Monday, November 27, 2017

Major new scientific research finds that organic farming can feed the world

A major new scientific report reveals how organic agriculture can help feed the world whilst reducing the enviornmental impacts, PETER MELCHETT, of the Soil Association delves into the data.

New scientific research has identified the important role that organic agriculture can play in feeding a global population of 9 billion sustainably by 2050.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, by scientists from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), the key question the research examines is: "whether producing a certain total amount of food, in terms of protein and calories, with organic agriculture would lead to higher, or lower, impacts than producing the same amount of food with conventional agriculture".

The scientists’ answer is that organic agriculture can feed the world with lower environmental impacts - if we cut food waste and stop using so much cropland to feed farm animals. The authors conclude: "A 100% conversion to organic agriculture needs more land than conventional agriculture but reduces N-surplus and pesticide use.”
https://goo.gl/iWAJfy

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Why These 8 States Could Soon Form the 'Great American Desert'



One of the world's largest underground bodies of fresh water—the Ogallala aquifer—is quickly shrinking, threatening the livelihoods of farmers in eight U.S. states.

Farmers in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming and South Dakota are overexploiting the aquifer beneath an American breadbasket, threatening an estimated $35 billion in annual crops. Agricultural wells are pulling out water faster than rainfall can recharge it—federal data shows the aquifer shrank twice as fast in the past six years as compared to the previous 60.

"Now I never know, from one minute to the next, when I turn on a faucet or hydrant, whether there will be water or not. The aquifer is being depleted," Lois Scott, 75, who lives west of Cope, Colorado, told the Denver Post.

In some parts of eastern Colorado the depth at which groundwater can be tapped has dropped by as much 100 feet, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. The USGS has released data on the Ogallala aquifer since 1988. In Colorado alone, farmers pumped water out of 4,000 wells, sucking out as much as 500 gallons per minute to irrigate roughly 580,000 acres. Since 1950 the amount of water used to irrigate farm fields across the eight states equals roughly 70 percent of Lake Erie.

Even if farmers drastically reduce pumping, the aquifer wouldn't refill for centuries, according to the latest research. But the eight states that sit on the Ogallala have no agreement among themselves to try to save the aquifer.

"This will truly become the Great American Desert," Scott said.

The fallout from the aquifer is visible above ground as well. Streams are drying up at a rate of six miles per year.

"We have almost completely changed the species of fish that can survive in those streams, compared with what was there historically. This is really a catastrophic change," Keith Gido, one of the authors of a report on the aquifer, told the Denver Post.


(https://www.ecowatch.com/ogallala-aquifer-depletion-2511600266.html?xrs=RebelMouse_fb&ts=1511357525

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Climate change is luring Kodiak bears away from their iconic salmon streams


The researchers found that due to warm spring temperatures on Kodiak, the berries were developing fruit weeks earlier, at the same time as the peak of the salmon migration; 2014 was one of the warmest years on the island since record-keeping began 60 years ago. Although there will continue to be considerable variation in Kodiak's climate, the warming trend is likely to continue.

The research team analyzed the bears' scat to find direct evidence that the bears were consuming the berries and not the salmon.

"An earlier berry crop shut down one of the most iconic predator-prey scenes in nature," said Jonny Armstrong, an ecologist at OSU and member of the research team. "As climate change reschedules ecosystems, species that were once separated in time are now getting a chance to interact--in this case the berries, bears and salmon. This is going to have large impacts that are hard to predict."

For example, birds that depend on bears pulling salmon out of the stream, could be seriously affected, he said. Other far-reaching effects may include changes in bear demographics due to the change in their diet, evolving salmon populations and impacts on plant pollinators.

"It is a strange, indirect effect of climate change," Deacy said. "These bears eat dozens of different foods throughout the year but now two of them are overlapping. This is causing a disruption in the food web that could have profound implications for the ecology of the island."

The abundance of salmon and berries on Kodiak Island are why there are so many bears there, and why they are so large, said Jack Stanford, director emeritus at the University of Montana's Flathead Lake Biological Station and one of the study's co-authors.

"This overlap in their resources forces the bears to make a choice that could in the long run result in fewer bears and/or unexpected changes in ecosystem structure," Stanford said. More

Monday, July 31, 2017

MIT Researcher: Glyphosate Herbicide will Cause Half of All Children to Have Autism by 2025


At a [recent] conference, in a special panel discussion about GMOs, she took the audience by surprise when she declared, “At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.” She noted that the side effects of autism closely mimic those of glyphosate toxicity, and presented data showing a remarkably consistent correlation between the use of Roundup on crops (and the creation of Roundup-ready GMO crop seeds) with rising rates of autism.

