Archive for June 24th, 2011

Garden flourishes beside asphalt

 Fresh produce feeds the hungry; Encourages healthier eating and ‘it’s joyful and fun and actually enriches your life’

Posted 15 June 2011, by Monique Beaudin,Montreal Gazette,

MONTREAL – In front of the N.D.G. Food Depot’s west-end headquarters, herbs, tomatoes, potatoes and turnips are growing in newly built wooden planters.

Inside the grey industrial building on Oxford Ave., mushrooms are growing in plastic buckets and bean sprouts fill glass jars. Volunteer cooks will use the fresh produce to prepare meals for some of the thousands of people who go to the food depot for help every year.

This small-scale agriculture project is part of a bigger plan by the food bank to branch out into practising permaculture, a system of ecological design that includes organic gardening, reducing waste and building strong communities.

Inspired by the systems and relationships found in nature, permaculture techniques are most often applied to agriculture and growing food, although it can also be used to deal with environmental problems such as climate change or oil spills.

Since it was founded 25 years ago as a temporary solution to food insecurity in the neighbourhood, the food depot has moved from simply providing emergency food to trying to make longterm changes in the community, said director Fiona Keats.

“We are really moving toward a vision of an integrated, holistic, community food centre,” she said.

Permaculture seems like a natural extension of that progression, she added. Created by two Australians – a biologist and an environmentalist – in the 1970s, permaculture is based on three principles: Care for the Earth, care for people and care for the future.

“Some of the principles really resonate with us – the whole idea of caring for the Earth so it will continue to produce for us and caring for people, which is what we do every day when people are in crisis and come to the depot,” she said.

Demand continues to grow for the food depot’s services, up 28 per cent between 2006 and 2010, Keats said. Last year, it distributed food more than 34,000 times, to clients from Côte St. Luc, Hampstead, Montreal West, N.D.G., Westmount and parts of Lachine and Côte des Neiges.

While it buys about $70,000 worth of food every year, the food depot relies on food from the city-wide Moisson Montréal food bank, and about $300,000 worth of donations from the community every year to meet the demand, Keats said.

To celebrate the depot’s 25th birthday this year and to help raise funds for its programs, one of the world’s leading permaculturalists – a San Franciscobased author and permaculture designer who goes by the name Starhawk – is coming to Montreal this month to screen a new film about the impact permaculture projects have had around the world.

The film, called Permaculture: The Growing Edge, was directed by Starhawk and Montreal filmmaker Donna Read. It looks at a cleanup project in post-Katrina New Orleans, where plants were used to remove heavy metals from the soil, and a community garden in San Francisco that gives at-risk youth work experience while providing fresh produce in a neighbourhood with no grocery stores.

“In permaculture, one of the principles is something we call stacking functions, which means getting more than one function out of every element,” Starhawk said. “The garden serves many functions besides growing food and being beautiful.”

It produces healthy, organic food, encourages people to eat more healthy food, and offers job training and an income in a neighbourhood with few jobs, she said.

Beyond agriculture, permaculture is also a way of dealing with environmental and social problems, Starhawk said.

The film documents an oil-spill cleanup that used human hair to absorb the oil, which then became a planting medium to grow oyster mushrooms that convert the oil to sugar for their growth – a way to dispose of toxic waste without creating any waste products.

Permaculture can be an answer to problems like climate change, Starhawk said. Farms can sequester excess carbon dioxide in the soil, reducing the amount in the atmosphere, which leads to climate change, while urban agriculture reduces the amount of fossil fuels needed to produce food on a large-scale and transport it to cities, she said.

“Putting solutions in place doesn’t have to be grim and awful, it’s joyful and fun and it actually enriches your life,” she said. “It’s joyful, wonderful work to plant things and tend plants and it builds community at the same time when you’re gardening together.”

Please visit the original site for the  photographs accompanying the article.

Filmmakers Donna Read and Starhawk will be at the screening of the film Permaculture: The Growing Edge on June 22 at the Crowley Arts Centre, 5325 Crowley Ave. It is a fundraiser to celebrate the NDG Food Depot’s 25th anniversary. Tickets are $20 and available only at the door.

Starhawk is doing a two-week workshop on permaculture called Earth Activist Training in Audet, Que., from June 25 to July 9. For more information, go to

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

Defending Mother Earth: Bolivia’s ‘Bill of Rights for Mother Nature’


Defending Mother Earth: Bolivia’s ‘Bill of Rights for Mother Nature’

Bolivia has granted our planet legal rights, but how to enforce them?

Posted 20 June 2011, by Gabrielle Banks, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

Dr. Seuss fans will recall the stocky, moustached Lorax who burst from a felled tree stump and declared to an entrepreneurial logger, “I speak for the trees.” The Lorax later spoke for the fish, fowl and other creatures, as toxic industrial muck muddied the waters and poisoned the air.

Grown-ups know that no one can actually, officially and authoritatively speak for Mother Nature. Yet Bolivia is taking a novel approach to natural stewardship by giving Mother Nature a voice and turning the American model on its head with a Bill of Rights for Mother Nature.

“All Americans want what’s right for the environment, their families and their communities,” said Matt Pitzarella, spokesman for the natural gas exploration and production company Range Resources and one of a dozen local stakeholders the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked to weigh in on the South American law. “But I think most working people would agree this [Bolivian policy] is a little out there.”

