Thursday, 21 August 2014

Mainstreaming agro-ecological innovation in Europe (journal)

This paper reveals the linkage processes that connect innovation networks in sustainable agriculture to elements of the mainstream agricultural regime. It draws on findings from analysis of 17 Learning and Innovation Networks for Sustainable Agriculture (LINSA) in the EU. The LINSA examined represent networks of actors engaged in: agricultural food production, alternative food marketing, urban food systems, care farming and farm energy production. The notion of compatibility and linkage at the macro level structures provides a framework in which to examine the linkage processes that enable LINSA to adapt and the regime to accommodate them. Five modes of interaction with the regime are distinguished: Compatible; Complementary; Emergent; Divergent; and Oppositional. The study reveals the dynamic and complex nature of both the LINSA and the regime entities and their interactions and the range of linkage processes that enable LINSAs to adapt and the regime to accommodate them.

Neoarcology: permaculture, aquaponics and arcology (book)

Neoarcology: True Sustainability through the application of permaculture, aquaponics and arcology

By 2030 5 BILLION people, three out of five people, will live in cities. By then, over 2 BILLION people in the world will be living in slums, and Asia alone will have at least 10 megacities with populations over 25 MILLION. How do we keep this Urban Devastation from depleting our planet of it's natural resources? How do we slow the razing of thriving ecosystems and stop the cold, soulless, megalopolis of the future? This is what the Science of NEOARCOLOGY seeks to do. It combines three proven scientific disciplines of Permaculture, Aquaponics, and Arcology, to provide for this inexorable expansion of the human machine, while curtailing our destructive footprint on the world around us.

Permaculture in Serbia (journal)

Consumer awareness of the necessity of eating and living healthy has become an indisputable issue. Organic farming effectively solves the problem of food quality and safety for human and animal consumption, respecting the natural ecological balance. Investment in the development of organic farming on the principles of permaculture is of permanent significance because they serve as the basis of efficient conservation of biodiversity and survival of humanity. Organic farming and permaculture are focused on the future and the development, not only in terms of environmental protection and improvement of human health, but also from the standpoint of economic prosperity.

Online plant guild composer (journal)

Plant guild composer: an interactive online system to support back yard food production

Motivated by climate change and food insecurity in the U.S., the authors built a prototype of an online computer aided design tool to support the design and creation of back yard agricultural ecosystems. The goal of the project is to help people grow their own food. The demonstration at CHI 2014 highlights the full interaction flow of the user experience.

Best fruit varieties for urban permaculture (journal)


 Multidisciplinary research in Budapest investigated a number perennial fruit varieties that that can be grown in urban and suburban gardens. Varieties of blackcurrant, red currant, wolfberry and apricot were investigated and the best varieties selected on the basis of earliness of fruiting, production obtained in ecological conditions, low to medium volume of shrubs and trees, plant density per unit area, self compatibility and quality and organoleptic characteristics, biochemical and sanogene of fruits. Recommended varieties are: Deea, Elita 124 and Roxia (black currant); Rolan, Jh. Van Tets (red currant); V2 biotype (wolfberry); and Rares, Valeria, Carmela, Viorica, Bucovina, Ilinca (apricot).

Alchemical permaculture (online)

Alchemical permaculture: Polishing the mirror between land and steward

This dissertation introduces the idea of alchemical permaculture: a new field that integrates ecopsychology, permaculture, and Jung's interpretation of alchemy—three areas of study and practice concerned with the transformative relationship(s) between planet Earth and its humans. An interdisciplinary approach to the research suggests that permaculture can become ecopsychological praxis if it is situated within the mythopoeic context of Jung's interpretation of alchemy. In addition to creating a very practical application of ecopsychology the conception of alchemy is dreamt onward, finding contemporary ecopsychological expression through permaculture landscape design.

