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Bristol Bites Back | Fruits & Roots of Radical Resilience in South-West England

Bristol Bites Back | Fruits & Roots of Radical Resilience in South-West England

Image courtesy of The Community Farm

A new e-book published by ARC2020 documents one community’s inspiring response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Download the free e-book

Every crisis has a silver lining. Last summer, as we reeled from the Covid crisis, Ursula Billington, a sustainability activist in Bristol (UK), reached out to ARC2020. Were we interested in stories about community-based food and farming projects in her corner of South-West England?

Ursula’s stories of the sustainability movement couldn’t have come at a better time.

As we faced into a second wave of Covid and another round of restrictions in the autumn, struggling to picture the new normal, Ursula regaled us with tales of agroecological transition in and around Bristol.

A balm to our beleaguered spirits, these stories are tangible, practical proof that ecosystem-based approaches to food, farming and sustainability do indeed bear fruit for their patient protagonists – in some cases after decades of going against the grain of a productivist mindset.

In the spirit of ARC2020’s Letters From The Farm series, Ursula also widens the lens beyond the farm gate. Her focus on the people behind the projects and the wider community ties into broader issues of environmental and social justice, striking parallels with our Nos Campagnes en Résilience project in France.

What really comes across in these stories is the web of community that ties them all together, as the same names crop up like old friends. It’s a reminder of the importance of sticking together in the wake of another crisis – that of Brexit. Europe is, after all, more than the institutions of the EU – it’s we the people.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Necessary Climate Solution No-one is Talking About

The Necessary Climate Solution No-one is Talking About

For all the talk of renewable energy, electric vehicles and plant-based diets, there’s a gaping hole in the way we’re trying to solve accelerating climate change.

We will not stay below 2°C of warming while pursuing economic growth – yet barely anyone talks about it.

Since the end of World War II Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has been the metric of human prosperity in Western nations – the idea being that if the productivity of the economy increases so will the wellbeing of the people within that economy. And for a while that was the case – but since the 1970’s increases in GDP have, on average, failed to translate into increases in wellbeing and happiness.

It is not surprising. Research has shown that once a certain GDP threshold, or level of wellbeing, has been met people gain little from consuming more ‘stuff’ – a necessary requirement for continuous GDP growth.

Robert F Kennedy eloquently summed up the inadequacy of GDP as a metric of wellbeing at a speech he gave in 1968:

[t]he gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

What’s more, GDP has never been, and can’t be, decoupled from material footprint, including energy[i]. This means we cannot roll out renewable energy fast enough to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement – to keep warming below 2°C – if we continue growing our economy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Problems, Predicaments, and Technology

We often see people bring out certain ideas that they claim are some sort of “solution” or that “they work” and I want to try to explain why (once again) these ideas are nothing more than ideas and not “solutions” of any sort. One of the things I most would like to get others to see is the bigger picture. Many people focus on reductionist ideas such as non-renewable “renewable” energy, or alternative energy ideas such as hydrogen, or technological ideas; but fail to see how those ideas don’t really change anything and only allow for continued environmental destruction (and consolidate capital in the hands of the elite) instead.

Before I go any further, I should make it clear that climate change (and most of the topics in our files) is a predicament. A predicament has an outcome, not a solution or answer. Solutions and answers are reserved for PROBLEMS. Many people get these two mixed up and tend to see predicaments as problems. Wikipedia calls a predicament a “wicked problem” but this doesn’t change the simple fact that predicaments or dilemmas do not have solutions.

One of the first things I constantly harp about is technology. Technology has been great for those of us who can afford to use it, but it came at a huge cost to the environment AND to us over the long haul. It is our use of technology which CONTINUES the exponential expansion of the predicaments we face and it is our insistence upon not only using existing technology but on developing NEW technology to “solve” the predicaments technology caused to begin with that is itself one of the biggest parts of our predicaments.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How to Make Beef Jerky – DIY – Prepper’s Kitchen

How to Make Beef Jerky – DIY – Prepper’s Kitchen

City Prepping Ultimate Jerky RecipeIn this blog, we’re going to take you through, step-by-step, showing you how to make beef jerky. We’ll cover the steps, the recipe, and all of the items you’ll need on hand. Nobody has ever been able to eat a whole cow in one sitting but to survive, it’s essential to preserve as much of the meat as possible for consumption.

