Monday, 31 March 2014

Gardening after catastrophe (book)

Greening in the Red Zone

‘Greening in the red zone’ refers to post-catastrophe, community-based stewardship of nature, and how these often spontaneous, local stewardship actions serve as a source of social-ecological resilience in the face of severe hardship. Two types of evidence are presented in this book. First are explanations on the positive impact of contact with nature, and from resilience scholars who subscribe to the notion that identifying sources of resilience in the face of change is crucial to the long-term well-being of humans, their communities, and the environment. The second source of evidence are case studies of greening in red zones from post-disaster and post-conflict settings around the world, ranging from the highly visible like the greening of the Berlin Wall, to smaller-scale efforts like planting a community garden in a war zone.

Reslience in peri-urban settings (online)

This paper is concerned with how resilience approaches can be used as a practical tool in helping to understand complex systems in an urbanising world and how resilience approaches can contribute to initiatives to enhance environmental integrity and social justice. Some key debates around differing understandings and uses of the term resilience are summarised, and criticisms discussed. In-depth case studies demonstrate opportunities for the use of resilience approaches as an integral part of initiatives that seek to enhance sustainability in dynamic urbanising situations.

Sustainable intensifcation of smallholder cropping (online)

Save and Grow: A policymaker’s guide to the sustainable intensification of smallholder crop production

A straightforward guide from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to the need for a change in direction in food production away from intensive mono-cropping and towards smallholder productivity with an ecological focus. 7 articles consider the challenges, farming systems, soil health, crops and varieties, water management,  plant protection and policies and institutions. Aimed at policy makers, this report makes a great introduction to a topic close to the heart of permaculture; who will grow our food in the years to come and how will they grow it. Permaculture practitioners may not agree with all the solutions put forward, but will recognise the need for a paradigm shift in how humanity grows its food.

Biodiversity vital to public health (#journal)

Biological Diversity and Public Health

In the wake of a species extinction event unprecedented in human history, how the variety, distribution, and abundance of life on earth may influence health has gained credence as a worthy subject for research and study at schools of public health and for consideration among policy makers. This article reviews a few of the principal ways in which health depends on biodiversity, including the discovery of new medicines, biomedical research, the provision of food, and the distribution and spread of infections. It also examines how changes in biological diversity underlie much of the global burden of disease and how a more thorough understanding of life on earth and its relationships has the potential to greatly alleviate and prevent human suffering.

Permaculture learning as community of practice (#journal)

Learning in the Permaculture Community of Practice in England: An Analysis of the Relationship between Core Practices and Boundary Processes

This article utilizes the Communities of Practice (CoP) framework to examine learning processes among a group of permaculture practitioners in England. The research found that permaculture practitioners are informally bound together by shared values, expertise and passion for the joint enterprise of permaculture, thus corresponding to a CoP. It found that core practices (situated learning, mutual engagement, joint enterprise and shared repertoire) are strong but also that boundary processes are active, enabling learning and interaction to take place with other learning systems, although this tends to be restricted to those with similar perspectives. This, and the strong cohesion and identity of the CoP, leads to some insularity. This research shows that the potential for the permaculture CoP to integrate with the conventional Agricultural Knowledge System is limited due to its insularity and self-reliance, in that the Permaculture Association fulfils the role of information provision and network facilitation.

Transition as peaceful radicalism (journal)

Radicals without rebellion? A Case Study on four Transition experiments

This paper investigates whether and how social movements can promote radical positions whilst refraining from adopting an oppositional approach. Transition is a movement that is characterised by a markedly non-adversarial approach and that, whilst pursuing radical objectives, refrains from using confrontational means. Through a theoretical analysis and illustrations from four case studies this work investigates what are the implications of pursuing radical objectives through a non-adversarial approach.

A critique of eco-cities (#journal)

Eco-urbanism and the Eco-city, or, Denying the Right to the City?

This paper critically analyses the construction of eco-cities as technological fixes to concerns over climate change, Peak Oil, and other scenarios in the transition towards “green capitalism”. It argues for a critical engagement with new-build eco-city projects, first by highlighting the inequalities which mean that eco-cities will not benefit those who will be most impacted by climate change. Second, the paper investigates the foundation of eco-city projects on notions of crisis and scarcity. Third, there is a need to critically interrogate the mechanisms through which new eco-cities are built, including the land market, reclamation, dispossession and “green grabbing”. Lastly, a sustained focus is needed on workers geographies in and around these “emerald cities”, especially the temporary settlements housing the millions of workers who move from one new project to another.

Success factors in transition communities (#journal)

Learning from success—Toward evidence-informed sustainability transitions in communities

People around the world initiate transitions toward sustainability on various levels of society. Each initiative presents learning opportunities to build robust transitions. Little empirical research has been conducted on how the transition context and process lead to particular outcomes. This article presents an analytical-evaluative framework for appraising the sustainability of transition outcomes and reconstructing transition pathways in order to identify critical success factors. Ashton Hayes in the U.K. serves as an illustrative case study. The ultimate goal is to derive, accumulated over many studies, evidence-informed guidelines to improve the effectiveness of transitions.

Transition towns in the majority world (journal)

How can the “transition paradigm” be implemented in poor communities in South Africa where most people are dependent on income from government grants? Here, the aim cannot be to have a transition to a lower consumption society; these societies are actually under-consuming. Rather, it is necessary to create settlements which are sustainable in almost every way: in terms of livelihoods, natural resources, energy and water usage, health and education, transport, and waste disposal. In this model, sustainable communities use the skills, assets and resources of their members to generate livelihoods. This paper observes three existing communities in South Africa with the objective of analysing how such models are integrated (or not) into the local economy. Thereafter aspects of a model that envisages ways that poor communities can create sustainable livelihoods, using local skills and resources, are presented. This model requires strategies for creating localised systems, including micro finance, local markets, com-munity exchange networks, cooperative construction, production and distribution systems; and infrastructure and technology systems.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Drivers of environmental change (report)

World in Transition – A Social Contract for Sustainability

In this report, the German Advisory council on Global Change explains the reasons for the desperate need for a post-fossil economic strategy, yet it also concludes that the transition to sustainability is achievable, and presents ten concrete packages of measures to accelerate the imperative restructuring. If the transformation really is to succeed, we have to enter into a social contract for innovation, in the form of a new kind of discourse between governments and citizens, both within and beyond the boundaries of the nation state. Factsheet 5 includes detailed descriptions of 'Drivers of Transformation', such as permaculture activists and transition towners