Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A Critical Review of Permaculture in the US (thesis)

Permaculture involves the systematic design of ecological systems that sustain human communities and the natural environment. Since its introduction in the United States in the 1980s, it has spread via publications and educational workshops. The author was trained in permaculture design in 2000, and spent seven years developing a permaculture project in Urbana, Illinois that focused on community gardening and education. However, when looking to supplement his first-hand learning with scientific research, the author found scarcely any dialogue between environmental science and the grassroots movement for permaculture in the United States. Recent permaculture literature in the United States does not often cite scientific research, and environmental scientists do not often test permaculture ideas. Further benefits would likely result from refereed reporting of permaculture results.

Permaculture and dance choreography (#journal)

Ecologies of choreography: Three portraits of practice

How are dance artists dealing with ideas about environmental change in their everyday practice? How are discourses of environmental change contributing to the development of new ways of thinking about choreographic practice and the role of the dance artist in contemporary society? By sharing portraits of practice of three ecologically concerned dance artists, Eeva-Maria Mutka, Tim Rubidge and Nala Walla, this article offers some insight into what might constitute ecological choreographic practices.

Creating an indigineous PDC in the South Pacific (report)

The authors decided to create an integrated indigenous programme of sustainability in all areas of life, one that drew on ancestral knowledge and could also embrace new ideas. They wanted to tune this into a certified teaching programme so that each participant would emerge qualified to take these ideas and practices out to their tribes. The idea was to teach the programme for free so that it was attainable for all people and for each participant to teach another ten people, thus rapidly increasing the knowledge base. So, they designed an innovative Pacific permaculture course, free of the colonial mindset, by and for indigenous people to apply to their own communities: Kaitiakitanga Island Permaculture Design Courses.

Creating a permaculture school garden in California (thesis)

Astronomical rates of childhood obesity, diabetes, and Attention Deficit Disorder are all symptoms of our society’s relationship with nature. Psychologists are labeling this Nature Deficit Disorder; children are increasingly deprived of the outdoors and nature experiences, supplementing playtime with addicting media devices. In this context, school gardens have innumerable benefits. Not only do they reduce or eliminate the food desert phenomenon, but heal, educate, inspire, and develop a child’s understanding of, and compassion for the Earth. The skills learned by children in a school garden cultivate a lifetime of food awareness. School gardens foster community, ecology awareness, discipline, creativity, and most of all, exploration and fun. School gardens contribute to a students “normal” school experience by magnifying and in many cases applying the knowledge and skills learned inside.
This hands on educational tool should be a vital addition to any school system, and is a crucial part of learning about your surrounding ecology.

Permaculture and resilience on Canadian small farms (thesis)

Nature itself as our guide: A resilience perspective on permaculture and an empirical investigation of its use in three case studies in British Columbia, Canada

In general, small farms have significant social and ecological advantages over industrialized large farms. However, a combination of complex pressures is making it difficult for many small-scale farmers to stay in business. Creating social-ecological resilience in small farming systems is key to ensuring more options for long-term food procurement. This study evaluates permaculture from a resilience perspective on three farms in British Columbia (BC). Results imply that permaculture use does in fact increase social-ecological resilience of small farms by encouraging ecological, social and economical diversity while recognizing the need to address the interrelated nature of social and ecological issues.

Permaculture in Malawi (thesis)

Permaculture : a vision and strategy for sustainable development?: a Malawian case study

This thesis is a study of perceptions of sustainable development and whether permaculture contributes to sustainable development in Malawi. A qualitative, ethnographic case study approach was employed, using semi-structured interviews, in-field observation and permaculture document analysis. Research revealed perceptions of sustainable development were very similar to perceptions of permaculture, suggesting that most people saw permaculture as significantly contributing to their understanding of sustainable development. A key finding was involvement in permaculture arose from a plurality of instrumental goals and identification with social movement values, which in turn influenced perceptions of sustainable development. 


