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Ancient Amazonian Societies Managed the Forest Intensively But Sustainably–Here’s What We Can Learn From Them

ANCIENT AMAZONIAN SOCIETIES MANAGED THE FOREST INTENSIVELY BUT SUSTAINABLY — HERE’S WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THEM

The Amazon’s trees, soils and mysterious earthworks tell the story of the millions who lived there before European arrival 

Intro image

August 15, 2019 — When loggers and cattle ranchers began toppling the rainforest in Brazil’s far western state of Acre, they revealed a mystery: vast ancient earthworks, hidden for centuries under the trees.

These “geoglyphs” took the form of geometric shapes — squares, rectangles and circles — hundreds of meters across, marked out with ditches and raised mounds. Since the 1980s, around 450 geoglyphs have been identified in Acre alone, dating back between 650 and 2,000 years — offering new perspectives on the supposed pristine nature of the Amazon as well as insights into how agriculture and healthy ecosystems might coexist.

The Amazon has long been thought of as an untrammeled ecosystem, a wilderness relatively untouched by humans. Indigenous peoples were presumed to be so few in number, and live so lightly on the land, that they had a negligible impact on the environment.

But recent interdisciplinary research across the Amazon basin is overturning that old story. It’s showing instead that the rainforest’s early inhabitants numbered in the millions, and that they managed the landscape intensively, in complex and sustainable ways — offering lessons for how we manage the Amazon today.  

Ancient Agroforestry

Jennifer Watling, currently an archaeologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, spent several seasons digging holes in some of Acre’s geoglyphs for her Ph.D. research at the University of Exeter in the U.K.

It is still unclear exactly what the geoglyphs were used for, Watling says. From the lack of household debris, it seems people didn’t live there, but perhaps visited for ceremonies and other special events. New tools, including the analysis of microscopic plant remains called phytoliths, are helping archaeologists find other stories in the soil.

coffee trees in agroforestry system Nova Maringá, Mato Grosso, Brazil
Agroforesters grow crops among trees for benefits such as increased biodiversity and soil health. Of the ancient sites archaeologists are finding in Brazil, one researcher says, “It looks a lot like agroforestry — managing the landscape, encouraging palms and probably other useful plants as well.” Photo courtesy of Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

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

Water Harvesting Earthworkds “Design to Reality”. Part 1.

WATER HARVESTING EARTHWORKS “DESIGN TO REALITY”. PART 1

So, you have been contacted by a client and you’ve discussed the client’s brief. You’ve started to look at the contour map, aerial images, whatever data you can find on the site. And with the client brief in mind, always remembering WATER IS LIFE, you set to the task of patterning the landscape using functional forms.

You start to look at what’s the most economical way to hold water in the landscape, move water around the landscape passively and make it perform as many duties as possible before it leaves the site.

Next is to develop the mainframe design theme. A big part of this is looking for high water storage sites. So we take the approach of looking at the contour map to take into account where the highest possible spot is, where water can safely be stored on the site in dams, (always considering how much catchment area is above the potential dam site or if there are any hard-surface run-off areas above the dam site).

Reader’s will understand catchment area, but hard surface run-off areas aren’t so well utilised and it’s just a bit of pattern recognition to identify when you look at a new site.

Identifying hard surface run off areas

Hard surface run-off areas with a bit of design thinking, can brought into our water harvesting systems. At times it doesrequire good observation skills to identify them, but there are generally clues for the observer.

There are many examples of hard surface run-off areas, sometimes called ‘hard-ware’. Your roof, a road, any compacted surface or a rock outcrop are all examples of ‘hard-ware’.

Gravel roads run off 85% of the water that hits the surface. Concrete areas 100% minus whatever evaporates, and your roof 100%.

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

How to Turn a Piece of Land Into a Thriving Project?

how to turn a piece of land feat

HOW TO TURN A PIECE OF LAND INTO A THRIVING PROJECT?

Three years ago this month a client asked me to help him transform his land into an eco-tourism project and self-sufficient home. The land is located in fascinating Turkey, overlooking the Marmara Sea.

In this article, I share the highlights of the process and outcomes of two months of intensive work applying Permaculture design in a beautiful but challenging spot. I summarise the birth and first steps of Alişler Yurdu, which has evolved into a pioneering, sustainable and inspiring project.

Read on to see an example of how degraded land in the Mediterranean can be healed, become biologically productive and transformed into a Permaculture paradise.

ALISLER YURDU OVERVIEW
ALISLER YURDU OVERVIEW

Alişler Yurdu has demonstrated that, in just three years, regeneration is realistic and affordable, and that, through harmonious Permaculture design, self-sufficiency, autonomy and even abundance can be reached. At Alişler Yurdu we have designed and supported ecosystems, built resilience, effectively enhanced biodiversity and productivity and much more.

BEFORE
BEFORE
AFTER
AFTER

HERE ARE SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF HOW WE DID IT: 

1. FIRST THINGS FIRST: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF INVISIBLE DESIGN

One of my biggest learning and observations from my experience building, developing and managing projects in different places (including Panya and Rak Tamachat in Thailand) is that one of the main contributing factors to the success of a project is having clear and concise goals and vision. This is essential and greatly contributes to joyful and streamlined development.

Having crystal clear goals and vision is fundamental for any project. Most of you surely agree with this statement, but you would be surprised to know how often this part of the design is overlooked and ‘sacrificed’ for the sake of ‘saving time’. It might be clear in your head but bringing it together and reflecting and refining it is very powerful.

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

Radical experiment in land regeneration at Western Australia’s Wooleen Station proves successful – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Radical experiment in land regeneration at Western Australia’s Wooleen Station proves successful – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

As drought tightens its grip on Western Australia, one young couple’s radical experiment in land regeneration has survived years of next to no rain.

David Pollock and Frances Jones manage Wooleen Station, a half-million acre property in the Murchison Rangelands, seven hours’ drive north of Perth.

Eight years ago, at age 27, Mr Pollock inherited the family’s pastoral lease.

Having observed the property’s decline due to drought and decades of over-grazing, he took the radical move of destocking all cattle from the station.

Intent on “nursing the property back to health”, he also turned off all man-made watering points to reduce kangaroo and wild goat populations, and built infrastructure and earthworks to replicate natural ecosystems.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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