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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Total Planetary Collapse: The World’s Vertebrate Population Has Fallen By An Average Of 60 Percent Since 1970

Total Planetary Collapse: The World’s Vertebrate Population Has Fallen By An Average Of 60 Percent Since 1970

The clock is ticking for humanity, and it is not just because our financial system is heading for the biggest implosion that any of us have ever seen.  The truth is that we are literally running out of everything.  We will not have enough oil to meet our energy needs long before we get to the end of this century.  The lack of fresh water is already a major crisis in many parts of the world.  Our air and our soil are more polluted than they have ever been before.  And at this point we can barely feed the entire planet, but global demand for food is expected to escalate dramatically in the years ahead.  If we continue doing things the way that we have been doing them, a future filled with famine, civil unrest, environmental chaos and war appears to be inevitable.  We are literally on the verge of total planetary collapse, but because this is happening in slow-motion most people don’t feel an urgency to do anything about it.

And to a certain extent, the damage has already been done.  This week, the WWF released a report which found that the vertebrate population of the world has fallen by an average of 60 percent since 1970.  the following comes from NBC News

The population of the planet’s vertebrates has dropped an average of 60 percent since 1970, according to a report by the WWF conservation organization.

The most striking decline in vertebrate population was in the tropics in South and Central America, with an 89 percent loss compared to 1970. Freshwater species have also significantly fallen — down 83 percent in that period.

You may be thinking that you are not a big fan of the WWF, and I certainly am not either.

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

‘Dirt to Soil’ – How to make money in farming and save the planet

Gabe Brown, the author of Dirt to Soil, farms near Bismarck in the US state of North Dakota, not far from the Canadian border. Unusual weather events often spell bad news for farmers, but anyone hit by hailstorms and a severe blizzard in four consecutive years might be excused for being done with farming, once and for all. Brown didn’t give up, despite the “disaster years” as he calls the period from 1995 to 1998. “Today, I tell people that those four years of crop failure were hell to go through, but they turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to us, because they forced us to think outside the box, to not be afraid of failure and to work with nature instead of against it.”

There is little that Brown’s Ranch doesn’t produce: grains, beef, pork, poultry, eggs, vegetables, fruit and nuts – and the list is not comprehensive. To Brown, it’s not about increasing the yield, it is about maximising the profit per acre. One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture, is the subtitle to his book which summarises his insight that everything on the farm hinges on the health of its soils.

His farming success has turned Gabe Brown into something of a celebrity in regenerative farming circles, and by now he spends several months a year, off the farm giving talks and running seminars and workshops. Dirt to Soil, his first book, is in part a handbook that teaches farmers and gardeners how to heal the soil; but it also explains a lot of the soil science and explains why good soil is an integral part of a healthy ecosystem.

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

Making charcoal

Making charcoal


Growing up I knew charcoal as the square, chemical-soaked briquettes people bought in bags and poured into the barbecue grill once a summer. Like so much else in our lives it came from a store, wrapped in plastic and pre-treated for shelf life, with no sense that it shared a name with something amazingly useful, which hundreds of generations had made themselves.

Charcoal is simply wood that has been burned without oxygen, either by being heated but sealed away from oxygen or, more commonly, setting it on fire and then cutting it off from the air, keeping the wood from burning completely into ash. Most other substances in the wood are driven off, leaving a porous shape of almost pure carbon, lightweight and easy to transport.

It can purify water by soaking up impurities, as in many kitchen sink filters, and treat poison victims when crushed and drunk in a fluid. It allows people to burn fires hotter than wood, enabling people to smelt iron or shape glass in a way that wood fires cannot. It can be added to soap for abrasion, crushed to make ink or paint or mixed with minerals to make gunpowder.

Perhaps the most surprising use, one that gained a burst of attention in recent years, involves trapping carbon from the atmosphere. Frequent readers of this blog might have already heard of this and can feel free to skip ahead a few paragraphs – but for the unfamiliar, I will recap the basics.

Farmers in Brazil have long known about the “black earth,” or terra preta, found over vast areas of the Amazon. In the last decade or two archaeologists have begun to realise that the terra preta was not a naturally occurring phenomenon, but had been cultivated over centuries, if not millennia.