Lawmakers in the landlocked country had a lot to tackle: the effects from generations of deforestation; unregulated silver, gold and tin mining; melting Andean glaciers and the iconic, evaporating Lake Titicaca. In 2010, Bolivia ranked 137th out of 163 countries in annual environmental performance index by Yale and Columbia universities. Iceland, Switzerland and Costa Rica lead the ranks while the U.S. is 61st, between Paraguay and Brazil.

Evo Morales Ayma, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, called on world leaders at United Nations’ climate talks to drastically reduce their carbon emissions in an effort to curb global warming.

This spring, Mr. Morales, who is a socialist and former leader of the coca-growers union, got congressional approval for a Bill of Rights for Mother Earth, that grants nature the same rights and liberties as human beings and treats resources as blessings.

It says Mother Earth has the right to exist, continue life cycles and be free from human alteration, the right to pure water and clean air, the right to equilibrium, the right not to be polluted or have cellular structures modified and the right not to be affected by development that could impact the balance of ecosystems.

The government, in turn, must create policies that protect nature and communities, promote clean and sustainable resources and prevent climate change. It must defend Mother Earth from exploitation and commodification of its resources that would affect climate change. It must promote peace and encourage the elimination of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

The ministry of Mother Nature will oversee enforcement.

In 2008, Ecuadorean lawmakers used similar language to amend their constitution, granting rights to nature. Both documents are rooted in the indigenous belief that all living creatures are equal.

Individuals who deal with U.S. environmental policy on a daily basis had a practical take on the Bolivian policy.

“There’s a lot of fine sentiments in the law, but if history is any guide, the practical effects will probably not be very significant,” said Joe Osborne, legal director of Group Against Smog and Pollution. “It’s easy to state these kinds of grand principles, but, unless there is a specific enforceable requirement behind it, it’s not clear how that law would be put into effect.”

American laws are more targeted and fairly demanding in their specificity, said Christopher Stone, a law professor at the University of Southern California who authored, “Should Trees have Standing? And Other Essays on Law, Morals and the Environment.” He cited protections for marine mammals that make it unlawful to interfere with the migration of whales and sea lions and endangered species laws that restrict where timber may be cut or roads be built.

“This law could help Bolivia improve environmental conditions, or it could be more or less meaningless,” said John C. Dernbach, director of the Environmental Law Center at Widener University in suburban Philadelphia. “The problem most countries have learned is there’s no magic bullet in terms of environmental protection. No one law by itself is going to solve this.”

Even with specific regulatory laws and enforcement agencies in place, he said, “If we count on courts alone to enforce the rights in laws like this, we will more often than not be disappointed. The literal language of the law will likely conflict with realities on the ground so starkly that courts may find a way to conclude that the language doesn’t mean exactly what it says.”

Some policy experts did not see the Bolivian legislative approach as entirely foreign.

“If you take out the Mother Earth language, a lot of it you can find in various laws in the U.S.,” said Davitt Woodwell, vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

For the staff at Sustainable Pittsburgh, the Bolivian document kicked off a discussion about the genesis of American environmental policy. The staff ultimately agreed that 19th-century transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman shaped the consciousness of 20th-century conservationists John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service. They said “the idea that nature should be protected and conserved” took root in the 1970s through the Clean Water, Clean Air, Endangered Species and Wilderness acts.

A provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution adopted in 1972 states: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

This language helps Pennsylvanians conceptualize an ideal, but “we have not been able to use it in litigation to compel policy-making consistent with the ideal,” said Jan Jarrett, who heads Penn Future. “Policy-making in Pennsylvania and the U.S. is highly politicized, and support for strong environmental protections tends to cleave on partisan lines.”

Mr. Pitzarella, of Range Resources, tended to agree: “While political rhetoric and extreme views on both sides of environmental issues get close to being downright nasty and counterproductive from time to time, U.S. companies and the people who work for them adhere to the highest standards anywhere.”

While Pennsylvania places the right to preserve nature in the hands of the people, the Bolivian law says “nature itself has rights, which is an interesting legal approach,” said Mr. Woodwell, of the environmental council. “You can say that development should not have an impact, but … implementing that statement is going to be close to impossible.”

Every time you turn on a light, drive a car, mow the lawn or wash a load of laundry, you’ve altered the natural balance.

Another flaw in the Bolivian approach, said Mr. Stone, the environmental law scholar, is that nature is neither peaceful nor harmonious; it’s in perpetual conflict:

“What’s called a ‘weed’ is a plant that competes with us. What’s called a ‘pest’ is a bug that competes with us. … There’s no law to protect rats; they’re considered ‘vermin.’ … ‘Clean’ water is a funny concept. … It’s slanted to protect people and maybe fish. Dirty, undrinkable water is probably very healthful for certain microbes.”

Environmental policy also values endangered animals over those in abundance. Our humane laws protect dogs and horses but not cockroaches or bees.

At its core, U.S. environmental policy is reactionary, said Mr. Dernbach, of Widener’s Environmental Law Center. “Pretty much everything we do in our current industrial society hurts the environment in some way. The purpose of environmental law is to minimize the damage.”

