Tag Archives: permaculture

Aside

Leaf blowers are another pet peeve of mine (I collect them by the bushel). Here’s a clever idea from Owen Dell that I found on the Terra Nova Landscaping blog: My dear friend and colleague, landscape contractor Ken Foster of Terra Nova … Continue reading

Are you a nutter?

A Fall Field Guide: Nuts.

Ah, Mother Earth News… I knew you when.  In fact, I probably read this article when it came out in 1988, in the library at Diablo Valley College.  My fondness for MEN was one of the things that began to distance me from the other members of Dark Refrains and Velvet Darkness, the RHPS casts to which I belonged in my late teens (in contrast, my fondness for young men was widely known and made me rather popular in those circles).    It was partly MEN and partly a natural history class at DVC that got me so interested in wild foraging.

Now, the interest is mostly intellectual.  I read about it (faves include The Flavors of Home and Mushrooms Demystified), and I look for plants I know when I do go out for hikes, but mostly I’ve restricted my foraging to berries and miner’s lettuce. I did gather and prep some Valley Oak acorns once (fairly tasty, if labor-intensive).

Sadly, the nuts described in the MEN Fall Field Guide to Nuts are mostly those from the eastern half of Turtle Island (or Isla Tortuga, or if you must, North America).  Out here in Cali, we get acorns and pine nuts.   What about hazelnuts?

Still, the thing I liked most about this article was the use of “nut” as a verb.  Go nutting, be a nutter.  It just made me smile.  Hopefully, you too.

Pitchapalooza! « The Imagined Worlds of Michelle Yvonne Merrill

Pitchapalooza! « The Imagined Worlds of Michelle Yvonne Merrill.

A bit about the pitch for my latest fiction idea.  I’m developing a young adult novel for a couple of strategic reasons:

  1. I think it’s the best way to reach the most people quickly with important ideas. (Of course, I’d be delighted to sell out, given the opportunity.  Just because I have a lot of disdain for the money culture doesn’t mean that having money would be a bad thing, given that it’s not going away tomorrow.)
  2. It’s an even better venue for talking about both traditional permaculture approaches and the promise of sustainable technology.
  3.  Honestly, I love the story and the characters, and I’m having so much fun writing it.

The Imagined Worlds of Michelle Yvonne Merrill

Greetings Earthlings! « The Imagined Worlds of Michelle Yvonne Merrill.

Yep, I’m actually putting it out there… my writing projects have a public place.  I’ll also use that blog to focus more on speculative fiction and fandom, while this continues to be a more real-world venue.

So, check it out & enjoy!

My first sketch of the gurita, the mysterious alien from Pulau, for my far-future, offworld novel.

“My bet is on the hairless monkey.”

From the Center for Pattern Literacy (Permaculture visionary and Gaia’s Garden author Toby Hemenway’s site) comes this refreshingly sober and calm blog entry on the realities of Peak Oil: Apocalypse, Not | Pattern Literacy.  It emphasizes the flexibility of our species (our ability to embrace the Anthropocene?) and the responsiveness and resilience of human eco-cultural systems, even in the face of TEOTWAWKI (“The End of the World as We Know It”).  The author may not know the difference between a monkey and an ape, but this post has some interesting things to say about shifting the idea of employment, economics and the “need” for work.

Humanity has reached the stage, finally, where basic survival is not in doubt for many people. We have not yet grasped that the struggle for survival is essentially over, and we have overshot. Instead of noticing that as a species we no longer need to labor all our waking hours for the basics of food and safe shelter, and to fight off disease and predators, we cannot get off the survival treadmill. So we just keep making more stuff, rather than looking up, taking a breath, and enjoying all the wonders possible from being a conscious, intelligent animal that has mastered survival. Perhaps Peak Oil, and a return to a time when resources are dear and labor is abundant, will remind us that there is much more to life than the manufactured desire to have more toys. Perhaps we can lose our small-minded obsession with getting and spending, and finally grow into maturity as a species. (Read this: Apocalypse, Not)

Aftershocks

The immense human tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan is just starting to fade from the headlines.  The crisis of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility is at a plateau, but still far from resolved.