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

How to Make Instant Garden Beds


A common problem when just starting a garden is dealing with the fact that we’ve not had time to condition the soil, fostering it into something heaving with fertility. Or, maybe we just aren’t that far into gardening yet anyway and don’t know what to do. Basically, it seems we are left with the option of using what we have and hoping for the best, or we can spend a heap on importing soil and compost and such. Fortunately, there is another route, an inexpensive way to make garden beds instantaneously.

Often referred to as lasagna gardens or sheet mulching, an instant garden bed requires little to nothing being brought in, and it can be cultivated right away (though it will get nicer as time passes). It begins with kitchen scraps, maybe some manure (or other high nitrogen items), old cardboard boxes or newspaper, and some mulch material such as dried grass, straw, or shredded leaves. In other words, most of what we need is already around waiting to be used.


One of the nice elements of this kind of garden is that it doesn’t require digging and tilling. Rather, whatever grass or weeds are growing in the garden space, leave them right where they are. Fresh green material provides a good boost of nitrogen.

Atop this, add a bucket full of kitchen scraps (no need to wait for it to compost) and, if available, some well-rotted manure, whatever is around: horse, rabbit, cow, chicken, etc. If manure isn’t available, other high nitrogen items would be more fresh grass clippings or spent coffee grounds from the nearest coffee shop.

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

Fixes for Nutrient Deficient Soil


Basic understanding of plant health comes from the soil they grow in. Their nutrition is vital to their health and overall sustainability, so it’s essential for plants to get all of the macronutrients necessary to thrive.

However, there are times we still struggle with a plant mysteriously dying off long before its time. It happens, but this is often indicative of a bigger problem with the nutrients in the soil. If one plant is struggling, others nearby may be too.

One method that has worked for me is specifying what nutrients appear to be lacking and why. It’s obvious that plants need nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (commonly known as NPK), but plant health is complex and nutrient deficiencies can stem from many places.


Pale yellow, stunted leaves are a sure sign of nitrogen deficiency. Nitrogen is essential in photosynthesis, cell health, and chlorophyll development. Nitrogen depletion in soil happens when large amounts of carbon are added to the soil, typically after nearby plants decay and die. Microorganisms will use available nitrogen to break down the new carbon source and quickly deplete the nitrogen available to the plant. This stunts the plant’s growth.

To correct a nitrogen deficiency, consider planting nitrogen-rich plants like beans and peas nearby. Adding used and rinsed coffee grounds to the soil to promote nitrogen production. Rinsing the grounds will not affect acid levels of the soil. A plant with plenty of nitrogen available to it will appear leafy green.


Phosphorous ensures healthy cell division, fruiting, and root growth. Similar to nitrogen deficiencies, plants with a lack of phosphorus will struggle to grow. The edges of their leaves may darken to a brown or reddish-purple. Flowers or fruits will not grow. Some contributors to phosphorus deficient soil include cold temperatures, heavy rainfall and acidic soil.

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

What to do With Bad Soil


After watching the sun set and the full moon rise atop my neighbour Sergey’s hill which overlooks the entire eco-village, he walks me back to my tent hidden in the midst of young pine trees upon the insistence of his mother (“You need to walk the young lady all the way to the door of her tent, you hear me?”). His cat Murka (Moor-kah, meaning purr-cat) follows her human grandma’s instructions too, inspecting my tent before heading back home. She spends her summers in the village roaming free and overwinters in a Kiev apartment. When it’s time for her to ride to the village every spring, she stands on the car seat and looks out the window, getting extremely animated for the last 30 minutes of the trip.

Sergey and I walk in the moonlight trying to find where I pitched my tent on my newly purchased 5-acre (2-hectare) plot located about an hour-and-a-half ride west of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital. Our feet sink into the soft sand, dry plant stalks crunch under our feet. Sergey sighs: “There’s so much work that needs to be done here”. I cringe at the sound of that, but I don’t know yet why. It takes me another day to understand why I don’t agree with him.

Before our cabin arrived, I slept in a tent, hidden in the emerging pine forest. None of these trees were here 9 years ago.


