Episode 227. The RegenEarth Approach to Chooks

This is the World Organic News for the week ending 17th of  August 2020.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

This week I’ve been waist deep in Uni assignments so I have the latest episode from RegenEarth, a podcast I co-host with Rich Bowden. It’s our first back after a period of reorganisation. Not quite a pivot but more of a tightening of the focus. Anyway here ‘tis, I hope ye all find something useful in it.

Chooks in the backyard

Continue reading “Episode 227. The RegenEarth Approach to Chooks”

Episode 185. They might think it’s a movement and friends it is!

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 9th of September 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Well folks, we are one week away from the RegenEarth Online Conference 2019: Living Soils – Backyard Regen.

A little background should be helpful. After years of publishing this podcast, I had great hopes during our last federal election for some movement on the Climate situation. The vaguely left side was and still is stuck in the renewables are the answer paradigm. Not bad but only half the story, as we all know. The more right of centre parties pretty much ignored the climate policy area. The right won the election. Continue reading “Episode 185. They might think it’s a movement and friends it is!”

Episode 183. An Opportunity Not To Be Wasted!

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 26th of August 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

As I record this episode, the 25th of August I am celebrating fourteen years of a new life. In the early hours of the 25th of August 2005, I died, twice, from pneumonia. There was no tunnels of light but there was a trip to the River Styx. No ferry, no jetty, just the jet black waters of that river boundary of the underworld. 

Over the past 14 years, many of the things I saw that night have come to pass. Some things are yet to pass and some visions still puzzle me.

The big question of “Why am I still here?” hasn’t so much haunted me as not really arisen. The knowing I had something to do and I would know what when the time came has sustained me. 

The current global situation may or may not be why I came back. To put it another way. I didn’t fight for life that night and take five years to return to full health to have this planet destroyed for human existence by brainless dipsticks more interested in turning oil into cash that providing a world fit for all humanity.

It’s not just the fires in Siberia and the Amazon, it’s not just the attempts by Bayer to buy off the poor sods suffering from glyphosate exposure, it’s not just the loss of topsoil each and every growing season, it’s not just the littering of the entire biosphere with plastics, it’s not just the suffering of people across the globe from war, famine and pestilence, it’s not just the suffering of billions of animals cages in factory farms and it’s not about the constant loss of biodiversity. It is all these things and so much more. It is about honouring our places within the fabric of Nature. It is about knowing we are not just a part of Nature but an expression of Nature made human. 

So on this anniversary, coincidentally the date one of my grandmothers actually died, I feel the weight of my ancestors, I feel the weight of the biosphere, I feel the weight of 3.6 billion years of evolution screaming at me, at all of us, to actually just do something. 

We know what has to be done, I covered regenerative ag, pumped hydro, wave energy, solar PV, wind, Costa Rica going fossil fuel free for a month or more at a time. 

There are days when this all gets to me but then I remember what a privilege my extra years are and damn it, I’m not going to watch it all pissed up against the wall because it’s all too hard! It’s not. 

As regular listeners will know I’m running an online conference next month on how we can turn suburbia into a giant carbon sink through a few small changes to how we manage the land in the backyards and the front ones too, across the planet. Link, of course in the show notes.

And the thing that I really don’t understand is this: Making the few changes needed will improve the quality of life for all life forms on the planet. It is such an obvious thing to do. And we know how to do it. I understand that in the middle of a heat wave that doing anything when the outside temperature hits 43 plus degrees celsius (that’s 110 F in the old money) but we need to start now or these heat waves are going to come earlier and last longer. 

So, as these extra years I’ve been given are coming no matter what, won’t you join me and other like minded people across the globe in making the changes needed? 

Together we can:

