Episode 176. The 2019 RegenEarth Online Conference: Backyard Regen

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 8th of July 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

So, this climate change thing, what’s to be done?

In the white English speaking world, of which I am a part, this whole climate change thing has become politicised. This is something I can’t quite understand and yet seems perfectly obvious.

Can’t understand: The evidence seems quite clear. I’m not particularly interested in the consensus of scientists argument. You could’ve used the same argument for an earth centred solar system and you’d have been wrong. No I’ve been convinced by the evidence, both empirical and on the ground, so to speak. I’ve spoken before of the farmer who’s cutting silage ten weeks before his father used to 30 years ago. I’ve spoken also of the grape growers moving from the southern parts of the Australian mainland to the most southern state of Tasmania because they are unable to achieve the wines they want with shorter growing seasons and warmer harvest times. They have records running over a century which remained within fairly tight extremes until the 1970s when those temperature records all started heading into higher and therefore warmer territory.

The length and nature of the droughts were are experiencing seem to point that way too but I have studied enough archaeology to know of 40 and 60 years droughts in Australia’s past. Yet the severity does seem to be increasing.

Now to the “Perfectly Obvious”: Those most likely to suffer economically are the fossil fuel and ancillary industries if action is actually taken on a government level to “Decarbonise the Air and Recarbonise the Soil”. This includes every business involved in not just fuel production but industrialised food production, the current food system, logging, mining and I could go on. Now these industries are capable of and do lobby the bejesus out governments. It’s almost like the most money wins but that can’t be, especially in liberal, rules based democracies, because that would be corruption. Insert sarcasm marker here.

So, as I say we have a climate change situation on our hands. The politics of it is atrocious. The IPCC and the UN reckon on just over eleven years to get this mess sorted before the ship well and truly hits the sand. 

Now all this got me to thinking. Of the many things we are “told” to do to make a real difference, none of them actually seems to either make a difference or improve our lives.

Let me list a few. 

  • The end of single use plastic straws
    • These were replaced by paper straws…. Wrapped in plastic.
    • The plastic wrapping won’t, as easily, kill sea turtles but it will still add to the amount of this crap in the oceans.
    • Of course paper straws come from paper which means more deforestation, even on a plantation level.
    • I don’t use straws but one’s that collapse and become soggy during use are probably not enhancing anyone’s lives.
  • The end of single use plastic bags
    • The bags we used to take our groceries home in were never “single use”.
    • I used some to hold dirty socks I changed at work.
    • I used some as bin liners.
    • Yes we need to fix the plastics problem but there are better ways than changing from thin plastic bags to heavier duty ones which many people still buy at each grocery shop and then toss out anyway. 
    • Who benefits? Probably the supermarkets who now sell bags rather than giving them away.
    • How have our lives been improved?
  • Recycling
    • One of my favourites.
    • To be virtuous and save the planet put different coloured glass in different containers.
    • Separate your plastics.
    • Do you even know which plastics are recyclable?
    • And then China first and other South East Asian countries decided they weren’t taking the crap we didn’t want
    • Whoops ~ huge stockpiles of plastic waste

Elsewhere in this podcast, in too many episodes even, the idea of replacing fossil fuel based plastics with hemp or seaweed or anything cellulose at the start of the production system would stop the build up of plastics out there in the biosphere and in here in out solid bodily waste. But me having to use the same heavier duty plastic bag more than once? That hasn’t changed jack shit.

And remember these initiatives came from the brains behind the BIG environmental lobby groups. Your Greenpeaces, your Worldwide Fund for Natures and their ilk. These groups have become so big and almost pointless as they chase down initiatives to bring cudos and donors that I believe they have been subsumed by their opponents and nothing but the mirror image of the corporations and governments they have been attempting to influence.

But has there been anything that actually made a difference? I hear you ask. I’m glad you did. The solar PV industry, which true enough was given a funding boost by governments, especially in Germany but elsewhere too, grew to a size such that economies of scale brought the price for households down to economically sensible levels. The next thing you know, private citizens are purchasing these things like they are going out of style. Rooftop solar PV has penetrated the Australia energy market to the point where leading generators are now closing coal fired stations and actually incentivising consumers to purchase the things.