Children with autism have biomarkers indicative of excessive glyphosate, including zinc and iron deficiency, low serum sulfate, seizures, and mitochondrial disorder.
More

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Climate Ecoforestry

In 2008 we asked Frank Michael a tough question. Frank is a physicist, formerly with the Ames Research Center group that created the first Flying Solar Laboratory to study the sun and its “weather” and prevent astronauts from being fried by solar storms. We asked him what would happen to atmospheric carbon if everyone on earth planted a tree each day.

It was an interesting question, and one that was not easy to answer. Frank explained some of the variables to us. You would want to know what kind of trees are planted; what their lifespan will be; what happens to their carbon store when they die; the net photosynthetic productivity of the forest, by hectare, based on soils, rainfall, latitude and expected climate change; the effect of all the stored carbon in the ocean that would “leak back” into the atmosphere in response — trying to re-balance the distribution of carbon dioxide — and much more.

Nonetheless, he agreed to give it a go. Thus began a system model that Frank Michael will be presenting at the 7th World Congress on Ecological Restoration later this year in Foz do Iguassu, Brazil.

The question changed to “what amount of trees, land and biochar would be needed to return the atmosphere to ‘normal’ and how long would it take?” We know much less about paleoclimate drawdowns and feedbacks than we know about epochs of carbonization. As his calculations and his global model became more elaborate, he began to be drawn to the complexity of the social dimension. What are the potentials for unplanned reversals like deforestation, population pressure, energy demand and urban sprawl? How many of those trees would survive one year? 5 years? 100 years? Who would care for them and how would those people be compensated? How would you pay for the biochar conversion?

Frank came up with a model that we can only describe as pure genius, worthy some day of a Nobel Prize should he ever be recognized. His “step harvest” system, which we first described in The Biochar Solution, sets out a practical methodology for employing hundreds of millions of forest stewards to regenerate and revitalize neglected and abandoned “wastelands,” working with principles of ecological regeneration and patch management to stack yields while optimizing ecological functions. Rather than rely on charity, it relies on capitalism – a healthy return of investment in semi-autonomous but coordinated microenterprises. More

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

May the way be easy - and green

"In our gardens, it is our own responsibility to return waters, via compost or mulch, to the soil and plants. Around our homes we can catch water for garden use, but we rely on natural forested landscapes to provide the condenser leaves and clouds to keep rivers running with clean water, to maintain the global atmosphere and to lock up our gaseous pollutants.” (1988)

 Bill Mollison - Founder of Permaculture

"Permaculture offers a radical approach to food production and urban renewal, water, energy and pollution. It integrates ecology, landscape, organic gardening, architecture and agro-forestry in creating a rich and sustainable way of living. It uses appropriate technology giving high yields for low energy inputs, achieving a resource of great diversity and stability. The design principles are equally applicable to both urban and rural dwellers" - Bill Mollison 

https://www.facebook.com/peaksurfer/posts/10211324412373623
 

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Great Change: Trophic Cascades

The Great Change: Trophic Cascades: " Chinese youth are starting to wish they had not been lured into where they find themselves. It is best for all our sakes to encourage that impulse

We were expecting 25 students but got 40, and on some days it even goes up to 50. Initially our hosts wanted to have a Permaculture Design Course but after we told them such an undertaking would require 2 weeks, including 72 hours of classroom time, and multiple co-instructors, they asked instead for a week-long introduction to the Ecological Key, part of the Ecovillage Design one-month curriculum offered by the Global Ecovillage Network and Gaia Education Associates. We helped author that module so we agreed, but then they needed to cut it to 6 days to factor in the national independence holiday and also asked if we could do an introduction to natural building as part of the course.

Reluctantly, we agreed, since it was only introductory workshop in any event, but then we had our expensive Japanese finishing trowel confiscated by airline security and lost our shiitake mushroom plug spawn to agricultural inspection in Beijing. Undeterred, we pushed on, arriving a day early to sleep off jet lag and get oriented to the venue.

Reluctantly, we agreed, since it was only introductory workshop in any event, but then we had our expensive Japanese finishing trowel confiscated by airline security and lost our shiitake mushroom plug spawn to agricultural inspection in Beijing. Undeterred, we pushed on, arriving a day early to sleep off jet lag and get oriented to the venue.

An able team of young Xu Ling villagers and volunteers rushed about cleaning up an old hall in the center of town, laying in bulk food for the cooks, re-wiring everything and setting up wifi, a PA system with bluetooth microphones, and a big projection screen. 

