The Permaculture of Whales

Cetacea, Poop, and the Fate of Our World

On the day that the slogan “Save the whales!” became cliche not just outside the environmental movement, but with in the movement as well, a deep rift was made.  This rift signaled conclusively just how badly our vital connection to one of the most important indicator species of the largest ecosystem on our planet had been broken.  There are three simple reasons for this: first, general public apathy regarding ecology, second, shifting priorities with in the environmental movement, and third, just plain human ignorance.

Finishing this post as I as am on “Black Friday” after watching a video of people fighting each other over 2$ dollar waffle makers, it’s a real challenge not to give in to that part of me that feels we are doomed, very doomed, never to wake up, never to see what’s really going on.  In all fairness to the human race, we shouldn’t be too hard on our ignorant selves for our transgressions on this planet.  Only in the last couple of decades has humanity had the proper tools (yes I do mean the internets) for us be able to see the mind boggling effects of our cumulative actions in any quantitatively precise way.

Personally, I feel that our collective consciousness right now is at a similar stage to that of a first grader’s, bright, curious, and without a clue as to who cleans up all the crayons that get mashed into the carpet.  When we are confronted with the bigger picture how often have we exclaimed with wonder, WOW!  If  you really look at how very connected and interdependent our world is, then WOW! is right, but what does it mean for us to live by and respect those ancient truths.  Will we ever give up our cheap consumer goods before it’s too late?

I currently put my faith in storytelling.   Stories were, and will always be, the main means by which we keep the threads of wisdom alive through the generations.   Stories are knowledge put into context, hard data that comes wrapped in sticky emotion so that it actually stays put in our minds and they can guide us in this century just as they have in centuries past.  Whales have a long and amazing story to share that embodies a wisdom desperately needed in our modern age.  The fact that whales were related to land dwelling mammals that then returned to the sea for good one day is in itself astonishing, but their story also has a supporting cast.  I’m talking about some very small, but extremely important creatures that all too easily we’ve taken for granted, phytoplankton.

While there is a almost endless variety of shapes that the little plants take (see slideshow below), they all share three critical ecological functions, the create oxygen, sink carbon, and provide the basic foundation of the oceanic food web.  In the last fifty years phytoplankton have been on a serious decline and one part of the problem is temperature change, although the corresponding decline in whale populations is another significant factor only recently being evaluated.

Whales, the great behemoths of the deep, bio-accumulate iron, an essential mineral needed for phytoplankton and photosynthesis.  This iron comes from the zooplankton and krill whales feed on, and  it is then release in their excrement on their long migration routes across the vast oceans of the world.  This process allows phytoplanton to live in regions of the ocean that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to survive, thus increasing the overall amount of oxygen created and carbon stored.  Yes, without whale poop there may have been significantly less oxygen created on our planet and perhaps we never would evolved our big oxygen loving brains at all.

Regenerative “closed loop” cycles like this are found through out natural world the logic of which underlies the basis of all permaculture principals.  This link between phytoplankton and iron is so essential to the regulation of our climate that some scientists have even proposed dumping iron fillings in the oceans as a geo-engineering scheme to head off global warming.  But, just because you’ve dumped iron in the ocean that doesn’t mean it’s likely to be biologically available.  In fact, recently scientist discovered that it’s the little creatures call zooplankton who make regular dives towards the ocean floor and gather the iron near volcanic vents that then becomes biologically available first to whales and later phytoplankton.  What is most remarkable is that the food web link between phytoplankin, mostly microscopic creatures, and whales, a decidely macroscopic creature, is one of the shortest known.  From small to big and from big to small interdepence and collaboration operate at every scale

Recongnizing our connection and interdependence is our first step on the path to healing.  Perhaps no region could stand to learn more from whales than the country of Japan.  The Japanese long criticized for their refusal to stop illegal whaling also control most of the world’s fish markets and are extremely dependent on the protein they get from the sea to feed their populous nation.  If they were to learn the harm that whaling was having on fish stocks would it convince the government to outlaw the practice?  If we were all to learn just one thing from this story it’s that nature always devices systems to give back, to regenerate, and to close the cycle so that it may continue on into the future.  We will never be able to see the solutions to our ecological problems without seeing how they started in the first place, without closing the rift that prevents us from knowing our connections.

