclusion on the basis of an unbiased selection of this material presented to you.

This is what you expect, you need to have the impression that I’m qualified to write about such topics, and that I will be able to back up my claims with sources, which lead all the way to the scientific community, which has enabled me to speak on this subject – in the first place.

Don’t Believe Anything I Say

But what if I can’t do that, or what if I just don’t give a damn? The thing is that I wouldn’t be doing it for me, but for you, to convince you that I know something that is worth sharing with you. However, why should I convince you of anything?

I think you are perfectly able to judge this information for yourself. This is what this whole article is about: Are we able to observe something, to have our original experience, and to understand it as something which happened to us for a reason?

Something which has no back-up, but our own understanding and evaluation of what happened? Does it have any significance outside your own perception? Can other people benefit from it? I mean – does your judgement count at all? This is what I want to talk about today.

Pick and Choose

The curse of duality wants it to be that you are wither in favor of something or you are against it. You can’t just pick and choose and put your own story together for one simple reason: You are not qualified.

I have said it so many times; we are not aware of the fact that everything we know was delivered to us ‘as is’ and that the illusion of an actual choice is more or less a game installed to entertain you.

As George Carlin put it: You choose whether you want to pay with ‘paper or plastic’, sit in a ‘smoking or non-smoking’, but what you don’t realize is that the actual palette of choices has been pre-defined. You can choose among 23 flavors of ice-cream, but you’ll have ice-cream nevertheless.

Left Smack or Right Smack?

Voting is another thing which gives us the illusion of choice. Of course you have your annual voting day – be it local or federal – however, the people that are put there as ‘choices’ have gone through the whole party apparatus, carefully selected and prepared by the party leaders, to give you the ‘opportunity’ to choose between two or maybe three political options.

But just imagine what this guy had to do to become a candidate: Do you think he (or she) could press for his own ideas while climbing the political hierarchy system inside the party he belongs to?

What chances are there to elect delegates with a completely opposed view to party politics? What kind of person will be favoured by party leaders? Is it the revolutionary or is it obedient? What do you think? Will the leadership try to protect itself from people who might be a danger to them after handing over their power?

Or do you think they will even take their chances on it? Whoever is selected must not endanger any of the current power structures or policies. You might think – so what? Every party wants to push their agenda – so what’s the big deal?

Cosmetician or Game Changer

Do you really believe it is possible to make any serious – not cosmetic – changes inside a system which is inherently opposed to any kind of progressiveness? I understand that people still like to vote, because it gives them a sense of relief to feel like they are the one who is actually deciding something and not the other way around, as it usually is.

But the names are there on the list – beforehand – all you can do is pick between person A, B, C, or D (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and lemon) – but don’t forget: you choose among flavors and not what you are going to eat.

Have you ever thought about: who are these guys and where do they come from? What is their background? How did they work their way to the top? Do you think they had to make concessions, perhaps even compromise their revolution to be able to climb the ladder?

Wrapping it Up

Do you think it is possible to crawl your way up to the top without doing so? If you were on top – would you be in favor of a revolution?

Powerful political parties are the best filters for democracy available. Whoever wants to pursue a political career needs to go through this filter, and whoever manages to get through to the other end will not be the same person anymore – mission accomplished.

What did I mean by saying you are not qualified to pick and choose your own reality? The answer is of course in the question; this tiny little word reality which makes the whole difference. Your reality has two options: 1. Someone picked it for you. 2. You assembled it yourself.

When you step back and look at it from a distance, you’ll see that all your choices are inside a given paradigm, and not something which you invented. So when does choice really start to be a choice? Can you choose something outside the given options?

The only choice we’ve made is to hand over our choices to government and regulators who decide what’s best for us. We let them regulate every aspect of our lives – to the smallest detail – and we get angry if someone, somewhere (maybe our neighbor) manages to slip through the mashes of regulation.

We hate those people; who do they think they are? Individuals who can do what they want? The system is perfect; we help it to catch the last outlaws who think they can fly.

Regulation is My Salvation

In one of our previous posts, there was a great example how deregulation helps to improve traffic to a degree where regulation itself becomes superfluous. We are suffocating in restrictions and requirements; the amount of new legislation every year is just crazy.

The sheer amount of it, makes it almost impossible not to break a law at some instance, because you are not busy enough reading the new decisions and commandments of this week’s government’s edition of: How to complicate the lives of our fellow citizens to a maximum degree of obscurity in 666 easy to follow steps – to create the perfect working bee.

Let’s Work

I wonder how many people truly realize what their chances are to reach a satisfying degree of success inside this current system. This video shows very well what I mean.

What are your chances to become one of those 85 people? Winning the lottery is much easier than this.

This guy isn’t really important; there is an illusion sold to billions of people that if they just work hard enough they might – one day in the distant future – be rewarded for their effort.

I don’t know what you think, but I believe it’s made on purpose, to make all those people work for a handful of illusionists who are spending ‘their’ money on perverted, pointless luxury, which has no other meaning but to celebrate their own ‘genius’.

Billionaires are Not God’s Gift to Poor People

I want to give you one important hint, which shows you what philanthropy really means to them. The next time you hear that some billionaire has ‘given away’ money to charity, try to figure out if the project is a self-sustainable one, or if it is a one-time help injection which doesn’t cure the root of the problem.

The help is constructed in a way to increase dependency on further help – be it food, water, work, clothes, anything. In very rare cases, you will see that donations finance projects which will give people the opportunity to feed themselves or to provide for their own well-being.

After all – how did those people manage to survive for thousands of years without the help of billionaires?

I like what one guy sad about lions: “Neither we need to teach the lion anything, nor do we need to take care of him; he’s perfectly capable to care of himself – all you have to do is give him back his habitat – and leave him alone!”

Do you see the system behind it? Intervention or as I said earlier: regulation. People in power are obsessed to regulate everything while, in fact, all we need is to be left alone. It’s all an embarrassing degradation of humans who were perfectly able to take care of themselves without the help of those masterminds.

My simple answer to this: When you are rich, then you are afraid to lose your wealth, and you will make up all sorts of stories and ‘substantialities’ to make people believe that they need you.

Helping people to be Helpless

I know that many people see Bill Gates and his wife as some sort of angels – or something – but if you take a good look at their projects, you’ll see that all they do is giving you (and them) the imagery of great humanitarians, while, in fact, they do nothing to increase self-sustainability in those countries.

I’ve witnessed projects myself which have asked for money from The Gates Foundation, and they were never included, and all had one thing in common: long-term, self-sustainable solutions.

Sustainability is not giving vaccines for polio or malaria, but to show people how to re-green areas, which had been devastated through extensive deforestation. Thanks to permacultureit is possible to re-green those areas again, and give people the essential tool for a dignified life.

Corporations are buying up land to cultivate plants for bio-diesel or export mountains of trash to third-world countries, contaminating their land, water, and living conditions, and afterwards, those same people come along to give them ‘injections’ – to do good – to help them.

It’s a masquerade; those people have the best PR agencies in the world to initiate these campaigns from which they financially benefit as well. The worst thing of it all is: they actually believe they are doing a good thing out there.

They want to change the whole world rather than change themselves; I think I have heard this definition somewhere before. And please don’t give me this sweet talk: “But they are helping people!” Yes, they are helping them, to make you say exactly what you just said.

A Billionaire’s Curse Word: Sustainability

I’m not sure if you understand where I’m going with this. The real projects, the real solutions are already out there. They’ve been tested successfully, but there is no money available for them – because they work.

I’ve seen projects in India where people have planted whole forests for the cost of less than $50,000. In Jordan, fruit trees grow in the middle of a desert, and so on. It all exists already, but those inventions are being marginalized on purpose, because they are providing solutions which are mind-blowing.

At least in one thing most people do agree – an intact environment nourishes people more than sufficiently, and outside help from good-hearted billionaires becomes – unnecessary.

And this is the key problem – now I come full circle – no one wants you to become ‘intact’, ‘successful’, ‘self-sufficient’, because if this happens, you don’t need a billionaire anymore to preach you the ‘work-hard-and-you-succeed’ line.

No, you are finally able to live your life in a perfectly natural and sane way, which is worth living, which does not demand to work over hours just to pay your rent, and to eat the cheapest food you can get from your local supermarket.

I know many people disagree, because they are fed the overpopulation line; but if you only understood that the biggest problem is our own mismanagement (which leads to overpopulation) and not the scarcity of resources.

Plants and Water Equal Life

In the West, people quickly lose the feel for money. We read about billions and trillions, but do we really understand those figures? I believe not. For the cost of one warship, you can regreen areas which are ungraspable to you, because the cost of doing so in those countries is just a fraction of what it would cost in the West.

Those enthusiasts sometimes work with no money at all; they are investing their own ‘horsepower’ to do as much as they can. And what they accomplish is unbelievable, and now imagine if you gave them the money and resources to do what they actually dream of.

You have no idea what these guys can do. I have seen people greening areas so huge – it takes your breath away when you look at it. Plants are the basis for life on this planet. They provide food and shelter, water and habitat for animals, which all equals one word: abundance.

One thing is certain; you won’t be able to buy food-derivatives from financial markets, because: you can’t eat them.

You are Qualified to Live Your Life

This whole system is designed to keep you reliant on it and to give you the feeling that you are not qualified to live your life independently. But not in the sense of ‘alone’; in the sense of together but ‘left alone’ from government, regulations, restrictions, billionaires, trillionaires, and other redundant entities.

The fact is; you’ve been designed to live your life – yes in cooperation – but independently as an individual who is capable of making his own decisions based on one’s own observations.

Every plant, every animal knows how to sustain itself without destroying the environment in which it lives. Permaculture follows the natural law: Give back more than you take. And if you take a good look at how nature functions; you’ll see that this rule applies everywhere.

One Plus One is Three

If we tap back into the natural system, we’ll be able – once again – to live an independent, yet harmonious life in cooperation with nature and other human beings. The rat race is an error which has cost us greatly; it has brought nothing but exploitation and destruction for the gain of a very small number of people. Where’s the mathematics, here?

In a world of so much ‘thinking’, and ‘logic’, and ‘science’, we do the most illogical things on the planet. We are thankful for the opportunity to engage in this race, which benefits no one. How good are the theories in which we believe in, if they bring about such a society? Are they still valid? Where’s the logic, here?

Go For a Walk

Next time when you go for a walk, and if there is a possibility, go into a forest – maybe a really old forest – then ask yourself: Is there any problem here? Or even just something problematic? Exploitation? Destruction?