It seems like everyone I know has their own jerky recipe, but Shawn assures me his is the ultimate jerky recipe. You don’t need a fancy dehydrator to make it.

WHAT YOU NEED
I’ll address optional ingredients in a moment, but Siracha is a great fermented pepper sauce to use for this. For my recipe, you will need two or more pounds of beef (I used top round and flank steak), a bowl to marinate the meat, a measuring cup, 3/4 cup soy sauce, one tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, one teaspoon smoked paprika, one tablespoon brown sugar, one teaspoon or more ground pepper, one teaspoon garlic powder, one teaspoon onion powder, one teaspoon liquid smoke.

Optional other ingredients include toasted sesame oil, hot pepper flakes or hot pepper powder, 1/4 cup pineapple juice, two teaspoons ginger, Siracha sauce to taste. If you have a particularUltimate Jerky Ingredients preference in taste, feel free to add an optional ingredient. I will add some sesame oil, pineapple juice, and chili paste to mine at the end of the basic recipe to make mine just a little more Pacific Island style.

THE QUICK RECIPE

  1. Trim the fat off the meat and reserve it for other purposes like making tallow, which I cover in another blog. Cut the meat against the grain into 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch slices depending upon the thickness. You don’t want the meat so thick it will be hard to dry the center.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Dr Sid Smith Rocks the Boat on Nature Bats Last

Dr Sid Smith Rocks the Boat on Nature Bats Last

The August 2020 episode of Nature Bats Last featured an excellent discussion with Dr Sid Smith, the episode is embedded here:

 Dr Smith is former co-chair and current secretary of the Green Party of Virginia. He holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, and he is a writer and small-business owner in central Virginia. His website can be found at bsidneysmith.com .
Both of Dr Smith’s You Tube presentations are embedded below.

We discussed Dr Smith’s essay titled “ Socialism and the Green Party”, in it he wrote:
“ The value to the economy of a barrel of oil is an amount that is equivalent to 11 years of human labour. Supposing a minimum wage of $15 per hour that is more than $330,000 worth of work.” I think that observation exposes our addiction clearly.

Central to the discussion we talked about the melt down of 450 nuclear power stations and 1300 spent fuel pool fires and the possibility of our psychopathic owners using a nuclear winter to cool down the planet, I’ve covered that aspect of our predicament here. The Inevitability of Nuclear War and Subsequent Nuclear Winter

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The comparison of our predicament to the game “Jenga” was made, I have written previously about that observation. Abrupt Climate Change and Extinction ‘Jenga’. The very last ‘game’ on Earth.

!Jenga_Extinction
Jenga  Art credit Ken Avidor
I mentioned our interview with Arthur Keller and his contention that collapse is the only realistic conclusion, that discussion and Arthur’s incredible You Tube presentation are embedded below.
Collapse, the Only Realistic Scenario:
Further reference for Alice Friedmann who blogs at Peak Energy & Resources, Climate Change, and the Preservation of Knowledge

Collective Farming, Community and Connection

Collective Farming, Community and Connection

Cédric, Mathieu and Hervé of the collective farm (GAEC) La Ferme des 7 Chemins in Brittany. Image courtesy of La Ferme des 7 Chemins via Facebook

What does a socio-ecological transition mean for farmers? Farmers from the Nos Campagnes En Résilience project share their thoughts on social issues in farming, the role of farms in the community, and how Nos Campagnes En Résilience can help to build rural resilience in France.

In France, collective farms are quite common (known as a Groupement Agricole d’Exploitation en Commun, or GAEC). Social issues on the farm are central to farming in a collective set-up. But these farmers are also keen to look beyond the farm to build community and connection.