Best Resources for Retrofitting Suburbia Permaculture Style

by @gaiapunk
One of the major reasons I work in permaculture is because as a eco-city researcher I’ve seen the devastating effects of urban and suburban environments out of balance with natural principals.  It was my investigations in eco-city research that made me into a passionate permaculture activist because I saw how beautifully the design principals in permaculture imitated the evolutionary intelligence of nature’s own design work.  This new outlook changed the way I looked at our modern challenges and gave me a new story to believe in regarding humanity’s potential to help in the regeneration of our planet.  A huge modern challenge to this end is retrofitting our urban and suburban to be more resilient, productive, and ecologically harmonious.  One important thing to make note of is that as we make areas more attractive we need to be cognizant of economic divisions and use models like community land trust, co-ops, and mixed income planning to make sure the benefits of improvements can be shared by everyone.  This retrofitting revolution is a massive and essential undertaking presented nicely above by Ellen Dunham Jones author of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs.  I’m dedicating the rest of this post to give you best retrofitting resources I know so you can join me in creating better places both for the health of ourselves and the planet.
Shareable.net: This site features some of my favorite retrofitting content and has a focus on making society more shareable.
City Repair: is a retrofitting force to be reckoned with which started in lovely Portland Oregon and whose model of community based organizing and place making has spread all over the US
Suburban Permaculture: Jan Spencer is a consummate expert on suburban permaculture retrofitting, a good friend, and a great inspiration.
inhabitat:  Features great articles on urban retrofitting.
Planetizen: Great place to find recent retrofitting articles

U-Vic Garden Struggles

*Editors Note* David Holgrem co-founder of the permaculture movement will be giving a talk at 5pm pst on U-Vic radio which you can find here

No Justice, No peace….!

[tweetmeme]

In Solidarity with Garden Struggles everywhere…

we at Punk Rock Permaculture E-zine support the Uvic students as they affirm their right to exercise their autonomy and creativity and practice regenerative design at the school that is dependent on their attendance.

For Immediate Release (3/26/2010)
Media Advisory

UVic Administration Bulldozes Students’ Garden Plots, Students Pledge to Continue Resistance

Friday March 26, 2010 – Coast Salish Territories – Victoria, B.C. At midnight March 26th campus administration and Saanich police at the University of Victoria used bulldozers to destroy the ten garden plots created by approximately 400 UVic students the day before. UVic student Mike-Jo was handcuffed and arrested for “assault by trespass” for standing by the garden plots to block their destruction. He was later released.

Yesterday hundreds of students who walked by the pits of mud that were plots of vegetables and native plants the day before expressed grief and anger at the gardens’ destruction. “Yesterday we proved that we as students can build a sustainable and positive relationship with the land,” said UVic student Joyce Lyell, “after fifteen years of having UVic administration turn down every one of our campus agriculture and garden proposals, we took action on our own. With the bulldozing of our gardens, it is now more obvious than ever that UVic values lawns over sustainable food, and values control of students over student choice and ingenuity”.

Yesterday students turned the former garden plots into a memorial site, erecting tombstones marked R.I.P Food Security and R.I.P. Student Voice, and a flag reading “Shame on UVic”. Approximately forty students then marched to the campus administrative building to demand an apology for the destruction of the gardens, but found that Campus Security and Saanich police had locked them out of the building. “I find it disgusting, and indicative of the administration’s cowardice, that they refuse concerned students entry into the building whose administrators claim to represent them,” said UVic student Erin Davis.

