Thursday, 27 April 2017

Fellowship in urban adaptation to climate change (opportunity)

Call for Fellows in Urban Adaption to Climate Change (Princeton University)

The Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities, together with the Climate Futures Initiative at Princeton University, are seeking fellowship applications in urban adaptation to climate change for the 2017-18 academic year. We seek to attract a Fellow engaged in bridging the environmental sciences, social sciences, planning and architecture and/or the humanities. Fields of specialization might include planning and architecture, cultural studies, geography, history, philosophy, politics, or public policy.

Lesson plans for climate change teaching (online)

Climate Ready Places Lesson Plans

These resources allow students to think about their place and different environments and how a changing climate might impact their place. They can be used for general education purposes to raise awareness about place-making and climate change adaptation, or more specifically to help young people express their views about changes in their environment, or to contribute effectively to any climate adaptation strategy, plan or action process. The activities in the lesson plans could be run individually over the course of several weeks, or run consecutively as a one-off lesson.

Ecosystem measures for Europe (journal)

Towards the co-ordination of terrestrial ecosystem protocols across European research infrastructures

The study of ecosystem processes over multiple scales of space and time is often best achieved using comparable data from multiple sites. Yet, long-term ecological observatories have often developed their own data collection protocols. Here, we address this problem by proposing a set of ecological protocols suitable for widespread adoption. Protocols were developed by domain experts, and refined through a process of field testing and training. They address above-ground plant biomass; decomposition; land use and management; leaf area index; soil mesofaunal diversity; soil C and N stocks, and greenhouse gas emissions from soils. These complement existing methods to provide a complete assessment of ecological integrity.

10 great permaculture websites (online)

10 Great Permaculture Websites

Does just what it says; a list giving a brief introduction to ten great permaculture websites for exploration, discussion, learning, and research into the current state of global permaculture.

A review of citizen science projects (journal)

The diversity and evolution of ecological and environmental citizen science

 Citizen science—the involvement of volunteers in data collection, analysis and interpretation—simultaneously supports research and public engagement with science, and its profile is rapidly rising. Citizen science represents a diverse range of approaches, but until now this diversity has not been quantitatively explored. The authors conducted a systematic internet search and discovered 509 environmental and ecological citizen science projects.

IPC India; be there!

International Permaculture Convergence, India 2017 - TOWARDS HEALTHY SOCIETIES

CONFERENCE :November 25 - 26, 2017 @ Hyderabad, Telangana
CONVERGENCE :November 27 - December 2, 2017 @ Medak district, Telangana

Happening every two years, the International Permaculture Convergence is a very special occasion offered to practitioners from around the world to share their experiences, learn from each other and strategize about the future of the permaculture movement! Change is already happening! Will you be a part of it?

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Free course - discover your soil (opportunity)

Citizen Science: From Soil to Sky - Free Online Course

Where can you find all sorts of useful and important information about your environment? You might be surprised to know it’s beneath your feet, in the soil. On this course you will discover interesting things about your own soil and become part of the new GROW Citizen Observatory European-wide community. You will collaborate with other growers and scientists to discover the impact global soil practices have on major issues like the environment and food growing. Now is the time to make a difference, join us, improve your soil and become a citizen scientist. This course is part taught by Dr. Naomi van der Velden, Senior Researcher in Agroecology at the Permaculture Association Britain.

Cutting pesticide use won't cause losses (online)

Farms could slash pesticide use without losses, research reveals

Virtually all farms could significantly cut their pesticide use while still producing as much food, according to a major new study. The research also shows chemical treatments could be cut without affecting farm profits on three-quarters of farms. The scientists said that many farmers wanted to reduce pesticide use, but do not have good access to information on alternatives, because much of their advice comes from representatives of companies that sell both seeds and pesticides. The work presents a serious challenge to the billion-dollar pesticide industry, which has long argued its products are vital to food production. 
(This post was sourced via GROW Observatory)

Training in agro-ecology (opportunity)

