Posts Tagged ‘flowers’

Five modern trends in sustainable architecture


Five modern trends in sustainable architecture


Posted24 September 2011, by Pratik Basu, EcoFriend (Instamedia),



With so many ecological concerns coming up every year, the need for the hour is to grasp the concept of Eco-friendly and sustainable architecture. The dawn of this green architecture came from the Eco-build in London, Cannes and the Earth Day and it seems to be develop rapidly in the developed countries. Green architecture can change the world. With rapid advancements in the field of Eco-friendly products, there is a huge demand for making buildings and construction techniques more greener and sustainable and less harmful for Earth. The world has grasped this idea very well. The need for new techniques and materials which can be easily recycled are taken into consideration. Here’s showcasing 5 trends in green and sustainable architecture which is a focus of attention amongst Eco-designers.


1. Vertical Farming


Vertical farming. Trends in sustainable architecture


With an expected increase in population to 9.1 billion people within the year 2050, feeding all the people around the globe is a cause for major concern. Food production needs to increase by 70%. This would mean having higher crop yields and expansion of the area cultivated. However land available for cultivation is not evenly distributed, while others are suitable for cultivating only a few crops. Thus architects have been designing buildings where one can grow crops on all the edges surrounding the building. This gives more area for cultivation and helps solve the expansion crisis. The vertical farms can be integrated with residential buildings too, with farms being set up on the external periphery of the buildings. This provides a clean environment for the residents to live in.


2. Straw


Straw House. Trends in sustainable architecture


Straw is a sustainable material which can be used as a building material. Many designers and builders today are making use of this natural material to make phenomenal designs which are Eco-friendly. These buildings can be made from prefabricated panels using straw. These panels can be assembled from locally sourced star which can be fit into the panel frame made from timber. This production style helps save money and energy and decrease build times and carbon emissions. Electricity can be generated by photovoltaic and solar thermal panels and the extra electricity can be sold to the electricity grid. The homes made by straw would be considerably cheaper, as straw is a product which is available in vast quantity. This low cost makes it more popular to the general masses.


3. Phase change materials (PCMs)


House from PCMTrends in sustainable architecture


Phase change materials are used to store both cooling and heating energy. These new age materials can be embedded in the ceiling and the wall tiles from where they absorb heat to keep the space cool and reduces the need for air conditioning. These Phase change material tiles have micro capsules made of a special wax which is developed to contain heat during the day. Some companies selling phase change materials claim that using the material reduces temperature of your indoor surrounding by almost 7ºC, hence reducing air conditioning costs.


4. Bees and biodiversity


Bees and diversityTrends in sustainable architecture


Bees are an integral part of our biodiversity. A small garden or a rooftop is all that is required to keep bees. They help in making delicious honey from plants and flowers in your gardens, parks and the tree lined roads. It is important to make an environment in cities that safeguards wildlife and also helps in further diversity. By incorporating biodiversity into architecture, we can make a cleaner and greener world. Hence keeping bees and making bee hives are an important step that needs to be taken to ensure a cleaner, greener environment. In London, vast number of bee hives have been created on the roof tops of buildings, attracting many bees.


5. Sustainable materials


Sustainable materialsTrends in sustainable architecture


Apart from the many products used in construction made from recycled materials, many researchers are looking at the construction industry for other sustainable materials from other sectors which are rarely used in design and construction.

Thousands of samples have been taken from countries all over the world. These selected materials provide an Eco-friendly alternative to other resource hungry materials which generally have many by products which are harmful to the environment. These samples are being studied and their properties are made good use of. So it is essential that we find sustainable materials which can be easily recycled and are durable and appropriate for construction.


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Residents turn vacant lot into a lovely, welcoming glen


Residents turn vacant lot into a lovely, welcoming glen

Flower garden transforms eye-sore to eye-popping.


At left, Chris Quinn of West Des Moines sits with Terri Mitchell of the Mondamin Presidential neighborhood in the new garden they and a couple dozen other volunteers have created at 19th Street and College Avenue. Residents this summre set to work next to busy 19th Street transforming the vacant, overgrown lot to a lush, colorful garden that attracts appreciative remarks from many who drive by or live in the area. / JANET KLOCKENGA/THE REGISTER


Posted 22 September 2011, by Janet Klockenga, Des Moines Register (Gannett),



A once-vacant lot at 19th Street and College Avenue has blossomed this summer, now offering eye-popping color in three flower beds, thanks to the loving care of neighbors in the Mondamin Presidential neighborhood.