Several students attempted to gain access to the administrative building when Tom Smith, Executive Director of Facilities Management, said by UVic to have authorized the bulldozing of the gardens, was seen trying to sneak into the building via a back door. When these students held the door open to access the building after Smith unlocked the door, Smith violently shoved the student standing in the doorway. The student says she will bring this encounter into the public so that students will suffer no illusions that UVic administration exists to help students. “To deny students an opportunity to bring food security to our campus, to openly destroy our efforts, and to actually physically assault concerned students, sends a crystal clear message – that UVic opposes creativity, dialogue, and solutions, and that administrators have nothing but disrespect for the land, community, and student voices,” she said.

Yesterday afternoon at a large, public meeting students decided to start rebuilding the gardens at the same location in front of the UVic library, at noon on Wednesday, March 31. They encourage students and community members to bring shovels and seedlings to the event.

Media Contact
Matt Christie: 250-588-7924 or mrc@uvic.ca

I encourage anyone interested in Garden Struggles to watch the film below and show it to your friends….

Permacorps and Haiti by the numbers

My instructor Scott Pittman of the US permaculture Institute on the need for a Permcorps from permaculture.tv

Gaia punk here,

Top of the evening to everyone,
What I’ve taken to calling a “Permacorps” mission for the long term recovery of Haiti is slowly mounting.  I’ve received dozens of emails from some very qualified folks from around the globe asking how they can help plug in.  In a day or two there will be a project posting entitled “Permaculture Relief Corps” on Kickstarter.com, which is a popular crowdfunding site.  If anyone has any info related to this idea please share so that we can better coordinate our efforts.  Honestly, I’m a bit surprised by the lack of discussion some of the better known permie sites.  But, I’m not at all discouraged, because I know that what I do see on the net is just a very small sliver of what is actually going on.   What I’m trying to say is that I would like to see more of that discussion.  If anyone can contact people from the Permaculture First Responders course that would very helpful too.  There are two google docs spreadsheet I can share with folks to add regional contacts.  In a week or so it seems a skype conference call is in order to further coordinate stateside efforts. Currently, various permaculture groups working in Haiti and elsewhere are being contacted for their opinions and so far ORE in Haiti has been very supportive of this idea.
Thank you all for your awesome work,                                                                                                                       [tweetmeme]
evan
Here are approximated numbers on the situation currently from the Huffington Post…
People in Haiti needing help: 3 million. Bodies collected for disposal so far: 9,000. Number of people being fed daily by the United Nation’s World Food Program: only 8,000.
The numbers behind the outpouring of earthquake assistance are giant. But they are dwarfed by the statistics indicating the scope of the disaster in Haiti, the number of victims and their deep poverty.
“The level of need is going to be significantly higher” than many previous disasters, said Dr. Michael VanRooyen, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.
Here are some numbers, with the proviso that figures are estimates that are constantly changing.
___
THE DEAD
Current death estimates: The Red Cross says 45,000 to 50,000 people have died. The Pan American Health Organization puts the number between 50,000 and 100,000 and Rueters news has 100,000 to 200,000 possibly dead or missing
Bodies collected for disposal so far: 9,000. An additional 7,000 corpses were reportedly placed
in a mass grave.
Percent of buildings damaged or destroyed: Up to 50 percent.
Hospitals or health facilities in Haiti damaged, forced to close: eight.
Patients treated by Doctors Without Borders initially: more than 1,500.
Search-and-rescue teams on ground or en route Friday: 38.
Homeless people in Port-au-Prince: at least 300,000.
Water needed daily: 6 to 12 million gallons (enough to fill 18 Olympic sized swimming pools a day).
Kate Conradt, chief spokeswoman for Save the Children, said that the challenge ahead cannot be overcome in a few days or weeks. “This is a long-term disaster,” she said in a telephone interview from Port-au-Prince.