What’s going on here? People have taken up a technology, more than likely from an economic self interest point of view, that actually improves our climate situation. With a little more effort from those with their hands on the levers of government, this could become the reality for all rooftops across this wide brown land.

Here’s the point that struck me. Solar PV has the doubled edge advantages of improving the purchaser’s life and the planet’s. Tinkering with the type of plastic bag available does neither. It allows some people to feel virtuous for their “sacrifice” and that’s my point.

We need to introduce people to systems with no virtuosity required that actually make the world a better place.

As you have realised from past episodes, decarbonising the air is just not enough, we need to recarbonise the soil. The whole regen ag thing is in good hands. I think we need to reach more people than just farmers. After all there are only about 86,000 farming businesses in Australia, in a population of 24.6 million. Even allowing for five actual farmers per enterprise that’s only 1.75% of the population. 

No we need to mobilise, incentivise, inform the vast bulk of the people, who live in urban, suburban areas of cities and regional towns.

While all of this was fermenting in the deeper recesses of my mind a quote from the late Bill Mollison kept coming to mind:


The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone.

End Quote

To that end and in several deep and satisfying discussions with my friend and co-host of Permaculture Plus, Rich Bowden we decided it was time to put together something which would allow people to “regen” their own small pieces of land. The principles hold true from a window box to rangelands but more people live at the smaller land size end of that continuum than at the larger.

The thing I discovered talking to people as I’m setting up an Horticulture program at work is the automatic assumption amongst non regen, non permaculture and non Fukuoka Natural gardeners is that any form of gardening is really hard work if you don’t use chemicals. 

Thankfully I found an old pic of Masanobu Fukuoka sitting on hilltop with the quote:

“What Less Can I Do?”

Once the initial setup is done, the raised beds built, with thought, the hard work is over.

So Rich and I have put our money where our mouths are and have been for decades. We are bringing to birth the the RegenEarth 2019 Online Conference ~ Living Soils. Link, most definitely in the show notes. This year’s conference is focused specifically on Backyard Regen.

Can you imagine a situation where instead of sucking fossil fuels in the form of petrol and chemicals, suburban gardens were, in reality, carbon sinks?

It’s not that hard to do are even envisage. I get a little giddy just thinking about it.

To that end we have collected together a series of presenters covering the following topics:

  • Why Regen Matters: How we can future proof our world
  • Community nutrition, locally grown food and seed saving
  • What actually is soil? And how should we handle it?
  • The Easy, Do it yourself No Dig Garden ~ Why and How!
  • Earthworms, why we need them and how to keep them happy
  • The gentle but confusing art of compost
  • Using animals in the backyard garden: Guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens
  • The chicken as the powerhouse of nutrient cycling in your garden
  • A brief introduction to Permaculture design in the backyard

All these topics will be covered over a three night period from the 16 September to the 18th of September. They will run from 19:00 to approximately 21:00 AEST. I’m not sure how that works across the rest of the planet but we have back ups for people who can’t attend as they sessions go live.

We have tried to keep costs down and still be able to pay our presenters. We have been able to offer this event for the truly remarkably good value price of AUD$67.

This gives you access to the live six hours over the three nights, access to replay the sessions and membership of a closed Facebook Group for discussions as the presenters deliver their material. We hope this group will become a dynamic living entity where we can explore the regen world, ask others for advice and a place to share our efforts in the regen space.

We, Rich and I would be privileged to have you as our guests for this event. There’s a link in the show notes to the Backyard Regen 2019 Conference  please have a look. We both think many of the listeners to this podcast and our others will find great hope, inspiration and purpose from attending this online conference. 

I’ve been amazed by the reaction of everyone I’ve spoken to about it and I hope to see you there, in our virtual conference centre.

Any questions, thoughts, concerns or feedback can be sent to regen@regenearth.net

And on that note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

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



The 2019 RegenEarth Online Conference: Backyard Regen


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