Cédric Briand is part of a collective dairy farm in Brittany with two other partners (pictured above). They manage a a herd of Bretonne Pie Noir, a local heritage breed of dairy cow. All of their milk is processed on-farm, where they produce artisan cheeses. 

Ludovic Boulerie is an artisan baker and farmer in a collective farm in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in the West of France. Together with his two farming partners (pictured below) they produce cereals and aromatic herbs and bake bread in the on-farm bakery.

Gilles and Marie Avocat are retired sheep farmers and cheesemakers who were part of a collective farm in the French Alps. They have always been very involved in the community as advocates for local organic food.

Ludovic (on the right) with farming partners Cécile and Youry of the collective farm GAEC La Billardière. Image courtesy of GAEC La Billardière

Farming can build community through food

Ludovic puts it succinctly: The end goal of farming is to feed the population. So there’s a direct link between farmers and their local communities. Farming can build community through food.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

TSHTF

TSHTF

You just know everything’s going pear shaped when the venerable acronym TSHTF, well known in our circles, hits mainstream media….. The below article written by Fiona Blackwood from the Hobart ABC Bureau appeared on the ABC News website and it’s so full of ironies I just had to pull it apart. So please bear with what will turn out to be an editing nightmare on my phone while I am still without a working laptop…

“Tasmania has been listed alongside New Zealand, Iceland, the United Kingdom and Ireland as potential havens of the future.” Right….. So whoever wrote this has no idea about food security, because literally nowhere in the northern hemisphere is safe AFAIC.

“The study, published in the journal Sustainability, found Tasmania could become recognised “as Australia’s ‘local refuge (lifeboat)’ as conditions on the continental mainland may become less amenable to supporting large human populations in the future”.

While many people have already moved to Tasmania to escape the heat in other states, some doomsday preppers are weighing up the island state as a post-apocalyptic option.”

Scottsdale's future is changing
Tasmania is already being chosen by mainlanders for its scenic landscape and relaxed lifestyle. (Supplied: Dorset Council)

“Tasmania scored highly in the report in terms of its climate, electricity supply, agricultural resources and population density.”

Mr Polin's land was put on the market in January 2012.
Mr Polin’s land included a bunker during the cold war in case of a nuclear holocaust.(ABC)

“The study states that rising populations and energy use have led to climate change, increased risk of pandemics and ecological destruction.

As a result, it found that human civilisation is in a “perilous position with regards to its future”.

“Professor of Human Geography and Planning at the University of Tasmania Jason Byrne agreed the state would be a good option to seek refuge “if things went pear-shaped globally”.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

New Zealand rated best place to survive global societal collapse

Study citing ‘perilous state’ of industrial civilisation ranks temperate islands top for resilience

Bunker repurposed for a US ‘doomsday’ community
Bunker repurposed for a US ‘doomsday’ community. A study proposes that countries able to grow food for their populations, protect their borders from unwanted mass migration and maintain an electrical grid, are best placed to withstand severe shocks. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

New Zealand, Iceland, the UK, Tasmania and Ireland are the places best suited to survive a global collapse of society, according to a study.

The researchers said human civilisation was “in a perilous state” due to the highly interconnected and energy-intensive society that had developed and the environmental damage this had caused.

A collapse could arise from shocks, such as a severe financial crisis, the impacts of the climate crisis, destruction of nature, an even worse pandemic than Covid-19 or a combination of these, the scientists said.

To assess which nations would be most resilient to such a collapse, countries were ranked according to their ability to grow food for their population, protect their borders from unwanted mass migration, and maintain an electrical grid and some manufacturing ability. Islands in temperate regions and mostly with low population densities came out on top.

The researchers said their study highlighted the factors that nations must improve to increase resilience. They said that a globalised society that prized economic efficiency damaged resilience, and that spare capacity needed to exist in food and other vital sectors.

