Thursday, 8 December 2016

Building soil can stop climate change (online)

Our best shot at cooling the planet might be right under our feet

 Studies suggest that regenerating soil by turning our backs on industrial farming holds the key to tackling climate change.

A 23-year-old food forest (video)

Thriving 23-Year-Old Permaculture Food Forest - An Invitation for Wildness
In the small town of Riverton at the bottom of New Zealand's South Island is Robert and Robyn Guyton's amazing 23-year-old food forest. The two-acre property has been transformed from a neglected piece of land into a thriving ecosystem. This lovely video introduces the food forest. (Watch this to find out what Santa Claus does in the Summer!).

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Introducing the Lexicon of Sustainability (video)

Community Supported Agriculture, by The Lexicon of Sustainability

As well as serious and weighty books and articles, I sometimes like to feature lighter, shorter material including video on The Digest. Here's just one from the many great short films produced by the Lexicon of Sustainability Project that I hope will inspire you to explore more of their great work, and share it with colleagues, friends and family.

Agroecology enhances climate change resilience (online)

Climate Change: Agroecological approaches to enhance resilience to climate change

The Green Revolution has performed well in areas with a stable climate, adequate water supply and access to inputs and cheap energy. But the necessary fertilizers, pesticides, farm equipment and fuel are derived from dwindling and ever more expensive fossil fuels. At the same time, climatic extremes are becoming more frequent and intensive agricultural systems show a lower resistance and higher vulnerability to such fluctuations. Fortunately, there are alternatives that enhance resilience and ensure high yields.

Agroecology at territorial scale (journal)

Agroecology territories: places for sustainable agricultural and food systems and biodiversity conservation

The development of sustainable agricultural and food systems is so far almost exclusively proposed either at the scale of specific agricultural systems or for selected supply chains. Strongly neglected is the development of sustainable systems at a territorial scale. We, therefore, present here the concept of agroecology territories. We define agroecology territories as places where a transition process toward sustainable agriculture and food systems is engaged. Three major domains must be considered for the transition to take place: adaptation of agricultural practices; conservation of biodiversity and natural resources; and development of embedded food systems. Stakeholder group strategies, developed by those who actively engage in these three domains and are themselves actors in the transition, are integral to agroecology territories.

Agroecology and the Sustainable Development Goals (online)

Agroecology contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals

A meta-analysis of 50 case studies from 22 African countries shows the contribution of agroecology to the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The trends revealed here make clear the potential of agroecology to sustainably increase food sovereignty while conserving biodiversity and respecting indigenous farmers’ knowledge and innovations.

Polyculture trials 2014-16 (online)

Balkan Ecology Project's polyculture trials 2014-16

For three years Balkan Ecology Project have been testing the practice of growing vegetables and herbs in polycultures (or what is known as guilds within permaculture circles). They have been using their home garden for these tests and recording the inputs and outputs from the growing seasons. Their aim is to discover whether or not growing in polycultures offers benefits over conventional methods of growing, and to see to what degree they can obtain good yields of nutrient dense food whilst providing habitat for garden wildlife. Here they present a description of the garden layout and planting scheme, an overview of their cultivation practices, the results from year three of the study, their record keeping methods, and some notes and observations from this year.

Functional Ecolgy special issue free online

To celebrate 30 years of Functional Ecology current journal Editors Charles Fox, Alan Knapp, Craig White and Ken Thompson have each chosen their favourite papers from our back catalogue. We asked the Editors to choose papers they feel have had a major impact on their field and that continue to be relevant today. The resulting eclectic selection spans the full history and broad scope of the journal. All 17 papers are free to access.

Engaging the public in community carbon reduction (#journal)

“The Good Life”: Engaging the public with community-based carbon reduction strategies

In recent years the UK has positioned itself to become a global leader in addressing climate change, including an increasing emphasis on the role of communities to facilitate, increase and sustain carbon reduction practices. Previous research into community-based carbon reduction projects has highlighted the difficulty of engaging the public in community initiatives and sustaining pro-environmental behaviours. We need an understanding of how individuals respond to, and engage with, (or even ignore) community-based carbon reduction strategies. The paper presents findings from focus groups in three urban communities and investigates individual engagements with community-based carbon reduction strategies. The paper discusses what people know, feel and do about addressing climate change at the community level. An “information-vacuum” is reported that leads to an “awareness-involvement gap” that inhibits sustained engagement. The paper advances a new theoretical framework and a “what works” approach for community-based initiatives attempting to meaningfully engage the public.

Economic crisis shaping alternative narratives (#journal)

The economic crisis as a game changer? Exploring the role of social construction in sustainability transitions

This paper takes a transition perspective to explore, from a Western European viewpoint, how the economic crisis is actually viewed through a variety of interpretations and responded to through a range of practices. The authors argue that framing societal phenomena such as the economic crisis as "symptoms of transition" through alternative narratives and actions can give rise to the potential for (seemingly) short-term pressures to become game changers. Game changers are defined as the combination of: specific events, the subsequent or parallel framing of events in systemic terms by engaged societal actors, and (eventually) the emergence of (diverse) alternative narratives and practices (in response to the systemic framing of events). Game changers, when understood in these terms, help to orient, legitimize, guide, and accelerate deep changes in society. They conclude that such dynamics in which game changers gain momentum might also come to play a critical role in transitions.