The garden, which residents are terming the Mondamin Glen, sits just to the east of busy 19th Street. In spring, residents started clearing brush and overgrown trees from the 155-by-75-foot lot during a Habitat For Humanity Rock the Block cleanup event.

From there, the garden grew.

Residents living in the Mondamin Presidential neighborhood have set to work next to busy 19th Street transforming a vacant, overgrown lot to a lush, colorful garden that attracts appreciative remarks from many who drive by or live in the area. Here, Master Gardeners Terri Mitchell and Chris Quinn talk about future plans for the garden. / JANET KLOCKENGA/THE REGISTER

Mondamin Presidential Neighborhood Association president Valerie Allen is proud of the way neighbors combined forces to work on the project.

“Hundreds of hands touched the Mondamin Glen over these past several months,” Allen said, adding that the idea came from longtime resident Rhonda Cason. Another resident, Terri Mitchell, a Master Gardener, led the way to map out the garden and plant it.

“There were so many folks involved with that project, I couldn’t begin to thank them for all their donation of time, energy and materials,” Allen said.

Mitchell got some help in plotting and planning the garden from fellow Master Gardener Chris Quinn of West Des Moines. Mitchell’s husband, Stan, also showed up nearly every evening, hauling water for the garden from a nearby fire hydrant on 19th Street.

As the garden grew, so did the attention paid to it.

“It was great for attracting hummingbirds,” Quinn said.

And honks from passing drivers.

“People love it,” said Terri Mitchell. “They drive by and honk all the time while we’re out here working. Sometimes we worry a little bit; some people have to stop and look at it, backing traffic up.”

“It’s in a perfect location because a lot of people see it when they’re getting off work,” said Stan Mitchell. “I can’t believe how many people have stopped and said they like it. Young kids have actually stopped to pick up trash here.”

Terri said one woman told her “it’s the most beautiful garden in Des Moines.”

“Another one called it ‘eye candy,’ ” she said. “It makes me happy to hear that.”

The garden features three round flower beds, one that’s planted to attract butterflies. The main bed holds a large new neighborhood sign the association paid for, along with three cement deer sculptures that Stan repainted. The sculptures had long resided in the yard of James Strode, who died a couple years ago.

Dramatic castor bean plants, each well over 6 feet tall, are planted in the middle of two flower beds, which boast tidy rings of salvia, bee balm, coneflowers and Asiatic lilies. A separate seating area in the corner provides a shady place for reflection.

The resident gardeners got most of their annuals at no charge from the city’s greenhouse on the east side, and the Mondamin Presidential Neighborhood Association kicked in some money to pay for other plants and landscaping materials. Terri Mitchell estimated it cost less than $2,000 to get the garden planted.

She said she hopes next year to plant more roses, and to install a couple trellises. The neighbors plan to lay a path of pavers among the three flower beds.

The constant watering, especially during the August heatwave, was worthwhile, Terri Mitchell said.

“I’m surprised how pretty it turned out,” she said.

Neighborhood association prssident Valerie Allen likes the way the garden has drawn admiring glances from passing motorists.

“When you drive north on 19th Street, it makes you slow down and take notice,” she said. “It’s just one of the many things the residents have helped accomplish this year. We take pride in our neighborhood, and we truly care how it’s perceived.”

The caretakers of Mondamin Glen are hoping to plant tulips and other bulbs in the garden this fall. Mitchell said she hopes eventually the garden will be filled with perennials. The group will welcome donations of bulbs and mulch this fall.

For more information about their needs, call Terri Mitchell at 282-9709.



Plowshares activist released from prison; promptly arrested for alleged probation violation

Plowshares activist released from prison; promptly arrested for alleged probation violation

Posted 16 September 2011, by Linda Boyd, Washington Liberals,

A Plowshares activist was released today after serving the majority of her sentence, only to be promptly arrested for allegedly violating the terms of her probation.