Post Graduate and Professional Training in Agroecology

The Agroecology Knowledge Hub identifies post-graduate and professional training opportunities in Agroecology across the world. Since November 2016, FAO has been engaging with many universities to share their programmes including short courses, post-graduate courses, and online courses. They stretch across learning styles, from hands-on field experience, to having a scientific focus, and/or strong social justice aspects.  Programmes are available for people of all backgrounds: farmers, peasants and practitioners, academics, policymakers, and more. These courses are included in the Agroecology Knowledge Hub Database and could be displayed by selecting “Learning” in the “More search option” field “Type”.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The benefits of farm biodiversity (online)

 Mapping the Benefits of Farm Biodiversity
 While the ecological literature has firmly established that crop diversity is good, few studies help farmers home in on exactly which crops to rotate. Academics at the University of California are developing a new method, merging participatory research, GIS mapping, and a measure of evolutionary relatedness called “phylogenetics.” Imagine a tree of life, with different plant families branching off from common ancestors. Theoretically, more distant plant cousins are less likely to host the same pests and diseases. But just how distant do these plant cousins need to be? Farmers participating in the study can use maps of their farms’ evolutionary diversity to compare the environmental performance of different crop combinations. The maps have also facilitated a dialogue between farmers and researchers about crops that fill both ecological and economic niches. A wide array of ornamental flowers, for example, adds both biodiversity and a new high-value crop.

 (This post was sourced via GROW Observatory)


Earthworms are more important than pandas! (online)

Earthworms are more important than pandas (if you want to save the planet)

Not all wildlife is created equal in our eyes. Take the earthworm, which doesn’t have the widespread appeal of larger, more charismatic animals such as gorillas, tigers or pandas. Worms are never going to get a strong “cute response”, and they won’t ever be the face of a conservation campaign. But – panda fans avert your eyes – worm conservation is much more important once we factor in their provision of what we now call “ecosystem services”, which are crucial to human survival. In fact, earthworms have been ranked the number one most influential species in the history of the planet – above dinosaurs and humans. 

 (This post was sourced via GROW Observatory)

New app records your planting and harvesting (online)

the FarmFollow App 

This app is for small farmers and home-gardeners, wanna-be home-gardeners and farmers, school gardeners, community gardeners, gardening services, and anyone who grows food or seeks to grow food in a sustainable way. I made this app for people like me who may not consistently remember every thing we did in a garden season and could benefit from an in-hand reference showing what or when we have planted/mulched/harvested. ALSO this app can help simplify record-keeping processes for Organic Certified growers who are required to track all their garden and farm activities. The FarmFollow eliminates messy paperwork and pulls together your garden story for you, allowing you to learn from your garden’s own history and from the garden history of other growers near and far.

Monitoring corporate progress on the SDGs (online)

Is this the start of an SDG reporting boom?

From tallying carbon footprints to wrangling waste in global supply chains, rising demand for corporate transparency from investors, consumers and customers has translated to an ever-widening array of reporting related to corporate responsibility. Now, add to that list newer metrics emerging to emphasize the United Nations' 17 global development goals. The U.N. goals include sweeping objectives such as ending poverty and hunger, and are an area where companies increasingly look to demonstrate commitment. Although environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting long has pushed companies to voluntarily disclose impacts, the Sustainable Development Goals further enmesh economics, social issues and environmental imperatives.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Amazing new book on forest gardening! (book)

Forest Gardening in Practice

A forest garden is a place where nature and people meet halfway, between the canopy of trees and the soil underfoot. It doesn’t have to look like a forest – what’s important is that natural processes are allowed to unfold. The result is an edible ecosystem. Forest Gardening In Practice is the first indepth review of forest gardening with living, best practice examples. It highlights the four core skills of forest gardeners: ecology, horticulture, design, cooperation. It is for hobby gardeners, smallholders, community gardeners and landscape professionals.
Forest Gardening In Practice features:
* A history of forest gardening
* Step-by-step guide to creating your own edible ecosystem
* 14 in-depth case studies of established forest gardens and edible landscapes in Europe and the USA.
* Chapters on integrating animals, learning, enterprises, working in community and public settings.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Organic farming in China (online)

Meet the woman leading China's new organic farming army

Shi Yan's approach to organic farming is helping to break the country's "addiction to pesticides"...read about her here, and learn about the organic revolution which is just beginning in China.