As we walked the steep stone steps of the village we saw essentially a ghost town. Eighty large family houses stood empty, abandoned to the elements. Skinny dogs picked through the central garbage bins, scattering plastics and bits of foil into the bubbling mountain brooks that wove through and under the ancient stone stairways. Chickens and ducks, apparently the only domestic animals raised for food here, wandered the streets and picked through scraps the dogs missed, or raided the kernels of corn laid out on cement terraces to dry. 

The old townspeople looked favorably towards the arrival of young ecovillagers but knew all too well that they were gardening greenhorns, unused to the seasonal ebbs and flows, city kids with city addictions, so they tried not to get too involved with them, not expecting they would last long. How many winter mass starvations had they witnessed in their long and difficult lives? http://bit.ly/2gt17V5

Friday, November 25, 2016

Global Soil Partnership

 

Are you ready to take part in the World Soil Day campaign ?

Here we are... 5 December 2016 is just around the corner! With this special GSP announcement, we would like to officially launch the World Soil Day campaign whose theme is "Soils & Pulses, symbiosis for life". This collective effort is aimed at bringing attention to the benefits we receive from soils.

Pulses are among the major contributors to ensuring and increasing soil health, especially by fixing atmospheric nitrogen and freeing soil-bound phosphorous and making essential nutrients available to plants, improving soil structure and enhancing soil biodiversity. As we are nearing the close of the 2016 International Year of Pulses, the striking symbiosis between soils and pulses is timely and central to the WSD2016 campaign, not to mention helpful in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and implementing the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management.

The GSP Secretariat encourages you to share the event in a variety of innovative ways to enhance public awareness of the critical influence soils and pulses exert on our lives.

We have prepared an array of stunning campaign materials to help create a buzz about World Soil Day 2016. 

The success of the World Soil Day depends on you. Please tell your friends and colleagues about it and help disseminate the WSD campaign page. More

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Soil inhabitants hold together the planet’s food system

Soil inhabitants hold together the planet’s food system
  The Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas— the outstanding reward of a 3-year global collaboration—was launched on 25 May 2016 in Nairobi. The launch, part of a symposium of the Second United Nations Environment Assembly, provided an opportunity for eminent speakers in the field to discuss the central role soil biodiversity plays in food security, environmental health, and the global sustainable development agenda.   Edmundo Barrios, the event’s lead organizer, is Senior Soil Ecosystem Scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and one of the editors of the Atlas.   “Biodiversity is largely understood by society as that which lives above the ground and easily observed like trees, crops and birds. Much less is known about belowground biodiversity. In fact, the smaller the organism, the less we know about it,” said Barrios. By ignoring soil biodiversity, we might be missing the real picture of global biodiversity.” For instance, whereas around 88% of tree species and around half of all ant species have been described, less than 1.5% of microscopic soil bacteria are known to science, he explained.   But the situation is changing fast, thanks to new molecular technologies and powerful visualization tools which have been developed during the last decade, tools that allow a glimpse into a fascinating world beneath our feet.   “No longer is soil biodiversity a black box- we are cracking into that and moving fast about it,” said keynote speaker Diana Wall, Science Chair of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) and Professor at Colorado State University. http://goo.gl/NYfjph          

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

As Clouds Head for the Poles, Time to Prepare for Food and Water Shocks

As Clouds Head for the Poles, Time to Prepare for Food and Water Shocks
  A changing climate means less rain and lower water supplies in regions where many people live and much of the planet’s food is produced: the mid-latitudes of the Northern and Southern hemispheres, including the U.S. Southwest, southern Europe and parts of the Middle East, southern Africa, Australia and Chile. As WRI-Aqueduct’s future scenarios for water supply show, diminished water supplies will be apparent in these areas by 2020 – less than four years away -- and are expected to grow worse by 2030 and 2040.   Now a new study in the journal Nature provides some of the first evidence that this widely-predicted phenomenon – the movement of clouds and rainfall from the mid-latitudes towards the North and South poles -- is already taking place. Just like the retreat of glaciers and polar sea ice, now clouds and rain are retreating poleward.   This will have huge implications for agricultural production, industrial and energy output, and municipal water provisioning. Many irrigated agricultural areas are already facing water stress. The climate-driven shift of clouds and rain – known as Hadley Cell expansion – will put those areas under even greater stress in the future. Rain-fed agriculture, which many poor people depend upon, will also suffer as a result of reduced rainfall in the mid-latitude regions.   A recent WRI study finds that sub-Saharan Africa will need to more than triple crop production by 2050 in order to feed its growing population. This hard-to-reach target will become more difficult in places like southern Africa and the western Sahel, where water supply is projected to fall.     In addition to worsening water stress and undermining food security, decreasing water supply in the world’s mid-latitudes may also help destabilize nations in these regions, adding to pre-existing political tensions, and helping contribute to armed conflict and migration, as we have seen in places like Syria. More