Lynne Greenwald was released earlier today from the SeaTac Federal Detention Center in Washington State after serving five and a half months of a six month sentence for her participation in the 2009 Disarm Now Plowshares action at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base and Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific.

Greenwald is a grandmother, retired social worker, peace activist, and until her time in prison worked at Irma Gary House, a transitional house for women recently released from prisons in Washington State.

Greenwald arrived at the Federal Progress House (the organization that was to provide community supervision while she is under house arrest for the remaining two weeks of her sentence) before noon as she had been instructed by Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officials. While working through her paperwork U.S. Marshals arrived and arrested Greenwald for allegedly violating her conditions of release. They transported her to a holding cell in Tacoma awaiting transport back to the SeaTac Federal Detention Center this evening.

Upon learning of Greenwald’s arrest supporters immediately contacted the U.S. Marshal’s office as well as attorneys working on Greenwald’s behalf.

Attorney Blake Kremer said that Greenwald was picked up on a probation violation based on the requirement that she go “immediately” to the halfway house (Irma Gary House). A brief videotaped interview and time spent with well-wishers who went to the prison to meet her are the issue. Greenwald did go directly from SeaTac to Irma Gary House and then on to Progress House where she did what was required by checking in before noon. The marshals were sent by the BOP, not requested by Progress House or Irma Gary House.

According to the Marshal’s office generally when Marshals pick up someone for the BOP at a halfway house, the issue is handled administratively and without a hearing. Kremer said that her case could either be handled administratively or through a hearing. A hearing would likely be held tomorrow at the U.S. District Courthouse in Tacoma, Washington.

Greenwald and her fellow Disarm Now Plowshares co-defendants, Bill “Bix” Bichsel, SJ, Susan Crane, Steve Kelly, SJ, and Anne Montgomery, RSCJ, challenged the legality and morality of the US storage and threat of use of thermonuclear missiles by Trident nuclear submarines stationed at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base outside Bremerton Washington. They entered the U.S. Navy’s nuclear weapons storage depot at Bangor, Washington on November 2, 2009 to symbolically disarm the nuclear weapons stored there, and expose the illegality of the government’s continued preparations for nuclear war.

The five admitted from the start that they cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Navy base during the night of All Souls, November 2, 2009. They then walked undetected for hours nearly four miles inside the base to their target, the Strategic Weapons Facility-Pacific. This top security area is where activists say hundreds of nuclear missiles are stored in bunkers. There they cut through two more barbed wire fences and went inside. They put up two big banners which said “Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident Illegal and Immoral,” scattered sunflower seeds, and prayed until they were arrested at dawn. Prosecutors said the government would neither admit nor deny the existence of nuclear weapons at the base and argued that “whether or not there are nuclear weapons there or not is irrelevant.”

Prosecutors successfully objected to and excluded most of the defense evidence about the horrific effects of nuclear weapons, the illegality of nuclear weapons under US treaty agreements and humanitarian law, and the right of citizens to try to stop war crimes by their government.

After difficult deliberations the jury finally found all five co-defendants guilty on all charges of Conspiracy, Trespass, Destruction of Property on a Naval Installation and Depredation of Government Property. The five co-defendants received varying sentences including up to fifteen months confinement.

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific represent the largest concentration of operational nuclear weapons according to the Kansas City Star.   The U.S. is currently working on plans for a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines to replace the current Trident fleet. The new fleet armed with nuclear armed missiles would operate through the year 2082.

There have been more than 100 Plowshares Nuclear Resistance Actions worldwide since 1980. Plowshares actions are taken from Isaiah 2:4, a book in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible, “God will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many people. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not take up swords against nations, nor will they train for war anymore.”


Leonard Eiger, 425-445-2190,
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action
16159 Clear Creek Road NW Poulsbo, WA 98370



I BELIEVE: ‘The beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows’


I BELIEVE: ‘The beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows’

George Petty who blazed a new wildflower trail soon to open in Jonathan's Woods. He ID'd all the wildflowers and which needed to be planted and he'll be leading wildflower hikes there. He also writes poetry about wildflowers. George is 82 and used to go on scout trips in Jonathan's Woods as a boy. (note: wildflowers were not in bloom)_BOB KARP/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER / Staff Photo/staff photo


Posted 14 September 2011, by George Petty, The Daily Record (Gannett),



I believe the beauties of our past are still alive in unspoiled woods, hills and meadows, those quiet green sanctuaries where we can recover ourselves without having to buy gas or turn on a light.