As I reflect on the enormity of what happened on the other side of the ocean we share, I see some cause for my usual Cassandra-esque blend of gloom and repressed rage tinged with the darkest glimmers of optimism, some small bright linings to the heavy smog.

First,  the prevailing winds.  While there does seem to be radiation coming to ground on Japan, most of it is blowing to sea.  That’s the half-full. The half-empty is that… it’s going to sea.  Yes, as long as there are no major fires like Chernobyl, it shouldn’t be enough to pose an immediate threat to human health, at least in the short term.  But how will it affect small sea life (algae, krill, etc.) and the bigger things that feed on that and might concentrate it?

And the silvery glimmer… this was a wake-up call about Black Swan events and nuclear power plants.  In the last several years, I’ve been discouraged to see more greenthinkers turning to nuclear power as an option to prevent the worst effects of climate change.  Not only did they seem to be overlooking the high carbon price we pay to get the damnable things built out of concrete and keep them operational (and we still don’t know exactly what it will take to decommission them since we don’t have a good way of doing it yet), but they apparently forgot a basic tenet of the Precautionary Principle – if the outcomes of a mishap are intolerable, even if the perceived likelyhood of such a mishap is small, just don’t do it. “If the Japanese can’t build a safe reactor, who can?” James Lovelock, Stewart Brand, et al. – what do you have to say for yourselves now?

Next, all that other stuff.  Videos show the tsunami grabbing and tossing things – heck, even the little one that tore through Santa Cruz harbor did that – and as it receded it pulled lots of those big and small things out to sea.  Now, my students in the Cabrillo Sustainability Council have been planning an event focusing on plastic waste and its impact on our oceans, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the gyre in the Pacific that lead to the formation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  The big ocean current comes right off northern Japan, and moves across the central Pacific, and that’s where things that float just get stranded in the doldrums. Affluent, convenience-minded Japan had an awful lot of plastic to go around.  How much is this adding to our already awful mess in the middle of the mighty Pacific, and how will that affect marine ecosystems?

Finally, there are the economic ripples that will spread from this latest shock.  In our globally interconnected system, the disruption to Japan’s mighty industrial output is going to cause shivers and shudders worldwide.  Our ridiculously long and convoluted supply chains will experience gaps, though I’ll admit that they’re actually embedded in networks that provide some resilience – if you can’t get your widget from Japan, if you look around you can probably get one from India or Belgium or Argentina or Singapore or…  Now, economists say Japan’s economic woes won’t be big enough to derail overall global growth, especially when they consider all the GDP boosts from reconstruction in the coming months (yet another example of the twisted logic of money culture economics – horrific disasters are good for the economy!).  But I still have hope that Japan’s unexpected plunge into the Ω-phase of release and destruction in regards to their energy-intensive industrial economy might open the way for a very creative re-emergence in the α-phase.  After all, one of the seminal books on permaculture philosophy – The One-Straw Revolution – was penned there back in the 1970’s, so the seed of a new approach is already present.  And if permaculture gets big in Japan…

See, hope amid the rubble.  It’s not all gloom and doom, all the time.  As we begin the work to heal Japan, perhaps we can learn ways to heal some other world wounds, too.

Is “Sustainable Agriculture” an Oxymoron?

Is “Sustainable Agriculture” an Oxymoron?.

An elaboration on what Jared Diamond meant about “the worst mistake in the history of the human race” – with details about anthropological studies of subsistence patterns in various human cultures, and how these relate to sustainability, equity and justice.  It makes a case for permaculture (a new take on traditional horticultural societies) as a solution to the multiple messes caused by agriculture.

If love of money is the root of all evil, and money is a way of exchanging surpluses, and surpluses come from the unsustainable overproduction that is the difference between horticulture and agriculture…  then that might very well be when all the trouble started.