Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Promoting happiness through sustainability (#journal)

Happiness as a harmonising path for bringing higher education towards sustainability

 This paper is a reflection of an innovative project that complements existing higher education for sustainable development approaches within universities by providing an alternative path to embed sustainable lifestyles within the student population. It presents the SLEUTH project; an initiative born out of the need to reduce energy consumption of students at university but that, due to its systemic design, transforms and goes beyond purely energy reduction and brings Happiness as an approach to build sustainable lifestyles.

The future of urban food production (#journal)

Readjusting to reality: Urban and peri-urban agriculture to ease the downward passage

 Over the past three decades optimism has ebbed away and the future seems not only increasingly uncertain but also potentially catastrophic in the face of global warming and declining energy resources. Changes are now starting to take place, indicating new directions in urban development, initially in the local provisioning of food through urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) growing rapidly almost everywhere in the world. Whilst food security is, in many cities, the primary consideration, there are many other concerns, motivations, starting points and means of organising UPA initiatives. This paper analyses the background to the growth of UPA and describes some contrasting examples. It ends with a return to the consideration of where, in the longer term, the UPA movement may be going, speculating on an eventual re-ruralisation of populations and the decline of cities.

Intergrating eco-feminism and systems thinking (#journal)

Principled success: Eco-feminism and systems thinking come together for better project outcomes

 The purpose of this paper is to report on the product of a ten year study, the PhD thesis, “Feminist Systems Thinking: Principles and Practice”, conferred in April, 2012 by the University of Queensland, which contains a set of five practical principles, to assist in policy directions for enhanced community development and project management. The research adapted Constructivist Grounded Theory to complete Part A, a theoretical imbrication of Cultural Ecofeminism and Critical Systems Thinking. Part B of the thesis is a set of four applied case studies utilising participatory action research. It is influenced by permaculture principles.

Geoff Lawton gives TED talk on permaculture (on-line)

Video Friday: Permaculture – Ecological Engineering Modeled on Nature

Permaculture consultant Geoff Lawton speaks at a TEDx event in San Francisco about the importance of permaculture, the interconnectedness of all biological and ecological systems, and the need for “eco-systemic” design to advance human culture and sustainability for future generations.

Foraging from your local landsacape (book)

The Thrifty Forager; living off your local landscape

The author takes a fresh look at foraging, encouraging you to look closer to home, from the weeds in your garden to the trees in your street, rather than the fields and hedgerows of the countryside. She showcases her favourite edibles with a plant directory packed with useful information – photographic identification, plant description and tips on how to grow and how to eat it (including recipes) – that will give you the confidence to identify plants yourself. Features innovative ideas for eating your local landscape – this is a fast-growing, global phenomenon that is fun, environmentally friendly and thrifty.

Sepp Holzer turns desert into paradise (book)

Desert or Paradise

Desert or Paradise is a practical guide to restoring damaged, unproductive land by constructing or restoring lakes and ponds to support abundant edible landscapes. These provide fresh water mixed aquacultures, orchards and crops planted along the banks and literally reaquify the the surrounding landscape to turn back the tide of encroaching desertification. Desert or Paradise explains why natural water management is at the centre of any earth restoration; how to design water retention area that produces ‘living’ water; show you how to preventing and reversing desertification; how to prevent floods and soil erosion; dam building; growing and harvesting fish; creating economic as well as biological diversity and much more.

Hot Beds (book)

Hot Beds: How to grow early crops using an age-old technique

The ancient method of growing vegetables in hot beds, used by the Victorians and by the Romans, harnesses the natural process of decay to cultivate out-of-season crops. Jack First has revived and modernised this remarkable technique, and produces healthy vegetables at least two months earlier than conventionally grown crops. With just stable manure (or alternatives), a simple frame and a small space to build your bed, you can be harvesting salads in March and potatoes in early April.

Charles Dowding's Organic Gardening, new edition (book)

Organic Gardening: The natural no-dig way

In this new full-colour edition, Charles Dowding shares the wealth of his experience, explaining his approach to soil and plants and revealing the range of techniques that have enabled him to grow healthy and vibrant crops for decades. Charles has been practising no-dig organic growing for over 30 years. Based on this approach and his experience of a system of permanent, slightly raised beds, Charles shows you how to grow a delicious variety of fruit and vegetables: what to choose, when to sow, plant and harvest, and how best to avoid pests and diseases.

The Passivhaus Handbook (book)

The Passivhaus Handbook: A practical guide to constructing and retrofitting buildings for ultra-low-energy performance

The Passivhaus Handbook is an essential guide for anyone wanting to realise a supremely comfortable, healthy and durable home with exceptionally low energy costs. Passivhaus design focuses on getting the building fabric right, to achieve ultra-low energy consumption in the most cost-effective manner. The approach is relevant to a wide range of building types and climates.


Diversity loss increases chance of ecosystem collapse (#journal)

Diversity loss with persistent human disturbance increases vulnerability to ecosystem collapse

Long-term and persistent human disturbances have altered the stability and diversity of ecological systems, with disturbances directly reducing functional attributes such as invasion resistance, while eliminating the buffering effects of high species diversity. This combination of environmental change and diversity loss increases the risk of abrupt and potentially irreversible ecosystem collapse.  This research shows how biodiversity can be crucial for ecosystem stability despite appearing functionally insignificant beforehand, a relationship probably applicable to many ecosystems given the globally prevalent combination of intensive long-term land management and species loss.

Climate change may doom tropical species (journal)

Climate adaptation: Survival of the flexible

Many tropical species never experience extreme heat or cold. That may doom them in a warming world.

Explain your research in two minutes (#journal)

Communication: Two minutes to impress

Here's a challenge to all of us; can you explain permaculture, or the part of it you are working with, to a stranger in two minutes or less? That's something we could all work on if we want to see our research thrive and our ideas move into the mainstream.

Agroecology research needs proper funding (#journal)

Feeding the world: genetically modified crops versus agricultural biodiversity 

The growing demand for food poses major challenges to humankind. We must produce more food with less input, while deploying every effort to minimize risk. However, the claim that genetically modified crops are necessary if we are to secure food production has no scientific support, but is a reflection of corporate interests. An objective review of current knowledge places GM crops far down the list of potential solutions in the coming decades. Much of the research funding currently available for the development of GM crops would be much better spent in other research areas of plant science, e.g., nutrition, policy research, governance, and solutions close to local market conditions.

Organic control of potato cyst nematode (#journal)

89 % reduction of a potato cyst nematode population using biological control and rotation

Agronomy for Sustainable Development A major issue of potato cultivation in temperate zones is the potato cyst nematode Globodera rostochiensis. In this study, the nematophagous fungus Paecilomyces sp. was used for the first time to efficiently reduce the population of G. rostochiensis in two crop cycles.

A review of agroecology publications (#journal)

Agroecology publications and coloniality of knowledge

Agroecology is a recent scientific field that has become increasingly active since 1990. It has moved away from conventional emphasis on crops and productivity and has embraced a systemic, multidisciplinary approach that focuses on agroecosystems or food systems and their sustainability. This article analyzes original articles in agroecology that have been published in eight major global databases in order to establish where agroecology is taking place and what topics focus on agroecology.



Leave weeds among crops to attract bees (#journal)

Plant biodiversity enhances bees and other insect pollinators in agroecosystems. A review

Thirty-five percent of global production from crops including at least 800 cultivated plants depend on animal pollination. The transformation of agriculture in the past half-century has triggered a decline in bees and other insect pollinators. This article reviews the literature providing mounting evidence that the restoration of plant biodiversity within and around crop fields can improve habitat for domestic and wild bees as well as other insects and thus enhance pollination services in agroecosystems.


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Sustainability indicators for livestock farming (#journal)

Sustainability Indicators for Livestock Farming. A Review

Considers how to choose from the many available indicators to avoid selection bias. Discusses the balance between environmental, economic and social indicators. Creates a typology of indicators. Discusses how farms and farming practices can best be compared using indicators.



Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The effects of afforestation on soil carbon (#journal)

A synthesis of change in deep soil organic carbon stores with afforestation of agricultural soils

Afforestation is a good mitigation activity to climate change because it causes sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it as the living biomass and the dead organic matter. However, the response of soil organic carbon (SOC) to afforestation in deep soil layers is still poorly understood. This article surveys 56 previously published studies for changes in deep SOC after afforestation of both croplands and grasslands. It concludes that converting cropland to forestry has a highly positive impact on SOC (1.3-1.6 times greater), converting grassland to forestry much less so.


Agroforestry for climate change mitigation (journal)

Branching out: Agroforestry as a climate change mitigation and adaptation tool for agriculture

US and Canadian agricultural lands are being pressed to provide more environmental and economic services, while at the same time their capacity to provide these services under potential climate change is being questioned. Climate change will increase the growing season but also increase risks from floods, droughts and pests. One solution to this is the creation of agroforestry, which can produce high food yields while also offering resilience to extreme climate events.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Edible plants in London public landscapes (on-line)

An Investigation into the Attitudes and Approaches of a Group of Landscape Managers to the Inclusion of Edible Plants in Public Landscapes in Greater London

Under established conventions in the UK, ornamental plant species frequently dominate the soft landscaping of public space. Although there are examples of the use of edible planting in public spaces, there is little research into the attitudes and approaches of landscape managers in this regard. The aim of this  study was therefore to explore the attitudes and approaches of a group of landscape managers to the inclusion of edible plants in public landscapes in greater London, including the associated benefits, challenges and practical considerations, and the public response, and to generate hypotheses for further research in this regard.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Half of Russia's food is home-grown (on-line)


The author uses official government statistics to show that in 2004 garden plots, typically measuring just 600m2 and tended only at weekends, produced 51% (by value) of the total agricultural output of the Russian Federation. This represents 384 billion rubles (approx. US$14 bn at the then current exchange rate), or 2.3% of Russia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), greater than the contribution to the GDP of the coal (54 bn rubles), natural gas (63 bn), and oil refining (88 bn) industries combined. It means 51% of food was produced on just 3% of agricultural land. He argues that the only thing that has kept Russia from major domestic conflict has been the ability of ordinary Russians to feed themselves from their gardens.