Billionaires have been reported to be buying land for bunkers in New Zealand in preparation for an apocalypse. “We weren’t surprised New Zealand was on our list,” said Prof Aled Jones, at the Global Sustainability Institute, at Anglia Ruskin University, in the UK.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The last climate warning: heat waves and the IPCC leak

NEARLY 50 CELSIUS DEGREES ON THE WEST COAST OF CANADA

Records everywhere, and at the same time, a leak to the press, a preview, of a part of the major report on the climate crisis. It doesn’t sound like a coincidence

In Lytton, Canada, 49.6º was recorded at the end of June, during a historic heat wave that has caused a fire in the area, wiping the population off the map. Other records were also broken during those days in a multitude of cities as diverse as Seattle, Moscow or Benni Abbes in Tunisia.

Climate change is no longer denied by anyone. Or at least no one who thinks of anything other than his or her own benefit and those who let themselves be manipulated by the first ones.

 

According to a recent Yale University study, more than 90% of people surveyed around the globe assume that climate change is a real and very serious problem.Unfortunately, there is still some doubt about two crucial issues:

The first issue is that a third of society or more do not believe that it is human activities that are primarily responsible for climate chaos in most countries.  In Indonesia, the most serious case, this percentage would be over 80%. Truly incredible for the current knowledge, which does not admit any doubt in this regard. Natural phenomena not only have nothing to do with it, they are actually helping us.

Just as there were fires before humans even existed, there are fires now, both natural and human-induced. Of course there have been many previous climate changes casued by the interaction of orbital cycles or Milankovitch cycles with the carbon cycle…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

On Degrowth

On Degrowth

“The Good Life” mural painted by Amanda Lynn, Forestville, Califonria, 2021. Photo: Kamran Nayeri.

What is degrowth?

Degrowth is an ambiguous  label used by different currents that have emerged or have been reconsidered as such since the 1960s when the contemporary environmentalist movement got underway.  The bulk of these movements identify as Greens although it includes eco-anarchists (e.g. Trainer 2010; Australian Simplicity Institute) and others.  The ambiguity of what degrowth stands for is a problem both for its proponents and its critics that sometimes misrepresent it.    

I will briefly review and discuss degrowth by focusing on a recent book The Case for Degrowth (2020) by Giorgos Kallis, Susan Paulson, Giacomo D’Alisa, and Federico Demaria (herein, “The authors”). Mike Davis has recommended the book as “eloquent and urgent.” The authors themselves declare: “The purpose of this book is to motivate and empower citizens, policy makers, and activists to reorient livelihoods and politics around equitable wellbeing.” (p. 5)

In their view:

“Degrowth makes the case that we have to produce and consume differently, and also less.  That we have to share more and distribute more fairly, while the pie shrinks. To do so in ways that support pleasurable lives in resilient societies and environments requires values and institutions that produce different kinds of persons and relations.” (ibid.)

Yet degrowth “does not claim one unitary theory or plan of action. A remarkably diverse network of thinkers and actors experiment with different initiatives and engage in healthy debates about what degrowth, and what form it can or should take un different contexts.” (p. 19)

Thus, degrowth appears as as décroissance in France, decrescita in Catalonia, and sumak kawsay (an ancient Quechua word for “good living”) or Bon Vivir in Latin America, Ubuntu in South Africa, and so on.

Intellectual sources of degrowth

At its core degrowth is about volunteer simplicity as a lifestyle choice. Voluntary simplicity has deep historical roots. In the U.S. its intellectual origins is in American transcendentalism, most directly the teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the more practical example of Henry David Thoreau.  In the Western tradition simplicity is a theme in Christianity. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, God is infinitely simple. The Roman Catholic and Anglican religious orders of Franciscans also strive for personal simplicity. Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) practice the Testimony of Simplicity, which involves simplifying one’s life to focus on what is important and disregard or avoid what is least important. Simplicity is tenet of Anabaptistism.