Or do you see an omnipresent harmony of which you are actually a part of? This is no esoteric stuff, just ask yourself this simple question when you are there, and you will feel where you are actually coming from.

About the Author

Alen covers a wide range of topics, which include health and healthy living, permaculture, the perception of reality, and arts; as well as writing articles and commentaries on current events. He has sold his business to focus entirely on his website organictalks.com, which is a project he and his wife have put together with the help of many other inspiring contributors.

**This article was originally featured at Organic Talks.**

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

The post Serving the System – How Free Are You, Really? appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/02/19/serving-system-free-really-cares-judgment/feed/ 4
The Meat Atlas: Facts and Figures About Industrial Food Production http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/01/17/meat-atlas-facts-figures-industrial-food-production/ http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/01/17/meat-atlas-facts-figures-industrial-food-production/#comments Fri, 17 Jan 2014 14:51:46 +0000 http://www.wakingtimes.com/?p=33983 Vicki Hird, EcoWatch
Waking Times

They say every cloud has a silver lining, and since the horsemeat scandal in 2013 it has become much easier to talk about meat—more people seem to know and care about the impact of meat production and consumption and the benefits of cutting down. They’re … More

The post The Meat Atlas: Facts and Figures About Industrial Food Production appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
Flickr-meat production-woodleywonderworksVicki Hird, EcoWatch
Waking Times

They say every cloud has a silver lining, and since the horsemeat scandal in 2013 it has become much easier to talk about meat—more people seem to know and care about the impact of meat production and consumption and the benefits of cutting down. They’re increasingly keen to do their bit and politically speaking meat is a hot potato.

With more stories in the news about the negative impacts of industrial meat—pollution, dietary diseases and farmers losing livelihoods and lands—the topic is also becoming somewhat of a media darling. Over Christmas there were several articles about eating less meat in 2014 (or going flexitarian) for health or environmental reasons or to save money.

Now we have another tool to help in the debate: The Meat Atlas. This unique, graphic and highly accessible new guide examines the many aspects of the global meat system—from water pollution to gender equality and from obesity to antibiotics. It includes data on, for instance how much public money is spent on livestock (in billion dollars):

Screen-Shot-2014-01-15-at-10.40.49-AM

The Atlas illustrates clearly that how we produce and consume meat and dairy needs a radical rethink. Our industrialized production system is untenable, since it depends on scarce land and water resources, and passes on hidden costs to the consumer. Curbs on corporate control over food need to be implemented, it says, to reduce the impact on society and the environment.

In addition to concise articles and topical case studies, The Atlas contains more than 75 colorful graphics to help you see how meat is produced around the world.

Magda Stoczkiewicz, Director of Friends of the Earth Europe, says in her introduction:

This publication sheds light on the impacts of meat and dairy production, and aims to catalyze the debate over the need for better, safer and more sustainable food and farming.

We hope to inspire people to look at their own consumption, and politicians at all levels to take action to support those farmers, processors, retailers and networks who are working to achieve change. We as a species need to be smarter.

And one thing is clear from The Atlas—there needs to be and actually is another way. Livestock can lessen poverty and enhance equality and many initiatives show what a different type of meat production might look like—one that respects environmental and health considerations and which provides appropriate conditions for animals. Consumers are already chosing to eat less and better meat in many parts of the world.

Screen-Shot-2014-01-15-at-10.40.01-AM

There is a major role for the food industry, consumers and governments here. The UK government must acknowledge the need for urgent action and set up a strategy which will set targets for sustainable diets, research mechanisms to help the changes to happen, and provide clear guidance and standards to promote eating less and better meat.

The debate for better, safer and more sustainable food and farming has already begun, if you want to join in and find out more about meat production around the world, take a journey through The Meat Atlas.

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

The post The Meat Atlas: Facts and Figures About Industrial Food Production appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/01/17/meat-atlas-facts-figures-industrial-food-production/feed/ 3
Revised Laws and Urban Farming Projects Provide New Opportunities for Urban Gardeners http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/01/06/revised-laws-urban-farming-projects-provide-new-opportunities-urban-gardeners/ http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/01/06/revised-laws-urban-farming-projects-provide-new-opportunities-urban-gardeners/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2014 13:59:34 +0000 http://www.wakingtimes.com/?p=33467 Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

Interest in urban agriculture is growing locally as well as nationally—a trend that is truly a cause for celebration. In fact, I’ve been encouraging everyone to plant a “Victory Garden” as a step toward fixing our broken food system. During the previous Victory Garden … More

The post Revised Laws and Urban Farming Projects Provide New Opportunities for Urban Gardeners appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
Flickr - seedling - www.metaphoricalplatypus.comDr. Mercola
Waking Times

Interest in urban agriculture is growing locally as well as nationally—a trend that is truly a cause for celebration. In fact, I’ve been encouraging everyone to plant a “Victory Garden” as a step toward fixing our broken food system. During the previous Victory Garden period Americans produced over 40% of the vegetables in America in their yards.

Growing your own garden or participating in a community garden is a great way to improve your health, help build a sustainable food system, and support our planet as it struggles to make room for increasing numbers of us. Food grown in your own garden is fresher, more nutritious, and tastes better than store-bought food—and you can’t beat the price!

Urban gardens are key to saving energy, protecting water quality and topsoil, and promoting biodiversity and beautifying densely populated communities. Remember, plants are our richest source of natural medicine.

For all of those reasons and many more, urban agriculture is growing so quickly that changes in local ordinances are not able to keep up. Zoning laws are outdated and out of step with today’s world, causing a flurry of legal conflicts, as well as a good deal of confusion about what people can and cannot do on their own land.

Every city has different laws and ordinances, and there are no standards spanning jurisdictional lines.

I encourage you to get involved in growing your own food, but remember the important preliminary step of finding out what your zoning laws allow. There are often restrictions governing the raising of goats, chickens, bees, and even where you can plant a simple vegetable garden.

Failing to follow these ordinances can result in some very unpleasant legal snafus. The laws are changing but not quickly enough. Know your rights, as you never know when you may be confronted by an angry neighbor who is out of sorts because your overly exuberant rooster awakened him at sunrise.

A few US cities are showing innovative examples of how laws can be updated to meet 21st Century needs. Making the shift from unsustainable, health and Earth-destroying monoculture to locally produced real food requires thinking outside the box—and a few brilliant thinkers are giving the rest of us a lot to think about!

LA’s ‘Gangster Gardener’ Turns the City on Its Nose

A few notable urban farmers are changing the world one backyard at a time by challenging City Halls across the country to rewrite old laws so that they can bring fresh, homegrown eggs and organic veggies to their fellow urbanites.

In the featured video, “Gangster Gardener” Ron Finley is turning Los Angeles on its nose with his no-nonsense approach to healthy eating. The city of LA issued a warrant for his arrest for the unthinkable crime of growing tomatoes and kale on a small plot of unused land, about 10 feet wide by 150 feet long—basically, a strip of dead grass.

With the help of his local councilman, Finley beat the city of LA and is using his experience as an opportunity to educate his community about how to turn “food deserts” into “food forests.”

Finley says, “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.” Just about everyone can relate to that!1 But what if your home doesn’t have space for a garden? If you don’t have a plot of land available, what about a rooftop?

Feed Your Entire Family with Fish on Your Roof

In order to think outside the box, urban gardener Roman Gaus has had to think inside the box—an aquaponics box, that is. Gaus combines aquaculture with hydroponics to create a closed soil-free system to grow vegetables in a way that is extremely efficient. Aquaponics requires 90 percent less water than traditional soil-based agriculture. The vegetables grow in circulated water and are nourished by the waste products of the fish that live in that water, in a closed system that allows both to flourish.

Yes, the plants feed on fish poop! This system is completely contained in a “box.”2 The UF Box system is designed for small-scale production and can be placed on a roof, in a backyard, in a parking lot, at a neighborhood co-op or a school, and is mobile and transportable. He claims his UF Box can completely feed a family of three, both in terms of veggies and fish. He also offers much larger rooftop systems that can sit atop any flat-roofed building and feed hundreds of people in a community. Think of the potential for a large, flat-roofed big box store!

Your food has the greatest impact on your ecological footprint—more than housing, energy or transportation, and this is one way to drastically reduce your carbon footprint. But even if you aren’t ready for an aquaponics system, lack of space is not a deal breaker when it comes to growing your own food.

You CAN Grow Great Food in Small Spaces

Regardless of space, you can produce your own food. Take sprouts, for example. Sprouts are a nutritional powerhouse, containing up to 30 times the nutrients of organic vegetables from your own garden. Sprouts also allow your body to extract more of the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fats from the other foods you eat.  Growing your own sprouts is quite practical and takes less space and time than a full sized garden.

Rather than growing them in Ball jars, try growing them in potting soil. It only takes about a week before you can harvest, and in a 10×10 tray you can harvest between one and two pounds of sunflower sprouts. That will last you about three days and you can store them in the fridge for about a week. I have been doing this for the past year and have used the sprouts to replace my salad greens. The sunflower spouts give you the most volume for your work and, in my palate, have the best taste.

Nevertheless, there are many different ways to grow your own food, even if you live in an apartment. If you have a yard, you are truly blessed! But if not, Alex Mitchell’s book The Edible Balcony is an excellent resource for how to grow produce in small spaces. You can use virtually every square foot of your space, including vertical space, for growing food. Hanging baskets are ideal for a wide variety of foods, such as strawberries, leafy greens, runner beans, pea shoots, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs. And instead of flowers, window boxes can hold herbs, greens, radishes, scallions, bush beans, strawberries, chard, and chilies—to name just a few.

While you will obviously need to use pots if you don’t have a garden plot, avoid using lots of small pots because they dry out too quickly. Instead, opt for large yet lightweight containers or even the newer cloth pots. You may also want to consider self-watering containers, which can save you time. (You could even make your own… Mitchell shows you how in her book.) And don’t forget to compost—even apartment dwellers can compost successfully.