Supermarkets struggling to source salads in winter (online)

The supermarket food gamble may be up

In the past 40 years, a whole supermarket system has been built on the seductive illusion of Permanent Global Summer Time. As a result, a cornucopia of perpetual harvest is one of the key selling points that big stores have over rival retailers. If the enticing fresh produce section placed near the front of each store to draw you in starts looking a bit empty, we might not bother to shop there at all. But when you take into account climate change, the shortages of early 2017 look more like a taste of things to come than just a blip, and that is almost impossible for supermarkets to admit.

Climate resilient communities (report)


Last week the University of Dundee published a new report on Community Resilience to Climate Change, following action research in the Scottish Borders. The team worked with three flood-prone communities in the Scottish Borders – Hawick, Peebles and Newcastleton – to improve understanding and approaches to building climate resilience.  By bringing members of the community together with local authorities, policy makers and other stakeholders, they brought about changes to a major flood scheme, increased understanding of the social impacts of climate change and facilitated new flood risk and renewable energy groups. The research also highlighted the important impacts climate change may have on the costs of living which may exacerbate issues for disadvantaged communities.

30 agroecology profiles (online)

Agroecology is the science of applying ecological concepts and principles to manage interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment for food security and nutrition. All over the world farmers already apply this approach, which has a fundamental pillar in traditional and local knowledge. FAO recognizes the importance of farmers managing human and natural capital to improve food security, nutrition, and rural development. Here are some examples of how farmers are acting as the custodians of complex and innovative techniques that, through agroecology, combine local knowledge, traditional products and innovation. Each profile provides a description of the agroecological approach applied in that farm, the challenges faced and impacts of the agroecological solutions.

Intro to agriculture and soil biodiversity (online)


This document introduces the connections between agriculture and soil biodiversity. Our agricultural activities exert an important influence on the soil biota, their activities and diversity. Clearing forested or grassland for cultivation drastically affects the soil environment and hence reduces the number and species of soil organisms. The reduction of quantity and quality of plant residues and the number of higher plants species leads to a reduction in the range of habitats and foods for soil organisms. Different types of agricultural practices and systems affect the soil biota in different ways and the response may be either positive or negative depending on which part of the soil is affected.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

New website supports permaculture entrepreneurs (online)


A new website has been launched to support anyone interested in starting or expanding their own permaculture-inspired  business. The website includes analysis of the current state of permaculture-inspired enterprise in the UK, case studies of successful businesses, simple toolkits to help new enterprises, and hints and tips from 20 leading permaculture entrepreneurs. The website is the result of the Knowledge Exchange for Entrepreneurship in Permaculture research project, conducted jointly by Kingston University and the Permaculture Association Britain, and funded by the Institute for Small Business and Enterprise.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

UK river catchment GIS maps (online)

Online CaBA GIS Data Package

A selection of national datasets for supporting catchment management planning, which can be filtered by CaBA catchment. ArcGIS Online users can join the CaBA group and easily find the layers to your own maps.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Better greenhouse growing (book)

The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower's Handbook: Organic Vegetable Production Using Protected Culture

A few dozen large-scale producers dominate the greenhouse produce market. Why? Because they know and employ best practices for the most profitable crops: tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers, leafy greens, lettuce, herbs, and microgreens. The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook levels the playing field by revealing these practices so that all growers—large and small—can maximize the potential of their protected growing space. Whether growing in a heated greenhouse or unheated hoophouse, this book offers a decision-making framework for how to best manage crops that goes beyond a list of simple do’s and don’ts.

Futures for environmental education (book)

Envisioning Futures for Environmental and Sustainability Education
invited educational practitioners and theorists to speculate on – and craft visions for – the future of environmental and sustainability education. This volume explores educational methods and practices that might exist on the horizon, waiting for discovery and implementation. Throughout this project, the authors were concerned with how the collective project of imagining alternative futures might help us rethink environmental and sustainability education institutionally, intellectually, and pedagogically. Contributors used emerging modes of critical speculation as a means to map and (re)design the future of environmental and sustainability education today.