State Rep. Camille George, a Democrat who represents mining and logging families in Clearfield County, often says, “The hand of man has been heavy upon the land.” He encourages constituents to conserve the land and treat gas, coal and timber as the precious resources. He believes that Pennsylvanians can gain the economic benefits from the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves if extraction is handled correctly, said legislative aide Matthew Maciorkoski, executive director of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

Raina Rippel of the Washington County-based Center for Coalfield Justice said the Bolivian approach reminded her of physicians’ Hippocratic Oath to “first, do no harm.”

“We need to change our way of thinking and say, ‘How can we ensure that what we’re doing from a policy perspective will not create harm for humans and by extension for the environment?’ ” she said. “In general, the U.S. tends to put the interests of business first — as opposed to human health and, by extension, the environment.”

“I would argue it’s always the case that ensuring that we’re protecting the environment … is ultimately to everyone’s economic benefit in terms of lost productivity, premature death, sick days, damaged crops, tourism. A particular individual may not do as well, but it will benefit the community as a whole economically,” GASP attorney Mr. Osborne said.

“Environmental stewardship and safety is at the core of our industry’s mission,” said Kathryn Klaber, Marcellus Shale Coalition president. “We’re truly blessed as a nation to have these abundant resources here at home, as well as the know-how, grit and ingenuity — embodied by our local workforce — to responsibly produce these reliable, homegrown natural gas reserves. It’s because of these natural resources that the world is able to manufacture everyday goods and increase the quality of life for all.”

Gabrielle Banks:

‘Permaculture,’ ‘organic’ and Felder all provide surprises


‘Permaculture,’ ‘organic’ and Felder all provide surprises


Posted 23 June 2011, By Jim Ewing, Clarion Ledger (A Gannett Company),

A reader asked, “What you do, this ‘deep or pure organic,’ is more like permaculture, isn’t it?”

I’d have to say that’s a pretty good stab at an explanation, but only part of growing organic.

The term “permaculture” was coined by two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, one of his students, to incorporate two concepts: “Permanent Culture” and “Permanent Agriculture.” Mollison said the concept came to him in 1959 while watching two marsupials browsing in the rain forests, seeing how flora and fauna worked together to be sustainable.

Since then, the term has grown to include a lot more than agriculture or gardening, embracing even political activity and international problem-solving.

One of the leaders in the field is Portland State University Professor Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture (2000, updated 2009, Chelsea Green, $29.95) which I highly recommend.

So, what is a permaculture garden? Let me say that, the clearest way of understanding the concept would be to consider alternate phrases that essentially mean the same thing, such as eco-gardening, or creating an ecological or biodiverse garden with few human interventions.

Many of the practices of organic farming, such as nurturing natural insect, fungus and bacterial life in the soil, promoting vegetative decomposition and encouraging beneficial insects to keep balance in the garden, are elements of permaculture.

But, while organic gardeners may attempt to till the soil as little as possible, disturbed ground is anathema in permaculture, since it allows nonnative invasives (or opportunistic plants) to spring forward altering the ecosystem.

In our organic garden, we rotate crops, add amendments, and are constantly working the soil with compost to return the nutrients lost in crop production.

But in permaculture, the goal is to recreate dynamic, vibrant landscapes found in nature, creating a self-sustaining ecosystem with little if any human intervention.

So, they share some processes and aim toward the goal of sustainability and natural balance, but differ in degree and kind.

It’s not “all or nothing,” however. One can incorporate elements of permaculture in one’s food or flower garden.

See Hemenway’s book for photos of some wonderful garden designs that can incorporate permaculture in your backyard.

Felder’s book to be a classic! Speaking of good reads, our own fellow local garden columnist Felder Rushing has a new book coming out in July titled Slow Gardening: A No-Stress Philosophy for All Senses and All Seasons (Chelsea Green, $29.95).

I was sent a review copy, and I’m going to tell you the absolute truth: What a great book!

It covers everything a beginning – and expert! – gardener would need to know, including such “exotic” items as growing a “green” roof, creating a backyard wildlife habitat, secrets of fertilizing and more.

Perhaps the greatest gift of this book is that it lays gardening out as not a hard-to-do chore or activity of “experts,” but something everybody and anybody can do, without much fuss or muss. The purpose of gardening, as Felder points out, is to have fun. How often we forget that!

The photos are incredible, the book laid out well, with large type, and lots of easy-to-follow instructions. It reads like an old friend, sitting on the porch, rocking, sharing ideas.

Contact Jim Ewing at, email, on Twitter @OrganicWriter, or Facebook:|newswell|text|Home%20&%20Garden|s

U.N. stumbles on definition of ‘right’ idea


U.N. stumbles on definition of ‘right’ idea

Posted 22 June 2011, by Gregory R. Norfleet, West Branch Times Online,

How much freedom of opinion and expression relates to the Internet? According to a United Nations report released earlier this month, it is a violation of international law to cut people off from access to the Internet.
Specifically, Frank La Rue, special rapporteur of the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, states that Internet access is a human right.

The U.N. busies itself with trying to address international problems and work toward peace and development, so, naturally, the Internet has been hugely important to pass messages of genocide, oppression, starvation, corruption, etc. across the borders of communist and dictatorial countries.

La Rue’s report follows decisions by France and the United Kingdom to pass laws which bar convicted copyright violators from the Internet. But it also follows news from countries like China, Syria and Egypt which shut down the Internet to quell political unrest (think Arab Spring).

However, La Rue’s blanket rebuke does not consider fundamental differences in the two scenarios which should lead to an entirely different approach in how he measures the value of the Internet.