Four pathways to transition (#journal)

Many pathways toward sustainability: not conflict but co-learning between transition narratives

While a broad agreement exists with regard to the need for mainstreaming sustainability into decision-making and everyday practices, different transition pathway narratives are advocated. This article describes four archetypes of present transition narratives; (1) the green economy, (2) low-carbon transformation, (3) ecotopian solutions and (4) transition movements. Based on our analysis, we argue that despite the assumption that these narratives represent competing pathways, there is considerable complementarity between them. An integrative approach could potentially help bridge these intervention types and connect fragmented actors at multiple levels and across multiple phases of transition processes. Effectively mainstreaming sustainability will ultimately require sustainability scientists to navigate between, and learn from, multiple transition narratives.

Community resilience to climate change (report)

Community resilience to climate change: an evidence review

How is the resilience of communities to climate change in the UK currently understood and practised? The concept of community resilience to climate change in the UK has a diverse range of meanings and associated activities. This review of evidence and practice explores this varied and contested field to build the evidence base and help support the development of community resilience to climate change.

60 ecohomes, all different, all glorious (video)

60 short films showcase eco-homes

Living in the Future is an amazing collection of 60 short films and three long documentaries that introduce some of the most innovative, interesting and inspiring eco-homes in Britain and beyond. Living in the Future is an ongoing project documenting sustainable communities and ecovillages around the world. They host a free online series, a regular blog and a set of three feature documentaries - Ecovillage Pioneers, Lammas and our latest film, Deep Listening.

Tree planting helps sheep farmers (report)

Planting trees to benefit sheep farming

Upland hill farming at high altitudes can bring challenges such as lack of shelter and protection for newborn lambs. This Woodland Trust case study describes Cumbrian sheep farmer David Noble’s experience of planting trees on his farm to help provide his sheep with shelter from the elements in winter, and shade in summer, improving flock welfare. It details the planting system he put in place and the many benefits he hoped to achieve from it, such as reduced lamb neonatal loss, water pollution and poaching, and helping to stabilise stream banks on lower lying pastures and create new habitats for wildlife. This case study shows that when planted strategically, even small scale tree planting can have numerous benefits.

Community climate action in Europe (report)

Community Climate Action Across Europe

TESS (Towards European Societal Sustainability) was a European research project exploring the role of community based initiatives (CBIs) in transitioning to a low-carbon Europe. The project developed methodologies and tools for monitoring and reporting the social, political, economic, technological and environmental impacts of CBIs as well as their carbon emissions savings. Findings showed that community-based initiatives are key drivers of local innovation, with food and energy the domains in which CBIs were most active. This new booklet summarises the activities of community-based initiatives across Europe, introducing the range and diversity of community activity taking place in the city of Rome, Berlin, Catalunya and the countries of Finland, Romania and Scotland.

New PhD opportunities in UK

Two new PhD opportunities in transition and green innovation 

The Policy Studies Institute at the University of Westminster and The Green Challenge Scholarship are currently offering funded PhD places.

PSI is a research centre in the Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment (FABE) at University of Westminster, and is eligible for three MPhil/PhD studentships for entry in September 2017. They are keen to encourage and support high quality proposals in areas that align with the interests and expertise of their researchers, including those relating to transition towns and transitions. More information here:

The Green Challenge Scholarship is a competition for prospective and current students wishing to pursue a postgraduate degree that will help lead to the development of a ‘green themed’ commercial concept. The competition is a unique funding opportunity offering students the chance to win a scholarship that will help to develop knowledge related to their idea of up to £20,000 to cover their postgraduate degree tuition fees.The competition is now open and application close on 27TH March 2017. Download the Guidelines, FAQ’s and Application Form here (

New FAO agroecology website (online)

This week FAO has launched a new online Agroecology Knowledge Hub. The website is aimed at maintaining and promoting information and updates on Agroecology, as well as providing a space to share experiences of FAO and our partners in Agroecology. Ultimately, the goal is to strengthen our worldwide network.

Nous voudrions vous informer que la FAO a développé un «centre de connaissances sur l’agroécologie » sur le site suivant :, qui a pour but de conserver et de promouvoir toute l’information existante et les nouveautés au sujet de l’agroécologie, en provenance de la FAO ou de nos partenaires. Le but est aussi de renforcer notre réseau.

Esta semana FAO ha lanzado un nuevo Centro de Conocimientos sobre Agroecología en línea, en el siguiente sitio web: Esta página está enfocada a mantener y promover información y actualizaciones sobre Agroecología, así como proporcionar un espacio para compartir experiencias de FAO y nuestros socios Agroecológicos. En esta última instancia nuestro objetivo es fortalecer nuestra red mundial.