Scientists tell us that even in land that has been farmed, logged, lived on, or burned over, the seeds of old native wildflowers, shrubs and trees lie buried, waiting for the trouble to pass so they can grow again. Even if science didn’t think so, I’d believe it.

Mostly because I’ve seen it happen.

Twenty-five years ago a group of my neighbors in Denville banded together to prevent developers from building condominiums in the forest around Bald Hill. They called their group POWWW, Preserve Our Wetlands, Water and Woods. Today, after a long patient struggle, 650 acres of the Beaver Brook watershed have become Morris County’s newest forest park, Jonathan’s Woods, named for Denville’s last native American.

I roamed these woods when I was a youngster. I loved the freedom to delay and discover. Flowers, trees and animals were my companions, and I could drink safely from cool woodland springs and brooks. But every year new houses consumed the edge of the forest, detergent chemicals bubbled through the water, and one by one the flowers decided not to risk the air.

The preservation of Jonathan’s Woods has given me another chance, right here near my back door. In the very same curve of the brook where I walked with my high school sweetheart, I am building a wildflower trail. With the help of friends in POWWW, we cut and drag away blowdowns, and pull out invasive species. We buy plants from specialized growers, who propagate them from wild seeds. We believe we can encourage our own seeds, that have survived under the leaves during history’s turmoil, and are waiting there for the chance to bloom again.

It’s not that we think the past was somehow more noble than we are. We know the early settlers struggled for survival, for wealth, for influence; they fought over land, a few owned slaves, in hard times they sold their woodlands to loggers.

But it inspires awe to see physical evidence in the woods of what they accomplished with hand tools and animal power; long stone fences to contain cattle, a test shaft dug in hard bedrock for iron ore, wagon roads over steep rocky hills, large old trees that once stood alone in an open field now surrounded by younger growth. Their lives were hard, and usually short; they cultivated simple homespun pleasures. We feel how easier and more convenient, how longer, safer and healthier are our gas and electric powered lives, all covered by medical and hazard insurance.

And yet we are so much the same; our heart beats, our breaths, our hungers and ambitions. When we walk through the quiet woods, the soft sounds of the rustling leaves are what those early settlers heard in the twilight of their day, whispering of our common humanity.

George Petty of Denville has been an insurance underwriter, airplane mechanic, airline flight engineer, union president, newspaper reporter, college teacher, tennis coach and a racing sailor. He is also the author of ‘Hiking the Jersey Highlands,’ published by the New York New Jersey Trail Conference.Through his varied career he has always thought of himself as a poet, even when the world required him to appear otherwise. His poems have been prize-winners in national contests and have been aired on National Public Radio, appearing in Water-Stone, Two-Rivers Review and “Boulder Field,” a chapbook from Finishing Line Press, 2004.His work has taken him all over the world, but he has always come back to Denville, where he lives and writes today.


The Fringed Gentian

Walking into the October woods I look
for the fringed gentian my grandfather loved
by the spring the years have covered over,
though I remember where it was. My wistful
mother said they survive even frost, blood blue
against the dead brown in high hidden meadows,
where she and my father tramped so painfully
toward their griefs, taking almost a century to leave me,
a grizzled child searching for a small joy in the leaves.
But, of course, it’s not there, wasn’t last year either,
though my cousin says he saw one near the swamp,
the seeds are tiny and easily wash that way;
and I push through thickets and blow-downs,
relishing the knocks and scratches, the stiffening gusts
and the crackle of coming frost that remind me I’m alive,
till standing in the muck, the cool fire of age
creeping slowly over my ankles, my fingers numb
like leaves dying back from the edges,
I believe my cousin never saw a gentian here,
and only I care that it might – must – have ever been.
It’s not that I doubt there is one in these woods,
but that I know surely there is not,
and every year, following the old steps, I try to find it.
— George Petty



Organic Glamour: Weleda’s Jasper Van Brakel Talks Biodynamic Beauty

Organic Glamour: Weleda’s Jasper Van Brakel Talks Biodynamic Beauty

Seven million. That’s roughly how many people are added to our planet’s population each month. Such a staggering growth rate shines a bright light on resources like food, water, and energy. Will there be enough to go around? Our weekly series, The Sustainables, profiles the folks doing their part to ensure that there is.