Sustaining sustainability education in schools (#journal)

Sustaining education for sustainability in turbulent times 

 A study of two schools in northern Australia demonstrated the impact on Education for Sustainability (EfS) initiatives of a disruptive policy environment set in motion by neoliberal reforms focused on standards, accountability, and international competitiveness. In one of the schools, a culture characterized by trust and an emphasis on cultivating teacher and student strengths and interests contributed to the resilience of these initiatives in the face of outside pressures. In the other, administrators preoccupied with the need to implement state mandates with fidelity failed to nurture and develop a collection of remarkable EfS projects and activities.

Museums as environmental educators (#journal)

Role of museums and botanical gardens in ecosystem services in developing countries: case study and outlook

Unprecedented environmental challenges require new tools. Well-structured museums and botanical gardens in developing countries can play significant roles in research, education, and conservation even when governmental institutions are weak and underfunded. The paper offers a case study of the nascent Palestine Institute of Sustainability and Palestine Museum of Natural History with a botanical garden. The analysis concludes that, despite some limitations and challenges, this is a successful model that should be replicated in other impoverished communities.

Religion and food ethics (book)

Religion and Sustainable Agriculture: World Spiritual Traditions and Food Ethics

Distinct practices of eating are at the heart of many of the world’s faiths —from the Christian Eucharist to Muslim fasting during Ramadan to the vegetarianism of Hinduism and Buddhism. In this wide-ranging collection, eminent scholars, theologians, activists, and farmers illuminate how religious beliefs influence and are influenced by the values and practices of sustainable agriculture. They analyze a multitude of agricultural practices for their contributions to healthy, ethical living and environmental justice. Throughout, the contributors address current critical issues, including global trade agreements, indigenous rights to land and seed, and the effects of postcolonialism on farming and industry. Covering indigenous, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish perspectives, this groundbreaking volume makes a significant contribution to the study of ethics and agriculture.

Open source guilds for small enterprises (#journal)

The open source guild: creating more sustainable enterprise?

The authors developed the open source guild business model, which has the elements of: building a focal micro-business with resources secured through the guild, promoting learning and development through apprenticeship, promoting shared values through a commons of experience and capturing value by protecting key intellectual property. This research was undertaken with two emergent micro-businesses in the North West of England. The open source guild model can be a mechanism for an emergent micro-business to create a community around their values and grow their business without conventional external investment of resources. Further research will be needed to establish the wider applicability of the open source guild model.

Permaculture and Climate Change; book review

In case you missed the book Tom Henfrey and Gil Penha Lopes published on permaculture and climate change adaptation last year, here is a review from a peer reviewed academic journal that tells you how great the book is, and why you should consider adding it to your bookshelf.

Oxford Real Farming Conference 2017 (online)

Oxford Real Farming Conference 2017 is now available online

The ORFC team are pleased to announce that all PowerPoints, audio recordings and films from the 2017 conference are available online and can be found within the ORFC 2017 Archive. Please note: not all speakers created PowerPoints and not all sessions were recorded and so apologies in advance if we do not have the session you are after.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Your cat: another reason to garden organically (online)

Are Your Lawn Care Products Harming Your Cat?

If there is one thing that cats are known for, it is their tendency to prowl around the neighborhood. Unfortunately for our feline friends, an unseen predator lurks in the grass, bushes, and shoes of neighborhoods all across the country: the toxic chemicals that many people spray on their grass. Pesticides, lawn fertilizers, and all of the many chemical products that get soaked into every blade of grass are a major risk factor to cats everywhere, with side effects that have been demonstrated to gravely impact their health.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Permaculture research in Kenya (online)

Permaculture Research Institute Kenya - New Research Programme

PRI Kenya's new Research Programme links closely with their Permaculture and Regenerative Enterprise Programme and aims to map social, environmental and economic impact. They want to understand not only how the permaculture approach is beneficial for the environment and climate change resilience, but also its benefits for farmers in terms of wellbeing, gender dynamics and social empowerment. Their research model focuses on involving farmers as ‘citizen scientists’.  Layering their research just like an agroforestry system, they will also conduct more complex scientific soil tests as well as measuring carbon capture of trees etc.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The real revolution in America (book)