The motivation behind his report is to give more power to the people, to which I fully subscribe as there is not a single government on earth that would not improve with more public scrutiny.

As far as France and the United Kingdom, though, those countries are leveling a penalty in response to individual crime. Keep in mind that these copyright convicts can receive this punishment and never see the inside of a prison cell. That means they have the freedom to write books, write letters to the editor, organize a grass-roots movement, or even try to convince someone else to post their ideas to the Internet for them.

The Internet has only been around since the 1960s, and even as recently as 20 years ago, barring a private citizen from the Internet would have meant next to nothing.

The Internet is a great tool and takes communication to levels never dreamt before its time. But it is not, as La Rue states, “indispensable.” It is certainly not a right.

When the U.S. Declaration of Independence ensures “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” it ensures three things that ought to exist whether technology puts us in the Communication Age or the Stone Age. Stating that Internet access is a human right is akin to stating that owning a car or house is a human right. It sounds nice, but it’s nonsense.

As for the examples of China, Syria and Egypt, their actions assume everyone is guilty until proven innocent: There’s no due process, the people are the problem, government is always right. That way of thinking repulses anyone who understands the value of freedom and what we consider basic human rights.

I agree that the U.N. is an appropriate entity to argue that governments ought not to partake in massive Internet blackouts. The Internet ought not to become the property of any government as it is a combined project that connects networks of networks from the government, private individuals, religious groups, private businesses, private organizations and academic groups.

The government is responsible for only a fraction of its content, and commandeering the Internet is like taking over all of the gas stations or coffee shops — they are simply not the government’s to take. The people and businesses and organizations in any country ought to rise up against such government intrusion, power grabs and theft.

However, cyberspace operates through physical property and most of its users don’t own the networking equipment that makes it work — we sign up for subscription services. When a country shuts down the Internet, it is taking power over the property of a few owners, not every user. I’m not saying this is right or should be legal, but for most of us we would simply stop paying for the service and the government would owe us nothing more. For the subscribers, the Internet is not a right. For the network owners, their rights only extend to their own property, not the connectivity.

La Rue’s argument is that the Internet is a basic human right because of its “characteristics, such as its speed, worldwide reach and relative anonymity.” However these traits are irrelevant to third-world countries where residents have a hard enough time finding food to worry about whether they should get dial-up or broadband.

La Rue is confused. What he is describing is the essence of an idea, not the medium which carries it. He is mistaking the messenger for the message.

It is the idea — text, photographs, video, music or artwork — that gives the Internet its power. Without a message, the Internet is nothing. It is a superhighway without travelers.

La Rue is correct that the Internet is powerful and fast. But there are millions of ideas — scientific, religious, medicinal, philanthropic, etc. — that spread like wildfire long before the Internet and still shape our world today.

We all have ideas. Government doesn’t even bother to give us a right to them because there’s nothing they can do to stop an idea. But recognizing the freedom to express those ideas, to share those messages, that must be — must be — a human right.

The Art of Food Foraging


The Art of Food Foraging 

Digging in the dirt around McCall nets nettle

A Forageable Feast that would leave Hemingway speechless.

Posted 22 June 2011, by Guy Hand, Boise Weekly,

Like a shaman’s cape, her knee-length, earth-toned jacket billowed behind Darcy Williamson as she moved silently through the woods near her McCall home. Even as she zigzagged her way through lodgepole pines, her eyes darting from tree limb to ground to middle distance, she never slowed her pace. She’d already lost her three companions and even I, unburdened with a collection basket and tools, found it hard to keep up.

“I move through a forest pretty quickly,” Williamson said as she brushed strands of graying hair behind an ear, “and I don’t like to linger in one spot because that tends to cause over-harvesting.”

Only when she spotted something edible did she slow down enough for the others to catch up. Often that edible thing was invisible to me until Williamson carefully plucked it from the ground, brushed off the soil and pushed it toward my face.

“Should I try it?” I asked of something ivory-colored and pea-sized.

“If I hand it to you,” she said with only the slightest hint of a smile, “I expect you to eat it.”

When you’re in the woods with a well-known forager like Williamson, you have no choice but to trust her. Thankfully, that small corm–she called it an Indian potato or turkey pea–was sweet and starchy. In fact, nothing she offered me that day was odd-tasting, unpleasant or emergency-room worthy, and soon I was at her heels like a fledgling bird begging for more.

For most of us, the art of foraging fell out of favor a few thousand years ago–thanks to that invention we call agriculture–but not everyone abandoned the impulse to gather. Back in the early ’60s, Euell Gibbons grew famous from his book Stalking the Wild Asparagus. More recently, urban foragers like Iso Rabins in San Francisco and Sam Thayer in Washington, D.C., have made it hip to hunt city parks and vacant lots for food. Here in Idaho, Williamson has been foraging the forests around McCall since she was old enough to walk.

It all started when a naturalist friend of the family began showing the 2-year-old Williamson woodland plants. At 5, Williamson was treating sick animals with her growing collection of medicinal herbs.

“By the time I was 6, I would go off into the woods to live off the land but never got to stay overnight because my mother would get worried about me,” Williamson said. Mom would occasionally have to entice her home with promises of chocolate malts and cheeseburgers.

Now 62, Williamson went on to write 23 books on herbalism and foraging, as well as develop a business called From the Forest that deals in medicinal plants, seeds and preparations. On this day, though, Williamson was looking for lunch and helping the rest of us find it in McCall’s still-snow-dotted mountains.