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

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

~~~~

LINKS

The RegenEarth 2019 Online Conference ~ Living Soil

email: regen@regenearth.net

Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.

WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here

Permaculture Plus

Topical Talks

Episode 181. The IPCC Report, Farming & Food

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 12th of August 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

This week we begin with a piece from the ABC News site: IPCC climate change report calls for urgent overhaul of food production, land management

Quote:

We must urgently revolutionise what we eat, how we grow it and the way we use land if the world is to combat dangerous climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published on Thursday.

Transforming to clean energy, clean transport and industry alone will not cut global emissions enough to avoid dangerous warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report authors warn.

End quote.

It’s almost as if decarbonising the air isn’t going to be enough. Who’d have thunk it?

Anyway the point is we need to change our food production systems. CAFOs over production of vegetables to meet supermarket contracts and the discarding of perfectly good foodstuffs because they look a bit funny have all got to stop. As a footnote to that last point, one of our local supermarkets was selling “mis-shapened” carrots last month. There has been talk in the local press about the waste involved in tossing these out. I was interested. My thinking was that if they were not “standard” the supermarket would be offering these carrots at a considerable discount to encourage the average shopper to change their behaviours. Imagine my surprise when I checked the per kilo price of these “iffy” carrots with the standards located on the other side of the Fruit and Veg section. They were more expensive. So clearly the management could say we offered the non standard carrots and nobody bought them. We are only supplying what our customers want. 

And this is the sort of double think nonsense we are up against and the IPCC report is suggesting we need to change. 

The kicker from the IPCC report is the need to change food production methods to ensure we don’t hit the 2 degree rise in global temperatures which would trigger the release of methane trapped in the permafrost. If that happens the climate consequences for agriculture are catastrophic. More droughts, unpredictable, out of season frosts, desertification, huge flooding events and so on.

Quote:

Improving land management, reforestation, and soil regeneration are essential steps in reducing emissions from the land sector, according to report co-author Annette Cowie from the University of New England.

“We really do need to take drastic action urgently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Professor Cowie said.

“When we plant trees, when we do sustainable land management practices that build organic land and soil, we actually take carbon out of the atmosphere and we store it in the land.”

Emissions from the global food system, including peripheral activities like packaging and transport, are estimated to comprise between 21 per cent and 37 per cent of the world’s human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report.

“About a quarter of the Earth’s ice-free land area is subject to human-induced degradation,” the authors state.

End Quote

I’ve mentioned the soil losses and continued degradation of the world’s soils in previous episodes. I think we can all see that’s not sustainable and that we need to start regenerating what we have before it’s gone. Starting now is easier than trying to roll back the Sahara, but we need to do that too. In a previous episode I discussed the Great Green Wall of Africa. There’s a link in the show notes if you’d like to read more. 

One of the issues with current agricultural production is, like the rest of industrialised society, is the dependence on oil. Overcoming the supermarket issues above could be done with much shorter supply lines. Local growing, less food miles and so on. Our second piece this week from the site The Conversation: IPCC’s land report shows the problem with farming based around oil, not soil. Supports this idea and links soil degradation to the ecology of farming.

Quote:

How is it possible that soils have become so degraded? Don’t we need well functioning soils to produce food? The truth is, the modern farming system is based around oil, not soil.

For most of our history, humans could only produce as much food as the local ecological and soil conditions could support. Every time a crop was taken from the fields, nutrients were removed, making the soil less fertile. To cope, some societies developed complex and sustainable systems in which nutrients were returned to the soil in the form of organic waste. Using the local environment and labour to maintain soils in a good state was the key to survival.

Modern farming, in contrast, has been shaped by the power of fossil fuels. The problem of limited soil fertility was overcome through fertilisation, mainly with synthetic nitrogen, which is made using natural gas or coal.

End Quote

Those complex and sustainable systems referred to in the quote link to book I’ve recommended previously: Farmers of Forty Centuries. It covers the trip of a missionary through Japan, Korea and parts of China at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Well worth a read and a link in the show notes.

The point being made in the quote is the overreliance on fossil fuels. If we think about animal agriculture as it’s practiced in the US and increasingly elsewhere, we think of CAFOs. Both as feedlots and enormous 1000+  cow plus dairies. Feed is grown with artificial fertilisers, harvested with diesel powered machinery, trucked in diesel powered vehicles and fed to animals. Waste is then trucked away or kept onsite in huge manure lagoons and then spread by diesel powered tractors. The food, milk is shipped to factories on vehicles and then distributed to consumers through warehouses and so on. For meat the beasts are trucked to slaughterhouses, and then through the supply chain, all powered by fossil fuels. Not only is this bad for the climate, the soil and the beasts, it produces, bland, homogenised food for humans. The prices of these foods are kept low for the consumer because the environmental and health costs aren’t included in the price. 

And it’s not just industrial ag  that’s got issues. I’ve mentioned before the 100 acre organic farm I visited last year. On some days there must have been at least 9 tractors going full time for days on end. Ploughing, re-ploughing, moving compost, and a variety of other things which made little sense. Busy rather than productive seemed to be the mantra. Anyway, I’m sure a huge systems overhaul is needed to remove the tractors and the hand weeding of triple ploughed vegetable beds. The solution there is probably in the problem. Don’t plough, direct seed/transplant and mulch and the diesel disappears. 

Cutting silage and hay needed for paddocks that are too wet in winter is another area needing attention. Maybe lighter breeds capable of living outdoors all year but that doesn’t remove the need for motive power for grain harvests. I can’t see the world using scythes and rakes. I’m sure there’s a solution I just haven’t seen nor heard of one.

Certainly we can all do our bit and improve our own lives in the process by growing some of our veggies at home. Even if we just start with an herb garden to season our diets, we’d be making a small difference. 

The UN, the IPCC, commonsense and an unbiased look around will lead us to the same conclusions: Shorter supply lines, fresher food and getting off the fossil fuel addiction are all important. I’m fairly sure we can decarbonise the air, solar PV, wind, wave and geothermal options are all getting cheaper and hydrogen as a stop gap or even major slice of the energy mix will sort this. Especially when combined with price signals. 

The re-carbonise the soil part is, relatively, straight forward. More soil carbon from biochar to compost to vermicompost to cover crops and green manures and then we can toss in the animal manures. I wonder why this hasn’t happened yet?

I’ll just let that sit there…

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Of course if you’d like to join the movement to recarbonise the soil or you know some who is, our online conference: RegenEarth 2019: Living Soils ~ Backyard Regen would be a great place to start, in my humble opinion. Over 300 years of accumulated knowledge and experiences from our presenters over three night’s, all for just $67 AUD. There are links in the show notes.

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

~~~~

LINKS

The RegenEarth 2019 Online Conference ~ Living Soil

email: regen@regenearth.net

Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.

WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here

Permaculture Plus

Topical Talks

IPCC climate change report calls for urgent overhaul of food production, land management

https://amp.abc.net.au/article/11391180

Great Green Wall of Africa

IPCC’s land report shows the problem with farming based around oil, not soil

https://theconversation.com/amp/ipccs-land-report-shows-the-problem-with-farming-based-around-oil-not-soil-121643

Farmers of Forty Centuries

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:

Quote:

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.

~~~~
LINKS

The 2019 RegenEarth Online Conference: Backyard Regen

regen@regenearth.net

RegenEarth.net