Lawns Are Ecologically Hostile to the Planet

Many people are digging up their lawns and turning that valuable ground into a garden. Lawns are not good for the environment, for numerous reasons:

  • Lawns are basically grass monocultures, which is why they are so expensive and labor-intensive to maintain
  • Lawns require massive amounts of water, heavy fertilizers, herbicides, and other chemicals that give off nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas) as well as producing chemical runoff that pollutes our waterways—and lawns give nothing back for all of this labor and cost
  • Most people maintain their lawns with fossil-fuel-guzzling lawnmowers, edgers, and weed whackers
  • Grass emits more carbon dioxide than it sequesters. One study3 found that lawn-related maintenance releases four times as much carbon dioxide as the grass itself, concluding that grass lawns are polluting the environment. Another study concluded that lawns are even worse for the planet than cornfields, in terms of carbon dioxide production4
  • Lawns are like concrete to most wildlife species and offer little benefit to animals. If you don’t want your entire lawn to be a garden, use some of it to create a wildlife habitat.56

The War on Urban Gardeners

Across the US and Canada, a war has been raged against urban homeowners who want to plant gardens on their own property.7 Legal codes that outlaw planting vegetables on a large percentage of your yard, or restrict them to only certain areas like the backyard, out of view of the public, truly defy common sense—especially considering the negative impact lawns have on the environment.

With resources being increasingly stretched, we need a clear, comprehensive policy on urban agriculture that crosses jurisdictional and geographic boundaries. It’s time for agricultural entrepreneurs, activists, policy makers, and ordinary homeowners to band together and propose some well-defined, fully articulated policies and codes, with incentives that make it attractive for people to grow their own food. Even some of the cities that espouse the virtues of healthy living, buying local, and spending time outdoors fail to update their zoning codes, which prohibit urban agriculture and encourage the proliferation of fast food drive-thrus.

The more involved you can be with your local urban planning and development agencies, the faster our outdated zoning laws will be changed. If you want to see a beautiful example of this, take a look at a report called “Cultivate L.A.,”8 prepared as a Masters Thesis project by a few UCLA students. The report takes an intensive look at how to best support the growth of urban agriculture in Los Angeles, including a comprehensive needs assessment of the city. Imagine if students were to do one of these for every American city!

Kudos to Those Turning Concrete Jungles into Havens of Green

Some cities are already building sustainable landscapes and should be praised for their innovation in turning vacant lots into vegetable plots. The following are just a few examples that may inspire you to suggest a similar urban gardening project to your own city planners:

  • A new law in California, signed by Governor Jerry Brown, promotes community gardens and small farms by allowing municipalities to lower property taxes for homeowners who commit to dedicating their land to growing food for a minimum of five years.9 There are five innovative urban gardening programs in LA alone,10 and others in San Francisco.
  • Seattle has loosened its rules for backyard goats, domestic fowl, farm animals, and even bees. Seattle also basically wrote the book on community gardening, now boasting 82 neighborhood pea patches, 24 of which are new or expanded. Seattle’s community gardens give about 10 tons of food to local food banks and hot meal programs every year.1112, 13
  • Detroit has revised its rules governing compost and greenhouses and has new urban agriculture ordinances.14 Detroit and Cleveland are offering abandoned lots at almost zero cost to those who commit to growing food on them. In 2010, New York City lifted the ban against urban beekeeping.15 For a list of US cities where beekeeping is still illegal, click here (as of 2010).
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico, is drafting amendments to city code for urban agriculture that will permit zoning for urban food production, farm stands, and even large-scale community gardens.16
  • Chicago O’Hare Airport is using goats and llamas to clear airfield brush instead of lawnmowers.17 And in Seattle, 120 goats from Rent-A-Ruminant are hard at work clearing a hillside below the Alaska Way Viaduct, as well as providing an entertaining diversion for local businessmen.18

Resources for the Urban Gardener

Growing numbers of people are becoming excited about local food, healthier eating, and greener cities, sparking renewed interest in the development of urban agriculture around the country. But many don’t know anything about their local ordinances or where to go for help before enthusiastically plunging their shovels into the ground—only to be surprised later with a citation for breaking the law.

These ordinances are constantly changing, so you really need to do your due diligence in planning your urban garden. Below are a few organizations and resources that may assist you on your quest. Whether it’s organic veggies, a berry patch, or a chicken tractor you want to build, make sure you are proceeding within the legal guidelines before you start in order to avoid major headaches down the road.

American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) - Devoted to community gardening and greening up communities across the nation. The organization has local chapters across the country.
Sustainable Cities Institute - Research and innovation about how to make cities more sustainable, including planning and zoning for urban agriculture
Practice Urban Agriculture (March 2010) - Information about urban agricultural zoning; lists a good number of government initiatives, plans, and ordinances that are up for vote in the near future
Food Not Lawns - A sustainability movement focused on getting rid of lawns in favor of more ecofriendly alternatives; also has chapters in nearly every state across the country
Lots 2 Green - Provides technical assistance to communities in order to facilitate their using vacant lots and other urban properties for community gardens and farms

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

The post Revised Laws and Urban Farming Projects Provide New Opportunities for Urban Gardeners appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/01/06/revised-laws-urban-farming-projects-provide-new-opportunities-urban-gardeners/feed/ 0
10 Urban Farming Projects in New York City http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/12/24/10-urban-farming-projects-new-york-city/ http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/12/24/10-urban-farming-projects-new-york-city/#comments Tue, 24 Dec 2013 14:37:25 +0000 http://www.wakingtimes.com/?p=33082 Kaye Spector, EcoWatch
Waking Times

Who would think that one of the world’s largest cities, New York City, would be a major hub for urban agriculture? Well, it is.

Food Tank has compiled a list of 10 urban farming projects providing New Yorkers fresh, local produce.

1. Eagle Street More

The post 10 Urban Farming Projects in New York City appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
Kaye Spector, EcoWatch
Waking Times

Who would think that one of the world’s largest cities, New York City, would be a major hub for urban agriculture? Well, it is.

Food Tank has compiled a list of 10 urban farming projects providing New Yorkers fresh, local produce.

1. Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, 44 Eagle St., New York, NY

A 6,000-square-foot organic vegetable garden, the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm operates its own seasonal farmers market and provides produce to local restaurants, including Anella’sSpritzenhaus and Marlow & Sons. Visitors can volunteer and learn about urban agriculture from the site’s Growing Chefs-trained education team. Co-created by Broadway Stages and Good Green, the garden overlooks Manhattan from across the East River.

grangefi

Brooklyn Grange operates three different rooftop farms in New York City, including this one. Photo credit: Food Tank

2. Battery Urban Farm, Battery Park, Lower Manhattan, NY

This one-acre educational farm inside Battery Park was founded in 2011 by the Battery Conservancy and students from Millennium High School. Students from local schools can visit and learn by cultivating their own plots in the farm’s outdoor classroom space. Volunteers are welcome every Wednesday and one Saturday a month for Battery Urban Farm Saturday events.

3. Bell Book and Candle Restaurant Rooftop Garden, 141 W. 10th St., New York, NY

In keeping with the establishment’s commitment to “local, organic, sustainable and overall responsible procurement,” Bell Book and Candle operates its own aeroponic rooftop tower garden. Diners can choose garden-sourced items from the restaurant’s seasonal rotating menu.

4. Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project, 410 W. 40th St., New York, NY

This volunteer-run rooftop garden was founded in 2010 by local community members and partners and provides the community’s local food pantry with fresh produce. The garden organizes and runs a community supported agriculture (CSA) program and community nutrition education programs. Visitors can volunteer at the garden every Tuesday for Open Farm and the first Saturday of each month.

5. Randall’s Island Urban Farm, 20 Randall’s Island, New York, NY

Founded in 2010 by GrowNYC and Randall’s Island Park Alliance, Randall’s Island Urban Farm is part of the GrowNYC Open Space Greening Project. It operates as an agricultural space for schools and groups in need of open areas for environmental and nutritional education. Schools and community members can visit the farm to participate in free hands-on learning programs.

6. Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farms, 37-18 Northern Blvd., Long Island City, NY

Brooklyn Grange operates three different rooftop farms within New York City. At these sites, the program grows produce, operates the city’s largest bee yard and hosts a weekly market. Visitors can shop for local produce at the Brooklyn Navy Yard farm stand on Wednesdays, or the Long Island City farm stand on Saturdays. Visitors can also volunteer with Brooklyn Grange on Saturdays from May through October.

7. Bushwick Campus Farm and Greenhouse, 400 Irving Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Bushwick Campus Farm and Greenhouse is an outdoor classroom space and agriculture center for the four high schools located on the Bushwick Campus in Brooklyn. It was founded by a partnership among the Campus, Boswyck Farms and EcoStation:NY. Visit the farm and participate in programs through organizations such as Just FoodBrooklyn Botanic Gardens and GrowNYC/Grow to Learn.

8. Whole Foods Rooftop Greenhouse, Gowanus, Brooklyn, NY

Whole Foods Market is partnering with Gotham Greens to operate the nation’s first commercial-scale rooftop greenhouse. The produce from the greenhouse will serve as the produce source for the Whole Foods Gowanus store as well as eight other Whole Foods stores throughout New York City. Shoppers and visitors can also participate in educational programs that Whole Foods and Gotham Greens plan to offer about greenhouses, farming and other agriculture-related topics.

9. La Finca del Sur, 138th St. and Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY

Meaning “Farm of the South” in Spanish, La Finca del Sur is a farming cooperative and nonprofit organization in the South Bronx founded by community members in 2009. While the project’s main mission is to empower minority women through economic and food sustainability, the farm and organization welcome all volunteers and participants. Visitors to La Finca del Sur can rent a bed or volunteer to work on the community farm.

10. Farms in the NYC Parks GreenThumb Program, more than 600 sites throughout New York, NY

The GreenThumb Program of the New York City Parks & Recreation Office operates agricultural spaces in all of the city’s five boroughs. Each garden or urban farm is volunteer-run and supported by the GreenThumb program. Visitors can volunteer at any of these 600-plus sites and participate in the largest community gardening program in the nation.

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

The post 10 Urban Farming Projects in New York City appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/12/24/10-urban-farming-projects-new-york-city/feed/ 0
10 Reasons Why You Should Compost http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/12/07/10-reasons-compost/ http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/12/07/10-reasons-compost/#comments Sat, 07 Dec 2013 17:27:58 +0000 http://www.wakingtimes.com/?p=32289 Rachel, This Original Organic Life
Waking Times

1.) Composting turns trash into treasure

Compost turns what would ordinarily be considered “garbage” into viable nutrients.

2.) Composting builds soil

Composting plays a critical role in building healthy soil.  This is extremely important given that the US loses about 3 tons More

The post 10 Reasons Why You Should Compost appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
Flickr-compost-sporkistRachel, This Original Organic Life
Waking Times

1.) Composting turns trash into treasure

Compost turns what would ordinarily be considered “garbage” into viable nutrients.

