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Lunedì, 22 Febbraio 2016 02:00

Book Climate-Friendly Food

In order to reach even wider audience in Poland with the message of the ClimATE Change project, Polish Green Network published a book titled "Climate-Friendly Food".

The book was written by the invited expert, Marcin Gerwin, PhD, who specializes in sustainable development and participatory processes. He majored in political sciences and is a co-founder of the Sopot Development Initiative (Sopocka Inicjatywa Rozwojowa). He is also a columnist and the author of the book "Food and Democracy: Introduction to Food Sovereignty" which was published by Polish Green Network in 2011.

Our new book, "Climate-Friendly Food (And Other Solutions to Protect Climate)", deals with various aspects of climate change mitigation and climate protection. It presents such solutions to climate problems as renewable energy sources which lower emissions, organic agriculture which allows to store more carbon dioxide in soils, sustainable economy which is people- and environment-friendly, but most of all efficient democracy which allows to build a more climate-friendly system. The book shows that by implementing these solutions we can protect climate and natural resources, and at the same time build stronger ties in our communities and lead better lives.

The book, published in Polish language, is distributed free of charge both in the printed form (limited number) and in different electronic formats directly from Polish Green Network and during various public events. The electronic versions of the publication are available to download from the Polish website of the ClimATE Change project. The official launch of the book was organized during our traveling Film Festival "Climate Change - Community - Future".

Our book is divided into 3 main sections: I. Climate, II. Food and Agriculture, III. Society. The first one presents the main causes and consequences of climate change and tries to answer the question what we can do to protect climate. The chapters in the second section describe the role of farmers in protecting climate and environment as well as the benefits of organic food. They also try to answer the question whether organic agriculture could feed the world and show how permaculture can help farmers in addressing the impacts of climate change. The last section deals with the main problems of the current capitalist model which is based on the idea of economic growth without limits. It also presents the benefits of deliberative democracy, the ways of applying permaculture principles to living in cities as well as the issues related to the access to land. The book contains also the appendix explaining the basics of permaculture.

The book has been met with a big interest from the potential readers and we have already received a lot of positive feedback regarding its content.

Patrick Whitefield is one of the leading permaculture teachers in the UK. He has written three books on permaculture: "Permaculture in a Nutshell", "How to Make a Forest Garden" and "The Earth Care Manual". His latest book is "The Living Landscape: How to Read and Understand It", a subject especially close to his heart. He also practices as a design consultant. The interview was conducted by Marcin Gerwin.

Marcin Gerwin: With temperatures rising and changing weather patterns, agriculture will most certainly feel the effects of climate change. Do you think permaculture has the potential to help farmers to deal with the changing climate?

Patrick Whitefield: One specific way in which permaculture can tackle climate change is through diversity, which we emphasize. In terms of trees, one of the big problems with planting trees is that we don't know what the climate will be when those trees mature. So if we plant a large variety of trees, lots of different kinds — some of which are suited to hotter or cooler climates — then hopefully we'll get the ones that will survive and be still thriving in 50 or 100 years. The ones which don't thrive can be taken out as thinning.

In terms of the short-lived plants, vegetables, cereals, and so forth, I think that planting mixtures is important, because one of the main effects of climate change is not so much steady increase in temperature but an increase in extremes — of drought, of flood, of hot or of cold. For example, in cereals it is probably worthwhile to sow a mixture of varieties in the field. So in a dry year one variety will do well, in a wet year another variety will do well.

Are the techniques that are used in permaculture for soil management useful in this regard as well?

With the management of the soil there is always a tension between long-term health of the soil and short-term management needs. When people plow the soil or dig the soil it is usually to gain some immediate benefit. But the long-term effect is usually detrimental in terms of soil fertility, particularly in terms of humus content. One of the main principles of permaculture is that we try to avoid digging or plowing — we try to leave the soil as undisturbed as possible. This allows for a long-term buildup of humus, of soil structure and beneficial soil organisms. This will give a much more resilient soil, a soil which is much more capable of withstanding the extremes of weather.