Permaculture science, holism and reductionsim (online)

Permaculture emphasizes holism. It addresses problems through wider relationships and patterns scaled at different system levels, avoiding the reductionism that isolates a problem within a specific sub-system of the wider whole. The science from which it draws most inspiration is ecology, the biological discipline of relationships, systems, and levels. Yet this article focuses on some tensions between permaculture as an holistic practice and ecology as a reductionist science. It makes a reductionist biological critique of some aspects of permaculture’s holism, but also a holistic critique of certain forms of scientific reductionism. The result will be some pointers toward improving permaculture’s scientific grounding, without losing the movement’s wider insights. Or to put it another way, sometimes it’s good to be holistic, whereas at other times a bit of reductionism fits the bill.

Making sustainable cities secure (online)

Urban and Environmental Planning: Can Sustainable Cities be Secure Cities? 

The debate about cities and security often concentrates on crime. However there is more to it than that. The quality of life for citizens will also depend on their economic security, food and fuel security, a stable, more equal and secure society, and a measure of environmental justice. Although many of these issues extend beyond the realm of the city, this article argues that the aims for the sustainable city could contribute towards making towns and cities more secure and better places in which to live. Some ways forward are suggested, including urban forms that reduce travel and car dependency, energy efficiency, urban agriculture, community involvement and the transition movement. Such examples indicate some potential pathways towards achieving more secure and sustainable cities.

Fixing farming, wildlife, food and health (report)

Ten organisations (the RSPB, Friends of the Earth, the National Trust, the Food Ethics Council, Sustain, the Wildlife Trusts, the Soil Association, Eating Better and Compassion in World Farming) have come together to challenge future governments to fix our broken food system. The report, Square Meal, focuses on four key connected areas: improving health; good food for all; sustainable farming; and enhancing nature. They have joined forces to highlight the overwhelming evidence that demonstrates the need for major changes to national food and farming policy. Square Meal aims to start a collaborative discussion in the run up to next year’s general election and to influence future government policies on these issues. It calls for stronger government leadership in planning the future use of land, food policy, farming and conservation in England and for wider public engagement on issues that affect the whole of society.  

3,500 books to save civilization (online)

 The Manual for Civilization

"As we near completion of our new venue in San Francisco, we are also building a collection of books that will reside here.  We have named this collection the Manual for Civilisation, and it will include the roughly 3500 books most essential to sustain or rebuild civilization. Using this as an curatorial principle is helping us assemble a very interesting collection of books. So… If you were stranded on an island (or small hostile planetoid), what books would YOU want to have with you?"

How to end hunger (book)

How to End Hunger in Times of Crises

Many people think that the big food challenge for the future will be to produce enough to feed the hungry. Closing the hunger gap however would raise demand by under 2 percent of present global food production. The real problem is the low price of food. The idea that low food prices will reduce the scale of hunger is flawed since the main reason for people being hungry is that they cannot afford the food they need, even when prices are low. Yet most of the hungry are food producers themselves, so it makes sense to let prices rise and increase the food buying power of the poor. Income transfers, targeted on poor families are also needed, at least until countries begin to manage their economies more equitably. We need to mainstream the concepts of fairness, healthy eating and sustainability throughout the food management system.

No Dominion Over Nature Report (online)

Experts predict that food production will need double in the next forty years. Some suggest this can only be achieved through intensification of industrial agricultural, while others suggest low input agriculture is the only path. This report suggests an alternative approach – maintaining ecosystem health through the management of environments as multifunctional mosaics, managed to provide a range of services, with sites of intensive production supported by contiguous areas providing different services. It requires 4 key changes: 1) counteraction of negative trends such as population growth, the impacts of climate change and unsustainable consumption patterns, 2) ecosystems should not be viewed and treated as machines for the production of food or fibre, rather they are more like organisms with multiple needs and functions, 3) technology and research are crucial in meeting the challenges ahead, 4) global markets in food and commodities need to recognise and value appropriately the positive services that ecosystems provide in addition to food.