2.) Composting builds soil

Composting plays a critical role in building healthy soil.  This is extremely important given that the US loses about 3 tons of topsoil per acre annually (source). At this rate, we have roughly 60 years of topsoil left (source).

3.) Composting cultivates healthy plants

Composting also fosters diverse life in soil, which supports healthy plant growth. Healthy plants are less susceptible to damage from pests, weather, and other natural “threats.”

4.) Composting eliminates the “need” for chemicals

Adding healthy compost to the soil on farms and in gardens not only feeds the plants growing in this soil the nutrients they need, it also makes them stronger and more capable of resisting pests. In many situations, these nutrients are supplied synthetically using chemical fertilizers, which are costly to our wallets and the environment. Here are some calculations I did using information from the USDA’s Economic Research Service on the use & prices of fertilizers (all numbers I’m using can be found on the page linked):  In 2010 Minnesota (where I live) farmers used 125 pounds of nitrogen per acre of corn, on average.  Other states used much higher amounts and some used lower amounts per acre of corn. We know that there are about 80 million acres planted in corn in the U.S. (source), so if we multiply 125 pounds by 80 million, this is 10 BILLION pounds of nitrogen, which is 5 million tons.  The cost of nitrogen as of March 2012 was $373/ton, so if we multiply $373 by 5 million, we are spending {roughly} $1,865,000,000 on nitrogen alone in this country. This is just one type of fertilizer used by industrial farms in one industry – corn.  There’s still cotton, soybeans, and wheat, to name a few more crops that use chemicals in large quantities.

Note: I did calculations assuming every acre of corn in the U.S. uses the average amount of nitrogen applied per acre as Minnesota. The chart in the source I provided shows many states use more nitrogen/acre and some use less. I cannot say for sure if every acre of corn uses this amount of nitrogen.  But the point I am making is that we spend a great deal of money on fertilizers, as I’m not including all the other fertilizers used in the industry in a variety of other crops: Let’s not forget that fertilizers must mimic nature and cannot provide nitrogen alone to plants – other nutrients including potassium and phosphorous are needed. The point I’m making is that chemical fertilizers and pesticides are extremely expensive.

Composting is basically free once the basic infrastructure and knowledge is there. AND it is much better for our plants, our earth, and us  I suppose I could just end here, but I’ve got 6 more to go :)

5.) Composting diverts waste from landfills

Composting – if everyone did it! – could divert 36 million tons of food waste from landfills annually in the U.S. (source).

6.) Composting saves money on garbage removal

It costs money to have trash removed.  Especially for businesses like restaurants, composting can be a sound economic move (and would make them look pretty good, too!), as they generate a great deal of food waste that could be composted at a much lower cost than what it costs to dispose of it.

Here’s an example of a neat service in New Hampshire that collects composts from restaurants, which saves one restaurant about $150/month in garbage fees.

7.) Composting conserves water

Healthy soil is a crucial mechanism in water retention.  Compost encourages healthy, strong root systems in plants, which in turn holds water in and decreases run off.

Side note: This lovely picture illustrates the ability for lawn to retain water (guess which one is Kentucky Blue Grass, one of the most popular types of lawn grass?) Okay, it is the one on the far left. The lesson is that lawn does not retain water very well, and contributes to run off.  Grow food, not lawns! :)  

8.) Composting yields nutrient-rich food

Plants grown in healthy, nutrient-rich soil tend to have higher nutritional content than their counterparts grown in industrial soil (source). If you believe you are what you eat, this is a pretty important piece of composting for human health.

9.) Composting is simple!

Truly, it is!  The hardest part is just getting going.  All you really need to compost is:

  • Space - outside or inside (vermicomposting for inside; which is composting with worms in a bin)
  • Water - compost must stay fairly moist
  • Air - like all living things, compost needs air, as it is generating live microorganisms like  bacteria, fungi, and actinomycetes
  • Carbon - brown stuff: dry leaves, straw, dead plant matter, wood chips, paper
  • Nitrogen - green stuff: kitchen waste like veggie scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, and yard waste (be careful with weeds)
  • Time & Dedication  

I know that seems like a long list of 6 things, but most of them you already have laying around, so it just takes some synthesizing and that last component of time & dedication to really get going!

10.) Composting is fun!

Integrating practices like composting into our lives is a great way to spend more time outdoors, connect with our food, and cooperate as a family.  It may be work on one hand, but it can also be a fun practice! Also, composting is a gateway into gardening – and I can’t think of anything more fun! ;)

Do you compost?

What are some other benefits of composting that you have experienced?

Share in the comments below!

Peace &Beets,

Rachel

**This article was originally featured on www.thisoriginalorganiclife.com.**

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

The post 10 Reasons Why You Should Compost appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/12/07/10-reasons-compost/feed/ 2
Study Proves Sustainable Farms, Organic Farming Beats Factory Farms http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/10/17/study-proves-sustainable-farms-organic-farming-beats-factory-farms/ http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/10/17/study-proves-sustainable-farms-organic-farming-beats-factory-farms/#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2013 14:44:14 +0000 http://www.wakingtimes.com/?p=30508 Christina Sarich, Staff Writer
Waking Times

For those who are appalled at the way animals are treated in conventional livestock production, there is a better way. Sustainable livestock production practices include providing greater animal welfare, increasing biodiversity, and extending good working conditions to those who care for the animals, all … More

The post Study Proves Sustainable Farms, Organic Farming Beats Factory Farms appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
Flickr-Garden-Dr.-HemmertChristina Sarich, Staff Writer
Waking Times

For those who are appalled at the way animals are treated in conventional livestock production, there is a better way. Sustainable livestock production practices include providing greater animal welfare, increasing biodiversity, and extending good working conditions to those who care for the animals, all while maintaining a profitable business. A new study clarifies this further, showing how sustainable livestock care outperforms that of factory farms.

More and more people are turning to small farms and more sustainable practices as a means to get their meat. New research from the University of Cambridge (U of C) has identified silvopastoral systems of livestock production as a means of sustainable, ethically sourced food production. This system differs from the tiny cages and infinitesimal square footage that our livestock is most often raised in now. It includes shrubs, and trees with edible leaves or fruits and lots of herbs for natural grazing.

Professor Donald Broom of U of C states that:

“Consumers are now demanding more sustainable and ethically sourced food, including production without negative impacts on animal welfare, the environment and the livelihood of poor producers. Silvopastoral systems address all of these concerns with the added benefit of increased production in the long term.”

Now, even cows that are lucky enough to go to pasture are relegated to GMO grains as a means to fatten them for slaughter. They are also often pumped full of hormones and antibiotics which have led to all sorts of health issues in the humans who consume their meat. The current agricultural and livestock production methods also dramatically decrease biodiversity, as well as pollute the soil and waterways due to the chemicals and artificial fertilizer that is necessary to grow animal feed, and maintain the pasture. In the current paradigm, animal feed is rife with GMOs, too.

Instead of this outdated means of livestock production, the researchers from U of C advocate using a diverse group of edible plants that will help with soil and water retention and cause less pesticide-laden run-off. This in turn:

  • Reduces stress and injury to animals
  • Improves the working conditions and overall satisfaction for farm workers
  • Encourages biodiversity which affects the entire food chain – from plant to insect to bird, bee, and bovine

Further, the researchers point out that varying types of shrubs and trees provide more edible leaves and shoots per unit of land area than cleared pasture land. Trees and shrubs also provide shade to the animals and allow them to hide from any perceived danger. In short, it is a more natural environment for them to live in.

 “The planting as forage plants of both shrubs and trees whose leaves and small branches can be consumed by farmed animals can transform the prospects of obtaining sustainable animal production,” said Professor Broom. “Such planting of ‘fodder trees’ has already been successful in several countries, including the plant Chamaecytisus palmensis which is now widely used for cattle feed in Australia.”

Farmers have already attempted this more bio-diverse way of pasturing animals in Columbia where a combination of the shrub Leucaena along with common pasture grass increased dry matter for food and protein production for the animals by 64%.

The silvopastoral system applies for cows, sheep, goats, and even chicken. It even increases milk production by several kilograms a day without having to pump the animals full of hormones. With its increases in biodiversity and the reduction of animal cruelty, this system is a much more sustainable way of feeding the world, without an increase of land use – which means we can stop mono-cropping and start perma-culture farms in the land we lost in urban sprawl and GMO company monopolies in the past decade.

Additional Sources:

ScienceDaily

About the Author

Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao TzuParamahansa YoganandaRob Brezny,  Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.

**This article originally appeared at NaturalSociety.**

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

The post Study Proves Sustainable Farms, Organic Farming Beats Factory Farms appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/10/17/study-proves-sustainable-farms-organic-farming-beats-factory-farms/feed/ 9
Is Sustainable Agriculture an Oxymoron? http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/08/29/is-sustainable-agriculture-an-oxymoron/ http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/08/29/is-sustainable-agriculture-an-oxymoron/#comments Thu, 29 Aug 2013 14:45:34 +0000 http://www.wakingtimes.com/?p=29273 Toby Hemenway, Guest
Waking Times

Jared Diamond calls it “the worst mistake in the history of the human race.”(1) Bill Mollison says that it can “destroy whole landscapes.”(2) Are they describing nuclear energy? Suburbia? Coal mining? No. They are talking about agriculture. The problem is not simply that farming in … More

The post Is Sustainable Agriculture an Oxymoron? appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
Flickr-agriculture-Frankie RobertoToby Hemenway, Guest
Waking Times

Jared Diamond calls it “the worst mistake in the history of the human race.”(1) Bill Mollison says that it can “destroy whole landscapes.”(2) Are they describing nuclear energy? Suburbia? Coal mining? No. They are talking about agriculture. The problem is not simply that farming in its current industrial manifestation is destroying topsoil and biodiversity. Agriculture in any form is inherently unsustainable. At its doorstep can also be laid the basis of our culture’s split between humans and nature, much disease and poor health, and the origins of dominator hierarchies and the police state. Those are big claims, so let’s explore them.

Permaculture, although it encompasses many disciplines, orbits most fundamentally around food. Anthropologists, too, agree that food defines culture more than our two other physical needs of shelter and reproduction. A single home-building stint provides a place to live for decades. A brief sexual encounter can result in children. But food must be gotten every day, usually several times a day. Until very recently, all human beings spent much of their time obtaining food, and the different ways of doing that drove cultures down very divergent paths.

