Episode 29: Pumped Hydro, Cover Crops, Food Forests & Permaculture

This is the World Organic News Podcast for the week ending 22nd of August 2016.

Jon Moore reporting!

Following on from last week’s rant against the chemically flooded nature of Nature, this week we look to posts of hope and problems already solved. 

The blog Makani Media has a video post “Abundant Land”, set in Hawaii and it is an introduction to Permaculture, it shows what’s possible. In this case it shows what’s possible in a tropical environment. Permaculture though is applicable in any climatic zone. Because it works with Nature, Nature provides in all circumstances. We just need to be able to read what is placed before us.

To that end the blog Olives, pines, rocks has a piece on designing not just an orchard but an orchard as a food forest ecosystem.  No bare soil here. No monoculture of one variety of apples. This post describes the principles behind a three tier food production ecosystem. The variations and possibilities are almost endless. What we desire as an outcome, what grows where the orchard is sited and what works best in combination are all things to consider. Clearly we probably would have trouble growing coffee in Northern Canada but equally, gooseberries aren’t going to fruit in Northern Australia. It’s all about working with what works.

Which is why the post from EnrgResrch on rooftop urban farming using farmbots is so interesting. Yes I can see the advantages of the mechanisation of food production. Equally I can see something being lost when people are taken out of the equation both for the food and the people. The act of getting soil on the hands is for more profound than mere food production. There are those amongst us who claim brown thumbs and using a machine and an algorithm might be an answer. There are those though who crave the process, the series of small actions which connect us to our food through the growing of it for whom full mechanisation will never be a part of our food production. Have a look at the post, it is interesting. Urban rooftop farming has many advantages as we have discussed in previous episodes: good carbon footprint outcomes, freshness and so on.

And speaking of carbon footprints, a post from the ABC Science Show here in Australia answers the perennial renewable energy question: But what do you do when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow? We have the Tesla organisation building its massive battery factory yet the batteries being produced are not that innovative and definitely not breakthrough technology. The factory is simply to reduce costs of manufacture. Yes this is important but for grid equalisation and base load power this piece from the Science Show suggests a much easier, tested technology as the solution: gravity.

Let me explain. The idea is in the Australian energy market to swap the 75% coal based power production to renewables. As the eastern seaboard from Cape York around all the way to South Australia is grid connected we just require a way of storing renewable energy when it is produced in excess to release it when it is produced in deficit. The solution described is water! Basically it uses two water storages at different altitudes. When excess power is produced water is pumped from the lower reservoir to the upper. When power is needed water then flows down to the lower through a hydro turbine. People are making money doing this with the difference between off peak and peak power prices. So with “free” renewable energy, it’s a no brainer!

The technologies of hydro and water pumping are over a century old, tested and proven. Building dams, earthern dams even is done every day across this wide brown land. Within five years, with a little political will, most of the world could be on this system. Carbon dioxide discharges virtually ended. Think about that! 

Check out the link and all the links in the show notes.

And that brings us to the end of this week’s podcast.

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Thank you for listening and I’ll be back in a week.

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