Helping Haiti “is going to take far more than we ever could imagine,” VanRooyen said.
So in response, the world has opened its wallets.
___
THE MONEY
United Nations Emergency appeal for aid: $550 million.
United States pledge of aid: $100 million. (some of this may be in the form of a IMF loan)
European Commission’s initial spending: 3 million Euros.
Total pledge of aid by governments around world: $400 million.
Number of governments that have sent aid so far: more than 20.
International Red Cross’ initial emergency appeal goal: $10 million.
Amount of money raised by Save The Children: $7 million.
Amount of money pledged by George Soros: $4 million.
Amount raised by Wyclef Jean’s Yele 10 million
Amount of money raised by the Salvation Army and some other charities: more than $3 million.
___
HELP THAT’S ALREADY THERE OR COMING
Number of people being fed daily by U.N.’s World Food Program: only 8,000.
Number of people a day WFP hopes to feed within 15 days: 1 million.
Number of people a day WFP hopes to feed within one month: 2 million!
Amount of food salvaged by WFP in damaged Haitian warehouse being distributed: 6,000 tons (out of a total of 15,000 tons stored before the earthquake).
Meals prepared and freeze dried by the Salvation Army in Kansas and Iowa to ship to Haiti: 1.28 million, weighing nearly 200,000 pounds.
Number of trucks carrying bottled water being trucked in from neighboring Dominican Republic: 13.
UNICEF initial shipment of rehydration liquids, water-purification tables, hygiene kits and tents: enough for only 10,000 people.
Size of Doctors Without Borders initial relief package: 25 tons.
International Red Cross pre-positioned relief supplies:only enough for 3,000 families.
Plane of Red Cross supplies sent Thursday: 40 tons.
Body bags sent by Red Cross on Thursday: 3,000.
“We are seeing overwhelming need within the city and increasingly desperate conditions,” Conradt said. “We visited two camps today with 5,000 people and only four latrines total. We were told that the number of people there doubles at night, but during the day they are looking out for food, water and family members.”
Camps like that are all over Port-au-Prince.
And this is a country that before Tuesday’s earthquake was the poorest in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest worldwide. More than half of Haiti’s 10 million people live on less than $1 a day, even before the earthquake, according to the United Nation’s World Food Program. The World Bank said the average Haitian lives on just $1,180 a year.
Nearly half of Haiti’s population is hungry and only half had access to safe drinking water before the earthquake, according to the World Food Program. Nearly 60 percent of Haiti’s children under 5 are anemic.
___
PEOPLE FROM ELSEWHERE
Americans in Haiti when earthquake struck: 45,000.
Number of Americans evacuated from Haiti: 846.
Number of Americans confirmed dead: six.
Number of Canadians dead: four.
Number of United Nations workers in Haiti when earthquake struck: 12,000.
Number of UN workers confirmed dead: 37.
Number of UN workers missing: 330.
Number of Dominicans dead: six.
Number of Brazilians dead: 15.
Number of Europeans dead: six.
Number of staffers of Christian humanitarian agency World Vision: 370.
U.S. troops there to help or possibly on their way: 10,000.
Haitian Red Cross volunteers: 1,700.
___
This report was compiled by Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington and Frank Jordans in Geneva. Edith Lederer at the United Nations in New York contributed.
___
SOURCES: The Associated Press, United Nations, U.S. State Department, European Commission, International Red Cross, Save The Children, Salvation Army, other charities.

Punk Rock Permaculture turns 1 year old!

Wow a whole year!

Yep, it has been roughly about a year now since PRP e-zine swung into full gear and we’re pretty      happy with what has been accomplished thus far.  This e-zine was conceived as a place to highlight  inspiring  radical permaculture and eco-city projects and the many incredible folks behind them.    Part of the impetus behind this project was to attract more radicals towards permaculture and  more permaculturalist towards radicalism if that makes any sense?  Radicalism in terms of the fix shit up  variety as opposed to the fuck shit up (not discounting the validity of the latter it’s just there is plenty  of that on net already).   Punk is a representation of the culture we carry and recreate along the  journey.  What is next for PRP-e zine?

  1. A new upgraded worpress.org site that is easier to read is in the works in the next few months!
  2. We are always recruiting more writers of diverse backgrounds for the zine so if you’ve been camping on something you would like to put out there we welcome you to submit just email thejulianeffect(at)gmail.com with the subject “gaia punks”.
  3. I am currently hashing out the framework for a permaculture media co-op with the editor of Permaculture.tv if your interested in affiliating your site or work and would like to discuss more about that project also just email me with subject “media co-op”.
  4. Once the site is revamped I will set about crafting a up to the second permaculture job /worktrade board and course listing that could be automatically updated via twitter for convenience.
  5. More design tools, more technical knowhow, more eco street art and music!
  6. Thank you all for coming and if you could please leave a bit about who you are, where your from, and suggestions for what you would like to see on this site in the future or anything else in the comments of this post.  We do this for you folks and for the health of the planet thank you again for all the great support.
  7. This is just the beginning!

Sincerely,

Gaia punk

Waterpod rocks!

photo credit: Mira Hunter

First, the Miss Rock Away Armada an now, the Waterpod, sustainable education and art barge design reaches new heights…

The water pod project is a retrofitted sustainable education barge full of art and enthusiasm for appropriate technology.  This collaborative and nomadic project traveled down the Hudson river doing education demos at stops along the way.   A new kind of out of box imaginative and artistic thinking related to permaculture, appropriate technology, new ways of living, is exactly what is need to get people inspired about transforming our civilization and the Waterpod fits the bill.  Check out the design and technology employed below.

Waterpod project image galleries: here

Growing Power going to Africa!

allenWill Allen: Growing power—and gaining influence in development circles, too.

From Grist.com

At the Clinton Global Initiative wrap-up on Friday, ex-President Clinton made waves in the sustainable-ag world by declaring Will Allen of Milwaukee/Chicago-based based Growing Powerhis “hero.”

The real news was buried in the press release, though. Toward the bottom of a listing of verbal “commitments” from NGOs and foundations, we findthis:

Growing Power commits to strengthen food security for school children and their care givers in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Growing Power will build a new model of local food systems to ensure adequate nutrition in the short-term and build a long-term foundation for competitive African human capital in the global market place.

So Growing Power will be bringing its community-based, low-input style of agriculture to Africa—under the aegis of a group most known for its top-down, Big Solution way of development work.

I got Erika Allen, daughter of Growing Power founder Will and leader of the group’s Chicago operations, on the phone Monday to talk about the announcement.

She told me that in the current phase, Growing Power is hoping to raise $2 million to get its Africa initiative started. (The Clinton Global Initiative doesn’t so much fund specific projects as match funders with projects.)

Allen described the proposed initiative as a “cultural exchange”—Growing Power reps would be learning about how food production currently works in South Africa and Zimbabwe; looking closely at local assets, resources, gaps, and needs. And food-system actors from those places would visit Growing Power sites in the United States—not just at the flagship enterprises in Milwaukee and Chicago, but also at partner projects in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Mississippi.

From there, Growing Power and its partners in southern Africa would work on “modifying our production systems to local resources there.”

She stressed that what works in Milwaukee won’t necessarily fly in Zimbabwe. Here in the United States, Growing Power essentially siphons off some of the enormous food waste generated by a modern U.S. city and transforms it into fertile soil, which is then used to grow food. But African cities generate less compostable waste.

erikaErika Allen of Growing Power.“The challenge will be to find the systems that work in areas with less excess,” Allen told me. She cited Growing Power’s aquaculture setup, where waste from tilapia tanks is used to fertilize watercress, one example of a low-input system that could work in Africa.

“Overall, it’s about helping people use their resources to build soil and grow food,” she said.

In a single sentence, Allen had articulated a vision completely counter to the top-down model of development that has dominated U.S. policy since at least the Cold War—the agricultural model most famously promoted by the recently deceased Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug. In this model, imported agrichemicals and seed varieties provide the path to food security in the global south. And trade is venerated with an almost religious zeal—nations should only produce food insofar as they have a “comparative advantage” in a particular crop. “High-value” crops like fresh produce should be exported to the industrialized north, where consumers can pay top dollar for them; “low-value” staple crops should be imported when expedient.

Make no mistake—even though more than a billion people globally lack sufficient access to food and farmers in the global south operate in a state of permanent crisis, that model still dominates today. The“Millennium Villages” concept for Africa championed by Harvard’s Jeffrey Sachs hinges on “new advances in science and technology.” To help boost food security, these showcase villages receive subsidies for imported fertilizers and seeds.

And the Gates Foundation, which has been organizing a massive attempt to transform food production in Africa,  has made a game attempt to be open to new models of ag development. But as Annie Stattuck, Raj Patel, and Eric Holt-Gimenez show in an excellent recent article in The Nation, the overall thrust has been in the direction of high-tech “solutions” to the continent’s food problems.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has recently taken a deep bow to the conventional ag-development gods, by putting agrichemical-industry stalwarts in charge of both agriculture negotiations at global trade talks and USDA-funded research. Analyzing the latter appointment, that of the Monsanto-affiliated Roger Beachy to lead the USDA’s new National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Science blog recently wrote that:

Beachy’s interests in biotechnology and the developing world closely match those of his new boss, USDA’s Under Secretary for Research Rajiv Shah. They also fit with President Barack Obama’s desire to increase agricultural assistance to developing countries.

The Growing Power initiative points to a new direction. In place of costly and often ecologically and socially ruinous high-tech methods, the Allens present a vision of appropriate technology: techniques that communities can own and manage themselves, without the perpetual need to commit precious resources to toxic agrichemicals and patent-protected seeds.

As debate rages about how to “feed the world” amid population growth, climate change, and fossil-fuel depletion, projects like this one are critical. I’ll be watching it closely.

The G20 Protesters and the new face of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA–

It seems as though Pittsburgh is either the De facto capital of the rust belt or a city in the midst of a revolutionary transformation.  In recent years Pittsburgh has become a epicenter for green building, bike paths, solar composites, and one of the professed launching pads of the new “green economy”.  This is fascinating because Pittsburgh could also be considered one of the many coal capitals of the world, and anyone who has studied the issue knows that there is absolutely no way to make coal “clean” as long as your using mining techniques such as “mountaintop removal”.  There is nothing like synthetic stench of two faced liberalism to hide the odious fact that the root of some very serious issues like housing, poverty, gentrification, and classism are not being addressed.  The city of Pittsburgh’s role during the current wholly undemocratic G20 summit is to act as a PR spin machine to distract the public from the main show of global power grabs behind the scenes and behind closed doors.

While the media is very focused on equating anarchists with terrorists, they’re also wholly ignoring the police harassment and abuse that has already taken place even before the summit.  The Seeds of Peace collective has been repeatedly attacked by the police solely because of the fact by that by bringing a bus to act as kitchen and medical support for the g20 resistance they’ve been made an obvious target.  Yesterday, the Landslide Community Farm and the Cyberpunk Apocalypse Writers Guild house were raided for no plausible reasons by swarms of cops trespassing without warrants or accurate justification.  The Landslide Community Farm and the Cyberpunk Apocalypse house are centers of different type transformation happening in Pittsburgh, that of radical culture.

These centers are the works of truly earnest folks, that divide up what free time they can muster into making art, hosting cultural gatherings, giving out free food, planting permaculture food forests, building bike co-ops, fighting all forms of oppression, and re-envisioning all that has been abandoned in the shadows of steel that is the forlorn rusty spine of Pittsburgh.  Some of them are even proud to be called anarchists.  These groups and many, many, others like them are true community builders something the G20 aristocrats will most likely never understand.  Perhaps the new face of Pittsburgh is not the gilded “green” skyline for the rich but the rainbow of diversity in an urban farm for everyone.

For more info about the Landslide Community Farm visit:  www.punkrockpermaculture.com

For real time updates on the G20 resistance visit: pittsburgh G-finity