Urban food growing for a radical future (journal)

Visioning a Sustainable Energy Future: The Case of Urban Food-Growing

This article outlines a future where society re-energizes itself, in the sense both of recapturing creative dynamism and of applying creativity to meeting physical energy needs. Both require us to embrace self-organizing properties, whether in nature or society. The article develops a case study of food, starting from the physical parameters of combating the entropy expressed in the loss of soil structure, and applies this to urban food-growing. Drawing upon ‘real utopias’ of existing practice, the author proposes a threefold categorization – subsistence plots, an urban forest, and an ultra-high productivity sector – and emphasizes the emergent properties of such a complex system characterized by the ‘free energy’ of societal self-organization.

Local retrofit projects in UK (journal)

Retrofit alternatives in five UK cities

 The purpose of this paper is to explore the ways in which local projects that can be identified as ‘alternative retrofit’ make use of use city spaces. A review of relevant literature on the use of such spaces frames and conceptualises these alternatives, and the paper argues that examples of alternative retrofit express explicit local and practical priorities that are enacted within governance structures at a local authority level. The paper concludes that the capacity of urban governance regimes to recognise, support and enable local ‘alternative retrofit’ is critical both for the projects themselves and as part of any wider shaping of sustainable city futures.

ICT and veg bag schemes (journal)

Transition Belsize Veg Bag Scheme: The role of ICTs in enabling new voices and community alliances around local food production and consumption

This paper explores an unusual community-supported agriculture pilot project in London, concentrating on the contribution of ICTs in its development and impact. The paper contextualises the project within wider waves of local food activism and reflects on the relevance of using ICTs to increase awareness and community participation in the production and consumption of locally-grown food. The results of the pilot however also acknowledge the essential role played by activities in real life in building communal food growing practices, which can be enhanced but not substituted by online communities.

Conservation Ag. Research Database (online)

Conservation Agriculture - Global Research and Resources

Conservation Agriculture (CA) is a set of soil management practices that minimize the disruption of the soil's structure, composition and natural biodiversity. The Conservation Agriculture Group at Cornell University runs this site to connect and inform current and aspiring pracitioners, researchers and students. They keep track of the growing body of literature, as well as highlighting reports, regional groups, equipment/tools, and other resources, so that you can learn, stay connected, and find new ideas. The heart of the site is the research database, with hundreds of scholarly articles from around the world. The entire database is accessible via RefShare, with no account login necessary.

Zero Carbon Britian discussions (online)

Zero Carbon Britain discussion papers

The ZCB project has been encouraging contributors to write discussion papers to probe, ponder, reflect and imagine what a zero carbon Britain might be like.
We asked for their help to raise awareness of a more carbon responsible society, by looking at a diverse range of impacts of a zero carbon Britain. From faith groups to farmers, from restaurants to rugby teams, the aim is to get people talking about what it would be like to live in a world where we rise to our 21st century challenges.

Permaculture Research Handbook (online)

The Permaculture Research Handbook

The Permaculture Research Handbook is aimed at those with some knowledge of permaculture but no research background who want to undertake a permaculture research project, whether as diploma apprentices, undergraduates, volunteers, or just for fun. The Handbook uses the SADIMETS model of seven straightforward steps (survey, analyse, design, implement and maintain, evaluate, tweak, and share) to guide the reader through the research process, from the first project idea to a published final report. 7 experienced permaculture designers and researchers collaborated to produce the handbook. It is free to download.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Feedback urgently needed!

I'd love some feedback on The Digest...

The Digest had over 20,000 page views in the last two years, but I don't really know who from, or what they like about it! I am urgently looking for feedback to use in the Permaculture Association's Annual Review and for funders who could support The Digest's on-going work. So if you have found any aspect of The Digest useful, please take three minutes to comment on where in the world you are, why you like The Digest, and how it has helped you in your work.

Thanks and best wishes! Chris