Weleda's calendula garden in full bloom in Germany. (Photo: Weleda)

Posted 18 July 2011, by Salvatore Cardoni, TakePart (Social Action Network™ of Participant Media),


These days all natural is the trend in beauty products. Paraben-free this. Sodium laureth sulfate-less that. The movement has spread beyond beauty stores like Sephora and Bare Escentuals too. Entire supermarket aisles—yeah, we’re looking at you, Whole Foods—are now devoted to toxin-free beauty products.

This awakening, this need for pure—raw, even—wellness, must surely be amusing (or ironic…or both) to Weleda, the company that invented sustainable, natural beauty products—in 1921.

Founded by the father of biodynamic agriculture, Dr. Rudolf Steiner, Weleda produces a wide assortment of products—body wash, moisturizer, and even something called skin food—from ingredients grown in gardens where particular care and devotion is paid to planting methods that heal the planet.

TakePart caught up Weleda’s North American CEO, Jasper Van Brakel, to discusses why, when it comes to beauty applied to your body, the only true way to grow it is in the ground—and not in a laboratory.

TakePart: Weleda prides itself on using only the purest, wild-crafted, organically and biodynamically cultivated ingredients for its products. Wild-crafted and organically are two terms that our readers can understand—but explain what biodynamically means?

Jasper Van Brackel: Let me step back to organic: organic agriculture obviously does not use the pesticides and herbicides that are commonly used in conventional agriculture. That sets organic apart from the non-organic. Then if you take the step from organic to biodynamics, you’re taking it to another level.

Biodynamic agriculture is all about treating the farm as a holistic entity and actively working with the energies of the Earth. For instance, a biodynamic farmer would plant plants in a certain space next to each other so that the different plants can support each other. He would use manure only from his own farm. He would look at the moon phases and take that into account. It really opens up the farming methods to another level.

Summarizing, you can say conventional agriculture pollutes the planet, organic agriculture does not pollute, and  biodynamic agriculture tries to heal the planet. It actually works with the forces of nature and plants and takes into account the bees and the animals that live on the farm too. It’s purpose is to actually leave the planet in a better state than when we found it.

TP: How does Weleda do its due diligence on this?


JVB: Not only do we have our own biodynamic gardens in Germany—and that really sets our company apart from almost any other skincare company—but we also work closely with fair-trade partners across the globe with whom we have long-term partnerships, and long-term means that it starts at seven to eight years. That’s the minimum— we do not have any partnerships under that.

We do annual audits of the gardens and facilities, and we quality control on every single raw material shipment that arrives at our facilities. What you should know is that Weleda is not only a natural and organic personal care brand but we also manufacture and develop natural holistic medicines. All of our facilities and all of our quality processes meet good manufacturing practices for medicine.

This means our quality levels are a lot higher than you would expect of a natural and organic personal care company, per se—because we need to meet these medicinal farm standards as well.

TP: Make the case that natural ingredients for skin products are as effective, if not more so, than their conventional counterparts?

JVB: You need to define effective and what you mean by effective. If you’re talking about how effective holistically, taking the planet and the health of the whole human being into account, I think there is a very strong case to be made for natural and organic personal care.

But let me focus more on what you probably mean: effective as in reducing wrinkles. Weleda is all about being transparent, being open, and being fair.

I’m not going to say that a natural, organic product does the same as botox. It just doesn’t; you cannot expect anything like that from a natural product. But you cannot expect that from any chemically made product either. So what I can say is natural products are as effective as their conventional counterparts because nature really has what our skin needs to be its most healthy and beautiful.

You can make Vitamin A or C chemically in a lab, but that’s not the same as a chemical found in nature, in plants and seeds, in nut oils, plant extracts, etc. And those ingredients of the plant’s base ingredients are loaded with vitamins and essential fatty acids that our skin needs to protect its natural barrier and to stay in balance and be healthy.