Anthropologist Yehudi Cohen (3) and many subsequent scholars break human cultures into five categories based on how they get food. These five are foragers (or hunter-gatherers), horticulturists, agriculturists, pastoralists, and industrial cultures. Knowing which category a people falls into allows you to predict many attributes of that group. For example, foragers tend to be animist/pantheist, living in a world rich with spirit and in which all beings and many objects are ascribed a status equal to their own in value and meaning. Foragers live in small bands and tribes. Some foragers may be better than others at certain skills, like tool making or medicine, but almost none have exclusive specialties and everyone helps gather food. Though there may be chiefs and shamans, hierarchies are nearly flat and all members have access to the leaders. A skirmish causing two or three deaths is a major war. Most of a forager’s calories come from meat or fish, supplemented with fruit, nuts, and some wild grain and tubers.(4) It’s rare that a forager will overexploit his environment, as the linkage is so tight that destruction of a resource one season means starvation the next. Populations tend to peak at low numbers and stabilize.

The First Growth Economy

Agriculturists, in contrast, worship gods whose message usually is that humans are chosen beings holding dominion, or at least stewardship, over creation. This human/nature divide makes ecological degradation not only inevitable but a sign of progress.

While the forager mainstays of meat and wild food rot quickly, domesticated grain, a hallmark innovation of agriculture, allows storage, hoarding, and surplus. Food growing also evens out the seasonal shortages that keep forager populations low.

Having fields to tend and surpluses to store encouraged early farming peoples to stay in one place. Grain also needs processing, and as equipment for threshing and winnowing grew complex and large, the trend toward sedentism accelerated.(5)

Grains provide more calories, or energy, per weight than lean meat. Meat protein is easily transformed into body structure—one reason why foragers tend to be taller than farmers—but turning protein into energy exacts a high metabolic cost and is inefficient.(6) Starches and sugars, the main components of plants, are much more easily converted into calories than protein, and calories are the main limiting factor in reproduction. A shift from meat-based to carbohydrate-based calories means that given equal amounts of protein, a group getting its calories mostly from plants will reproduce much faster than one getting its calories from meat. It’s one reason farming cultures have higher birth rates than foragers.

Also, farming loosens the linkage between ecological damage and food supply. If foragers decimate the local antelope herd, it means starvation and a low birth rate for the hunters. If the hunters move or die off, the antelope herd will rebound quickly. But when a forest is cleared for crops, the loss of biodiversity translates into more food for people. Soil begins to deplete immediately but that won’t be noticed for many years. When the soil is finally ruined, which is the fate of nearly all agricultural soils, it will stunt ecological recovery for decades. But while the soil is steadily eroding, crops will support a growing village.

All these factors—storable food, surplus, calories from carbohydrates, and slow feedback from degrading ecosystems—lead inevitably to rising populations in farming cultures. It’s no coincidence, then, that farmers are also conquerors. A growing population needs more land. Depleted farmland forces a population to take over virgin soil. In comparison, forager cultures are usually very site specific: they know the habits of particular species and have a culture built around a certain place. They rarely conquer new lands, as new terrain and its different species would alter the culture’s knowledge, stories, and traditions. But expansion is built into agricultural societies. Wheat and other grains can grow almost anywhere, so farming, compared to foraging, requires less of a sense of place.

Even if we note these structural problems with agriculture, the shift from foraging at first glance seems worth it because—so we are taught—agriculture allows us the leisure to develop art, scholarship, and all the other luxuries of a sophisticated culture. This myth still persists even though for 40 years anthropologists have compiled clear evidence to the contrary. A skilled gatherer can amass enough wild maize in three and a half hours to feed herself for ten days. One hour of labor can yield a kilogram of wild einkorn wheat.(7) Foragers have plenty of leisure for non-survival pleasures. The art in the caves at Altamira and Lascaux, and other early examples are proof that agriculture is not necessary for a complex culture to develop. In fact, forager cultures are far more diverse in their arts, religions, and technologies than agrarian cultures, which tend to be fairly similar.(3) And as we know, industrial society allows the least diversity of all, not tolerating any but a single global culture.

A Life of Leisure

We’re also taught that foragers’ lives are “nasty, brutish, and short,” in Hobbes’s famous characterization. But burial sites at Dickson Mounds, an archaeological site in Illinois that spans a shift from foraging to maize farming, show that farmers there had 50% more tooth problems typical of malnutrition, four times the anemia, and an increase in spine degeneration indicative of a life of hard labor, compared to their forager forebears at the site.(8) Lifespan decreased from an average of 26 years at birth for foragers to 19 for farmers. In prehistoric Turkey and Greece, heights of foragers averaged 5′-9″ in men and 5′-5″ in women, and plummeted five inches after the shift to agriculture (1). The Turkish foragers’ stature is not yet equaled by their descendants. In virtually all known examples, foragers had better teeth and less disease than subsequent farming cultures at the same site. Thus the easy calories of agriculture were gained at the cost of good nutrition and health.

We think of hunter-gatherers as grimly weathering frequent famine, but agriculturists fare worse there, too. Foragers, with lower population densities, a much more diverse food supply, and greater mobility, can find some food in nearly any conditions. But even affluent farmers regularly experience famine. The great historian Fernand Braudel (9) shows that even comparatively wealthy and cultured France suffered country-wide famines 10 times in the tenth century, 26 in the eleventh, 2 in the twelfth, 4 in the fourteenth, 7 in the fifteenth, 13 in the sixteenth, 11 in the seventeenth, and 16 in the eighteenth century. This does not include the countless local famines that occurred in addition to the widespread ones. Agriculture did not become a reliable source of food until fossil fuels gave us the massive energy subsidies needed to avoid shortfalls. When farming can no longer be subsidized by petrochemicals, famine will once again be a regular visitor.

Agriculture needs more and more fuel to supply the population growth it causes. Foragers can reap as many as 40 calories of food energy for every calorie they expend in gathering. They don’t need to collect and spread fertilizer, irrigate, terrace, or drain fields, all of which count against the energy gotten from food. But ever since crops were domesticated, the amount of energy needed to grow food has steadily increased. A simple iron plow requires that millions of calories be burned for digging, moving, and smelting ore. Before oil, one plow’s forging meant that a dozen trees or more were cut, hauled, and converted to charcoal for the smithy. Though the leverage that a plow yields over its life may earn back those calories as human food, all that energy is robbed from the ecosystem and spent by humans.

Farming before oil also depended on animal labor, demanding additional acreage for feed and pasture and compounding the conversion of ecosystem into people. Agriculture’s caloric yield dipped into the negative centuries ago, and the return on energy has continued to degrade until we now use an average of 4 to 10 calories for each calorie of food energy.

So agriculture doesn’t just require cropland. It needs inputs from vast additional acreages for fertilizer, animal feed, fuel and ore for smelting tools, and so on. Farming must always drain energy and diversity from the land surrounding cultivation, degrading more and more wilderness.

Wilderness is a nuisance for agriculturists, a source of pest animals and insects, as well as land that’s just “going to waste.” It will constantly be destroyed. Combine this with farming’s surplus of calories and its need for large families for labor, and the birth rate will rise geometrically. Under this brutal calculus of population growth and land hunger, Earth’s ecosystems will increasingly and inexorably be converted into human food and food-producing tools.

Forager cultures have a built-in check on population, since the plants and animals they depend on cannot be over-harvested without immediate harm. But agriculture has no similar structural constraint on over-exploitation of resources. Quite the opposite is true. If one farmer leaves land fallow, the first neighbor to farm it gains an advantage. Agriculture leads to both a food race and population explosion. (I cannot help but wonder if eating high on the food chain via meat, since it will reduce population, is ultimately a more responsible act than eating low on the food chain with grains, which will promote larger populations. At some point humans need to get the message to slow their breeding.)

We can pass laws to stop some of the harm agriculture does, but these rules will reduce harvests. As soon as food gets tight, the laws will be repealed. There are no structural constraints on agriculture’s ecologically damaging tendencies.

All this means that agriculture is fundamentally unsustainable.

The damage done by agriculture is social and political as well. A surplus, rare and ephemeral for foragers, is a principal goal of agriculture. A surplus must be stored, which requires technology and materials to build storage, people to guard it, and a hierarchical organization to centralize the storage and decide how it will be distributed. It also offers a target for local power struggles and theft by neighboring groups, increasing the scale of wars. With agriculture, power thus begins its concentration into fewer and fewer hands. He who controls the surplus controls the group. Personal freedom erodes naturally under agriculture.

The endpoint of Cohen’s cultural continuum is industrial society. Industrialism is really a gloss on agriculture, since industry is dependent on farming to provide low-cost raw materials that can be “value-added,” a place to externalize pollution and other costs, and a source of cheap labor. Industrial cultures have enormous ecological footprints, low birth rates, and high labor costs, the result of lavishing huge quantities of resources—education, complex infrastructure, layers of government and legal structures, and so on—upon each person. This level of complexity cannot be maintained from within itself. The energy and resources for it must be siphoned from outlying agricultural regions. Out there lie the simpler cultures, high birth rates, and resulting low labor costs that must subsidize the complexity of industry.

An industrial culture must also externalize costs upon rural places via pollution and export of wastes. Cities ship their waste to rural areas. Industrial cultures subsidize and back tyrannical regimes to keep resource prices and labor costs low. These tendencies explain why, now that the US has shifted from an agrarian base to an industrial one, Americans can no longer afford to consume products made at home and must turn to agrarian countries, such as China and Mexico, or despotic regimes, such as Saudi Arabia’s, for low-cost inputs. The Third World is where the First World externalizes the overwhelming burden of maintaining the complexity of industrialism. But at some point there will be no place left to externalize to.

Horticulture to the Rescue

As I mentioned, Cohen locates another form of culture between foraging and agriculture. These are the horticulturists, who use simple methods to raise useful plants and animals. Horticulture in this sense is difficult to define precisely, because most foragers tend plants to some degree, most horticulturists gather wild food, and at some point between digging stick and plow a people must be called agriculturists. Many anthropologists agree that horticulture usually involves a fallow period, while agriculture overcomes this need through crop rotation, external fertilizers, or other techniques. Agriculture is also on a larger scale. Simply put, horticulturists are gardeners rather than farmers.

Horticulturists rarely organize above the tribe or small village level. Although they are sometimes influenced by the monotheism, sky gods, and messianic messages of their agricultural neighbors, horticulturists usually retain a belief in earth spirits and regard the Earth as a living being. Most horticultural societies are far more egalitarian than agriculturists, lacking despots, armies, and centralized control hierarchies.