Recent sources of degrowth come from the Club of Rome, think tank headquartered in WinterthurSwitzerland. Meadows, et. al. (1972) published The Limits to Growth a report prepared at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) using simulation models to predicate the future of economic growth on a planet with limited resources. In 2012, one of the researchers of the original study, Randers (2012), published the last report 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years  Intellectually more interesting sources include E. F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (1973) and  “Buddhist Economics” (1966) as well as Herman Daly’s stationary state economics such as“Towards a Steady-State Economy.” (2008) and others (see, here).   

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The prolific, inimitable Nate Hagens strikes again: This time with a new book on the human predicament

The prolific, inimitable Nate Hagens strikes again: This time with a new book on the human predicament

“This will be the century which tests the human potential for mediocrity against the human potential for greatness.” —

“Earth’s currently most successful large creature is now in a predicament; a predicament brought about by a compelling combination of human traits and its (relatively) recent discovery of vast stores of fossil flammable fuel. … This “Carbon Pulse” is a brief period of human history in which much of the carbon sequestered as these substances over hundreds of millions of years is expended in just a few centuries. The resulting impacts on wealth, economies, and ecologies are earth-shattering. Humans are reaching the end of the carbon pulse. Now we face a time of change that requires a quality of “systems thinking” and future planning never before required of our species. … In the following pages, we will give short overviews of scientific themes central to our thesis that humans are in a predicament and why, and how we can change. It is hoped that our work will give you a greater grasp of the complex challenges facing humanity this century, as well as inspiration on how to live meaningful, effective and enjoyable lives.” Nathan J. HagensDJ White

The above passage is excerpted from the Introduction to a new, 345-page book, “Reality Blind: Vol. 1: Integrating the Systems Science Underpinning Our Collective Futures”, co-authored by Nate Hagens and DJ White.  (You can purchase a copy here: https://read.realityblind.world/view/975731937/i/To download a free PDF copy, go to the black border at the bottom of your open window, below the book, and click on the download icon to the right of the printer icon.)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

World’s Food Supplies In Jeopardy Amid Climate Disasters

World’s Food Supplies In Jeopardy Amid Climate Disasters

Devastating floods in Germany, China, Turkey, and India. Scorching hot weather in the Western U.S. and Canada. Worst frost in two decades across Brazil. These recent weather phenomena are rapidly intensifying and threaten further food inflation already at decade highs.

We documented last week Brazil had some of the worst frost conditions in two decades. Temperatures dropped below zero and delivered a massive blow to farmers across the country’s coffee belt. The result has been sky-high coffee prices.

Back-to-back heatwaves continue to scorch the Earth across the Western half of the U.S. The corn belt, which spans the Midwest, lacks rainfall, and hot weather could negatively impact crop development, leading to an underwhelming harvest.

In Europe, China, Turkey, and India, devastating floods have torn apart towns, damaged farmland, and killed hundreds of people. Torrential rains have the risk of sparking fungal diseases for grain crops.

“All of these events are touched by jet streams, strong and narrow bands of westerly winds blowing above the Earth’s surface. The currents are generated when cold air from the poles clashes against hot air from the tropics, creating storms and other phenomena such as rain and drought,” Bloomberg said.

“Jet streams are the weather—they create it, and they steer it,” said Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center. “Sometimes the jet stream takes on a very convoluted pattern. When we see it taking big swings north and big dips southward, we know we’re going to see some unusual weather conditions.”

Source: Bloomberg 

Meteorologists worry whenever those swings and dips form omega-shaped curves that look like waves. When that happens, warm air travels further north and cold air penetrates further south…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Backyard biocontrol – using natural enemies to wipe out invasive weeds

Backyard biocontrol – using natural enemies to wipe out invasive weeds

The agricultural-residential interface

Four years ago we moved to the family farm (where I grew up) and we’ve enjoyed restoring the 1 acre landscape around the farmhouse. Given that the residential part of this farm is surrounded by pastureland, there is a continual influx of weed seeds into our managed beds. While our thick applications of arborist wood chips have kept out many weeds, they still pop up where mulch hasn’t been applied yet or is too thin.