The abundance of herbs and insects in the midst of pine trees


The phrase “green thumb” doesn’t even begin to describe Sergey’s talent when it comes to plants.

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

The Battle To Save Our Dying Soil

This camp in southern Spain is finding ways to restore degraded land

LA JUNQUERA, Spain ― In this sparsely populated region of rural Murcia in southern Spain, fields of thirsty almond trees eek sustenance out of the dusty soil and pale rocks tumble down slopes onto the sides of the road. Successive years of low rainfall have led to serious issues with water security, and some locals say increasingly mechanized farming has been detrimental to the land. This is agricultural country, but it’s clear that these are not fertile plains.

Scan the horizon quickly and you might not notice it the first time. But near a dip in the valley, something unusual is happening. Colorful yurts, compost toilets and an outdoor kitchen dot the landscape. It’s only a 12-acre plot, but it stands in stark contrast to its arid surroundings. Several species of green plants and colorful wildflowers cover the ground, and vegetable patches grow mustard leaf, spinach and broccoli. In the ponds, tadpoles swim in the shallows, and a trotter print in the mud nearby indicates a wild boar has recently stopped by for a drink. Young apple trees are blossoming, and people are digging trenches and planting potatoes.

This is Camp Altiplano, where volunteers are using simple practices such as creating ponds and loosening hard earth to return the soil to health.

“When the first tractors arrived [in the 1950s and 60s], that was a big moment for the degradation here,” says Alfonso Chico de Guzman, who owns the plot of land where Camp Altiplano is located. With machinery, most farms increased their amount of productive land by cutting down trees and shrubs, which are vital for healthy soil, the farmer says.

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

Down-to-earth policy: Improving soil health

The foundation of life

Countless cycles of birth, death, fertility and decay have transformed soil into the matrix of life on Earth: just a handful of terrestrial soil contains more organisms than there are people on the planet. These microorganisms work endlessly to provide a range of ecosystem services that are vital for the functioning and resilience of the environment. The Earth’s soils function as its largest water filter and storage tank, filtering and cleaning tens of thousands of cubic kilometres of water that pass through them each year. Soils store more carbon than is contained in all above ground vegetation, while regulating emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Soils also consume, digest, cycle and store nutrients that serve as the molecular building blocks for plants, animals and all forms of life.

Recognising the fundamental value of soil, a handful of forward-looking countries, such as Switzerland and Germany, established national legislation decades ago, to protect this natural resource. However, according to senior soil expert Dr. Luca Montanarella, the world’s soils have largely been considered a second-tier priority. As a result, the state of global soils has rapidly deteriorated, with human pressures on soil resources reaching critical limits.

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

Why Agriculture and Forestry Are Dead or Obsolete the Way They Are Practiced Nowadays

Why Agriculture and Forestry Are Dead or Obsolete the Way They Are Practiced Nowadays


Dead if we keep doing it with our current dependency on mined finite-supply mineral fertilizers and obsolete if we hope to maintain even the current population… NO MATTER WHETHER IT’S DONE ORGANICALLY OR WITHOUT GMOs. Too little is now being done to respond to this. Our response options are to make some modifications to soil agricultural technologies, to develop new forms of food and fiber production and use more efficient ways of consumption that could support even higher human populations, or by default, to return to low-intensity soil agriculture + hunting and gathering that could support only a small fraction of our current population at much lower technological levels.

Why? All life on the planet (with a few very rare exceptions…organisms living on heat near underwater volcanic vents instead of using photosynthesis) depends on a very thin layer at the surface of earth’s topsoils and the photic zone of the earth’s surface waters to provide life-supporting minerals like K, P, Mg, Fe, etc. This layer, call it the life-support mineral nutrient layer (LSMNL), where photosynthesis occurs and where minerals are bioavailable (in ionic form dissolved in water)and physically accessible by photosynthesizers is where the food web begins. The soil agriculture that provides us with our endosomatic energy (food kilocalories) and our own life-support mineral nutrient needs is carried out in the LSMNL.