Horticulture is the most efficient method known for obtaining food, measured by return on energy invested. Agriculture can be thought of as an intensification of horticulture, using more labor, land, capital, and technology. This means that agriculture, as noted, usually consumes more calories of work and resources than can be produced in food, and so is on the wrong side of the point of diminishing returns. That’s a good definition of unsustainability, while horticulture is probably on the positive side of the curve. Godesky (10) believes this is how horticulture can be distinguished from agriculture. It may take several millennia, as we are learning, but agriculture will eventually deplete planetary ecosystems, and horticulture might not.

Horticulturists use polycultures, tree crops, perennials, and limited tillage, and have an intimate relationship with diverse species of plants and animals. This sounds like permaculture, doesn’t it? Permaculture, in its promotion of horticultural ideals over those of agriculture, may offer a road back to sustainability. Horticulture has structural constraints against large population, hoarding of surplus, and centralized command and control structures. Agriculture inevitably leads to all of those.

A Steep Price

We gave up inherently good health as well as immense personal freedoms when we embraced agriculture. I once thought of achievements such as the Hammurabic Code, Magna Carta, and Bill of Rights as mileposts on humanity’s road to a just and free society. But I’m beginning to view them as ever larger and more desperate dams to hold back the swelling flood of abuses of human rights and the centralization of power that are inherent in agricultural and industrial societies. Agriculture results, always, in concentration of power by the elite. That is the inevitable result of the large storable surplus that is at the heart of agriculture.

It is no accident that permaculture’s third ethic wrestles with the problem of surplus. Many permaculturists have come to understand that Mollison’s simple injunction to share the surplus barely scratches the surface of the difficulty. This is why his early formulation has often been modified into a slightly less problematic “return the surplus” or “reinvest the surplus,” but the fact that these versions have not yet stabilized into a commonly held phrasing as have the other two ethics, “Care for the Earth” and “Care for People,” tells me that permaculturists have not truly come to grips with the problem of surplus.

The issue may not be to figure out how to deal with surplus. We may need to create a culture in which surplus, and the fear and greed that make it desirable, are no longer the structural results of our cultural practices. Jared Diamond may be right, and agriculture and the abuses it fosters may turn out to be a ten-millennium-long misstep on the path to a mature humanity. Permaculture may be more than just a tool for sustainability. The horticultural way of life that it embraces may offer the road to human freedom, health, and a just society.

Acknowledgement

I am deeply indebted to Jason Godesky and the Anthropik Tribe for first making me aware of the connection between permaculture and horticultural societies, and for formulating several of the other ideas expressed in this article.

References

  1. Diamond, Jared. The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. Discover, May 1987.
  2. Mollison, Bill. (1988). Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual. Tagari.
  3. Cohen, Yehudi. (1971). Man in Adaptation: The Institutional Framework. De Gruyter.
  4. Lee, R. and I. Devore (eds.) 1968. Man the Hunter. Aldine.
  5. Harris, David R. An Evolutionary Continuum of People-Plant Interactions. In Foraging and Farming: The Evolution of Plant Exploitation. Harris, D. R. and G.C. Hillman (eds.) 1989.
  6. Milton, K. 1984. Protein and Carbohydrate Resources of the Maku Indians of Northwestern Amazonia. American Anthropologist86, 7-27.
  7. Harlan, Jack R. Wild-Grass Seed Harvesting in the Sahara and Sub-Sahara of Africa. In Foraging and Farming: The Evolution of Plant Exploitation. Harris, D. R. and G.C. Hillman (eds.) 1989.
  8. Goodman, Alan H., John Lallo, George J. Armelagos and Jerome C. Rose. (1984) Health Changes at Dickson Mounds (A.D. 950–1300). In Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture, M. Cohen and G. Armelagos, eds. Academic.
  9. Braudel, Fernand (1979). Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Century: The Structures of Everyday Life. Harper and Row.
  10. Godesky, Jason (2005). Human Societies are Defined by Their Food. http://rewild.info/anthropik/2005/10/thesis-8-human-societies-are-defined-by-their-food/index.html

Copyright 2006 by Toby Hemenway.

For more information about permaculture courses, workshops and resources, please visit Toby Hemenway’s website PatternLiteracy.com, where this article was featured. The article was also published in Permaculture Activist #60, May, 2006.

About the Author

Toby Hemenway is the author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, which for the last eight years has been the best-selling permaculture book in the world, and was awarded the Nautilus Gold Medal in 2011. He has been an adjunct professor at Portland State University, Scholar-in-Residence at Pacific University, and is currently a field director at the Permaculture Institute (USA). Toby has presented lectures and workshops at major sustainability conferences such as Bioneers, SolFest, and EcoFarm, and at Duke University, Tufts University, University of Minnesota, University of Delaware and many other educational venues. His writing has appeared in magazines such as Whole Earth Review, Natural Home, and Kitchen Gardener. He has contributed book chapters for WorldWatch Institute and to several publications on ecological design.

You can invite Toby to speak at your event, offer a workshop, or a course, on a wide variety of topics related to permaculture, ecological design, Peak Oil, local food systems and food security, biomimicry, and other related subjects. To contact him, email his office.

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

The post Is Sustainable Agriculture an Oxymoron? appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/08/29/is-sustainable-agriculture-an-oxymoron/feed/ 4
What Permaculture Isn’t – and Is http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/08/17/what-permaculture-isnt-and-is/ http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/08/17/what-permaculture-isnt-and-is/#comments Sat, 17 Aug 2013 20:07:20 +0000 http://www.wakingtimes.com/?p=28701 Toby Hemenway, Guest
Waking Times

Permaculture is notoriously hard to define. A recent survey shows that people simultaneously believe it is a design approach, a philosophy, a movement, and a set of practices. This broad and contradiction-laden brush doesn’t just make permaculture hard to describe. It can be off-putting, too. … More

The post What Permaculture Isn’t – and Is appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
Flickr-greens-PermaCulturedToby Hemenway, Guest
Waking Times

Permaculture is notoriously hard to define. A recent survey shows that people simultaneously believe it is a design approach, a philosophy, a movement, and a set of practices. This broad and contradiction-laden brush doesn’t just make permaculture hard to describe. It can be off-putting, too. Let’s say you first encounter permaculture as a potent method of food production and are just starting to grasp that it is more than that, when someone tells you that it also includes goddess spirituality, and anti-GMO activism, and barefoot living. What would you make of that? And how many people think they’ve finally got the politics of permaculturists all figured out, and assume that we would logically also be vegetarians, only to find militant meat-eaters in the ranks? What kind of philosophy could possibly umbrella all those divergent views? Or is it a philosophy at all? I’m going to argue here that the most accurate and least muddled way to think of permaculture is as a design approach, and that we are often misdirected by the fact that it fits into a larger philosophy and movement which it supports. But it is not that philosophy or movement. It is a design approach for realizing a new paradigm. And we’ll find that this way of defining it is also a balm to those in other ecological design fields and technologies who get annoyed, understandably, when permaculturists tell them, “Oh, yes, your work is part of permaculture, too.”

Humans are a problem-solving species. We uncover challenges—How do we get food? How do we make shelter? How do we stay healthy?—and then we develop tools to solve those problems. Permaculture is one of those tools. For the last 10,000 years, agriculture and the civilization it built have been the way humans attacked the problems of meeting basic needs. Because we live on a planet that for millennia was large compared to the human population and its needs and impact, our species could focus on expanding and improving agriculture’s immense power to convert wild ecosystems into food and habitat for people, and we could ignore ecosystem health. But our industrial civilization of seven billion is chewing up ecosystems relentlessly. We are learning that without healthy ecosystems, humans—and everything else—suffer. So we cannot focus solely on the problem, “How do we meet human needs?” but must now add the words, “while preserving ecosystem health.” Rafter Ferguson has offered that question as a definition of permaculture. He’s onto something, though I think that “meeting human needs while preserving and increasing ecosystem health” is the goal of permaculture, and not its definition. But it gives some clues toward defining it, and helps untangle the knots wrapped around “What is permaculture?” It names and clarifies the problem that permaculture is trying to solve.

Thomas Kuhn, in his masterwork, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, uses the word “paradigm” to mean the viewpoint that defines the problems to be solved in a particular field. Kuhn explains that the proper framing of a paradigm reduces the number of blind alleys that researchers go down by re-stating a problem in clearer terms. New paradigms usually require—and spur the development of—new tools to solve the now-reframed problem.

“Paradigm” has been trivialized through overuse and I’m sure that Kuhn is spinning in his grave. But I don’t think it’s abusing the term to view the change in humanity’s principal goal from “meeting human needs” to “meeting human needs while preserving ecosystem health” as a paradigm shift. It changes the tools that we use, and the mindset required to develop and use new, appropriate tools. It restores a relationship between people and nature that agriculture, by treating nature like a mere resource to be subjugated and consumed, had severed. Suddenly, agriculture and industrial society look like scourges and technologies of destruction, rather than the saviors of humanity that we’ve regarded them. That’s quite a shift.

Permaculture and other ecological approaches are attempts to articulate this new paradigm, by framing the problem and offering tools and strategies to pursue its solution. When the larger problem is framed so that it reveals the interdependent relationship between human needs and ecosystem health, we can more clearly see the steps to the solution. Now we can ask, what are human needs, and how can each of them be met while retaining, restoring, and improving ecosystem health? We know how to articulate human needs, and we have metrics to gauge ecosystem health. Our problem now is to reach this twinned goal, and permaculture offers us hope.

So, why, then, is permaculture so confusing to define? I think it is because in the early days of any new paradigm, the boundary between the new paradigm and the tools—mental and physical—needed to articulate and solve it is blurry. We’re confusing the mindset required to do permaculture effectively with the work of doing it. Let me give a historical example to show what I mean.

In the 18th Century, combustion was explained by something called phlogiston. Matter was thought to be composed of elements plus principles, and phlogiston was the principle of combustibility. When an element burned, it released phlogiston, and burning stopped when all was released. The residue contained the principle of calx, the true elemental substance. The theory was backed by the fact that many things, such as wood and other fuels, lose weight when they burn.

