Thursday, 29 June 2017

PhD studentships in energy and people (opportunity)

Interdisciplinary PhD Studentships in Energy, People and Sustainable Living
Institution: University of Southampton, UK
Closing Date:   Friday 15 September 2017
Project Themes: Energy and Climate Change

Applications are invited for three fully-funded PhD studentships to be based in the Energy & Climate Change Division (ECCD) of the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment. The research students will be based in ECCD’s Sustainable Energy Research Group but we have additional funding to support one or two of the PhD candidates for a research visit of up to 12 months at the University of Otago’s Centre for Sustainability. Applicants will need to review the research programmes of the two groups and propose a research topic which either:

·  Intersects with the on-going interdisciplinary research activities of both groups or

· Develops new areas of joint interest to both groups in ways that integrate the engineering and social sciences.

Post-Brexit Agriculture Policy in the UK (report)

Landworkers' Alliance: Recommendations for Post-Brexit Agricultural Policy in the UK

2017-05-08 LWA report.jpgUK currently produces less than 60% of the food it consumes. It relies on the EU for nearly 30% of its food imports and hold only 3-5 days of food supplies in reserve. Simultaneously, UK is also moving towards highly mechanized corporate farms as family farms are abandoned. It has lost 33,500 commercial holdings between 2005 and 2015, more than 9 farms a day.
Post-Brexit increases in the price of imports, shortages of farm labour and market volatility are likely to further undermine the national food security. Yet, successive governments have pursued policies that have led to farm consolidation, a reduction in agricultural jobs, and increased rural-urban migration.
It is in this context that the Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA) - a union of small scale ecological producers and traditional family farmers - have put forth a set of recommendations for a Post-Brexit agricultural policy. 

Scaling up peasant agroecology in India (#journal)

Taking agroecology to scale: the Zero Budget Natural Farming peasant movement in Karnataka, India

This paper analyzes how peasant movements scale up agroecology. It specifically examines Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), a grassroots peasant agroecology movement in Karnataka, India. ZBNF ends reliance on purchased inputs and loans for farming, positioning itself as a solution to extreme indebtedness and suicides among Indian farmers. The ZBNF movement has achieved massive scale not only because of effective farming practices, but because of a social movement dynamic – motivating members through discourse, mobilizing resources from allies, self-organized pedagogical activities, charismatic and local leadership, and generating a spirit of volunteerism among its members. This paper was produced as part of a self-study process in La Via Campesina, the global peasant movement.

The CAP and soil carbon sequestration (journal)

The Impact of Soil Carbon Sequestration on Adaptation in Europe's Agricultural Sector and the Potential Role of Regulatory Instruments

This paper assesses current and proposed EU climate law and the legal instruments associated to the common agricultural policy to see how far soil carbon sequestration and associated adaptation can be promoted through the use of these current or proposed instruments. The assessment shows that current and proposed policies and instruments are completely inadequate to stimulate large scale adoption of soil carbon projects across Europe. An alternative approach needs to be developed. The first element of this new approach is focused on EU climate policy: the inclusion of agriculture in the EU ETS through allowing regulated industries to buy offsets from the agricultural sector, following the examples set by Australia and others. The second element of a new approach is aimed at the CAP, which needs to be much more focused on the specific requirements of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Such stronger focus does not take away the need to open up a new income stream for farmers from offsets under the ETS, as the CAP will never have sufficient funds for the deep and full transition of Europe’s agriculture sector.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Permaculture, interactive systems, and user experience (online)

Sustainable HCI: Blending Permaculture and User-experience.

For 10 years the Sustainable Human Computer Interaction (sHCI) and Sustainable Interaction Design (SID) communities have debated the contribution that HCI can make to sustainability. However, there has been little real progress in the field with few, if any, methods arising that take the discipline further. In this paper we present an approach that involves doing. We propose to blend aspects of permaculture and user experience (UX) development to produce gardens that demonstrate sustainable practice and deliver a good UX. By blending the constructs from UX with those from permaculture and expressing the blends through the "material anchor" of gardens we create novel design interventions. These lead to user experiences that invite people to reflect on what sustainability really means and how people can make a difference.

Permaculture and ecosophy (#journal)

Permaculture and the social design of nature

Core to permaculture is designing based on, and in harmony with, patterns identified in nature. Yet, as is often highlighted, identifying, using, and thinking through ‘natural’ patterns are problematic. This article takes canonical geographical work on the social reception and (re)production of nature as its starting point. It then outlines permaculture as an ecosophical movement–an attempt to reorientate collective subjectivities as ecological entities. While discussion of Transition (with or without their permaculture heritage) abounds in Geography, paying attention to the ecosophical, and ethical, character of such movements is crucial to grasp their full significance.