Forest gardens mitigate diabetes risk (thesis)

Permaculture and Public Health: Mitigation of the Lifestyle Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes Through the Establishment of Permaculture Edible Forest Gardens

 Over the past thirty years, the incidence of type 2 diabetes and obesity has greatly increased in the United States. This paper compares the living environment of hunter-gathers to that of modern humans, in diet and activity levels, and discusses the recent increase of type 2 diabetes as a 'disease of civilization'. To address these changes in dietary composition and activity levels, an alternative agricultural model, permaculture edible forest gardening, is proposed. Permaculture edible forest gardening is an agricultural model which mimics natural ecosystem structure while consisting of entirely edible, perennial plant species. Permaculture edible forest gardens can potentially play a role in the mitigation of the diet and activity level related risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

A call to arms for permaculture research (#journal)

Feeding and healing the world: through regenerative agriculture and permaculture 

Despite a paucity of detailed peer reviewed research published on permaculutre and regenerative agriculture, there is overwhelming evidence both that the methods work and they may offer the means to address a number of prevailing environmental challenges. What is lacking is a proper scientific study, made in hand with actual development projects. This article is intended as a call to arms to make serious investment in researching and actualising these methods on a global scale. Since over half the World's population lives in cities, it seems likely that strengthening the resilience of these environments, using urban permaculture, may be a crucial strategy in achieving a measured descent in our use of energy and other resources, rather than an abrupt collapse of civilization.

A permaculture demonstration garden in Barbados (report)

As a part of the Barbados Interdisciplinary Tropical Studies (BITS) program a permaculture demonstration site was created in the garden of the Future Centre Trust (FCT), in St. Thomas, Barbados. Overall, the intention of this permaculture site was to demonstrate,on 450m2 of land, how an alternative and low-maintenance food production system can be implemented in a tropical environment like Barbados. It intends to encourage Bajans to grow their own food using this sustainable farming system.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

An environmental index for household food use (#journal)

The design of an environmental index of sustainable food consumption: A pilot study using supermarket data

Monitoring of the environmental impacts of consumption is necessary for the evaluation of current performance and to support the understanding of how initiatives for change can be implemented. The article discusses design issues and methodology for an Environmentally Sensitive Shopper (ESS) index to measure the environmental sustainability of food consumption at the household level. The ESS index is based on revealed consumer preferences and uses scanner data provided by the largest UK food retailer. As a pilot illustration of the methodology, we use the index to identify environmentally critical periods during the calendar year.

Testing simple soil carbon measuring tools (journal)

Soil organic carbon assessment using the Carbon Management Evaluation Tool for Voluntary Reporting and the Soil Conditioning Index 

Simple, yet reliable models are needed to quantify soil organic carbon (SOC) changes for a wide diversity of agricultural management conditions. This article compares the outputs of two relatively simple models currently available for farmers and government-financed farm support agencies: the Carbon Management Evaluation Tool for Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases (COMET-VR) and the Soil Conditioning Index (SCI). Our results suggest that both models have value and limitations and that measures of SOC sequestration are predictable with these tools under a diversity of typical management conditions.

Make the most of small interior spaces (book)

Compact Living: how to design small interior space

This book opens our eyes to the possibilities of living a compact and low impact urban life. It is about learning how to live happily with less clutter. Most of our society is struggling to pay the bills, whilst chasing the ideal of a ‘bigger’ lifestyle. Compact Living: how to design small interior space is the perfect antidote to this; teaching us how to make the most of what we already have – through assessing and designing our spaces to suit our needs, as well as future proofing for changes. This is a book of design solutions for small spaces, ideally suited to the compact urban dwellings in which the majority of us live in the UK.

What has nature ever done for us? (book)

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?

 We take most of nature's services for granted, imagining them free and limitless ... until they suddenly switch off. This is a book full of immediate, impactful stories, containing both warnings (such as in the tale of India’s vultures, killed off by drugs given to cattle, leading to an epidemic of rabies) but also the positive (how birds protect fruit harvests and how rainforests absorb billions of tonnes of carbon released from cars and power stations). Tony Juniper's book will change whole way you think about life, the planet and the economy.

The truth about fracking (book)

Snake Oil: How Fracking's False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future

The rapid spread of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") has temporarily boosted US natural gas and oil production... and sparked a massive environmental backlash in communities across the country. SNAKE OIL casts a critical eye on the oil-industry hype that has hijacked America's energy conversation. This is the first book to look at fracking from both economic and environmental perspectives, informed by the most thorough analysis of data ever undertaken. Is fracking the miracle cure-all to our energy ills, or a costly distraction from reducing our fossil fuel dependence?

Agricultural bio-diversity creates climate change resilience (#journal)

 The role of agricultural biodiversity in strengthening resilience to climate change: towards an analytical framework

Traditional agricultural communities manage biodiversity at various scales, creating dynamic landscape mosaics of fields, gardens and ecosystem patches. Agricultural biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge are essential to the climate change resilience of these landscapes, but their roles are overlooked by researchers and policy makers. A review of 172 case studies from around the world shows that agricultural biodiversity contributes to resilience through a number of, often combined, strategies. These practices are examined to identify indicators of resilience in agricultural landscapes. The indicators are a first step in the development of a framework for assessing and building climate change resilience, intended both for local communities and for the scientists working closely with them.

Breed your own! Participatory hybrid breeding (#journal)

The potential of participatory hybrid breeding

This article explores the potential of involving smallholder farmers in hybrid development for their low-external input farming systems. The authors developed a conceptual model of the procedures, based on five simple assumptions, for a participatory maize breeding programme in southwest China, from 2000 to 2012. It is shown that farmers’ early involvement in hybrid development during the pre-breeding stage, including broadening the base populations with farmer-maintained local landraces, supported co-evolution of the genetic resources in farmers’ fields.


Organic farming improves developing world livelihoods (#journal)

Can organic and resource-conserving agriculture improve livelihoods? A synthesis

Organic agriculture initiatives have been common in the tropics for decades, but surprisingly few data are available on their performance. This synthesis examined 31 documented cases of African and Latin American farmers converting from conventional or organic-by-default systems to ORCA that assessed their impact on livelihoods. Yield improved in 19 of 25 cases, food security improved in seven of eight cases, and net income improved in 19 of 23 cases. However, it is not possible to generalize from these results due to the small sample, selection bias and inconsistent methods and definitions across the cases.

Special issue on supermarkets and global food supply (#journal)

Symposium on the Changing Role of Supermarkets in Global Supply Chains (8 articles)

We all know that supermarkets have a huge effect on what we eat and how it is farmed, produced and transported, and this special issue of Agriculture and Human Values presents eight articles looking at specific aspects of supermarket power. These include consideration of the way supermarkets are driving agricultural restructuring, the action of ombdusmen in limiting supermarket power, the role of private equity, the private food standards that supermarkets impose on suppliers and the connection of food supply chains to dietary ill-health.

The moral footprint of eating meat (journal)

The moral footprint of animal product

Most ethical discussions about diet are focused on the justification of specific kinds of products rather than an individual assessment of the moral footprint of eating products of certain animal species. However, the common “all or nothing” discussions between meat-eaters, vegans and vegetarians bypass very important factors in assessing dietary habits. This article argues that if we want to discover a properly assessed moral footprint of animal products, we should take into consideration not only life quality of animals during farming or violation of their rights but also their body weight, life time in farms and time efficiency in animal products acquisition. Without these factors, an assessment of animal products is much too simplified. This thesis that some animal products are much worse than others can be justified on common moral grounds.

The gift economy and the slow food movement (#journal)

The logic of the gift: the possibilities and limitations of Carlo Petrini’s slow food alternative

The majority of literature on Slow Food focuses on the organization or actors involved in the movement. There is a dearth of material analyzing Carlo Petrini’s aspiration to make “freewill giving a part of economic discourse.” This essay corrects the literature gap through historicizing and critiquing Petrini’s alternative to global capitalism while rooting it in actually existing practices. In doing so, this essay seeks to expand discussion of the gift economy within the alternative food movement while amending many of the theoretical, historical, and political problems embedded within Petrini’s work.