The Revolution Where You Live: Stories from a 12,000 Mile Journey Through a New America

America faces huge challenges—climate change, social injustice, racist violence, economic insecurity. Journalist Sarah van Gelder suspected that there were solutions, and she went looking for them, off the beaten track, in rural communities, small towns, and neglected urban neighborhoods. She set off on a 12,000-mile journey through eighteen states, dozens of cities and towns, and five Indian reservations. van Gelder discovered people and communities who are remaking America. Join her as she meets the quirky and the committed, the local heroes and the healers who, under the mass media’s radar, are getting stuff done.

The benefits of a primary school garden in Kenya (#journal)

Enhanced community capital from primary school feeding and agroforestry program in Kenya

This case study examines the impact of the Bwaliro Primary School feeding and agroforestry program on the human, financial, natural, and social capitals of the surrounding Bwaliro community in western Kenya. Additional to the targeted improvements in attendance and educational performance, program spillover effects likely included enhanced child health, community agroforestry knowledge, increased tree planting and diversity of crops and trees, saved household income, and improved relations within the family unit and among community members. Participants suggested that increasing the community's capacity to contribute to and collaborate with the school is necessary for program sustenance and for further community development.

Permaculture-based wetland water treatment (journal)

The Brookside Farm Wetland Ecosystem Treatment (WET) System: A Low-Energy Methodology for Sewage Purification, Biomass Production (Yield), Flood Resilience and Biodiversity Enhancement

When permaculture principles are used in the creation of water purification and harvesting systems, there can be multiple environmental and economic benefits. The constructed wetland design presented here is a low-entropy system in which wastewater is harvested and transformed into lush and productive wetland, eliminating the requirement for non-renewable energy in water purification, and also maximising benefits: biodiversity, flood resilience and yield. In permaculture design, the high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous compounds in sewage are viewed as valuable nutrients, resources to be harvested. Similarly, rainwater runoff is not viewed as a problem which can cause flooding, but as a potential resource to be harvested to provide a yield.

The permaculture movement in El Salvador (#journal)

“The right to food is nature too”: food justice and everyday environmental expertise in the Salvadoran permaculture movement

In El Salvador a growing permaculture movement attunes small-scale farming activities to principles of ecological observation. The premise is twofold: close-grained appreciation of already-interacting biophysical processes allows for the design of complementary social and agricultural systems requiring minimum energy inputs. Secondly, the insistence on campesino smallholders as actors in the design of sustainable food systems directly addresses decades of “top-down” developmental interventions. Permaculture connects food insecurity to the delegitimisation of smallholder innovation and insists that, through sharing simple techniques, campesino farmers can contribute towards environmental sustainability. This repositioning is brought about through the mobilisation of pedagogical techniques that legitimise the experiences and expertise of small-scale farmers, while standardising experimental methods for testing, evaluating and sharing agroecological practices.

Permaculture in business management (journal)

Sustainable management models: innovating through permaculture

Exploring the ways in which innovation can serve to create better and more integrated social, environmental, and economic enterprises is a key challenge.

How firms innovate and change depends strongly on their management models. permaculture concepts and principles could help the transition toward more sustainability.

This paper seeks to understand how management models could rely on permaculture principles to facilitate innovations and changes toward sustainability. Innovative management models built on the permaculture concepts, are a potential alternative to western “traditional” management models. They would give preference to long-term objectives, intrinsic motivation, emergent coordination, and collective wisdom in decision making.

The French Agroecolgy Action Plan (report)

Presentation on the French Agroecology Action Plan

On 11th May 2016 the All-Parliamentray Agroecology Group of the UK Parliament heard two interesting presentations on agro-ecology in north west Europe. Eric Giry, Agricultural Counsellor to the United Kingdom and Ireland from the French Embassy outlined how the French Agroecology Action Plan and 2015 Act came into being. Nic Lampkin, Executive Director, of the Organic Research Centre presented a review of agroecology in the UK and policy opportunities.