Unlike petroleum derived oils and chemical ingredients, the ingredients from nature are highly compatible with our own skin, which makes them very effective.

TP: Talk about Weleda’s long history with fair trade?

JVB: Weleda was founded in 1921. We have worked with farmers and gardeners all over the world for decades, even before the term fair trade existed. One good example is our organic rose project in Turkey, where we helped around 350 farmers convert from conventional to organic agriculture. We now buy our organic rose oil from them.

TP: According to The New York Times: “While most skincare and hair care is filled with potential allergy triggers, it turns out that organic versions are, to green parents’ dismay, among the worst offenders.” How does Weleda safeguard its consumers against this? And, what advice would you give to a person who is a big fan of Weleda’s products, but who has allergies?

JVB: Allergies are a major issue today and we totally understand that. This is really where the premium quality personal care really distinguishes itself from the lower quality products.

At Weled we heat our nut oils about 400 degrees and we filter them, thereby removing the protein that houses the allergen. If you don’t do that, you get enough oil that does house the allergen.

However, I have to give this disclaimer: We recommend that people who have a severe nut allergy do a spot test, or just avoid using them all together to be on the perfectly safe side.

TP: Weleda recently celebrated its ninetieth birthday. What’s next for the company?

JVB: Exciting product launches coming in the next couple of years. We will continue our dedication to sustainability worldwide. Weleda prides itself in having pioneered sustainability in 1921. Again the word wasn’t even invented and it’s so ingrained in the DNA of this company. We will continue to do that, and what really drives us is that the more people who purchase products that are made with the benefit of the planet and people in mind, the more we will all benefit in the long run.

And growth means more of the good stuff for us, more giving back, more healing the planet, more healthy people, and just doing more good, and that’s our future. 

TP: What’s one thing a consumer can do for five minutes or for under 5 dollars to be green or sustainable in the cosmetics sphere?

A consumer can take a shorter shower or close the tap when you wash your face. The one I came up with is, you cannot buy a Weleda product for 5 dollars, but you could tell your friends how our biggest organ, which is the human skin, that it deserves the best natural ingredients. I think people will understand that, after all what you put on your skin is absorbed by your body. Whether they buy Weleda after that or not, that’s really secondary. This piece of education is huge and it only takes 5 minutes.

Backyard Farm and Learning Center Opens to the Public


Backyard Farm and Learning Center Opens to the Public

A North Diamond Bar family has converted their home into a sustainable backyard farm that will now offer public classes in gardening, permaculture, and sustainable living classes.

Posted 28 June 2011, By Darren Fishell, DiamondBar Patch,

It’s not often that parents see eye to eye with their children.

A shared vision is, however, what brought Pearl Kumar and her sons Ro and Rishi together to build a backyard farm in Diamond Bar that Pearl said she had long dreamt of.

“I always had the vision,” Pearl said, “but I didn’t have the manpower.”

After six months of work dedicated to building the Growing Home, Pearl’s sons took the vision a step further by opening the home garden and learning center to the public on Friday.

Ro’s childhood friend Jeff Li, who attended South Pointe Middle School with the two brothers, said he remembers playing basketball on a paved portion of the backyard that abutted a generous lawn.

“They’re changing the mentality,” Li said. “If you’re going to water grass, why not water something providing some sustenance?”

Visitors to the garden’s opening learned about sustainable urban agriculture and Rishi and Ro announced a full lineup of instructional summer workshops on gardening and do-it-yourself sustainability projects hosted at the Growing Home.

“In this type of suburban environment, it’s great to see that it’s generating a lot of buzz,” Li said during Friday’s public opening of the garden.

Last week, Patch took a video tour of the Growing Home.

You can’t eat the dollar

Rishi is a computer scientist and graduated on a full ride scholarship from UC San Diego. Ro was accepted to law schools including Stanford, Yale, and Berkeley.

Given the potential to go on to live traditionally successful lives, Pearl said some might feel her sons’ choice to dedicate their energy to the Growing Home a waste.

“We (as a society) chase the dollar,” Pearl said, “but you can’t eat the dollar.”

