Posts Tagged ‘urban’

Forest gardens: Trunk call

Forest gardens: Trunk call

They are the latest horticultural must-haves. But how to get one? Anna Pavord drops in on an expert

Martin Crawford in front of his Szechuan pepper tree at the Agroforestry Research Trust. Click the image to be taken to a photo gallery associated with this article.

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Posted 24 September 2011, by Mark Passmore, The Independent, independent.co.uk

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The forest garden is an attractive prospect, an edible landscape where the gardener can roam, collecting spiritual refreshment along with dinner. Those two strands were equally important to Robert Hart, whose smallholding at Wenlock Edge in Shropshire became a place of pilgrimage for his disciples. His book Forest Gardening (1996), written four years before he died, explored different and more holistic methods of producing crops. Why labour at digging the earth, planting fresh seed each year, when you could copy nature’s way of providing a harvest?

Working in his own orchard, Hart developed a forest-garden model built up from seven different layers of planting. At the top is the canopy provided by mature fruit trees and under that a lower layer of smaller fruit and nut trees. Shrubs such as currants make up a third layer, with a herbaceous layer of perennial vegetables under that. Any remaining bare earth is covered with horizontal mats of herbs, or sprawling crops such as cranberry (if the soil is sufficiently acid). Hart built into his system an underground dimension of edible tubers and rhizomes and a final flurry of vines and other climbers that could pull their way up into the trees. It’s the kind of mix you find in many English woodlands, though the plants there will not necessarily be edible.

Now, if you want to learn about the forest garden, your pilgrimage will take you west, to Martin Crawford and the Agroforestry Research Trust, based in a two-acre plot at Dartington in Devon. In fact, Crawford has plots scattered in several places round here, because he can scarcely keep up with demand for the plants he grows and the courses he runs each year. What is the draw, I asked, as we cowered in a polytunnel, waiting for the worst of the rain to pass. “A bit of it is the back-to-nature stuff,” he replied. “And a lot of people now lead very busy lives. They think of the forest garden as a low input system.”

Which it is. But only up to a point. “There’s no such thing as a do-nothing garden,” says Crawford robustly. “You can’t just plant up a forest garden and walk away.” Shelter is critically important, particularly if you aim to grow the more unusual plants that for some devotees is the whole point of the forest garden: blue honeysuckle, Szechuan pepper, tuberous nasturtium, plum yew. Most new converts want to get straight on with planting their crops. But, says Crawford, the shelter belt must come first.

Hart made his forest garden within an already established orchard. Crawford thinks it’s simpler to begin with open ground, as he did at Dartington where he took over a piece of unused pasture. Getting the trees in is the easy bit, he says. It’s the underlayers that need some thought. He used thick plastic sheets (Terram) to kill off the grass between the trees, gradually planting up one area at a time. Shade lovers will be more at home than plants that need sun. In Crawford’s plot, apple mint romps away very successfully in what Hart might have called the fifth dimension, with Solomon’s seal spearing up between.

I’ve never eaten Solomon’s seal, but Crawford says the young shoots are excellent, gathered and cooked like asparagus. I’ve never eaten lime leaves either, but Crawford coppices his limes hard to get plenty of young growth and uses the leaves in salads. It’s one of his best crops, he says, though it’d be a brave greengrocer who tried to sell them. Raspberries are a great success, because they can wander where they want, rather than being constrained to grow in the strip of ground to which we gardeners usually confine them. Crawford’s canes were enormous. And his Solomon’s seal hadn’t been stripped by caterpillars, as mine always are.

Diversity, said Crawford. That’s the secret. He reckons he’s got at least 500 different kinds of plant growing in his Dartington plot. And because one plant muddles into the next in an amiable way, it’s not so obvious which is what to a pest such as the Solomon’s seal sawfly (Phymatocera aterrima). But if self-sufficiency is your aim, you’d be hard-pressed, even with these 500 plants, to feed yourself adequately. Hart was a vegan and lived mostly on raw food. But on a cold winter’s evening, I’d be looking for something a little more comforting.

And a forest garden can’t provide much carbohydrate, apart from sweet chestnuts which make a superb flour. I always buy it when we go to see my brother in France as, over here, it’s absurdly expensive (£6.99 for 500g). Crawford mills his own which he gathers from the trees he planted when he first took on this plot, 20 years ago. This year there’s a heavy crop and the squirrels leave them alone because they don’t like the prickles.

Hart saw the sustainable forest garden as the ideal way to transform city wastelands, reconnecting the urban with the natural. Would I plant a forest garden, if I were starting afresh in our plot? No, but that’s chiefly because I live surrounded by the spiritual refreshment of the real thing. There are hazelnuts in every hedgerow. Sweet chestnuts, too. Sloes and bullaces are abundant; so are elders and nettles and we use them all. This year, there’s been an astonishing crop of parasol mushrooms in the fields around. And the irony is that, while people queue up to learn about the forest garden, I’ve not seen a single person out brambling, though luscious blackberries are bursting out all over.

Agroforestry Research Trust, 46 Hunters Moon, Dartington, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6JT. Send 4 x 1st class stamps (or visit agroforestry.co.uk) for a copy of Martin Crawford’s excellent catalogue of fruit and nut trees as well as unusual vegetables and spices. Weekend (non-residential) courses in forest gardening cost £160. 2012 dates will be announced on the website. Meanwhile you can subscribe to ‘Agroforestry News’ for £21 a year (4 issues). Look out for Martin Crawford’s book ‘Unusual Vegetables’, to be published next spring by Green Books (£14.95)

Five fabulous plants for a forest garden

Szechuan pepper (Zanthoxylum schinifolium) An intensely aromatic small tree or large shrub growing to 3m (10ft) with bunches of small, hard, red fruit that provide the pepper. The leaves can be used as flavouring. Hardy to -20C. £8.

Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum) A scrambling plant with very pretty, slightly glaucous leaves, peppery in taste like the garden nasturtium. Grown for its tubers, a staple in the Andes, unstarchy but nutritious. Two tubers for £4.

Turkish rocket (Bunias orientalis) A deep-rooted perennial brassica that comes into growth early in the year. Cook young new leaves like cabbage and the flowerheads – they come later – like broccoli. They have a mustardy flavour. £6.

Umbrella pine (Pinus pinea) All pines produce pine nuts but some are easier to get at than others. This is the best species to plant for nuts, eventually growing to 15m (50ft). £12.

Chinese mountain yam (Dioscorea batatas) The Crawford children’s favourite vegetable, the yams produced like little potatoes all the way up a twining stem that can get to 3-4m. They do best in fertile soil. £5.

 

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http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/house-and-home/gardening/forest-gardens-trunk-call-2359124.html

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

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

 

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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.