In the 1770s, cracks began to appear in phlogiston theory. Antoine Lavoisier, using careful experiments and new, accurate balances, found that many substances gained—not lost—weight when they burned. In 1771, Carl Scheele, and later Joseph Priestley and others, produced samples of a gas (the yet-unnamed oxygen) that made flames burn more brightly and longer. They called this “dephlogistonated air,” since, to fit into the theory, it had to be able to accept more phlogiston from burning substances than air could. This sort of stop-gap, convoluted reasoning is one of the first signs that a theory is failing. By 1777, Lavoisier was sure this gas was a pure element that combined with others to support burning, and began to reject phlogiston theory. Priestley and others objected; the were simply not able to recognize oxygen for what it was. They knew that elements contained principles, like phlogiston and calx, and these principles combined with elements, were hidden or revealed through processes such as burning, and were emitted, unchanged. The idea that a substance could chemically bond with another and be transformed did not fit their paradigm of matter. It was, literally, inconceivable. But phlogiston theory was doomed by the piling up of inconvenient facts, and by 1800, what is now called the chemical revolution had swept it away.

The rejection of phlogiston and the acceptance of the chemical revolution was logically simple—the oxygen theory of combustion snuffed out the contradictions of phlogiston—but it was cognitively difficult because of the mental barrier created by phlogiston thinking. It took a revolution in thought to see oxygen.

Many of the pioneers of this revolution called themselves natural philosophers, and they led an enormous shift in worldview that required and prompted a new way of thinking about nearly every natural phenomena and event. From the 1500s to the early 1800s, the new astronomers, chemists, and physicists were seen as radicals and a threat to the social order. They often were: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and other revolutionaries were promoters of this new scientific approach based on measurement and experiment. The philosophy that guided their work was, at that time, hard to distinguish from their work itself. Nowadays we view chemistry and the other sciences bred during this tumultuous era as settled disciplines that are neatly split from politics and philosophy, but in those days, to practice chemistry or astronomy was part of a radically new worldview, and the boundaries between the scientists’ radical philosophy, the problems that it set for them to work on, and their experimental approach to those problems were not distinct.

Permaculture, like phlogiston-cramped chemistry, can’t be understood well under the old paradigm, and I think this is why it is often regarded as a movement and philosophy as well as a problem-solving approach. To grasp permaculture fully, we need to have made the shift to the new paradigm.

New tools and new paradigms mutually reinforce and strengthen one another, and permaculture is one of many examples of this. Lavoisier’s improved balances exposed inconsistencies that toppled phlogiston theory from its perch, and demanded a new way of thinking about gases and matter. In a similar vein, permaculture’s design methods such as zones, sectors, and needs-and-yields, by emphasizing relationships and consequences, reveal the weaknesses of thinking in terms of isolated events and static objects. The flaws in old-paradigm concepts like infinite growth, waste, and “externalities” become glaringly obvious under a whole-systems view. The tools encourage the new thinking, and the new paradigm helps create the appropriate tools.

Many people come to permaculture knowing that there is something wrong with the old worldview, but they don’t yet have a new paradigm to replace it. They are attracted to permaculture as better gardening or as a means of social change, and gradually adopt the new worldview as they see it overcoming the flaws and damage of the old. Others come to permaculture after shifting to this holistic paradigm because permaculture supports it and offers an approach to working within it. In both cases, it takes time to fully grasp the depth of permaculture in part because nearly all of us were raised in the old paradigm. After twenty years of practicing permaculture design, I still have trouble defining it.

Permaculture, then, is not a philosophy or worldview, and it is not a single tool, either. But to use permaculture well requires adopting a new worldview and new tools. Like the early chemists who called themselves philosophers, right now the boundary between the tools, the approach to using them, and the worldview that makes their effective use possible are blurry.

In some ways permaculture is in a class similar to the problem-solving approach called the scientific method, the experimentalist view developed by Lavoisier, Boyle, and their peers. It is not the paradigm, it is not the tools. It is the approach for using the tools—a way of working that is guided by the paradigm. So of course this is confusing. People have been arguing over what “the scientific method” is for centuries: is it deductive or inductive, does the hypothesis or the data come first? Most scientists can’t tell you. They learn the scientific method by using it, and it’s devilishly hard to explain what it is. Sound familiar?

With all this in mind, I think the definition of permaculture that must rise to the top is that it is a design approach to arrive at solutions, just as the scientific method is an experimental approach. In more concrete terms, permaculture tells how to choose from a dauntingly large toolkit—all the human technologies and strategies for living—to solve the new problem of sustainability. It is an instruction manual for solving the challenges laid out by the new paradigm of meeting human needs while enhancing ecosystem health. The relationship explicitly spelled out in that view, which connects humans to the larger, dynamic environment, forces us to think in relational terms, which is a key element of permaculture. The two sides of the relationship are explicitly named in two permaculture ethics: care for the Earth, and care for people. And knowing we need both sides of that relationship is immensely helpful in identifying the problems we need to solve. First, what are human needs? The version of the permaculture flower that I work with names some important ones: food, shelter, water, waste recycling, energy, community, health, spiritual fulfillment, justice, and livelihood. The task set out by permaculture, in the new paradigm, is to meet those needs while preserving ecosystem health, and we have metrics for assessing the latter. The way those needs are met will vary by place and culture, but the metrics of ecosystem health can be applied fairly universally.

This clarifies the task set by permaculture, and I think it also distinguishes permaculture from the philosophy—the paradigm—required to use it effectively and helps us understand why permaculture is often called a movement. Permaculturists make common cause with all the other millions of people who are shifting to the new paradigm, and it is that shift—not the design approach of permaculture that supports it—that is worthy of being called a movement. Permaculture is one approach used by this movement to solve the problems identified by the new paradigm. To do this, it operates on the level of strategies rather than techniques, but that is a subject for another essay. Because we are, in a way, still in the phlogiston era of our ecological awareness, we don’t know how to categorize permaculture, and we can confuse it with the paradigm that it helps us explore. Permaculture is not the movement of sustainability and it is not the philosophy behind it; it is the problem-solving approach the movement and the philosophy can use to meet their goals and design a world in which human needs are met while enhancing the health of this miraculous planet that supports us.

Pc-Flower-TH1-500x350

 

The Permaculture Flower, modified from Holmgren. The petals represent the basic human needs, and we work to meet them sustainably on the personal, local, and regional levels.

For more information about permaculture courses, workshops and resources, please visit Toby Hemenway’s website PatternLiteracy.com, where this article was originally featured.

About the Author

Toby Hemenway is the author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, which for the last eight years has been the best-selling permaculture book in the world, and was awarded the Nautilus Gold Medal in 2011. He has been an adjunct professor at Portland State University, Scholar-in-Residence at Pacific University, and is currently a field director at the Permaculture Institute (USA). Toby has presented lectures and workshops at major sustainability conferences such as Bioneers, SolFest, and EcoFarm, and at Duke University, Tufts University, University of Minnesota, University of Delaware and many other educational venues. His writing has appeared in magazines such as Whole Earth Review, Natural Home, and Kitchen Gardener. He has contributed book chapters for WorldWatch Institute and to several publications on ecological design.

You can invite Toby to speak at your event, offer a workshop, or a course, on a wide variety of topics related to permaculture, ecological design, Peak Oil, local food systems and food security, biomimicry, and other related subjects. To contact him, email his office.

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

The post What Permaculture Isn’t – and Is appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/08/17/what-permaculture-isnt-and-is/feed/ 1
How Organic Farming Could Release Us From the Curse of Fertilizer http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/07/03/how-organic-farming-could-release-us-from-the-curse-of-fertilizer/ http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/07/03/how-organic-farming-could-release-us-from-the-curse-of-fertilizer/#comments Wed, 03 Jul 2013 14:19:35 +0000 http://www.wakingtimes.com/?p=26424 Dr. Mercola
Waking Times

Environmental pollution is a significant problem. But while most of the focus is placed on polluting industries, toxins like mercury and small particle traffic pollution, a major source of environmental devastation is caused by modern food production. Far from being life sustaining, our modern chemical-dependent farming … More

The post How Organic Farming Could Release Us From the Curse of Fertilizer appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
WIKI - Organic FarmingDr. Mercola
Waking Times

Environmental pollution is a significant problem. But while most of the focus is placed on polluting industries, toxins like mercury and small particle traffic pollution, a major source of environmental devastation is caused by modern food production. Far from being life sustaining, our modern chemical-dependent farming methods:

  • Strip soil of nutrients
  • Destroy critical soil microbes
  • Contribute to desertification and global climate change, and
  • Saturate farmlands with toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that then migrate into ground water, rivers, lakes and oceans.

For example, many areas of Minnesota, which is prime farmland, now face the problem of having dangerously elevated levels of nitrogen in their drinking water.

The conversion of grasslands and pastures into chemical-driven, industrial crop land has eliminated much of the natural filtering of ground water that such native landscapes typically provide. Health risks of nitrogen include a potential connection to cancer, as well as thyroid and reproductive problems in both humans and livestock.

Looming Fertilizer Shortage Could Spell the End of Modern Agriculture

Modern fertilizer consists of varying amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). These three are believed to be essential for plants to grow, (below, I’ll discuss why NPK may not be as necessary as we think.), and are extracted from the soil with each harvest.

This is why farmers spread fertilizer on their fields, to replace the nutrients lost. It’s certainly not the ideal and sustainable way to farm, but it’s thought to be the most efficient for large-scale farms. Strategies like crop rotation and allowing large fields to rest would cut too deep into profits that are based on quantity, opposed to quality.

Unfortunately, the Earth’s soil is now being depleted of nutrients at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced. Not only that, but according to some, we may also be facing looming shortages of two critical fertilizer ingredients: phosphorus and potassium.

A 2012 article in Mother Jones1 discussed “peak phosphorus and potassium,” drawing lines of similarity between the diminishing reserves of these natural elements and “peak oil.”

Unlike nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium cannot be synthesized, and our aggressive large-scale farming methods, which deplete soils of nutrients that then must be replaced, are quickly burning through available phosphorus and potassium stores.

According to well-known investor Jeremy Grantham, writing for Nature:

“These two elements cannot be made, cannot be substituted, are necessary to grow all life forms, and are mined and depleted. It’s a scary set of statements. Former Soviet states and Canada have more than 70 percent of the potash. Morocco has 85 percent of all high-grade phosphates. It is the most important quasi-monopoly in economic history.

What happens when these fertilizers run out is a question I can’t get satisfactorily answered and, believe me, I have tried. There seems to be only one conclusion: their use must be drastically reduced in the next 20-40 years or we will begin to starve.”

This largely unknown issue may end up playing a more significant role than you can currently imagine, because it cuts to the heart of the sustainability of modern agricultural practices, or rather the lack thereof.