Photosensitized livestock will suffer severe sunburning after consuming Hypericum perforatum

One of these weeds is Hypericum perforatum (also known as Klamath weed or St. John’s wort), a species native to Eurasia. The latter common name can confuse gardeners, as there are several ornamental species of Hypericum also called St. John’s wort, but H. perforatum is easily identified by the perforations in the leaf. This invasive species is a problem for our cattle, as Klamath weed causes photosensitivity when it’s consumed and can be toxic in large amounts.

The weeds to the right of my raised beds include St. John’s wort, or Hypericum perforatum.

In the last few years H. perforatum colonized our stockpile of native soil waiting to be used in our raised beds. It was a small enough infestation that we could pull it all up, but a closer look revealed that some shiny metallic beetles were already busy feasting on the leaves. Putting on my IPM hat, I first needed to identify these interesting beetles. It didn’t take long to find out they were a Chrysolina species.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Pemmican – Proven Ancient Survival Food – DIY

Pemmican – Proven Ancient Survival Food – DIY

Indigenous people of North America, trappers, and early settlers all owe their lives to pemmican.  It’s a dense, high-protein, high-energy food that can be stored easily on a stable temperature shelf for an incredible five years.  It has the right mix of fats, proteins, and calories to keep you going long into the aftermath of any disaster or for many miles down any trail.

There are hundreds of variants to this ancient food, but most are generally a mix of meat, berries, and fats.

WHAT YOU NEED

For this recipe, you simply need about 3 to 5 pounds of lean beef, 2 cups worth of dehydrated berries, salt, water, and tallow.  You can either obtain your tallow from the store or render your own, as I show you how to do in another post.   You will also need a dehydrator or oven with a low setting and a food processor, or else you will have to powder both your dried meats and berries manually.  A cookie sheet, wax paper, and a bowl and spatula are everything you will need.

Moose for pemmican

For this recipe, I am using beef because living in the suburbs doesn’t allow me to use and eat elk, moose, bison, caribou, seal, deer, or other meats.  If you have access to any of those meats, your pemmican will taste even better, in my opinion.  Generally, everyone has access to beef, so we’ll use it here for our basic recipe.  If you want to make your beef taste a little gamier, it is common practice to add organ meat to it.  This will also significantly boost the nutritional quality of the food.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gaia’s Problem Children: Humans

Gaia’s Problem Children: Humans

Also discussed during two podcasts: one here and another here.

Ecological engineering, and a keystone role, in any local ecosystem, is the human cultural adaptive niche. Maybe we should call this a “hyper-keystone” niche, since humans have managed their ecosystems by making use of a host of other keystone species like beavers, wolves, bison, and giraffe in the past when living as hunter-gatherers, in addition to reduced wildfire risks and creating ecological mosaics through the use of small controlled burns.The development of domesticates was an intensification of this hyper-keystone role, under conditions of increased seasonal risks and longer term risks of drought or other temporary decline in food supply. Boserup’s model addressed the next step; development of more intensification under conditions of denser population and more limited options to utilize wild species as these become locally extinct.

Boserupian intensification has helped explain land clearing even in the deep past (Ruddiman and Ellis 2009). At present, as human populations are growing and urbanizing, agricultural demand has increased so much that the most intensive agricultural systems are becoming dominant. The good news is that the most intensive systems tend to focus on the most productive land – marginal lands are increasingly abandoned and left to regenerate ( the “forest transition”; eg. Rudel et al. 2009). So even as we go off the end of Boserup’s chart, disaster is not the result and intensification continues- though the planet will never be the same- our agriculture has now transformed the planet for the long-term (Ellis et al. 2010).
http://ecotope.org/blog/saved-by-ester-boserup/?fbclid=IwAR03YMtSeiKNSzNwnH_CDIKfjV6rU6iw8ZrZP8WiSA99ZBIXRaG-ZYHu8aI

So far, Boserup has been right and Malthus and Ehrlich have been wrong. And I would bet that the future will also be Boseruppian (Boserup 3.0). We humans will be around for the long term, adapting the earth to us, and then adapting to the earth we create…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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