 

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http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20110922/COMM/309220066/-1/SPORTSstories/Residents-turn-vacant-lot-into-lovely-welcoming-glen

Retrofitting The Auckland Bioregion

 

Retrofitting The Auckland Bioregion

19 November

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Posted21 September 2011, by Staff, Auckland Permaculture Workshop, aucklandpermacultureworkshop.co.nz

 

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Tutor – Gary Marshall, Finn Mackesy and Rilke de Vos

 

“The question Where are we? has a deep, sustaining ring to it. It is a simple question with a deceptively complex answer”(Robert Thayer). This workshop asks participants to explore what it means to live locally in the Auckland bioregion. Through a series of discussions and design exercises, participants will investigate concepts and design strategies that seek to enrich their neighbourhoods and bioregion. The workshop includes a site visit to an on the ground example of a bioregional design and development initiative and talk with people involved.

Course content

Introduction to – Bioregionalism and Life Place theory; Bioregional and neighborhood audit and stocktake; Design strategies for retrofitting bioregions and neighbourhoods;Re-localization and Transition Culture – the Transition framework and the 12 Touchstones; Local, national and international best practice examples; Integrated Catchment Management, landscape ecology and settlement design.

Learning objectives

  • Develop a deepened understanding of the Auckland bioregion
  • Develop an understanding of the key principles of sustainable design and retrofitting
  • Develop strategies for living locally, enriching and retrofitting the Auckland bioregion for a sustainable and resilient future
  • Develop an understanding of retrofitting existing structures
  • Apply the day’s learning to a practical design activity
  • Identify opportunities and challenges to applying the day’s learning

 

Eco-retrofitting… means modifying buildings and/or urban areas to improve allover human and environmental health, and to reduce resource depletion, degradation and pollution – if not expand the ecological base. It implies an integrated and eco-logical design approach, instead of the mere addition of energy-saving equipment. It also implies a planning strategy that considers not just buildings but whole suburbs, cities and urban infrastructure”  \\ Janis Birkeland

\\ LINKS+ REFERENCE MATERIAL

Life Place, Bioregional Thought and Practice
Robert L. Thayer, 1999
A Field Guide to Auckland: Exploring the Region’s Natural and Historic Heritage
Cameron, Hayward and Murdoch, 2008
How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built
Stewart Brand, 1994

 

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http://www.aucklandpermacultureworkshop.co.nz/retrofitting_the_Auckland_bioregion.php

Tutor – Gary Marshall, Finn Mackesy and Rilke de Vos

“The question Where are we? has a deep, sustaining ring to it. It is a simple question with a deceptively complex answer”(Robert Thayer). This workshop asks participants to explore what it means to live locally in the Auckland bioregion. Through a series of discussions and design exercises, participants will investigate concepts and design strategies that seek to enrich their neighbourhoods and bioregion. The workshop includes a site visit to an on the ground example of a bioregional design and development initiative and talk with people involved.

Course content

Introduction to – Bioregionalism and Life Place theory; Bioregional and neighborhood audit and stocktake; Design strategies for retrofitting bioregions and neighbourhoods;Re-localization and Transition Culture – the Transition framework and the 12 Touchstones; Local, national and international best practice examples; Integrated Catchment Management, landscape ecology and settlement design.

Learning objectives

  • Develop a deepened understanding of the Auckland bioregion
  • Develop an understanding of the key principles of sustainable design and retrofitting
  • Develop strategies for living locally, enriching and retrofitting the Auckland bioregion for a sustainable and resilient future
  • Develop an understanding of retrofitting existing structures
  • Apply the day’s learning to a practical design activity
  • Identify opportunities and challenges to applying the day’s learning

\\ LINKS+ REFERENCE MATERIAL

Life Place, Bioregional Thought and Practice
Robert L. Thayer, 1999
A Field Guide to Auckland: Exploring the Region’s Natural and Historic Heritage
Cameron, Hayward and Murdoch, 2008
How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built
Stewart Brand, 1994

Women of Corn

 

Women of Corn

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Posted 20 September 2011, by Esther Vivas, International Viewpoint (Fourth International), internationalviewpoint.org

 

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In the countries of the Global South, women are the principal producers of food, those in charge of working the land, safegaurding the seeds, gathering the fruit, obtaining water. Between 60 to 80% of food production in these countries is down to women, and worldwide at a level of 50%. These women are the main producers of the staple crops, such as rice, wheat and maize, which go to feed the most impoverished populations of the South. But despite their key role in agriculture and provision of food, they are, together with children, the most affected by hunger.

For centuries, rural women have been responsible for domestic chores, care of people, feeding of families, and cultivation and marketing of surplus from their gardens, and have borne this load of reproductive, productive and community work in a private and invisible domain. In contrast, the principal economic transactions of agriculture, the trading of livestock and bulk buying and selling of cereals in the market, have been carried out by men… occupying the public rural domain.

This division of roles assigns to women the upkeep of home, of health, of education and of families and gives men the management of land and machinery and most significantly the”know-how”, thus perpetuating the roles allotted as masculine and feminine which for centuries and even today persist in our societies.

Nonetheless, in many regions of the Global South, in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, there exists an evident “feminisation” of paid agricultural work. Between 1994 and 2000, women occupied 83% of new employment created in the sector of non-traditional agricultual export. But this tendency includes a marked division of gender; on the plantations, women perform the unskilled tasks such as collection and packaging, while men carry out the harvesting and planting.

This incorporation of women into the paid workplace entails a double burden for women, who continue to carry out the care of their families whilst working to obtain an income from an employment which for the most part is precarious. They can expect worse working conditions than their male counterparts and lower pay for the same tasks, therefore having to work longer to earn the same.

Another difficulty is access to land. In several countries of the South, laws deny women this right, and in those that legally concede tenure, tradition and custom impede disposition to them. However, this problem not only occurs in the Global South. In Europe, many women farmers do not have their entitlements recognised and despite working on the land like their male peers, farm ownership and payment of social security, etc is usually commanded by men. Consequently, women, on retirement, cannot count on any pension, nor have claim to assistance or to payments, etc

The degradation of farmland in these Southern countries and the increase in migration to the cities has provoked a process of agricultural disintegration. Women are an essential component of this national and international migration, engendering a disruption and abandoment of families, land, and processes of production whilst increasing the family and community burden of the women who remain. In Europe, the United States, Canada… migrant women end up taking the jobs that years back were filled by locals, reproducing a cycle of oppression, burden and ‘invisibilisation’ of care, whilst externalising its social and economic costs to the communities of origin of the migrant women.

The incapacity to resolve the current crisis of caretaking in western countries, the combined result of massive incorporation of women into the labour market, the aging of the population, and the non-existent response from the state to these needs, leads to the massive importation of female labour into domestic work and paid care, from the countries of the Global South.

In opposition to this intensive and unsustainable neoliberal agricultural model which has demonstrated a complete inability to satisfy dietary needs of people and a complete disrespect for Nature, and which is especially adverse to women, arises the alternative paradigm of food sovereignty. This deals with the recuperation of our right to determine the what, the how and the source of what we eat; that the land, the water and the seeds are in the hands of small farmers (male and female); and the fight against the monopoly of agrifoods.

And it is requisite that this food sovereignty is profoundly feminist and internationalist, and that its accomplishment will only be possible from full equality between men and women and free access to the means of food production, distribution and consumption, along with solidarity among peoples, far from the chauvinistic cries of “ours first.”

We must reclaim the role of women farmers in food and agricultural production, and recognise the part played by the “women of corn”, those that work the land. To make visible the invisible. And to promote alliances between rural and urban women, from the North and the South. To globalise a resistance… feminine.

-Esther Vivas is a member of the Centre for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is author of the book in Spanish “Stand Up against external debt” and co-coordinator of the books also in Spanish “Supermarkets, No Thanks” and “Where is Fair Trade headed?”. She is also a member of the editorial board of Viento Sur.

Other recent articles:

Ecology and the Environment

The years of 9/11 – September 2011

Women

Food crisis

The whys of hunger – August 2011

Climate change and food sovereignty caravan – April 2011

 

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http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article2289

Kishanganga hydel power project threatens an ancient culture


Kishanganga hydel power project threatens an ancient culture

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Posted 17 September 2011, by Iftikhar Gilani, Tehelka (Anant Media Pvt. Ltd.), tehelka.com

 

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The Dard Shin tribe of Gurez, speakers of the Shina language, are to be uprooted to Srinagar. But what is a pastoral hill community to do in the city, asks Iftikhar Gilani

Imagine the kind of uproar civil society and rights groups would have created had the Centre decided to shift the indigenous Jarawas from their native Andaman and Nicobar Islands to New Delhi. However, no such noise has been made so far even as the Dard-Shina tribe, said to be the last of the original Aryans living in the remote Gurez region is being robbed of its hearth and home. The tribal community will be relocated to Srinagar, making way for the 330-MW Kishanganga hydro-electric project in Kashmir. Away from the high-profile land acquisition cases of Bhatta Prasaul and Nandigram, this scenic place on the north-western tip of the Valley has hardly had anyone crying foul after the Centre announced relocation plans.

Since there is no land in this heavily militarised region close to Line of Control (LoC), the Government has decided to rehabilitate the tribals to Srinagar. Hyder Ali Samoon, a sub-inspector, a resident of Badwan village looks at his ancestral house with a sense of foreboding. The water from the dam will submerge what has been home to him and his ancestors. Pointing towards a nearby graveyard, where his ancestors lay buried, Samoon tells his sons and grandsons to engrave and store images of the house and the picturesque beauty of the village in their minds so that they can, at least, pass on their heritage to the future generations.

Nearly 300 families belonging to three villages of Badwan, Wanpora and Khopri are being relocated to Srinagar city. Against their peers across the Kanzalwan mountains in Bandipora, these villagers are getting a compensation of Rs 5.75 lakh per kanal (a unit of area). The farmers in Bandipora, on the other hand, with more fertile lands are being paid only Rs 2.25 lakh per kanal. Why this difference? Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir Asghar Samoon, who incidentally was touring the area, told TEHELKA that Gurez tribes are being paid more because they are not only losing land but also their culture, civilisation, and will probably become extinct over the next few decades, thanks to the hustle and bustle of Srinagar.

The controversial Kishanganga project, which envisages diverting water from the Kishanganga river through tunnels to the Wullar Lake in Bandipora district of Kashmir Valley has not only come to focus due to Pakistan’s opposition invoking the clauses of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) to complain against India to the World Bank but the project has drawn enough attention to itself for being ambiguous about its nature. What is intriguing is that the National Hydel Power Company (NHPC) officials have kept the voluminous environmental assessment report of Kishanganga undertaken by the Centre, for Inter-disciplinary Studies of Mountain and Hill Environment, close to its chest. Not only has it refused to share it with the state government, but it also did not accede to the request of former Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, when as a minister he wanted to see the report, before it went to the Cabinet.

Ed Note: Please visit the original site for a photo gallery associated with this article. Click on the image above to go to the original site.

The Rs 3642.04-crore power project will displace 362 families and consume a total of 4280 kanals (535 acres) of land. The Centre and the NHPC’s move to relocate the displaced families outside Gurez Valley were influenced by several factors. For instance, land in the mountainous valley is very limited. Some 27 revenue villages, inhabiting the region with a population of 31,900 (latest census) houses around 26,000 troops. Total land under Army occupation is 2802 kanal, out of which 918 kanals are unauthorised. Out of 1883 authorised occupation, the Army provides rent for 1140 kanals. The LoC fencing has consumed 339 kanals.

The local magistrate of Gurez Mohammad Ashraf Hakak said that the only land that was available on the foothills of mountains was prone to avalanches. Therefore, the Government, with the help of the NHPC, decided to shift the affected families to Mirgund, around 16 km from Srinagar.

At the core of this rehabilitation exercise stands the Dard Shin tribe of Gurez. Speakers of the Shina language, the rare tribals will be cut off from their culture, livelihood and roots if moved to Srinagar. Many historians and anthropologists claim that the Dard Shin people are pure Aryans.

For more than six months Gurez remains cut off from the rest of the world. Until Jammu and Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan, Gurez was part of the Gilgit state.

“Relocating people outside Gurez is an attempt to divide and rule the people of Gurez,” said the chairman of J&K Dard-Shin tribal minorities, Mir Hamidullah. Unhappy with the plan, he said that in order to preserve their culture and language, the people of Gurez should be provided land and rehabilitated in Gurez itself. “Shina language is the mother of Sanskrit. We are a people with our own history and relocating our people outside Gurez will hurt the community,” said Mir.

The price of development:

Apart from jeopardising their cultural identity, the move to rehabilitate them will also risk the state of cultivable land in the area, which will be shrunk further by the dam. “This project will affect whatever little agricultural land is left in our village,” said Abdul Khaliq Ganie of Tarbal, the last village near LoC, about 20 kms from Gurez town. “We have been losing our cattle to the minefield areas every year, and now this project has added to our worries as this village remains cut off from the Kashmir Valley for most part of the year,” he added.

Known for its scenic beauty, Gurez is separated from the Valley by the north Kashmir mountain range that runs west of Zojila Pass. For more than six months Gurez remains cut off from the rest of the world. Until Jammu and Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan, Gurez was part of the Gilgit state. The taxes would be paid at Drass, which happens to be the only area on this side of the LoC that shares its language, culture and customs with Gurez.

The compensation being offered to the people for their homes and land, the locals say, is too little. “They are giving me one lakh rupees for one kanal of land, but how am I going to survive on this little amount along with my nine children,” rued a resident of one of the affected villages in Gurez.

According to civilian officials, the NHPC has promised (under the new relief and rehabilitation plan) to pay Rs 5.57 lakh to the families whose houses will be affected by the project and construct a new house per household outside Gurez. The powerhouse will be located in Kralpora village of Bandipora. Waters from a fast flowing Kishanganga—from Teetwal to Gurez—would be stored at Gurez and diverted to the Bandipora power station. The water will then go into the Bonar Madhumati and eventually flow into the Wullar Lake.

“Shina language is the mother of Sanskrit. We are a people with our own history and relocating our people outside Gurez will hurt the community,” Slug: Kashmir

Pakistan has raised objections over the water diversion part of the project as it believes the inter-tributary transfer amounts to a violation of the IWT of 1960. Pakistan is worried that the diversion of the river will leave thousands of acres of its rice fields, fed by Neelum (that’s what Kishanganga is known as in Pakistan) dry, and impact Mangla Dam and the viability of its upcoming Neelam-Jhelum power project.

Environmental experts say that the rise in water level of Kishanganga will adversely affect the ecology of Gurez, submerging substantial plantation and leaving an impact on its agricultural land and wildlife. The dam will also affect the breeding cycle of trout fish, found in Kishanganga. “There will be no breeding of trout fish because of this dam as they need fast running water to breed,” said an official from the fisheries department. The dam will also lead to an extreme winter in Gurez, which already has a long winter, as the river will freeze because of the dam, some experts said. “There is a danger of floods too as the water level increases and this will affect other adjoining villages as well,” revealed a government official.

Work flows, unhindered:

However, despite many pitfalls, work on the power project continues on both sides of Gurez and Bandipora. The Hindustan Construction Corporation (HCC) has been allotted the EPA contract by NHPC for implementing the project. An amount of Rs 269.96 crore has been spent until March 2010, sources said.

Conceived in 1996, the work on the project began in 2007. HCC is constructing a 37m-high rock-filled dam, and a 23.50 km headrace tunnel to take water to three turbines (110 MW each) for generating 1,350 million units of energy a year. The HCC, last winter, spent a crore on the helicopter service to reach the dam site in Gurez.

In addition to the various problems associated with the project, the HCC has been accused of discriminating against Kashmiri engineers and employees. The HCC authorities, locals alleged, are forcing families in the affected villages to vacate their houses and land even before providing them with compensation.

“The affected families are asking the HCC authorities to give compensation before they vacate their lands,” said a Kashmiri engineer working for the HCC site in Bandipora. “People of Kralpora, which is the most affected village, were recently beaten up by the HCC authorities for protesting and demanding land compensation,” he added. The HCC and NHPC officials, however, refused comment.

Local labourers alleged that they are paid less than the outsiders. “NHPC did not employ the people from the villages that will be submerged because of the dam. They should have been given preference, but the project authorities brought employees from outside the valley,” a government official said.

Minefield of historical wealth:

The region with its unique history is littered with gems of archaeological interest. Archaeologists believe that there are many sites in Gurez, which have inscriptions in Kharoshthi, Brahmi, Hebrew and Tibetan. Experts are of the opinion that an archaeological investigation of Gurez valley will give further insight into the history of the Dard Shin people and about Kashmir in general.

Incidentally, Gurez valley falls along the section of the ancient Silk Route, which connected Kashmir valley with Gilgit and Kashgar. Archaeological surveys in valleys north of Gurez along the Silk Route, particularly in Chilas, have uncovered hundreds of inscriptions recorded in stone. The Kishanganga project will also affect this route, which has traditionally been crucial for trade in Central Asia. One of the three villages that will also be affected by the project is Kanzalwan, which is believed to be an archaeological site of historic importance. The last council of Buddhism is said to have been held in this village, and further down the stream, the ruins of ancient Sharada University lie preserved along the Neelum.

The toll the project is going to take on the local population is heavy. It will mostly hit people who are entirely dependent on agriculture and allied activities for their livelihood. “Those families whose livelihood is entirely dependent on agriculture will be affected more as they have to look for other avenues of employment after their land compensation is exhausted,” said a government official in Gurez.

Iftikhar Gilani is Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com.
iftikhar@tehelka.com 

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http://www.tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ws170911Kishanganga.asp

Life in an unhealthy climate

 

Life in an unhealthy climate

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Posted 16 September 2011, by Mandi Smallhorne, The Mail & Guardian (M&G Media, Newtrust Company Botswana Limited and Guardian Newspapers Limited), mg.co.za

 

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Too hot to handle A firefighter battles a fire fuelled by strong winds and record temperatures in Vyksa, Russia. (Mikhail Voskresensky, Reuters)

Krish Perumal does not look forward to Durban’s summers. A ­middle-aged ­supervisor in a rubber-producing company, he was struck by asthma about 25 years ago when he was in his early 30s. “It’s worse when it’s hot and humid,” he says. “When you get bad wheezing, then you can get the flu.”

Perumal believes his condition is caused by industrial pollution — and he may be right. He lives in south Durban, home to two of South Africa’s biggest oil refineries and more than 120 industries, and more than 280 000 people. The area is a notorious pollution hot spot and a study done a few years ago showed that children here were twice as likely to get asthma as those in the northern parts of the city.

But there is reason to believe that global warming may be playing a part in the rise in respiratory disease here and elsewhere (asthma rates have been soaring around the world in the past three decades). Average temperatures in Southern Africa have risen by 1.5°C over the past century as opposed to 0.8°C globally, according to Dr Francois Engelbrecht of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The combination of higher temperatures and industrial pollutants is bad news for asthma sufferers like Perumal — and gives him a special interest in the 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17), which will take place in Durban from November 28.

The pollutant by-product of interest here is ozone, which is something most of us connect to the hole in the ozone layer happening in the Antarctic high up in the sky. But ground-level ozone is common in our cities. It forms when nitrogen oxides (NOx, a product of combustion in cars, trucks, industrial processes and coal-fired power plants) react with volatile organic compounds in sunlight, explains Dan Ferber, co-author with Dr Paul Epstein of Changing Planet, Changing Health (University of California Press).

Ground-level ozone irritates the respiratory system, damages lung tissue and reduces lung function. It triggers coughing, chest discomfort, a scratchy feeling in the throat and other symptoms. It makes people more susceptible to respiratory infections and it exacerbates asthma and emphysema.

Effects on health
When he started working on the book, Ferber says, he had no idea what he would discover. “The overall scope of the potential health problems was surprising to me.”

Ferber says that because scientists focus on their own specialities, the public receives information about climate change piecemeal — a study that looks at how crops are being affected; research on expanding ranges for mosquitoes; insight into changing patterns of rainfall. It is only when you step back and try to take in the whole picture that you realise this should be framed “as a public health crisis”, he says.

Consider how all-encompassing the effects on health are. Most of South Africa has been malaria-free hitherto. But it is common cause that climate change will likely increase the range of the Anopheles mosquito that carries malaria. It will also alter — sometimes increasing, sometimes reducing — the range of other insects that carry disease, such as the ticks that carry Congo fever. South Africa needs to be prepared for a possible rise in insect-borne diseases.

Then there is water. “Water is the primary medium through which people in Africa will experience climate change impacts. By 2020, it is estimated that 75-million to 250-million Africans will be exposed to increased water stress,” writes Dr Mary Galvin in a forthcoming publication by the Environmental Monitoring Group, Water and Climate Change: An Exploration for the Concerned and Curious. Projections indicate that South Africa will not benefit from the fact that warmer air holds more moisture: specific climatic features mean that, overall, we will be hotter but not get much increase in useful rainfall.

Some of the rainfall will come in extreme weather events such as the recent floods in the Newcastle and Upington regions, which can damage crops and do not necessarily sink into the underground water table, instead running off and washing away precious topsoil.

What does this mean for our health? Water is, of course, a vital nutrient, but it is also crucial to a secure food supply. A reduced rainfall, combined with changes in times when crops can be planted and harvested because of higher temperatures, will likely add to greater food insecurity. Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, DC, has estimated that for every 1C increase in temperature, yields of staple grains will drop by 10%. This, of course, like all the impacts of climate change, will hit the poor hardest.

“I can say with confidence that there is a link between rising food prices and climate change,” says Ferber. Drought in Australia, wildfires in Russia and other events affect global food supply. In August, for example, China Daily reported that South Korea’s rice harvest was expected to reach a 10-year low next year because of abnormal weather conditions, which we should perhaps be calling the “new normal”.

An absence of fresh, clean water in adequate amounts for drinking and washing, coupled with undernourished people add up to a perfect health storm: water-borne diseases like cholera thrive in such conditions and malnourished people’s immune systems are unable to mount a sufficient defence.

We should be putting thought into adapting to a water-poor future, says Galvin: “Sustainable water usage solutions that could be implemented not simply by ecologically progressive households or municipalities but on a national scale include rainwater-harvesting landscapes for growing food, from commercial agriculture to small-scale farms to homestead gardens; the use of grey water to irrigate agriculture, parks and public sites; ecological treatment of sewage; dry sanitation systems such as compost toilets and pit latrines; and reducing water leaks.

“Adaptation will also require improving river and local wetland health; adjusting farming practice with resilient crops and shifting seasons; expanding the number of households with food gardens; and preparing for drought or floods.”

Heat effects on productivity
We all know about the 2003 heat wave, the hottest on record in more than 450 years, which killed about 40 000 people in Europe. Perhaps we dismiss the significance of this in our minds because the news focus was on the elderly people who died in great numbers. What went largely unnoticed at the time was a significant increase in deaths among those under 65 — demonstrating that heat has a substantial effect on younger people too. Interestingly, although far more elderly women than men died, men were about twice as likely to die as women in the younger age group.

Heat waves will be more common in future, but the increase in average temperatures alone is likely to have an impact on human health in ways that will reduce productivity, shorten life spans and decrease wellbeing significantly, as Professor Tord Kjellstrom and his South African colleagues pointed out at a seminar at the University of Johannesburg in August. Kjellstrom is an internationally recognised expert on the health impacts of climate change — he is part-time professor and visiting fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University in Canberra and is developing a global programme of studies on high occupational temperature health and productivity suppression (Hothaps) that is aimed at quantifying the impacts of heat exposure at work.

In a warming world we will experience the highest temperatures during the day, while we are at work. The majority of workers will not be able to escape the heat in air-conditioned offices. They will be out in the fields harvesting crops, labouring on construction sites or in factories that are inadequately cooled — doing the work that feeds us and gives us the pleasant and useful things in life.

Professor Angela Mathee, head of the Medical Research Council’s Environment and Health Research Unit, and colleagues Joy Oba and Andre Rose have done a pilot study as part of Hothaps. They demonstrated that many outdoor workers were already exposed to alarmingly severe health and productivity impacts from heat exposure.

Focus groups in Johannesburg and Upington spoke of increased thirst, excessive sweating, exhaustion, dry noses, blisters, burning eyes, headaches, nose bleeds and dizziness, among a host of other effects including chronic tiredness: “When it is very hot, sometimes when you wake up in the morning you feel exhausted,” said one Upington participant. As temperatures rise further in the near future, symptoms like these will have to be urgently addressed by employers and the government.

Sweating it out
Excessive perspiration is a serious heat-related health concern that can become a killer. Kjellstrom spoke about South American sugar-cane cutters who sweated several litres of fluid in a day, but only brought two litres of water to work with them because they had to walk and could not carry more. Because the employers did not provide water in the field, each day they would have to wait until knock-off time to replace the deficit, which had led to a spate of life-threatening kidney conditions in relatively young workers.

The imbalance of salts that results from heavy sweating is one reason why heat exposure reduces productivity: it leads to a lessened ability to work intensively and a loss of perceptual and motor performance — even mild dehydration has been shown to decrease mental performance. The brain also sends a signal to decrease muscle tone, which leaves people feeling tired and listless.

People will be working at a slower pace — if you are working in a consistent temperature above 28°C you should work only half your normal hours, says the professor — and their risk of accidents on the job also will increase. There are psychosocial effects as well: aggression rises, for example, increasing the risk of conflict and interpersonal friction in the workplace.

In addition, Kjellstrom points out, heat in many workplaces will interact with chemicals such as solvents and pesticides used on the job; these will evaporate faster, boosting the danger of exposure for workers. And workers who wear protective clothing will be hotter while at the same time being less able to perspire as effectively. In Southeast Asia, innovators are coming up with concepts to tackle this problem. One inventor has developed a vest containing tubes of material that stay frozen solid until about 25°C — when the temperature hits 30°C you stick it in the freezer again.

South African research
“We’ve known about the effects of heat in the workplace for a long time,” says Kjellstrom. But it is only recently that people have begun to link this knowledge with the oncoming juggernaut of climate change.

Interestingly, the original research on heat and labour was done right here in South Africa about 60 years ago. Dr CH Wyndham tested the work capacity of fit young men who came to work in the hot underground of Johannesburg’s mines. He found that although about 64% of men could cope with moderate physical labour in hot conditions, only a few were able to cope with heavy labour. He decided to acclimatise them by having them exercise in a “warm gym” daily for a few weeks, after which the number who could do hard labour jumped to 29% — still less than a third. Wyndham’s concept is still in use to acclimatise and harden new recruits and men who return to the mines after holidays.

Will our future climate be hot enough to trigger these on-the-job health problems? The answer is yes. At the CSIR recently, atmospheric modeller Dr Francois Engelbrecht presented the results of six simulations or models of our future, the largest exercise of its kind ever done here. The news is not good: Southern Africa has an observed temperature increase over the past century of double the global average, and this trend will continue over the decades between now and century’s end. So if — and it’s an unlikely prospect — we manage to keep the global increase down to two degrees, Southern Africa will experience four. This means that whereas a pleasant Gauteng January day between 1960 and 2000 was usually about 25°C, it would in future be about 29°C. If, as many scientists now believe is likely, the increase is three or four degrees globally, we are going to have some stinking hot summers.

The middle class and the wealthy will be able to buy their way out of many of these impacts for the next decade or so — air conditioners and filters will protect us from the heat and pollutants and insect repellents from mozzies and ticks. And we will probably moan at the price of water and food. But climate change will affect the poor the most, worsening the divide between rich and poor and placing serious demands on the public purse.

Few hold out much hope for a meaningful and binding treaty at COP17. But the dark picture experts paint of our future health prospects if we do not act, and act now, ­provides South Africans with urgent reasons to hope — and lobby — for an outcome that holds some promise.

 

TOPICS IN THIS ARTICLE
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Sowing the future: Women reconnect with natural farming

 

Sowing the future: Women reconnect with natural farming

Kristen Bowlin is one of a growing number of women who have returned to the farm to sow a future in sustainable agriculture. She and partner Kyle LaFerriere cultivate 80 acres on the Totten Family Farm in Long Valley. Top left: Bowlin feeds Ozzy, one of two draft horses that work the farm. Top center: Bowlin operates a walk-behind horse drawn cultivator. Top right: One taste of a field-fresh tomato was all it took for Bowlin to fall in love with the fruit. Bowlin today grows hundreds of variety of heirloom vegetables. / PHOTOS BY JUSTINA WONG/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

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Posted 14 September 2011, by Lorraine Ash, The Daily Record (Gannett), dailyrecord.com

 

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Atop Schooley’s Mountain, a straw-hatted Kristen Bowlin stepped into the vegetable fields on Totten Family Farm and set down two six-foot tomato cages.

In an adjacent field, two draft horses, Ozzy and Crystal, swished their tails and grazed. The summer sun blazed.

“The tomatoes smell great today!” Bowlin said. The 30-year-old farmer enjoys working the 80 acres she cultivates with her partner, Kyle Laferriere. But for her — and a rapidly growing number of women farmers — the certified naturally grown farm is both passion and business.

“We were at the local hardware store this morning buying mesh reinforcement wire to make our own cages,” she said. “A tomato cage is expensive, $6. Doesn’t sound like much, but if I buy 1,500 of them…”

She eyes rows of tomato plants, figuring it’ll take her and Laferriere three days to mulch and cage them. The two grabbed bales of rye straw mulch and got to it.

“Do you have a knife on you?” she asked. He handed her one. She cut open a bale and, on hands and knees, spread it among the tomato plants.

“The mulch will smother out any weeds,” she explained, wiping her face and leaving a soil streak across one cheek. “It’ll also retain moisture in the soil, and encourage microorganisms to travel up through the soil, eat some of the mulch and break it down. That improves soil structure.”

Bowlin is fussy about tomatoes. Growing up in Missouri, she despised them. But she fell in love with them during the first harvest she ever worked as an intern at Wildwood Farm in Saxapahaw, North Carolina.

“Farmer Kevin Meehan and I were harvesting the Cherokee purples,” she said. “They are beautiful, very large, deep red tomatoes. He sliced one for me. I tasted it. It was warm from the field. It was delicious. Maybe that experience gave me just a tiny bit more appreciation for the tomato over some of the other vegetables.”

Not that she doesn’t love the hundreds of other heirloom vegetables — and heritage breed animals — she and Laferriere grow and raise. Bowlin revels in the genetic diversity, healthfulness and beauty of what she grows.

Bowlin feeds Ozzy, one of two draft horses that work the farm. / Staff Photo

In that way, she typifies the growing ranks of women who run farms and do everything from the manual labor to the marketing.

From 2002 to 2007, the number of women who run farms in the United States rose by 29 percent to 306,000, according to The Census of Agriculture, taken every five years. In the 20 years from 1987 to 2007, the number of American women principal farm operators, as they’re called, rose 133 percent.

While some women embrace industrial farming, most who enter the agricultural life are the primary drivers behind the local and healthy food movements, according to Leigh Adcock, executive director of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, an advocacy group.

“We women buy foods for our families. From that we discover that we want to grown our own,” Adcock said. “So we start out as gardeners. We end up really liking what we’re doing. We grow more. We go to farmers markets. We start selling to CSA customers, and then we quit our day job and do it full time on small-scale, diversified farms.”

For Bowlin, the path was similar. As a student at the Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri, she was disturbed that the materials she used to make art were not environmentally friendly.

“I wanted to get into more natural arts,” she said.

So a search began, leading her into the world of sustainability and farming and to Central Carolina Community College, where she earned an associate degree in sustainable agriculture. It was there she met Laferriere, of Mendham. They moved to Wolcott, Vermont, a mecca of sustainable agriculture, a place where natural growers and women farmers abound.

“Lots of friendly competition going on up there,” Bowlin said, “but here natural farming is extremely lacking.”

Additionally, demand is high, she said, and New Jerseyans are willing to pay the price a natural farmer needs to get for organic produce. Last year the couple moved to Long Valley to farm.

The rise of women farmers in the Garden State is as robust as it is nationally. From 1987 to 2007, New Jersey saw a 135 percent increase in women farmers, while Morris County saw a 73 percent increase.

The state’s compactness makes it attractive to farmers, according to Robin Brumfield, a farm economist with the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. This year for the first time, she brought Annie’s Project to New Jersey; the federally sponsored education program for women farmers is now offered in 22 states. The six-session seminar was offered in Hackettstown and Cape May this past winter, and will be offered in expanded form in Somerset County this fall.

“Every county in New Jersey is considered a metropolitan area,” Brumfield said. “That’s a competitive advantage. Farmers are located next to their consumers so the thing to do is direct market and it just seems women are good at that.”

People who operate small New Jersey farms, she said, don’t have the expense of hauling their foods too far.

For Bowlin and Laferriere, who have formed a partnership with the landowners of the Totten Family Farm, the trip from Long Valley to the Mendham Farmers Market is 15 miles. Like many of the women farmers Brumfield has met, Bowlin works hard at marketing. Her duties as vendor coordinator for the new Mendham market included research, creating vendor applications, writing market bylaws and creating publicity fliers.

Additionally, the two farmers make CSA deliveries to South Orange, Montclair, Morristown and Short Hills and, when there are live-in interns, open the stand at the farm’s Naughright Road address.

Bowlin operates the walk-behind horse drawn cultivator pulled by Crystal. / Staff Photo

It’s a mistake to think women began producing fresh, natural foods and selling them locally only in recent decades.

In a paper entitled “The Contemporary American Farm Woman: 1860 to Present,” Stephanie Fisher, a NYU Gallatin School graduate, writes women were involved with growing foods naturally until the post-World War II era of large-scale animal feeding operations and factory farming.

Fisher, who plans to open a farm, said she will raise chickens in deference to the women farmers who came before her.

“Since homesteading chicken farming was the only thing women did for which they were paid actual wages, called ‘pin money,’” Fisher said. “Women lost control of chicken farming when industry caught on that chickens could be a profitable industry. That move took a lot of power away from women, who were previously selling eggs to their neighbors through rural social networks.”

For Bowlin, the chicken issue epitomizes why she devotes herself to retaining the genetic diversity of vegetables and animals instead of offering only a few hybrid genetic variations.

“The Cornish Cross chicken is the commercial breed of chicken you find in the grocery store,” she said. “It’s bred to have larger breasts because people like the breasts.”

But those chickens have a hard life, she explained. Their legs break when they try to walk under the weight of their unnaturally heavy breasts.

“They can’t reproduce a lot of times,” she said, “and they will have heart attacks. They can’t forage very well, either, so a farmer has to purchase more feed for them.”

Instead, she and Laferriere glory in raising rare-breed pastured animals — grass-fed Khatadin lamb, Large Black pigs and Belted Galloway cows — and rotating their pastures.

Similarly, Bowlin prefers hundreds of kinds of tomatoes to the thick-skinned hybrid supermarket tomato engineered to ship well and have a long shelf life.

Like many women farmers, she lives her goal every day when she produces healthy food for her family and the community. For the moment, she does not experience many of the factors that stress some women farmers, such as social isolation, lack of acknowledgment, farm loan discrimination or role overload.

“Thank goodness I don’t have a family of children now because I don’t know how I would manage that,” she said.

Eventually, Bowlin wants to offer workshops in the potato barn about natural arts and home arts — exactly what she sought when she left art school. Only after she attains stability and owns her own land will she have a child, she said.

In the meantime, she lives outside daily in a world of baby doll sheep and sungold tomatoes she plucks off the vine and pops into her mouth. A world of heirloom vegetables and flowers give her joy, including arugula; cantaloupe; yellow, purple, red, and orange carrots; cilantro; pumpkins; green, golden, and eight ball zucchini; Georgia collards, frisée, escarole, and much more.

Indulging Laferriere’s interest in medicinal and edible herbs, the couple also grows calendula, chamomile, comfrey, elecampane, wormword, sweet marjoram, and much more. They use the herbs to make tinctures and salves that they sell.

The bounty makes for long days filled with manual labor. A typical workday for Bowlin and Laferriere lasts 16 hours. Recently, she planted lettuce in a lightning storm, staying as close to the ground as she could.

“The lettuce needed to be planted,” she said. “Constantly, there’s something that needs to be done. If you miss one thing throughout your day, it’s going to be difficult to fit it in some other time because our days are always full.”

Sometimes even after the sun sets, Bowlin still hasn’t had enough of nature. She sinks into a hot bath in a $75 outdoor vintage clawfoot tub and, surrounded by pots of her own flowers, looks up at the stars.

 

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http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20110915/GRASSROOTS/309150006/Sowing-future-Women-reconnect-natural-farming

Water evaporated from trees cools global climate

Water evaporated from trees cools global climate

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Posted 14 September 2011, by Ken Caldeira (Carnegie Institution for Science), EurakAlert (American Association for the Advancement of Science), eurekalert.org

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Washington, DC. — Scientists have long debated about the impact on global climate of water evaporated from vegetation. New research from Carnegie’s Global Ecology department concludes that evaporated water helps cool the earth as a whole, not just the local area of evaporation, demonstrating that evaporation of water from trees and lakes could have a cooling effect on the entire atmosphere. These findings, published September 14 in Environmental Research Letters, have major implications for land-use decision making.

Evaporative cooling is the process by which a local area is cooled by the energy used in the evaporation process, energy that would have otherwise heated the area’s surface. It is well known that the paving over of urban areas and the clearing of forests can contribute to local warming by decreasing local evaporative cooling, but it was not understood whether this decreased evaporation would also contribute to global warming

The Earth has been getting warmer over at least the past several decades, primarily as a result of the emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil, and gas, as well as the clearing of forests. But because water vapor plays so many roles in the climate system, the global climate effects of changes in evaporation were not well understood.

The researchers even thought it was possible that evaporation could have a warming effect on global climate, because water vapor acts as a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Also, the energy taken up in evaporating water is released back into the environment when the water vapor condenses and returns to earth, mostly as rain. Globally, this cycle of evaporation and condensation moves energy around, but cannot create or destroy energy. So, evaporation cannot directly affect the global balance of energy on our planet.

The team led by George Ban-Weiss, formerly of Carnegie and currently at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, included Carnegie’s Long Cao, Julia Pongratz and Ken Caldeira, as well as Govindasamy Bala of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Using a climate model, they found that increased evaporation actually had an overall cooling effect on the global climate.

Increased evaporation tends to cause clouds to form low in the atmosphere, which act to reflect the sun’s warming rays back out into space. This has a cooling influence.

“This shows us that the evaporation of water from trees and lakes in urban parks, like New York’s Central Park, not only help keep our cities cool, but also helps keep the whole planet cool,” Caldeira said. “Our research also shows that we need to improve our understanding of how our daily activities can drive changes in both local and global climate. That steam coming out of your tea-kettle may be helping to cool the Earth, but that cooling influence will be overwhelmed if that water was boiled by burning gas or coal.”

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The Department of Global Ecology was established in 2002 to help build the scientific foundations for a sustainable future. The department is located on the campus of Stanford University, but is an independent research organization funded by the Carnegie Institution. Its scientists conduct basic research on a wide range of large-scale environmental issues, including climate change, ocean acidification, biological invasions, and changes in biodiversity.

The Carnegie Institution for Science (carnegiescience.edu) is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with six research departments throughout the U.S. Since its founding in 1902, the Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.

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http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-09/ci-wef091211.php

Think Like a Man About the Environment

Think Like a Man About the Environment

Think recycling isn’t enough to make a difference? Try a few big, macho ways of helping with the environment instead.

photo by SMcGarnigle

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Posted 13 September 2011, by , The Good Men Project, goodmenproject.com

 

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I have been fascinated by research that suggests that women and men think about and care about environmental issues differently. According to what I’ve read, women put their energy into doing the small, day-to-day tactical stuff—they are careful to always recycle, shut off the lights, don’t sit in an idling car, carry in their own shopping bags at the grocery store. The belief embraced by those who go this route is that a small amount of actions—all the time, by everyone concerned—will actually make a difference when it all adds up. For women, then, environmental issues become a lifestyle choice: a small series of checklists to be thought about and acted on throughout the day. “Brush your teeth, don’t let the tap run, put on lipstick, recycle that carton, make the kids lunch, use the re-usable lunch bags. Don’t print that email whatever you do.” Over time, all those actions become second nature, akin to counting calories or being vigilant about where a young child is all the time. It requires a certain consciousness, but once you’ve made the commitment, it is just something you do.

Men, the thinking goes, don’t think about the environment that way. For the most part, men would like to do something big and move on. Install solar panels; put in an energy efficient furnace. Trade in the old gas-guzzler for a zippy new high-mpg baby. Think about it once, do something that gets real results, be done with it. It’s not that men can’t intellectually grasp a statistic like “producing new plastic products from recycled materials uses two-thirds less energy than making products from raw materials and reduces the demand for fossil fuels.” It’s that when they have an empty plastic Gatorade bottle in their hands with no recycling bin in sight, they’d rather toss it into the trash and go install some storm windows instead.

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Men get a bad rap, as we’re apt to point out here at The Good Men Project. You could look at the above insights and say, “See, women think about the environment all the time. They care more. They are obviously the only ones who can save Mother Earth.”

But an equally valid interpretation would be that men are the ones who are actually taking the large actions that have an impact.

So, as a challenge to myself, I set out to “Think Like a Man” about the environment. What actions could we, as concerned citizens, as men, (and as women) do that would have a real, long-term, sustainable impact? What might get us beyond thinking about the environment as more than recycling our paper and plastic?

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1. Get a groundswell going around stores that have zero packaging. That’s right, zero. Instead of wasting time using one less plastic bag, don’t use anything ever again. There’s a store in England, Unpackaged, that does just that. And now, opening in Austin Texas, is In.gredients—the first package-free and zero waste grocery store in the United States. As Good, Inc. describes it: “It’s as if the specialty bulk food section rebelled and took over the rest of a traditional grocery store. In.gredients will replace unhealthy, overpackaged junk with local, organic, and natural foods, and moonlight as a community center with cooking classes, gardening workshops, and art shows on the side.”

Make stores like that an economic reality by showing that there’s a viable market for them. I honestly don’t blame you if you just don’t want to think about whether that more expensive brand of paper towels has 20% post-consumer waste, or if just this once you could put your items into plastic bag and guiltily sneak out the door. Instead, wouldn’t you want to know that when you walked into a store you could do no wrong.

2. Help your city become a city of bicyclists. There are cities I’ve been to where bicyclists rule. Bicyclists on the road are treated like gold. They have the right of way. They have the good lanes, the signals. There are places to store bikes, rent pikes, borrow bikes. Take this to the next level—make it safe for bicyclists, make it fun for bicyclists, make it profitable for bicyclists.

According to the EPA, Driving a private car is probably a typical citizen’s most “polluting” daily activity. Every time we bike instead of drive, we save roughly 2.5 pounds of carbon emissions from polluting our planet. Comparatively, taking the subway save .48 pounds per trip.

Creating a city of bicyclists is not blue sky.

In Groningen, a city in The Netherlands, 57% of its inhabitants travel by bicycle.The city simply made it a priority to adapt to the wishes of those who want to get around without a car. How they did it is both simple and brilliant. They created a large, pedestrianised zone in the center of the city. They worked their way out, creating safe and accessible walking and bike paths that progressively radiated out from that hub. By continuing to favor active transportation around the center, they then “filtered out” cars by reducing the number of streets that run through the center. Certain streets became discontinuous for cars, and instead connected to a network of pedestrian and bike paths which build the network of bike paths and walkways outward. In addition, these paths go through public squares and open spaces increasing the enjoyment of every trip.

Help your city become one of those. If it can be done in one city, it can be done in any city. Lobby for it, talk about it, generate enthusiasm for it. Think of economic incentives—what if your place of work gave bonuses for biking instead of driving?

The next time there’s an election, get it on the agenda. Better yet, run for office yourself with that as the platform. At least the issue will get noticed.

In the example above, 96,000 bicyclists reduce emissions by 242,000 lbs per day, or 88 million lbs of carbon emissions a year. That has an impact.

Hate biking? Then make one simple, easy decision—next time you buy a car, get the most energy efficient model you can. And use it as little as possible.

4. Oh, about those storm windows. Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels starts with using less of it. Better windows, less oil. But here’s a story of someone who took it even further: Dick Cadwgan and his partner Frank Mundo run a company up in Maine that makes easily installable, removable, fuel-saving window inserts. First the math: Dicks company charges only for materials, a cost of about $10 per insert. Each insert reduces the heat lost through the windows by at least half, especially in older, medium-quality windows. With heating oil at over $3.50 per gallon, the savings per window ends up being about $20 over the course of a heating season. Dick estimates the amount of money put back into the Maine economy by a just one small team of volunteers building and installing these windows is about $50,000 dollars over the life of the window insert. This year, the company, Window Dressers, will have five such teams of workers. Dick runs this company as a non-profit—all volunteer teams of people. People pay only for the cost of materials, but those who can afford it often write checks for an extra $100—“so that if someone can’t afford it, Dick, you can help them anyway.” When I asked Dick why he would do something like this—run an all volunteer army of people who all winter long help people get their houses to be more energy efficient, he laughed and said, “Well, there’s not much else to do in the winter in Maine.” It’s an entrepreneurial, inventive, social way, hands-on way to help decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. Contact Dick at stonepost2@gmail.com to learn more.

5. Think before you eat. Specifically, stop eating processed foods. For extra points, eat less meat and when you do eat meat, choose meat that was raised sustainably instead of in a factory farm.

You can make big, sweeping changes to your diet overnight—which can lead to big sweeping changes in the food chain. Here’s the deal: If you eat food that comes in a package, chances are you’re eating high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Regular old corn is one of the most genetically modified conventional crops; and mercury, a toxic production by-product has been found in many samples of HFCS and the products that contain it. Because HFCS is cheaper than other sweeteners and used as a preservative, it lurks everywhere from sodas to cereals to snack bars you might otherwise consider healthy. And that same, regular old corn is used to fatten up a beef steer more quickly than pasture does—at a cost to ourselves and cattle. The cows haven’t evolved to digest corn, and are therefore pre-emptively fed antibiotics to offset the stresses caused by their unnatural diet. As for the effect on the environment? A commonly quoted statistic, according to Practically Green, is that a meal of fruits, vegetables, and grains generates 24 times less greenhouse gas emissions than 6 ounces of conventionally raised beef.  Not to mention that eating fresh produce helps local farms become more sustainable.

Simply substitute locally grown produce for almost anything else you can think of eating. Give it two weeks to become a habit. Done. Big. Easy. Manly. You’ll make an impact, feel better almost immediately, and you’ll be in better shape to help install those storm windows.

5. Help lobby for an “Environmentalists Without Borders” organization, modeled after the highly successful “Doctors Without Borders.”

Let’s face it—didn’t you get the feeling that when the BP oil spill happened that nobody knew what to do? How is that possible? How is it possible to not be able to anticipate that level of catastrophe and have no emergency response plan when it does happen? Weeks into the spill, I remember reading: “This may not be able to be solved.”

When I saw the pictures and infographics of the depth of the disaster, I couldn’t help but think that it must have surely erased all the good I had done by not using either paper OR plastic at the supermarket. The benefits of all of the thousands of times I recycled seemed to fly up in the air with every gush of oil.

The way the Doctors Without Borders model works is this. When catastrophe strikes, Doctors without Borders mobilizes and dispatches doctors to the disaster scene immediately. Oftentimes, they are among the first on the scene. They are known for being efficient, organized, action-oriented, and immediately helpful.

A similar sort of Environmentalists without Borders could have specialized teams of engineers, foremen, water specialists, animal rescue specialists, trained by Doctors without Borders mobilizers that volunteer to immediately go to the scene of an environmental disaster and help solve the problem. We need an immediate, viable, quick-response plan in place before the next disaster takes place. Because it will.

Too grand a plan for you? Start instead by having a few passionate people in your network who care about environmental issues. And listen to them.

♦◊♦

There. 5 things you can do that will have the following results:

1.) Reduce emissions in a city by 88 million pounds of carbon emissions a year

2.) Reduce your energy bill, save gallons of oil, pour money back into the local economy, have hand crafted window inserts.

3.) Cut packaging to zero so that you never have to worry about it again.

4.) Increase your personal health while helping improve the crop cycle.

5.) Become a part of a network of heroes for when disaster does strike.

♦◊♦

Thinking about the environment this way—it’s is no longer an ongoing daily chore. Many of the things above are as simple as making one simple decision—like buying a fuel-efficient car or deciding to stop eating processed foods. For others, it’s taking a series of big, important actions that will change your life, and the lives of your family and community—for the better. And help Father Planet right along with them.

photo by SMcGarnigle / Flickr

 

Related:

Is Recycling for Girly Men? Naaaah….  Tom Matlack explores why caring for the environment is a crucial issue for good men.

 

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http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/think-like-a-man-about-the-environment/