The benefits of agro-forestry in Europe (journal)

Do European agroforestry systems enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services? A meta-analysis

The available evidence for the societal benefits of agroforestry is fragmented. The authors extracted a total of 365 comparisons. Results revealed an overall positive effect of agroforestry over conventional agriculture and forestry. However there were differences among the types of agroforestry practices and ecosystems. Erosion control, biodiversity, and soil fertility are enhanced by agroforestry while there is no clear effect on provisioning services. The effect of agroforestry on biomass production is negative. Both silvopastoral and silvoarable systems increase ecosystem service provision and biodiversity. Mediterranean tree plantation systems should be targeted as soil erosion could be reduced while soil fertility increased. In conclusion, agroforestry can enhance biodiversity and ecosystem service provision relative to conventional agriculture and forestry in Europe.

Environmental change practice notes (online)

 Living With Environmental Change policy and practice notes

Lots of interdisciplinarity is written up in Newcastle University's Living With Environmental Change policy and practice note series - now complete.  There are 36 notes in total, and the topics covered are wide ranging, from building coastal resilience to sea level rise and storm surges, to the heritage value of public parks and gardens, and there is a whole sub series on pollinators drawing on evidence from the Insect Pollinators Initiative. 

A diverse future for world farming (report)

From Uniformity to Diversity

Input-intensive crop monocultures and industrial-scale feedlots must be consigned to the past in order to put global food systems onto sustainable footing, according to the world’s foremost experts on food security, agro-ecosystems and nutrition. The solution is to diversify agriculture and reorient it around ecological practices, whether the starting point is highly-industrialized agriculture or subsistence farming in the world’s poorest countries, the experts argue. The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), led by Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, released its findings in a new report.

UK Parliament briefing on rewilding (online)


 Rewilding and Ecosystem Services

This POSTnote explores the consequences of increasing the role of natural processes within landscapes. Evidence from the UK and abroad suggests that rewilding can benefit both wildlife and local people, but animal reintroductions could adversely affect some land-users.

Carbon farming (video)

Carbon Farming (Video) 

A new twist on an age-old practice. Some people farm corn. Some farm wheat. Some, like Connor Stedman, farm carbon. “There’s a really significant potential for carbon farming worldwide to play a role in reversing the climate crisis,” said Stedman, an agricultural consultant at AppleSeed Permaculture.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The problems of modern agriculture (online)

Modern agriculture cultivates climate change – we must nurture biodiversity 

A great article from Olivier De Schutter, the former UN special rapporteur on the right to food, and co-chair of iPES-Food and Emile Frison,  the former director general of Bioversity International. 'Crop-breeding innovations are merely a short-term solution for falling yields. Only agricultural diversity can ensure food security and resilience'. Read more

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Permaculture's dogma problem (online)

Permaculture's Dogma Problem

Not only does Rafter Sass Ferguson have a neat beard, he also has some serious smarts...and he's not afraid to say it like he sees it. This blog post of his opens up some big issues for permaculture researchers, and the permaculture community in general.

Not too long ago, two of our most internationally renowned permaculture teachers/consultants had some vigorous disagreement on social media. Hordes of commenters weighed in on either or neither side. The explicit topic of the disagreement was the value of contour ditches  – known in permaculture as ‘swales’ – for managing water in the landscape.... I was struck most by what wasn’t discussed. The unspoken limits of the discussion highlighted how much permaculture has to learn from agroecology – in particular, how to learn like agroecology. This debate over water harvesting serves as a window onto issues that run through the whole of permaculture. Read the rest

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Polyculture market garden study 2016 (online)

Balkan Ecology's Polyculture Market Garden Study - Results from Year 2 - 2016

Balkan Ecology Project have completed the  second year of their Market Garden Polyculture Study with some interesting results. This year they added a new polyculture to the trials and included a comparison between growing vegetables in a polyculture and growing them in more traditional blocks. On this website you can find an overview of the trial garden and the polycultures they are growing, a description of what they record and the results from this year's study.

What works in conservation: the evidence (online)