It works both ways — humus, which is stored in the soil, is actually carbon which is taken out of the atmosphere. Someone has even calculated that if everyone in the world were to stop plowing and digging immediately, the change would be big enough to control global warming, because that much more carbon would be taken out of the atmosphere. I don't know whether that is true or not. What I would say is that four times as much carbon is stored in the Earth's soil as all the living plants and animals. People talk about planting trees to mitigate global warming, but it is the wrong idea. The most important thing we can do is to stop disturbing the soil.

Is it possible to practice no-digging on a large scale farm? Or is it something that people can do only in their backyard gardens?

Yes, it is. In my book "The Earth Care Manual" I give some detail of a method called bi-cropping where we have a perennial sward of white clover at ground level and then we grow cereals or other crops through that permanent cover. There is special cultivation equipment to help with that. That is one particular method which I think is quite well suited to the British climate, but probably less so to drier climates, because you have rather a lot of competition for water between the clover and the cereals. That is an example of something that could be done at any scale. You can have a farm that has a thousand hectares where you are using that method.

I saw a very interesting video recently on the internet of a North American farmer who was managing three thousand acres. He was doing it conventionally, and although he wasn't an organic farmer, he was doing away with plowing. And the effect on his soil was amazing – you could really see the buildup in organic matter. I was really impressed by that. This was not from one of the usual people you would expect — someone who has been doing it organically for years or who was well known in the permaculture circuit. This was a mainstream farmer working on a very large scale. And he was doing more or less the same thing with the soil that we would do in permaculture.

One of the possible effects of climate change is increased occurrence of droughts and floods. Is there something that could be done to reduce their impact by using permaculture design?

The thing about flooding is that nothing can really be done on the scale of the individual farm or even individual small district. It has to be done on the scale of the whole river catchment – from the top to the sea. What we must do is to hold more water in the upper reaches of the river, up in the hills. There is also to some extent a tension between water and food production. Most farmers want to get excess water off their land quickly. But in those higher reaches, where we need to store water, the potential for food production is relatively low (most of it is animal production). So the most important output of these areas may be in terms of water storage rather than in terms of food production. When they go out of food production it won't make very big difference compared to the more fertile, low-lying flat areas further downstream — the ones that suffer from flooding. This is something that can only be done on the political level.

In permaculture we tend to emphasize those things which can be done on the level of individual, the family, or the community, but there will always remain some things which can only be done on the political level.

And what about droughts?

Windbreaks are one important thing because the wind dries out the land, it dries out the plant. It increases the amount of water that the plants need in order to produce. Also keeping the soil covered – using mulches. But mulches are only practical on fairly small scale.

What would you suggest for a large scale farms then? A vegetable farm for example?

It is more difficult. On a large scale the only way to keep the soil covered really is to have living plants covering it. And living plants use water. The most important thing to protect ourselves from droughts is again to have diversity in what we sow and what we plant. If you grow a mixture of plants — the ones that yield best under ideal conditions and the drought-tolerant ones — then you know that you will get a crop every year.

I think we need a certain change in mentality. The attitude of farmers is to go for maximum every time. So very often the aim of the farming system is to get the maximum yield. And in order to get maximum yield you need ideal conditions. We've been used to a climate which is remarkably stable, but this may not be a case in the future. So we need to move away from the idea of always going to the maximum, but to go for a stability of yield — in other words to know that every year we will harvest something, rather than hope that this year we will harvest the maximum.

Some people recommend the use of biochar — a charcoal as a soil amendment — to improve soil fertility and to help mitigate climate change because it means taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in the soil. What is your opinion about this? Would you recommend it as well?

We are at the very beginning of understanding how biochar works. Of the many trials which have been done with it as many have been unsuccessful as successful. One thing which is emerging is that it seems you need to mix it with compost before applying it for it to really work. If it can work reliably it will certainly be worthwhile, both for farmers and for climate change.

The interview was first published by Polish Green Network on its website dlaklimatu.pl.

Photo credit: London Permaculture (Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Giovedì, 24 Luglio 2014 00:00

Soil & Water Conservation in Permaculture

Presentation delivered by Peppi Gauci from the Malta Permaculture Research Foundation on the ClimATE Change Dialogue-oriented Workshop held in Malta on the 20th of May 2014.

You can download it by clicking on the link vendita levitra italia acquisto on line, Taranto on the left.