Agronomics as it’s done today…the selling of plant products without the return of mineral nutrients in human biowastes back to the growing soils, inevitably takes minerals out of the LSMNL much faster than they are replenished by natural processes…weathering of rocks (mechanical or biochemical) and volcanic ash deposition. Deposition of sediments in riverine flood zones can also act to replenish flood plain areas’ mineral nutrient supplies but only a small portion of the earth’s total agriculture occurs on such flood plains.

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

Understanding Biological Farming: A Simplified Understanding of ‘Compost Tea’ a Plant and Soil Probiotic


In ideal soil ecosystems, we would have dramatically different soil and certainly a dramatically different level of ‘made made’ toxins. In an ideal soil environment, we would expect our topsoil to contain 10% organic matter, and would also expect to have literally thousands of species of bacteria and hundreds of species of fungi. In most soils today, we often have a humus content of less than 1% with just a few hundred species of bacteria (including plant pathogens) and less than 100 species of fungi (including plant pathogens) this is often due to poor soil management including the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Poor soil management is simply a matter of misunderstanding the importance of building living soils.

The lack of a large diversity of bacteria and fungi in our soils affects plant health and production dramatically because plants naturally have a very close symbiotic relationship with the soil biology. Plants depend on bacteria, fungi, worms, bugs, and beetles, and larger animals to help provide and digest their food for them. Plants don’t digest minerals by themselves; they either depend on a complex relationship of soil biology to provide their nutritional and health needs or they depend on often toxic ‘artificial’ soluble fertilizers and pesticides to provide for their food and health needs. The first is natural and depends on natural processes, the second is increasingly expensive, more difficult to manage and defeats natural soil fertility processes.

In healthy soil with good organic matter and a healthy biology, a soil food web is created. How this works is that the plants exude ‘exudates’ from their roots, these are simple sugars, proteins and carbohydrates in many different forms, which then trigger responses from the soil biology. The bacteria, protozoa, beneficial nematodes and fungi respond to these triggers to provide the plants with nutrition and to protect plants from disease.

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

Waiting on amber: a note on regenerative agriculture and carbon farming

Waiting on amber: a note on regenerative agriculture and carbon farming

This post offers some further notes on the issue of carbon farming and regenerative agriculture, arising out of the discussion in this recent post of mine, particularly via the comments of Don Stewart. Don set me some onerous homework – a lengthy presentationby Elizabeth and Paul Kaiser of Singing Frogs farm in California, another lengthy presentation by David Johnson of New Mexico State University, and an interview with Australian soil scientist Christine Jones. Diligent student that I am, not only have I now completed these tasks but I’ve also read various other scientific papers and online resources bearing on the issue and am duly turning in my assignment. I hope it’ll provide some interest and a few points for discussion.

I started out with considerable sympathy towards carbon farming and regenerative agriculture, but with a degree of scepticism about some of the loftier claims made on its behalf by regenerative agriculture proponents (henceforth RAPs). And in fact that’s pretty much where I’ve ended up too, but with a somewhat clearer sense of where my grounds for scepticism lie. I hope we’ll see a shift towards more regenerative agriculture in the future. But if that’s going to happen, the RAPs will have to persuade a lot of people more inclined to scepticism than me about the virtues of their proposals – and if they’re going to do that, I think they’ll need to tighten up their arguments considerably. Anyway, in what follows I define what I understand regen-ag to be and then critically examine some of the claims about it.

Defining regenerative agriculture and carbon farming

Doubtless there are numerous possible emphases, but the fundamental idea revolves around restoring or maintaining the biological life of the soil, in particular the fungal component. Working as symbionts to plants and other soil organisms, fungi are able to deliver nutrients to plants that are otherwise unavailable, and also to sequester carbon by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and turning it into stable organic carbon compounds in the soil. In order to achieve this, it’s essential to avoid tillage, since this destroys the fungal hyphae in the soil, and to keep the soil covered with living plants at all times so that there’s a healthy rhizosphere (root zone) interacting with the soil food web. It can also be necessary to inoculate the soil with the right kinds of fungi – apparently, not just any fungi will do1.

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


Agricultural Innovation with John-Paul Maxfield

Council Estate Permaculture: creating a resilient productive garden on a compacted lawn

A view of the garden from the front

We live on a Council estate in Bolton, and decided around five years ago to do something with the front garden.