“This is a Brown’s peony,” she said of a handsome, low-lying plant covered in unopened, burgundy-colored flower buds as she began plucking several marble-sized specimens. “We’re going to take some of those. They taste similar to Brussels sprouts.”

A short beeline from there, Williamson found a large patch of stinging nettles. She knelt down beside the dark green plant covered in nasty, stinging hairs.

“What we want for food are the shortest, tightest ones,” she said. “We want these that are still kind of closed at the top and that snap off real clean like an asparagus.”

The young stems gave an audible pop as Williamson broke them off at the base with her bare hands.

“All right, don’t stand around,” she said to the rest of us. “I’ve got gloves here for the sissies.”

As we trailed Williamson in her zigzag through the woods, we soon found mint, edible lichen and flowers, tubers, bulbs and wild garlic. We even munched on a lodgepole pine appetizer.

“The cambium layer on that pine is very rich in sugar and starch.” Williamson said. “And the needles are high in vitamin C and A.”

She plucked a few young needles off a branch, then handed them to me with the assurance that “lodgepole is like a smorgasbord on a stick.” I dutifully nibbled, expecting nothing more than the taste of Pine-Sol, but again I was surprised by a mildly spicy flavor that was entirely pleasant.

One of our group, Eloris Chisholm, said lodgepole pine needles also make a great tea. She’s been working with Williamson for 20 years and said she inherited the foraging bug from her gold mining grandparents.

John Davidson, another in our group, came to wild plant collecting more recently. He lives south of McCall on the Payette River, and when two of Williamson’s apprentices pitched a tent on his land a couple of years ago, they mentioned that he had all kinds of edibles on his property.

“I had no idea that all about were plants I could use for food,” Davidson said with the same surprised look I was periodically flashing.

After a couple of hours, the five of us had collected a lunch’s worth of wild produce at no cost and with none of the usual paper-or-plastic supermarket conundrums. And Williamson’s pace had slowed to the point I could ask a non-what’s-that question: “Do you think the art of foraging is becoming more popular?”

“I believe so,” she said as she chewed thoughtfully on the tender end of a young cattail sprout. “I believe it’s going to become more popular still as food costs go up and more toxins and pesticides are found in our food.”

Williamson estimated that there are hundreds of edible plants in the McCall area alone, many available year round. The catch is identifying them and, of course, knowing what to avoid.

“There are only a few poisonous plants in Idaho or in any region, for that matter,” Williamson said. “So you do the backward thing: You learn the toxic plants. It’s a lot easier to learn what’s going to poison you than what’s going to feed you.”

It’s also good to take a class and grab a field guide or find an experienced tutor, like Williamson.

The growing interest in foraged foods, Williamson believes, is a positive development and a logical extension of the local food movement. After all, what’s more “local” than native and naturalized plants that spontaneously pop up all around you? But she also feels it’s increasingly important to teach students environmentally sensitive foraging practices. That’s why she doesn’t linger in one spot, forages lightly and only picks from abundant plants. When she digs a bulb, she carefully pats the ground back in place to hide the hole. It’s not only to preserve the resource, which is reason enough, she said, but to also ensure that a potential increase in foraging doesn’t raise the ire of land management agencies like the Forest Service.

David Olson, public affairs officer for the Boise National Forest, said that although the Forest Service doesn’t officially encourage foraging, it currently has no regulations prohibiting gathering plants for personal use in Idaho’s national forests. There are, however, regulations against harvesting threatened and endangered species. Olson said, knowing what you’re picking is not only essential to health but also will keep you out of legal trouble.

Back in Williamson’s expansive kitchen, our group prepared lunch with everything we’d foraged–and it wasn’t the hardscrabble, survivalist’s, wish-I-had-a-steak meal I’d feared it might be. Our foraged lunch was, in fact, stunning: a delicate salad of tender chopped cattail stems, young huckleberry leaves, wild garlic and bright yellow lily flowers, surprisingly delicious steamed nettles (they lose their sting when cooked), nutty-tasting sauteed Brown’s peony buds, meaty snowbank mushrooms and a soothing lodgepole pine needle tea.

The nettles were particularly flavorful and research suggests that wild greens are often more nutritious than store-bought greens.

“It puts spinach to shame,” Williamson said as I went for another helping. “Greens are expensive when you buy them fresh in the market,” she added. “But you can go out in your field or backyard and have some of the best tasting greens on earth.”

Geo-engineering does not deserve serious climate policy consideration The likelihood that such technology could bring a safe, lasting, democratic and peaceful solution is minuscule

Geo-engineering does not deserve serious climate policy consideration

The likelihood that such technology could bring a safe, lasting, democratic and peaceful solution is minuscule


Posted 15 June 2011, by Pat Mooney, The Guardian,

Geo-engineering is increasingly considered a possible – even necessary, some argue – response to the climate crisis.

On the eve of climate talks that began last week, the UN’s climate chief, Christiana Figueres, told the Guardian: “We are putting ourselves in a scenario where we will have to develop more powerful technologies to capture emissions out of the atmosphere.”

Was Figueres painting a bleak picture to stress urgency of a new global deal on emissions cuts, or was she floating a trial balloon to gauge the political viability of geo-engineering the climate? Habitually lurking in the shadows as emergency “plan B”, the intentional modification of the global climate is now stepping out into the “solar radiation” of daylight.

