Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Permaculture International Research Network launched!

The Permaculture International Research Network (PIRN) is launched! 

This week The Permaculture Association is launching what we believe is the world's first Permaculture International Research Network. Our first e-bulletin is going out to around 400 permaculture researchers on Friday 18th July 2014. PIRN has three initial activities; an e-bulletin issued six times a year, a facebook page, and the international soil trials. Currently the network is in beta stage; the full launch will take place in September 2015 at The International Permaculture Convergence in London. Anyone involved in permaculture research can join in the conversation on the facebook page; but if you want to actually join PIRN (its free!) and receive the e-bulletin, please e-mail:

Organic food is better for you (journal)

This study analyzes 343 peer-reviewed publications that indicate statistically significant differences in composition between organic and non-organic crops/ foods. The concentrations of a range of antioxidants were found to be substantially higher in organic crops. Many of these compounds have been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases and certain cancers. Additionally, the occurrence of pesticide residues was found to be four times higher in conventional crops, which also contained significantly higher concentrations of the toxic metal cadmium. Significant differences were also detected for some other minerals and vitamins.

Scaling up agro-ecology (online)

Overcoming Obstacles to Agroecology

A half-century of research and practice in agroecology has yielded spectacular results for hundreds of thousands of small scale farmers around the world. Because it opens possibilities for grassroots food systems transformation, peasant movements for food sovereignty have embraced agroecology, as have many urban and organic farmers in the Global North. But despite its documented benefits, agroecology is still largely limited to localized experiences and a few, poorly funded university programs. The problem is systemic. The solution is social and political, as discussed in this article from The Huffington Post.

Scientists call for agroecology research (online)

Scientists Call for Public Investment in Agroecological Research

A distinguished group of scientists and experts from universities and colleges across the United States—including land-grant universities in agricultural powerhouse states such as Iowa and California—has launched the following statement calling for increased public investment in agroecological research. Their statement describes agroecological methods as productive, profitable and sustainable.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Manifesto for a new economy (book)

What Then Must We Do?

Never before have so many been frustrated with their economic system, more fearful that it is failing, or more open to fresh ideas about a new one. The seeds of a new movement demanding change are forming. But what is this thing called a new economy, and how might it take shape? What Then Must We Do? suggests what the next system might look like: a system that is not corporate capitalism, not state socialism, but something else entirely. The book calls for an evolution, not a revolution, out of the old system and into the new which would democratize the ownership of wealth, strengthen communities, and be governed by institutions sophisticated enough to manage a large-scale, powerful economy. What Then Must We Do? offers an elegant solution for moving from anger to strategy.
What Then Must We Do?
What Then Must We Do?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The high cost of low prices (book)

Cheaponomics: The High Cost of Low Prices

Do you really think you are getting a good deal when given that free mobile phone for switching service providers, or by the fact that food is cheaper today than ever before? Think again! This compelling book clearly shows that cheapness is an illusion. The real cost of low prices is alarmingly high, for example where consumers provide welfare support to poorly-paid workers, or rely on the exploitation of workers in poor countries. Environmental pollution is paid for indirectly by people living away from its source or by future generations. Even private cars, when properly costed, prove to be an astronomically expensive model of transportation. The key point is that costs and risks are socialised: we all pay for cheapness, but not at the point of purchase.

Sustainabilty leadership in a perverse world (book)

The Positive Deviant

The Positive Deviant

An economy low in carbon and high in life satisfaction will require thousands, if not millions of exceptional leaders. This book is the first to bring together sustainability knowledge with the leadership skills and tools to help you become one of those leaders. In it you will find everything you need to get started straight away, and to grow your effectiveness, even in a world that remains perversely intent on the opposite.

Adoption of conservation agriculture in Malawi (#journal)

Adoption and extent of conservation agriculture practices among smallholder farmers in Malawi

Understanding factors affecting farmers' adoption of improved technologies is critical to success of conservation agriculture (CA). This study explored why  farmers adopted the three principles of CA (minimum soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, and crop rotations), in 10 communities in Malawi. From a total of 15,854 households in the study areas, 18% of smallholders had adopted CA, on 2.1% of all cultivated land. The first stage of the research showed that hired labor, area of land cultivated, membership to farmer group, and district influenced farmers' decisions to adopt CA. The second stage suggested that total cultivated land, duration of practicing CA, and district influenced farmers' decisions. Agency and social structures influenced adoption and extent of CA. Future policy should address ways to provide access to information and long-term support to farmers to enable them to embrace the technology fully.

Land use practices to improve water quality (#journal)

Estimating water quality effects of conservation practices and grazing land use scenarios
Conservation management practices such as reduced tillage, fertilizer management, and buffer strips are well-established means by which to control erosion and nutrient losses from fields planted in annual row crops. However, agricultural systems which include perennial plant cover may represent an alternative way to reduce these losses. In this study, management intensive rotational grazing (MIRG) was tested as a means by which to improve water quality on highly vulnerable row crop land, compared to more traditional conservation management schemes in Southeastern Minnesota. The effects of both sets of alternative scenarios were evaluated with a watershed-based modeling approach using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool. Watershed-wide implementation of all conservation management practices resulted in reductions in sediment (52%) and total P (28%) loads.