All of the front gardens in the street are all lawns with compacted soil, each front lawn measures roughly 14x14ft. Incoming sunlight is limited to around two hours in the morning and then two hours in the evening on the opposite side of the garden as the sun goes down.

Creating better soil structure and fertility

I knew the soil needed to be improved so I began aerating the soil with a garden fork, and simply made lots of holes all over the garden that were around 4 inches deep. Once the space was aerated the next job carried on from spring all the way through the summer and into the autumn –  covering the space with many different layers of grass cuttings, most of which I collected from the park across the road from where we live. Before each layer of cuttings was added to the garden I gently patted down the previous layer with a spade.

Perennial planting

The next phase of the garden was digging in two micro ponds, both had previous lives as washing machine doors, the glass is sturdy enough to withstand any temperate climate winter. Once the micro ponds were in place it was time to start the planting! A sea buckthorn shrub was planted in the top of the garden, for both its crop of nutrient dense berries and its function as a biodynamic accumulator, pulling up minerals from deep in the soil. Then I planted an apple tree and a number of fruit bushes including blackcurrants, gooseberries, and jostaberry. When planting bushes and trees in a garden like ours, plant them in the path of the sunrays in order to get good crops of fruit.

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



Several years ago a study commissioned by the United Nations found that, at a time when the world has more hungry people than ever before, one-third of all food is wasted. Consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food, 222 million tonnes, as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa. A previous study had found that British households threw away an estimated one metric tonne of food per year.

Of course, everyone will have some kitchen waste – no one wants to eat the potato peelings or woody stems – but Nature recycles everything. Dropped in the woods those peelings quickly become food for birds or rodents, which fertilise the ground. If these animals are not around, they become food for insects, which in turn feed the larger animals. Whatever insects don’t eat becomes food for moulds and other fungi, and what they don’t eat goes to aerobic bacteria.

In our modern society, though, we have managed to take Nature’s cycles and slice them into several crises. We use vast amounts of fertilisers, pesticides and water to grow food, ship it around the world, often throw it away uneaten — and when we throw it away, we often put in in plastic bags.

This bizarre habit has the effect of sealing the food away from the animals — furry, feathered or creeping – that would eat it, and cutting off the oxygen that would allow fungi and aerobic bacteria to breathe. That leaves only anaerobic bacteria, Nature’s emergency backup workers, who work slowly and create a bit of an odour. You might think that decomposition smells foul anyway, but a well-turned compost actually doesn’t generate much of a smell.

Moreover, anaerobic bacteria create large quantities of methane, which is a serious greenhouse gas — about 35 times worse than carbon dioxide, and accounts for about 20 per cent of the greenhouse effect.

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

No-Till Farming For Healthier Soil and Lifestyles


Masanobu Fukuoka, the late Japanese farmer, developed a unique farming system he called “Natural Farming.” Trying to replicate what he saw in Nature, Fukuoka´s no till system allowed the soil to continually grow in fertility. Through the use of mulch and cover crops, this system effectively allows for continuous harvests of crop rotations, eliminates weeds and builds healthy top soil allowing for organic food production that is ecologically sustainable.


Farmers have been tilling the soil for 10,000 years. It is what exemplifies the occupation of those who make their living from the land. Tilling the soil allowed humanity to produce higher concentrations of food in one place giving rise to the denser populations of city centers and eventually the development of modern civilization as we know it. However, tilling the soil also brought with it a whole host of undesirable effects, including erosion and the loss of the microbial life of the soil. Some studies have linked the fall of major civilizations such as the Mayans of Mesoamerica to the over farming of the land which eventually led to a decreasing soil capacity.

By tilling the soil year after year, the microscopic life of billions of creatures in the top three inches of the soil is essentially killed off. What’s left over is a barren, lifeless medium incapable of offering the nutrients plants need to grow and offer us their fruit. Furthermore, the more we till the soil, the more we leave the precious humus that is the life-sustaining “skin” of our planet vulnerable to the elements of wind and rain. The erosion of top soil caused by tilling and the “baring” of the soil has led to soil compaction, loss of fertility, poor drainage, and problems with plant reproduction.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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