Despite a de facto moratorium on climate-related geo-engineering adopted by the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in October 2010, geo-engineering is increasingly considered a possible – even necessary, some argue – response to the climate crisis. This was the tone set by the UK Royal Society’s 2009 report recommending more research. This tone was adopted by last year’s parliamentary committee hearings in London and House hearings in Washington – which heard from many of the same experts – and echoed in the report of the US government accountability office. The repeated calls for a coordinated research strategy have brought legitimacy to the issue of deliberate, global-scale climate interventions.

Just prior to the climate negotiations in Cancún last December, the IPCC announced that its fifth assessment report, due in 2014, would include a consideration of geo-engineering options. That work begins next week with an expert meeting in Lima, Peru. The scientific steering group behind the expert meeting includes geo-engineering researchers who have advocated increases in research funding and real-world experimentation, as well as scientists who have patents pending on geo-engineering technologies and other financial interests. We hope that their views will be balanced by other participants with a more critical perspective. Science is put at risk by self-interest.

It is in this context that several dozen organisations from around the world sent the IPCC an open letter on Monday (PDF), demanding a clear statement of its commitment to precaution and to the existing international moratorium on geo-engineering.

The letter’s signatories are civil society organisations with the view that the governments that got us into this mess and have delayed action on climate change for decades – and still refuse to take substantive action – have neither the intelligence nor integrity to be trusted with control of the world’s thermostat.

Manipulating climate in one place could have grave environmental, social and economic impacts on countries and peoples that had no say on the issue. The peoples of the global south know this already from their experience with anthropogenic climate change.

As the world watches the airline industries of Australia and New Zealand thrown into chaos by volcanic ash drifting from Chile nearly 10,000km away – not to mention the effects on human health and ecosystems closer to the eruption – it’s absurd that the IPCC would entertain the notion of doing something similar, on purpose. Blasting particles into the stratosphere could hurt Africa and Asia by disrupting precipitation as much as or even more than climate change itself.

Other proposed geo-engineering schemes place equally high on the absurdity scale: artificially altering the chemistry of our oceans, devising new carbon sinks in fragile ecosystems, hauling inland “biomass” to the nearest coast to give it (and its carbon) a burial at sea.

Figueres last week, Prof Lovejoy in the New York Times last Friday and Profs Mace and Redgwell in this paper Monday – all lament our dire situation and reluctantly conclude that we may have no choice but to go down geo-engineering’s risky road. When you look at current climate data and projections, their argument is almost compelling.

But why all this fatalism when we continue to support and subsidise high-emissions industrial agriculture and fail to support small-scale producers farming sustainably? When we continue to subsidize fossil fuel extraction, authorise new coal plants and fail to agree on the next commitment period for the Kyoto protocol? When we know consumption without end cannot be sustained? We also know biodiversity is essential for surviving climate change, yet we have failed to protect it.

There are many solutions to climate change that we have no choice but to adopt – proven, democratic and no-risk solutions. Why go down the road that is unproven, inequitable and risky? If we aren’t capable of the former, why would anyone believe we can pull off the latter?

The likelihood that geo-engineering could bring a safe, lasting, democratic and peaceful solution to the climate crisis is minuscule. The potential for unilateralism, private profiteering and disastrous, irreversible, unintended effects is great. Geo-engineering does not deserve serious consideration within climate policy circles. It should be banned.

Pat Mooney is executive director at the ETC Group

IPCC treads carefully on geoengineering: UN panel says it will review science but take no stand on governance

IPCC treads carefully on geoengineering: UN panel says it will review science but take no stand on governance

Posted 22 June 2011, by Staff, H.O.M.E. (Hands Off Mother Earth),

[ download press release PDF here ] [ español ]

LIMA, Peru – As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wound up its expert meeting on geoengineering in Lima, Peru, which included all three IPCC Working Groups, it committed to remain “policy relevant but not policy prescriptive.” Despite getting off on the wrong foot (no transparency), with some of the wrong experts (scientists with financial interests), on some of the wrong topics (governance), the IPCC has now confirmed that it will not make recommendations to governments regarding research funding for the controversial technologies, governance models or the legality of experimentation.

At a press briefing following the close of the expert meeting, the IPCC stated that its focus will be “establishing the scientific foundations for an assessment of geoengineering.” This assessment would include risks, costs, benefits and social and economic impacts, intended and unintended consequences as well as uncertainties and gaps in knowledge and will be based solely on peer-reviewed literature. “Of course, a real assessment of geoengineering will need to be much broader than a scientific peer-review process,” said Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group from Lima, though outside the meeting. “Civil society organizations have been clear that we do not want these dangerous technologies developed; they are a new threat from the very same countries that are responsible for the climate crisis in the first place!”

Dr. Chris Field, Co-chair of Working Group II (vulnerability, adaptation, impacts), said that while the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) would consider peer-reviewed literature on the question of governance, that debate would take place “at higher levels” – presumably referring to intergovernmental negotiations ongoing at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which adopted a moratorium on geoengineering activities in October 2010. Dr. Ramon Pichs-Madruga, Co-chair of Working Group III (mitigation), stated that all stakeholders would have a chance to comment on the IPCC’s treatment of geoengineering in the regular schedule of IPCC meetings over the next two years, and that civil society input was welcome, particularly given geoengineering’s controversial nature.