No till cropping cools the hottest days (#journal)

Preferential cooling of hot extremes from cropland albedo management

The projected increase in warm extremes associated with climate change is a major concern for society and represents a threat to humans and ecosystems. This study shows that heat wave impacts could be attenuated locally by increasing surface albedo through no-till farming. This is due to an identified asymmetric impact of surface albedo change on summer temperature distribution resulting in a much stronger influence on hot extremes than on mean temperatures. This finding has important implications for the development of sustainable land management strategies and for the design of climate-engineering measures acting upon high-impact climate extremes.

Connecting cities and oceans (book)

Blue Urbanism

Blue Urbanism
The consequences of our emotional disconnect from oceans have been severe: the marine ecosystems that make up 70% of our planet are imperiled as never before. Restoring the integrity of the oceans will require unprecedented effort, but Blue Urbanism highlights the promise of urban areas around the world that have begun to prioritize marine health, such as efforts to discover  the amazing marine biodiversity near cities, new prototypes of wind- and solar-powered shipping vessels, urban aquaponics systems and buildings and parks that connect with the ocean visually and structurally. This book offers an impassioned argument for the need to harness the political, economic, and emotional power of our growing cities to benefit the ocean, offering a comprehensive look at the challenges and great potential for urban areas to integrate ocean health into their policy and planning goals.

Addressing water scarcity (book)

Chasing Water: A Guide for Moving from Scarcity to Sustainability

Water scarcity is spreading and intensifying in many regions of the world, with dire consequences for local communities, economies, and freshwater ecosystems. Current approaches tend to rely on policies crafted at the state or national level, which on their own have proved insufficient to arrest water scarcity. To be durable and effective, water plans must be informed by the culture, economics, and varied needs of affected community members. Chasing Water tells a cohesive  story that sustainable water sharing in the twenty-first century can only happen through open, democratic dialogue and local collective action.

Why we should conserve carnivores (book)

The Carnivore Way: Coexisting with and Conserving North America's Predators

What would it be like to live in a world with no predators roaming our landscapes? Would their elimination, which humans have sought with ever greater urgency in recent times, bring about a pastoral, peaceful human civilization? Or in fact is their existence critical to our own, and do we need to be doing more to assure their health and the health of the landscapes they need to thrive?

Cartoon introduction to climate change (book)

The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change

Climate change is no laughing matter—but maybe it should be. The topic is so critical that everyone, from students to policy-makers to voters, needs a quick and easy guide to the basics. The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change entertains as it educates, delivering a unique and enjoyable presentation of mind-blowing facts and critical concepts.

Social care farming (#journal)

Farming with care: the evolution of care farming in the Netherlands

 The aim of this paper is to describe the evolution of the care farming sector in one of its pioneering countries, the Netherlands. Care farms combine agricultural production with health and social services. The number of care farms, and the legitimacy and diversity of the care farming sector, have increased rapidly over time due to changes in the care regime, increased media exposure, contacts with ministries and politicians, and the development of a quality system have contributed to the legitimacy of the sector. Changes in the care regime and collective action promoted a further expansion of the sector. The article sheds light on changes in agriculture and transsectoral collaboration.

Legume/corn intercropping - weeds (#journal)

Baby Corn-Legumes Intercropping System: II Weed Dynamics and Community Structure

Field experiments were conducted by Indian Statistical Institute on sandy loam soil. Randomized block design was followed to study the performance of sole and intercrops of legumes (Chickpea, Pea, Groundnut, Lentil) with baby corn in 2:1 (one row of legume planted in between of baby corn rows) and 2:2 (two rows of legume planted in between of baby corn rows) systems. Intercrops suppress weeds growth and population more than their respective sole crop. The intercropping systems of pea or chickpea with baby corn were most suppressive of weeds. The 2:2 row arrangement appeared to be the most weed competitive row arrangement. Intercropping of legumes suppressed the emergence of the most troublesome weeds in the study.

Social learning for sustainability special issue (#journal)

Special issue: Social learning towards sustainability: problematic, perspectives and promise

 Six articles linked by the common thread that sustainability is not a destiny to reach, but a continuous learning path towards transformation that is profound (e.g. affecting moral standards and value systems), transversal (e.g. requiring the involvement of individuals, groups and collectives) and counter-hegemonic (e.g. requiring the exposure and questioning of stubborn routines). The aim of the special issue is to assess the added-value of a social learning perspective from at least three different ‘disciplinary’ perspectives: systems innovation, natural resource management, and environmental education.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Helping communities to save energy (report)

 Smart Communities: Working together to save energy?

Smart Communities was a three and a half year 'behaviour change' community energy project. In broad terms, the Smart Communities findings support the contemporary policy focus on demand-side action, community energy and energy consumption feedback. At the same time, the project highlights the long term and challenging nature of these strategies, and the implications of this for the funding of demand-side community energy. The findings emphasis a lack of 'energy know-how' among householders as a key constraint on change, and identifies ways in which more widespread know-how might be developed. The project also emphasises the benefits of action on energy within a primary school, and the ways in which this prompts engagement with energy in the home. 

Moving to sustainable eating habits (report)

Changing what we eat: A call for research & action on widespread adoption of sustainable healthy eating

Government leadership and substantial investment in research are needed to shift global consumption habits towards eating patterns that are both healthy and sustainable, say academics, industry and NGOs representatives in this report. Research is now needed in three key areas, say those involved in the report:
  • What are healthy sustainable eating patterns?
  • How do we eat now, why, and what are the health and sustainability implications?
  • How do we achieve positive change?
The report is based on the discussions of a workshop organised by the Food Climate Research Network, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the UK’s multi-agency Global Food Security programme.