Nurturing the soil

Pearl said the shift to farming is, in a way, a return to her family’s farming roots in India. However, the shift was not so much a decision to reach across continents and generations, but a shot at digging into the soil right at home, which was difficult at first.

“Diamond Bar soil is very hard,” Pearl said.

The yard was barren and stubbornly refused tilling when the family first arrived in Diamond Bar 22 years ago.

After being overwhelmed with thoughts of how she could make a difference in an ever-expanding world, Pearl said she turned her focus to the garden, starting small by burying kitchen scraps in the yard.

Before long, Pearl said the best crops were growing over those spots. A few years ago, after Rishi had taken to organic gardening in college, he returned one summer to pull out the rest of the backyard lawn and expand the garden.

Pearl and Rishi arranged for a load of plant clippings from local gardeners to be delivered and later added a truckload of manure from a local farm, which was covered and cared for as nutrients returned to the land.

“Even the soil is alive,” Pearl said. “It needs to be covered and protected — it needs water and food and air.”

The garden

On the modestly-sized lot in a neighborhood near Peterson Park, Rishi has managed to find a place for 40 exotic and domestic fruit trees, vegetables from zucchini to squash and potatoes, and an array of flowers that he said are both decorative, but with a distinct purpose.

The flowers, Rishi said, bring in bees that are necessary for the garden to flourish.

At Friday’s opening, beekeeper was on hand with samples of fresh honey and information on his push for cities across Southern California to approve methods of urban beekeeping.

“Around 30 percent of all food you eat depends on (bee) pollination,” said Robin Theron, a beekeeper who was on hand at Friday’s opening of the garden. “So, every third bite you take is because of bees.”

Pearl said the garden has also allowed the family to cut their grocery bill down to nearly nothing. But the garden provides more than just food.

“Sometimes Ro and I pull up chairs in the garden and play music,” Ro’s friend Li said.

“We’re trying to create community here,” Pearl said. “We’re looking for teachers that can help get back to the basics.”


The Growing Home’s first class will be July 2 covering food fermentation from 10 a.m. to Noon. The second will be at the same time on July 9, covering natural building. Both lessons are $30.

Visit the Growing Home and register for classes online.

Related Topics: The Growing Home

Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa

Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa

Posted 07 June 2011, by Staff,,

Oakland, California — Hedge funds and other foreign speculators are increasing price volatility and supply insecurity in the global food system, according to a series of investigative reports released today by the Oakland Institute.

The reports are based on the actual materials from these land deals and include investigation of investors, purchase contracts, business plans and maps never released before now.

The “Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa” reports also reveal that these largely unregulated land purchases are resulting in virtually none of the promised benefits for native populations, but instead are forcing millions of small farmers off ancestral lands and small, local food farms in order to make room for export commodities, including biofuels and cut flowers.

“The same financial firms that drove us into a global recession by inflating the real estate bubble through risky financial maneuvers are now doing the same with the world’s food supply,” said Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute. “In Africa this is resulting in the displacement of small farmers, environmental devastation, water loss and further political instability such as the food riots that preceded the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.”

Mittal added that for people living in developed countries, the conversion of African small farms and forests into a natural-asset-based, high-return investment strategy can drive up food prices and increase the risks of climate change.

“The research exposed investors who said it’s easy to make a land deal – that they could usually get what they want in exchange for giving a poor, tribal chief a bottle of Johnny Walker,” Mittal said. “When these investors promise progress and jobs to local chiefs, it sounds great – but they don’t deliver, which means no progress and relocating people from their homes.”

New reports and materials on these deals examine on-the-ground implications in several African nations including Ethiopia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Tanzania and South Sudan – and expose contracts that connect land grabs back to institutional investors in these nations and others. In addition to publicly sharing – for the first time — the paperwork behind these deals, the reports demonstrate how common land grabs are and how quickly this phenomenon is taking place. Investors in these deals include not only alternative investment firms like Emergent Asset Management – that works to attract speculators, but also universities including Harvard, Spellman and Vanderbilt.

Contracts also reveal a bonanza of incentives for speculators ranging from unlimited water rights to tax waivers.

“No one should believe that these investors are there to feed starving Africans, create jobs or improve food security, Obang Metho of Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia said. “These land grab agreements – many of which could be in place for 99 years – do not mean progress for local people and will not lead to food in their stomachs. These deals lead only to dollars in the pockets of corrupt leaders and foreign investors.”