The CBD is in the midst of holding a series of consultations that have been open to organizations of varying viewpoints. This is in marked contrast to the series of Chatham House chats on geoengingineering governance that have taken place over the past year. Overwhelmingly, those have been invitation-only and dominated by geoengineering advocates (e.g., Asilomar conference on climate intervention, the Royal Society’s Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative, the International Risk Governance Council).

Last week, 160 organizations from around the world sent an open letter to IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri expressing concerns about the IPCC expert meeting. “The IPCC has assured us it will go forward carefully in this work, and will not overstep its mandate by making governance recommendations. We will be closely following the process,” said Ribeiro. “Geoengineering is too dangerous to too many people and to the planet to be left in the hands of small group of so-called experts. Geoengineering should be an issue at the Rio+20 conference in June 2012.”

Indigenous Peoples’ organisation demands “immediate moratorium” on REDD+ in Central Kalimantan

Indigenous Peoples’ organisation demands “immediate moratorium” on REDD+ in Central Kalimantan

Posted 22 June 2011, by Chris Lang, Redd-Monitor,

Members of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago – Central Kalimantan Chapter (AMAN Kalteng) have issued a statement demaning an “immediate moratorium of all REDD+ processes and investments in Central Kalimantan”, until a series of conditions are met. AMAN Kelteng’s statement can be downloaded here (pdf file 72.1 KB) and is posted in full, below.

Central Kalimantan is the pilot province under the Indonesia-Norway US$1 billion REDD deal. As a REDD pilot province, Central Kalimantan faces two serious problems. The first is that deforestation is continuing. Last week activists from the Environmental Investigation Agency and Telepak uncovered a Malaysian plantation company illegally clearing forest in Central Kalimantan. The company denies that it was acting illegally and argues that it is therefore is not in breach of Indonesia’s moratorium on new forestry concessions. Meanwhile, Per Fredrik Ilsaas Pharo, of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, acknowledges that the forest clearance is illegal and argues that it is therefore not in breach of Indonesia’s moratorium. I know, this version of Catch 22 makes no sense to me either.

The second problem in Central Kalimantan are the REDD projects that are supposed to be addressing the ongoing deforestation. AMAN Kalteng’s statement highlights a series of problems for indigenous people as REDD unfolds in Central Kalimantan:

  • REDD+ and the Central Kalimantan Spatial Plan are not transparent.
  • The principle of free, prior and informed consent has been “completely ignored”.
  • The National Strategy on REDD+ is unfinished – meaning that there is no Provincial Strategy either.
  • The REDD+ governing body was established without the full and effective involvement of Indigenous Peoples and is unable to manage and coordinate the various REDD+ initiatives in Central Kalimantan.
  • Provincial regulations on indigenous institutions and land rights fail to guarantee the rights of Indigenous Peoples. For example, the regulation on land rights only addresses individual land rights and not the collective land rights of indigenous communities.

Anja Lillegraven, Project Coordinator Southeast Asia at the Rainforest Foundation Norway commented that,

“The Rainforest Foundation Norway fully support the demands of AMAN Central Kalimantan, and we encourage Norway to focus on the fulfillment of the conditions listed in AMAN’s statement. AMAN pinpoints crucial elements which need to be addressed if REDD is going to succeed.”

When REDD-Monitor interviewed Abdon Nababan, Secretary General of AMAN, shortly after the announcement of the Indonesia-Norway deal last year, he described REDD as currently a threat, but added, “We want to change this threat to an opportunity.” A year later, it appears that REDD remains a threat.


Indigenous Peoples Alliance of Archipelago – Central Kalimantan Chapter

We, the members of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago -Central Kalimantan Chapter (AMAN Central Kalimantan) conducted on June 16-17, 2011 our Strategic Meeting to address concerns and problems related to REDD+ in the Central Kalimantan’s Provincial Spatial Plan. The Meeting was attended by members of the Local and Regional Chapters of AMAN Central Kalimantan and Indigenous Leaders from eleven districts.

We, Indigenous Peoples of Central Kalimantan affirm that Indigenous Peoples have the right over land, territories and customary forest. Indigenous Peoples have traditional knowledge and innovations in managing and safeguarding our forest and have thereby sustained forest resources over the centuries. On the other hand, development projects such as oil palm plantations, industrial plantations, mining and the peat land mega project are the main drivers of deforestation in Central Kalimantan.

As the Pilot Province for REDD+, Central Kalimantan has been on the global spotlight. It has become the target of REDD+ investments. Various initiatives have been developed such as the Kalimantan Forest and Climate Partnership (KFCP) between the Government of Indonesia and the Australian Government; and the Letter of Intent (LoI) between Indonesia and Norway that is by far the biggest REDD+ investment in Indonesia. In addition, there have been many other initiatives involving international organizations such as The Clinton Foundation, WWF, FFI, BOS, CARE International and Wetland etc.

Meanwhile, the Central Kalimantan Provincial Spatial Plan is yet to be finalized as the reference for spatial management and allocation. However, indigenous peoples and civil society organizations are excluded in the on-going spatial planning processes.