“[T]he next time someone facilely insists that the ‘industrial farms are the future,’ ask what the plan is regarding phosphorus,” Mother Jones writes. “Developing an agriculture that’s ready for a phosphorus shortage means a massive focus on recycling the nutrients we take from the soil back into the soil—in other words, composting, not on a backyard level but rather on a society-wide scale.

It also requires policies that give farmers incentives to build up organic matter in soil, so it holds in nutrients instead of letting them leach away… Both of these solutions, of course, are specialties of organic agriculture.”

Monoculture vs. Polyculture

Monoculture (or monocropping) is defined as the high-yield agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, in the absence of rotation through other crops. Corn, soybeans, wheat, and to some degree rice, are the most common crops grown with monocropping techniques. In fact, corn, wheat and rice now account for 60 percent of human caloric intake, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.2

By contrast, polyculture (the traditional rotation of crops and livestock) better serves both land and people. Polyculture evolved to meet the complete nutritional needs of a local community. Polyculture, when done mindfully, automatically replenishes what is taken out, which makes it sustainable with minimal effort.

If it’s true that we may at some point face a shortage of phosphorus and potassium, large-scale farming facilities would be hard-pressed to produce much of anything after a short while. Such shortages might even lead to geopolitical strife, as phosphate rock is primarily concentrated in the occupied territory of the Western Sahara region of Morocco. It may sound farfetched to some, but how far would a nation go to secure access to such a location if the future of the entire agricultural industry and food supply depended on it?

Monocropping Is NOT the Way to Feed a Growing Population

The evidence tells us that forging more sustainable alternatives is imperative if we hope to survive. Yet proponents of factory farms and genetically engineered crops argue that monocropping, or crop specialization, is the only way to feed the masses and that it’s far more profitable than having small independent farms in every township.

But is this really true? A number of studies show just the opposite! In fact, studies are showing that medium-sized organic farms are far more profitable than ANY sized industrial agricultural operation.

For example, researchers at the University of Wisconsin’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Michael Fields Agricultural Institute3 (results published in 2008 in the Agronomy Journal)4 found that traditional organic farming techniques of planting a variety of plants to ward off pests is more profitable than monocropping. The organic systems resulted in higher profits than “continuous corn, no-till corn and soybeans, and intensively managed alfalfa.”

Not only that, but organic farming practices use natural, time-tested techniques that naturally prevents soil depletion and destruction, and doesn’t use chemical fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals that pollute our soil, air, and waterways.

In the study just mentioned, the researchers concluded that government policies supporting monoculture are “outdated,” and that it’s time for support to be shifted toward programs that promote crop rotation and organic farming. As it turns out, when you eliminate the agricultural chemicals, specialized machinery and multi-million dollar buildings, fuel costs, insurance costs, and the rest of the steep financial requirements of a big industrial operation, your cost of producing food takes a serious dive into the doable. And did I mention… the food from organic farms tend to be far more nutritious, besides being free of toxic contaminants?

Even the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is starting to question our current path of monoculture. It recently released a report titled: “Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States.”5 According to the report, our current agricultural system, which is dominated by corn and soy, is unsustainable in the long term. Should temperatures rise as predicted, the US could expect to see significant declines in yields by the middle of this century. Food shortages would be inevitable, since little besides these crops are grown. (Keep in mind the primary crops grown in the US are used in processed food production, so countless numbers of food products would be affected by massive crop loss.)

Nitrogen Overuse Threatens the Environment

Going back to where we started, the overuse of nitrogen in farming is causing far more environmental devastation than many currently comprehend. A recent National Geographic article6 addresses this issue:

“’Runaway nitrogen is suffocating wildlife in lakes and estuaries, contaminating groundwater, and even warming the globe’s climate. As a hungry world looks ahead to billions more mouths needing nitrogen-rich protein, how much clean water and air will survive our demand for fertile fields?’

China, the world’s largest producer of synthetic nitrogen, has hundreds of nitrogen factories, and the country’s farmers apply vast amounts of nitrogen to their fields. One rice farmer reports spreading no less than 530 pounds of urea, a dry form of nitrogen, on each acre. Vegetable farmers use even more than that. According to the featured article,7 some use upwards of two tons of nitrogen each hectare (2.47 acres).

‘Few of them think they’re doing anything harmful. No, no pollution,’ says Song, when asked about the environmental effects of fertilizer,’ the article states. “Scientists tell a different story. ‘Nitrogen fertilizer is overused by 30 to 60 percent’ in intensively managed fields, says Xiaotang Ju, of the China Agricultural University in Beijing. ‘It’s misuse!’ Once spread on fields, nitrogen compounds cascade through the environment, altering our world, often in unwelcome ways. Some of the nitrogen washes directly from fields into streams or escapes into the air. Some is eaten, in the form of grain, by either humans or farm animals, but is then released back into the environment as sewage or manure from the world’s growing number of pig and chicken farms.”

Water pollution, as mentioned earlier, is one of the side effects of such overuse. In a matter of decades, rivers that used to run crystal clear though Chinese provinces are now cloudy from overgrowth of phytoplankton, fed by fertilizer runoff from the fields. According to National Geographic:

“A recent national survey of 40 lakes in China found that more than half of them suffered from too much nitrogen or phosphorus. (Fertilizer containing phosphorus is often to blame for algal growth in lakes.)

The best known case is Lake Tai, China’s third largest freshwater lake, which regularly experiences huge blooms of toxic cyanobacteria. A spreading bloom in 2007 contaminated water supplies for two million people in the nearby city of Wuxi. Excess nutrients are damaging fisheries in China’s coastal areas in the same way that fertilizer runoff flowing down the Mississippi has destroyed fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico: by creating dead zones in which algae and phytoplankton bloom, die, and decompose, using up oxygen and suffocating fish.”

Finding the Middle Ground of Good Harvests with Reduced Fertilizer Pollution

National Geographic describes a research project in Michigan that has been ongoing for the past two decades. The project is part of Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station, near Kalamazoo. Here, fields that are exactly one hectare in size provide side-by-side comparisons of four different farming methods, ranging from conventional to organic. Everything that is added to or removed from each field is carefully measured, including rainfall, fertilizer, nitrous oxide, water that leaches into groundwater, and the harvest itself. According to the article:

“Each field planted according to standard plowing and fertilizer recommendations released 610 pounds of nitrogen per acre into Michigan’s shallow groundwater over the past 11 years… The organic fields in Robertson’s experiment, which received no commercial fertilizer or manure, lost only a third as much—but those fields also produced 20 percent less grain.

Intriguingly, the ‘low input’ fields, which received small amounts of fertilizer but were also planted with winter cover crops, offered the best of both worlds: Average yields were about as high as those from the conventional fields, but nitrogen leaching was much reduced, almost to the level of the organic fields.

If America’s farmers could cut their nitrogen losses to something close to this level… restored wetlands and revived small streams could clean up the rest. As in China, though, many farmers find it hard to change. When a family’s livelihood is at stake, it may seem safer to apply too much fertilizer rather than too little. ‘Being a good steward currently has economic consequences that are unfair,’ says Robertson.”

How Sustainable Soil Science Can Help Rescue Our Environment and Food Supply

I recently interviewed Dr. Elaine Ingham,8 an internationally recognized expert on the benefits of sustainable soil science. I also recently visited her at her new position at the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania. According to Dr. Ingham, a key component of successful agriculture lies in having the right helper organisms in the soil; beneficial species of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, beneficial nematodes (not the weedfeeders), microarthropods, and earthworms—all of which contribute to plant growth in a number of different ways.

Nutrient cycling is another major issue. According to Dr. Ingham, there’s no soil on Earth that lacks the nutrients to grow a plant. She believes the concept that your soil is deficient and needs added phosphorus or nitrogen etc in order to grow plants is seriously flawed, and largely orchestrated by the chemical companies, because it’s based on looking at the soluble, inorganic nutrients that are partly present in your soil.

The real nutrition your plants require is actually derived from microorganisms in the soil. These organisms take the mineral material that’s in your soil and convert it into a plant-available form. Without these bioorganisms, your plants cannot get the nutrients they need. So what you need is not more chemical soil additives, what you need is the proper balance of beneficial soil organisms. According to Dr. Ingham:

“It’s very necessary to have these organisms. They will supply your plant with precisely the right balances of all the nutrients the plant requires. When you start to realize that one of the major roles and functions of life in the soil is to provide nutrients to the plants in the proper forms, then we don’t need inorganic fertilizers. We certainly don’t have to have genetically engineered plants or to utilize inorganic fertilizers if we get this proper biology back in the soil.

If we balance the proper biology, we select against the growth of weeds, so the whole issue with herbicides is done away with. We don’t need the herbicides if we can get the proper life back into the soil and select for the growth of the plants that we want to grow and against the growth of the weedy species.”

Interestingly enough, you can use a starter culture to boost the fermentation and generation of beneficial bacteria much in the same way you can boost the probiotics in your fermented vegetables. For compost, this strategy is used if you want to compost very rapidly. In that case, you can use a starter to inoculate the specific sets of organisms that you need to encourage in that compost.

For optimal physical health, you need plant foods to contain the full set of nutrients that will allow the plant to grow in a healthy fashion, because that’s the proper balance of nutrients for us human beings as well. Dr. Ingham has written several books on this topic, including The Field Guide for Actively Aerated Compost Tea, and The Compost Tea Brewing Manual.

How to Help Support Sustainable Agriculture

If you want to optimize your health, you simply must return to the basics of healthy food choices and typically this includes buying your food from responsible, high-quality, sustainable sources. This is why I encourage you to support the small family farms in your area. This includes not only visiting the farm directly, if you have one nearby, but also taking part in farmer’s markets and community-supported agriculture programs.

Not only is the food so much tastier and healthier when you get it from sustainable, non-CAFO sources, but there is something about shopping for fresh foods in an open-air, social environment that just feels right. An artificially lit, dreary supermarket — home to virtually every CAFO food made — just can’t compete. If you want to experience some of these benefits first-hand, here are some great resources to obtain wholesome food that supports not only you but also the environment:

  1. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
  2. Farmers’ Markets – A national listing of farmers’ markets.
  3. Local Harvest – This Web site will help you find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
  4. Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals – The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
  5. Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) — CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
  1. FoodRoutes – The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.

~~ Help Waking Times to raise the vibration by sharing this article with the buttons below…

The post How Organic Farming Could Release Us From the Curse of Fertilizer appeared first on Waking Times.

]]>
http://www.wakingtimes.com/2013/07/03/how-organic-farming-could-release-us-from-the-curse-of-fertilizer/feed/ 5