In 2009 alone nearly 60 million hectares – an area the size of France – was purchased or leased in these land grabs. Most of these deals are characterized by a lack of transparency, despite the profound implications posed by the consolidation of control over global food markets and agricultural resources by financial firms.

“We have seen cases of speculators taking over agricultural land while small farmers, viewed as “squatters” are forcibly removed with no compensation,” said Frederic Mousseau, policy director at the Oakland Institute. “This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat to global security than terrorism. More than one billion people around the world are living with hunger. The majority of the world’s poor still depend on small farms for their livelihoods, and speculators are taking these away while promising progress that never happens.”

Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa

These reports, as well as briefs on other aspects of land grabs, are available at

India’s first bio-cultural park in Bhubaneswar soon


India’s first bio-cultural park in Bhubaneswar soon

Posted 02 June 2011, by Staff, The Pioneer,

Union Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday announced here that his Ministry would establish a unique bio-cultural park, the first of its kind in India in Bhubaneswar.

Addressing the inaugural function of the new gallery on North East Biodiversity in the premises of the Regional Museum of Natural History (RMNH) here Ramesh said that the proposed park would be set up in 10 acres of land within the next two-and-half years.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been requested to provide suitable land for the purpose. The park, he said would have different varieties of aromatic flower plants associated with different culture and having reflection of various religions in our secular traditions.

Various varieties of flowers used by tribals, Buddhists, Jains , Sikhs, Muslims , Christian and Hindu cultural and religious traditions will be planted in the park, he said adding that the park would be developed by the Union Government and after three years , it would be handed over to the State Government for management.

Stating that India has a very rich diversity of wild plant and animals and is considered as one of the mega diverse country out of seventeen mega diverse countries of the world,

Ramesh said that his Ministry was keen to develop the biodiversity hotspots and different ecosystems of Odisha highlighting the proposed biodiversity projects in Odisha, he said that MoEF would take appropriate steps to protect the important biodiversity of Odisha including Olive Ridley turtles and wetlands of this coastal State.

Inaugurating the North East Biodiversity Gallery in the RMNH premises, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the north eastern region comprising the seven sister States and Sikkim were endowed with pristine biological diversity which should be exhibited to the people “The new gallery in fact, added a new feather to the RMNH”, he said.

Stating that nature has endowed Odisha with rich biodiversity, Patnaik called upon to formulate strategies on integrated management for sustainable development, capacity building for conservation and management, research and monitoring , public awareness , community participation in conservation, cooperation and funding. Calling upon to work hard to achieve the goal of sustainable development encompassing economic growth, social equity and environmental sustainability, the Chief Minister said.

Centre plans bio-cultural park in state


Centre plans bio-cultural park in state

Posted 02 June 2011, by Staff, Express News Service,

BHUBANESWAR, INDIA: The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has sought to establish a unique bio-cultural park in Bhubaneswar.

It will be home to flower varieties associated with different cultural traditions of India and will be set up over 10-acre  patch, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said here on Wednesday.Ramesh, who was addressing a function after inaugurating the North-East Biodiversity Gallery at Regional Museum of Natural History (RMNH), said the park will be the first of its kind in India.“Different species of flower plants associated with different religions and cultures, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam and tribal cultures would find place in the park which will reflect the secular tradition and heritage of India,” he said.Development of the park will be the responsibility of MoEF, which plans to set it up within three years. The Ministry will hand it over to the State Government after it is established. “I had a discussion with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in this regard and he has responded positively. We will see the park up and running within three years,” Ramesh said.The idea behind the bio-cultural park has come from Naxtaravanam, established in Ranchi. The MoEF plans to seek service of IISC in setting up the bio-cultural park.Earlier in the day, Ramesh visited, what he called, an “unusual garden” built over half an acre of land. The garden has 57 flower species associated with fragrance. The fragrance park, Ramesh said, will soon be opened to the public. The Minister said he does not remember any such park existing anywhere in India.Interestingly, the fragrance park is located close to the Central CCF Office in Chandrasekharpur and the 10-acre sought by the Union Minister will also be in the vicinity.