Responding to the current situation in Central Kalimantan concerning REDD+ and other development issues, we wish to highlight the following:

  1. Various initiatives on REDD+ and the preparation of the Central Kalimantan Spatial Plan are not being implemented in a transparent way. Information on the various initiatives and activities relating to REDD+ had not been shared to indigenous peoples, and thorough consultations are not taking place. This lack of interaction and engagement with indigenous communities is now resulting to confusion and chaos among indigenous communities.
  2. Indigenous communities in Central Kalimantan remain un-informed on the various initiatives that have emerged from the identification of Central Kalimantan as a REDD+ pilot area. Moreover, Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as the principle and the right of Indigenous Peoples has been completely ignored in all REDD+ initiatives and the processes relating to the development of Central Kalimantan Spatial Plan. While indigenous peoples are seriously going to be impacted by these initiatives especially in relation to their right over their land, forest, territories, and their collective wellbeing, they are not involve in any decision making processes relating to REDD+ planning and activities.
  3. The absence of the Provincial Strategies on REDD+ as a result of unfinished National Strategy on REDD+, causing uncertainty of reference for REDD+ implementation in Central Kalimantan.
  4. The REDD+ governance in Central Kalimantan was designed without full and effective involvement of Indigenous Peoples. In addition, the existing REDD+ governing body is not able to manage and effectively coordinate all of REDD+ initiatives in Central Kalimantan. This is resulting to continuous poor coordination and lack of information of REDD+ projects.
  5. Provincial Regulation No. 16 (2008) on the Dayak Indigenous Institutions in Central Kalimantan contains ambiguities of authority and does not distinguish functions between Damang as the Head of Indigenous institutions and the government institutions. This causes an overlap and conflicts in teh exercise of authority in the community. In addition, the Regulation does not provide provision for capacity building of indigenous institutions to tackle external affairs that concerns them among others.
  6. Meanwhile, Governor Regulation No. 13 (2009) on Indigenous Land and Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Central Kalimantan Province does not guarantee the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples over territories. This regulation only addresses individual land right. Furthermore, there is no implementation guideline and no funding is provided in the implementation of this Governor Regulation.

Based on the above mentioned issues in Central Kalimantan, we, the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago – Central Kalimantan Chapter (AMAN Kalteng) call for the IMMEDIATE MORATORIUM of all REDD+ processes and investments in Central Kalimantan until the following conditions are met:

  1. Clear commitment from the government to recognize and protect the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Central Kalimantan, including the collective rights to land, territories and natural resources, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  2. Establishment of mechanisms and inclusion of indigenous peoples in REDD+ bodies and precesses to ensure their full and effective participation in the entire process of planning, implementation and monitoring of development in Central Kalimantan, including REDD+ and provincial Spatial Plan, in accordance with Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
  3. Socialization and dissemination of information to Indigenous peoples in forms understood by them to be carried out in timely manner on all REDD+ projects in Central Kalimantan. This is to ensure a clear understanding of indigenous peoples of REDD+ and the initiatives, activities and plans relating to this to facilitate their effective engagement and involvement in decision-making processes relevant to REDD+ in Central Kalimantan.
  4. Government and other groups involved in piloting REDD in Central Kalimantan shall directly engaged with indigenous communities in the identification, documentation and inventory of traditional knowledge and innovations of Indigenous Peoples in forest management as the basis for forest management in Central Kalimantan. This is in accordance with the mandate set out in the policy of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  5. Government of Central Kalimantan to recognize and support efforts by Indigenous peoples in the participatory mapping of their land and territories.
  6. Government of Central Kalimantan to immediately disseminate information and conduct public consultations regarding the Provincial Spatial Plan involving Indigenous Peoples and civili society. In addition, indigenous peoples duly designated representatives shall be part of governing bodies and other relevant processes related to the development of the Provincial Spatial Plan.
  7. The Regulation/Provincial Regulation No. 16 (2008) should guarantee collective rights of Indigenous Peoples over political sovereignty of Indigenous Institutions to regulate and manage indigenous territories in accordance with customary laws. The Governor Regulation No. 13 (2009) should guarantee the collective rights of Indigenous peoples to lands, territories and natural resources.

In addition to the above, the following are our concerns in responding to the Presidential Decree No.10 (2011) regarding Moratorium on Granting New Permit and Improving Governance on Primary Forest and Peat Lands:

  1. We, Indigenous Peoples indeed support government efforts to postpone the granting of new permit and to improve the governance fo primary forest and peat lands. However, this effort will not be able to run effectively through a mere Presidential Decree. The Indonesian government should conduct immediately a review of all policies related to forest management and existing permits. The Forestry Law No. 41 (1999) has been the fundamental cause of all forestry issues and conflicts in Indonesia, therefore it should be revised.
  2. The Presidential Decree should be with a stronger reliable policy that comes with clear criteria and indicators to be used in assessing the success and failure of its implementation on the ground.
  3. Policy on forestry should clarify the governance of forest in Indonesia, including the legal rights of Indigenous Peoples on forest resources; both in forests and non-forest areas.
  4. In particular, we demand full implementation of the Presidential Decree No. 2 (2007) regarding Rehabilitation and Revitalization of the Ex Central Kalimantan One Million Hectares Peat Land Mega Project that limits only to 10 thousand hectares for oil palm plantations in that area. In fact, permits have been granted for 360 thousand hectares for oil palm plantations. These violation including allegations of corruption in these investments should be addressed accordingly.

17 June 2011
Wisma Soverdi, Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan

Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago -Central Kalimantan Chapter (AMAN Central Kalimantan)
Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nuantara (AMAN) Kalimantan Tengah