Permaculture air conditioning! (#journal)

A Feasibility Study of an Integrated Air Conditioning , Desalination and Marine Permaculture System in Oman 

Deep Seawater AC (SWAC) is an emerging technology that uses deep water for district air conditioning purposes and can also support desalination plants and marine permaculture. Oman is uniquely positioned to utilize commercially-proven SWAC and also has demand for desalination and restored fisheries that would benefit from Marine Permaculture Arrays (MPAs). Three air conditioning systems of each 35 MW will serve district cooling using cold input water at 4 °C, available at a depth of 1800 m. Such a SWAC system can be four to ten times more efficient electrically than traditional air conditioning systems. The return seawater will be warmed to above 20 °C and will irrigate kelp forests and other seaweed growing on submerged MPAs, providing habitat and food for forage fisheries such as sardines, for example. Using SWAC systems in conjunction with MPAs and desalination plants can mitigate climate change and create new industries.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Perennial crops and fungi on the Great Plains (online)

A research collaboration in Kansas aims to restore fungi historically tied with native tall grass prairie, in hopes of making farming viable for the long-term. Rather than planting annual crops that require chemicals and intensive working, the Land Institute aims to develop perennial cousins of staple crops that will regrow year after year from more extensive root systems associated with soil fungi. These fungi form a mutually beneficial system with plants and act as an extension of the plants’ own root systems. Such perennial crops could lead to economic benefits for agricultural producers in the Great Plains region. These perennial crops, like Kernza used to make bread, ice cream and beer, should be more productive in soil infused with fungi native to tallgrass prairie.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Why soil matters (video)

Stop Treating Our Soil Like Dirt!

This TED talk explains the global importance of soil and soil care.

The secrets of healthy soil (video)

Dirty Secrets of Healthy Soil

Want to now what lives in your soil? Then watch this great TED talk.

Microbes create soil organic matter (#journal)

Direct evidence for microbial-derived soil organic matter formation and its ecophysiological controls  

Soil organic matter (SOM) and the carbon and nutrients therein drive fundamental submicron- to global-scale biogeochemical processes and influence carbon-climate feedbacks. Consensus is emerging that microbial materials are an important constituent of stable SOM, and new conceptual and quantitative SOM models are rapidly incorporating this view. However, direct evidence demonstrating that microbial residues account for the chemistry, stability and abundance of SOM is still lacking. Further, emerging models emphasize the stabilization of microbial-derived SOM by abiotic mechanisms, while the effects of microbial physiology on microbial residue production remain unclear. Here we provide the first direct evidence that soil microbes produce chemically diverse, stable SOM. We show that SOM accumulation is driven by distinct microbial communities more so than clay mineralogy, where microbial-derived SOM accumulation is greatest in soils with higher fungal abundances and more efficient microbial biomass production.

Cover crops should be polycultures (online)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Livelihoods on US permaculture farms (#journal)

Livelihoods and production diversity on U.S. permaculture farms

We visited 36 permaculture farms in the United States and gathered multidimensional data on the distribution of labor and income, along with sociodemographic information and farm characteristics. Using developed a preliminary typology of U.S. permaculture farms. Farms were predominantly small in scale, with a high proportion of young farmers, new farmers, and new farms, when compared with national figures. Diversity of farm-based income was high for enterprises and across seasons. Cluster analysis based on sources of income produced a preliminary typology with five categories: small mixed annual and perennial cropping, integrated production, a mix of production and services, animal base , and service base. Our research suggests that permaculture farms are using a familiar set of strategies, including non-production enterprises, in order to develop and maintain diversified agroecosystems.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Fractal planting for optimal harvests (online)

Fractal planting patterns yield optimal harvests, without central control

Bali's famous rice terraces, when seen from above, look like colorful mosaics because some farmers plant synchronously, while others plant at different times. The resulting fractal patterns are rare for man-made systems and lead to optimal harvests without global planning. The Balinese rice fields could serve as an example that under certain conditions it is possible to reach sustainable situations that lead to maximum payoff for all parties, wherein every individual makes free and independent decisions.

Bali's famous rice terraces, when seen from above, look like colorful mosaics because some farmers plant synchronously, while others plant at different times. The resulting fractal patterns are rare for man-made systems and lead to optimal harvests without global planning.

Read more at:
Bali's famous rice terraces, when seen from above, look like colorful mosaics because some farmers plant synchronously, while others plant at different times. The resulting fractal patterns are rare for man-made systems and lead to optimal harvests without global planning.

Read more at: