Sunday, 29 December 2013

Thank you YES!: 10 Hopeful Things From 2013

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
10 Hopeful Things That Happened in 2013 to Get You Inspired for What's to Come 

Beyond the headlines of conflict and catastrophe, this year's top stories offered us some powerful proof that the world can still change—for the better.  READ MORE »

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Community based farmers field school in Luang Prabang, Laos

Thank you to the SPERI and CHESH-Laos staff as well as the Long Lan Elders and villagers for putting together such as incredible new FFS in Ban Long Lan, in the Phus Song Mountain area above Luang Prabang.

The Mekong Region and the world needs you!

(some news in Vietnamese)

Icelandic Elves Block Highway Project

Finally, some more news from the elves of Iceland. 

Thanks to Grist's SARAH LASKOW for this piece on Icelandic elves blocking a highway project. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

MOFGA - Supporting Generations Of Maine Farmers

Training the next generation of farmers and gardeners is essential to the future of Maine agriculture. Each year MOFGA works with dozens of established farms to begin training new farmers through our apprenticeship and journeryperson programs.

- Supporting Generations Of Maine Farmers -



Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
PO Box 170
294 Crosby Brook Road
Unity, ME  04988

Monday, 23 December 2013

Human Ecology, Vol. 41, Issue 6 - New Issue Alert

Human Ecology. Volume 41 Number 6 is now available on SpringerLink .
In this issue:
Wildlife Depletion in a West African Farm-Forest Mosaic and the Implications for Hunting Across the Landscape
Björn Schulte-Herbrüggen , J. Marcus Rowcliffe , Katherine Homewood , Laura A. Kurpiers , Charlotte Whitham & Guy Cowlishaw
Abstract    Full text HTML    Full text PDF

Land-use Change Modeling in a Brazilian Indigenous Reserve: Construction of a Reference Scenario for the Suruí REDD Project
Claudia Suzanne Marie Nathalie Vitel , Gabriel Cardoso Carrero , Mariano Colini Cenamo , Maya Leroy , Paulo Mauricio Lima A. Graça & Philip Martin Fearnside
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Reconfiguring Agrobiodiversity in the Amazon Estuary: Market Integration, the Açaí Trade and Smallholders' Management Practices in Amapá, Brazil
Angela Steward
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Future Scenarios as a Research Tool: Investigating Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation Options and Outcomes for the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Louisa S. Evans , Christina C. Hicks , Pedro Fidelman , Renae C. Tobin & Allison L. Perry
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What Makes Socio-ecological Systems Robust? An Institutional Analysis of the 2,000 Year-Old Ifugao Society
Eduardo Araral
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Doing Sovereignty in Native North America: Anishinaabe Counter-Mapping and the Struggle for Land-Based Self-Determination
Anna J. Willow
Abstract    Full text HTML    Full text PDF

Information Networks in Amenity Transition Communities: A Comparative Case Study
Jordan W. Smith
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Pro-Environmental Behavior: Does It Matter How It's Measured? Development and Validation of the Pro-Environmental Behavior Scale (PEBS)
Gail L. Markle
Abstract    Full text HTML    Full text PDF

The Effect of Farmer Attitudes and Objectives on the Heterogeneity of Farm Attributes and Management in Switzerland
Eleni Karali , Beat Brunner , Ruth Doherty , Anna M. Hersperger & Mark D. A. Rounsevell
Abstract    Full text HTML    Full text PDF

Upland Farming Systems Coping with Uncertain Rainfall in the Central Dry Zone of Myanmar: How Stable is Indigenous Multiple Cropping Under Semi-Arid Conditions?
Masahiko Matsuda
Abstract    Full text HTML    Full text PDF

Identity and Native Species Conservation: Similar Historical Ecologies from Idaho to Spain
Jose A. Cortes-Vazquez & Morgan Zedalis
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Indigenous Principles of Wild Harvest and Management: An Ojibway Community as a Case Study
Chantel M. LaRiviere & Stephen S. Crawford
Abstract    Full text HTML    Full text PDF   

The Socio-Ecological Transition on a Crop Scale: The Case of Olive Orchards in Southern Spain (1750–2000)
Juan Infante-Amate & Manuel González de Molina
Abstract    Full text HTML    Full text PDF

Conservatives Against Conservation
Lisa Heinzerling
Abstract    Full text HTML    Full text PDF

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Indigenous people's vs. Big Oil

Native American groups increasingly at the center of fights over oil and gas

There's a lot of natural gas and oil to be found on or near tribal lands. Will indigenous people go along with drilling and pipeline plans, or fight them?

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Some Questions about a plant

Please take a moment to answer a few questions about a plant.
It will be interesting to see what you know and how you use this plant.

Feel free to ask any questions or give any feedback.

Thank you.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Song of the Rolling Earth

Sitting in a friends kitchen and preparing for the Science Forum in Bonn at GSI, I came across these words in Leaves of Grass.
It inspires a kind of divine, deeply contented laziness, feel content to sit here and drink tea and feel confident that the benefit to the whole universe will be greater than that of my effort to head out into the chilly streets and off to the conference...

Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, BOOK XVI, A Song of the Rolling Earth, Part 3

Whoever you are! motion and reflection are especially for you,
The divine ship sails the divine sea for you.

Whoever you are! you are he or she for whom the earth is solid and liquid,
You are he or she for whom the sun and moon hang in the sky,
For none more than you are the present and the past,
For none more than you is immortality.

Each man to himself and each woman to herself, is the word of the
past and present, and the true word of immortality;
No one can acquire for another—not one,
Not one can grow for another—not one.

The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him,
The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back most to him,
The murder is to the murderer, and comes back most to him,
The theft is to the thief, and comes back most to him,
The love is to the lover, and comes back most to him,
The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him—it cannot fail,
The oration is to the orator, the acting is to the actor and actress
not to the audience,
And no man understands any greatness or goodness but his own, or
the indication of his own.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Cappuccino, Poetry and Heroes

I am sitting at the JOMA cafe in Luang Prabang drinking a delicious Organic Fair Trade cappuccino and being distracted from work on a warm Sunday afternoon. I was reading again through Walt Whitman's 'A Child Sad What Is The Grass?' (a good thing to do for Sunday afternoon distraction)- which, somehow lead me to some short stories by Campbell, which, in turn, then inspired me to write this short poem about the story of the hero. I think I will call it 'A hundred Thousand Myths':

Phase 1
The hero leaves the community.
Then the middle part,
Tests and difficulties.
Till the end,
Mystery, love and death.

The old cowboy love story,
With the big shootout,
That leaves the hero dead
dead as dead as dead.

But the hero lives,
And brings a new life to the community.
The hero life bringer.

A new life from death and sacrifice,
Shared to the community again,
An offering.

Nature and culture,
Bread and wine,
Given to mystery.

Burned, they turn to heat and light,
And light as smoke,
They disappear,
As wine poured on the earth,
As an offering,
And we drink.

We drink and tell the story till we fall down
We offer ourselves to the earth.
In the earth,
Where communities and heros and stories grew
As vines climbing up toward the light.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Organic Farm Poetry from Japan

Preparing for Tokyo I just visited the translated web page of Mr. Kaneko Yoshinori's Shimosato Farm in Ogawa cho town, Saitama prefecture.

While looking around the farm's webpages I picked this poem out of the jumbled automated translation of a farm trainees story. - It is about the trainees plan to make a book of the farming experiences and life experiences to share with farmers in Cambodia. - It is not clear who the author is so I cannot give proper credit but in the original text the author thanks the farmers Kaneko Noboru, Tomoko, Ishikawa, and Chigusa, as well as the fellow farm trainees learned together, and the people of Shimosato farm and Ogawa cho town. Perhaps forwarding this appreciation on is enough.

Farm Stare Future; Farm Frost 

Organic farming, intuition, the way to live life,
Became me in the farm frost.
The thing clasped about, 
Blood smears from this hand.  

In youth, traveling through India, 
Watching cremations, much until night fall. 
Three days, from fall to rise on the Ganges, 
Continue to burn hours after catching fire in the body, 
Smoke aims up to heaven, 
Ash, flow and hover to the river.
Meat and bone remaining burnt, 
Dog food and cow lick. 

Among those who have seen such a sight, 
In me, all life that I have led was born. 

Later, learning from local people in Cambodia. 
The important thing in life, without, at all, 
such a thing as power, 
such as position, 
such as honor, 
such as money. 

To value life, 
To live bright with the family, 
The people of the village, 
To live richly together,
To know such things 

The philosophy more than anything else, 
Is to cherish life. 

That there is only that day in and day out, 
To keep the stack small and steady. 

Bad things in themselves are also getting better, 
As the villagers say, 
The land is no good in spirit unless it is rich. 

And it is to the agriculture taken for granted, 
That will live on for granted. 
This village, 
The living land and soil, 
And all the live beautiful strong richness of farming 

We light a lamp in one corner.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Peace Research

I am very grateful to Dr. Peter J. Matthews and all the researchers, science writers, editors, translators, illustrators, and publishers at the The Research Cooperative for adding the new group Peace Research

This was the topic of a dharma talk heard yesterday from the San Francisco Zen Center. The dharma teacher shared an insight he had after working in conflict resolution for many years: another one-word description for 'conflict' could be 'relationship'.

It seems that a lot of the work we are doing in ecology studies, especially field work, is about conflict resolution. We are looking for ways to resolve the conflict between modern human lifestyle and the rest of the life and ecosystems of the earth in the anthropocene.

For my part conflict resolution through Human Ecology and Ethnobotany with indigenous people is a kind of peace work. Through the recording of knowledge about uses for native plant species we are taught about the conservation related aspects of the relationship that is established between people and the environment. - I think of it as 'use it or lose it' and I also know that we will not fight for what we do not love. - Conservation in the anthropscene is a function of creating a healthy relationship in the midst of the current one.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Tryin' On Clothes

When I was traveling around in Ireland I thought I would leave the delicious-food-and-Jamesons-filled confines of the Dublin couchsurfing ambassador's house to head over to stay for a few days on a nudist colony. - After chatting with the people at the nudist colony through CS a few times it made me think that it is not my scene. Plus Ireland is really too cold and rainy to be naked all day long, even in summer.

Anyway, I read this poem by Shel Silverstein at the time called 'Tryin' On Clothes' and thought of it as a silly nudist poem. Today I rather see it as a deep ecology poem about a true and close relationship between humans and nature. - The amazing diversity of outward expressions of identity and culture sometimes help us to have a deeper sense of place (i.e. indigenous clothing) but the majority of it seems to be about ego and consumerism (see 'the story of stuff'). - So it I see this as a poem about 'Tryin' On Clothes' in a deep ecology sense and perhaps allowing a kind of nudity of the ego and of outward expression in deference and connection to a true natural self and place.

I tried on the farmer's hat,
Didn't fit...
A little too small -- just a bit
Too floppy.
Couldn't get used to it,
Took it off.
Tried on the dancer's shoes,
A little too loose.
Not the kind you could use
For walkin'.
Didn't feel right in 'em,
Kicked 'em off.
I tried on the summer sun,
Felt good.
Nice and warm -- knew it would.
Tried the grass beneath bare feet,
Felt neat.
Finally, finally felt well dressed,
Nature's clothes fit me best.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Religious Forest Sites map

Some hopeful resources may be emerging from the academic world: The Biodiversity Institute at Oxford University is working in partnership with the Alliance of Religions and Conservation and the World Database on Sacred Natural Sites to create something called the The Religious Forest Sites map.

The lead professor from Oxford Sonil Bhagwat has said: "Where data is available about the boundaries of these forests, it will hopefully give the local communities an instrument to help argue that these are the sites that they have traditionally been protecting for a long time. They are sites which have lasted through several generations."

Nothing is on the map yet about Animist forests (other than the Shinto) so there seems to be a lot to do to get this map up-to-date.

Alliance of Religions and Conservation is attempting to start crowdsourcing information about more sacred forests areas:

Oxford is also accepting notes and information

Here is a poem from Wendell Berry entitled 'How to be a Poet (to remind myself)' about the sacredness of forests and of the human-nature relationship.

Make a place to sit down. 
Sit down. Be quiet. 
You must depend upon 
affection, reading, knowledge, 
skill-more of each 
than you have-inspiration 
work, growing older, patience, 
for patience joins time 
to eternity… 

Breathe with unconditional breath 
the unconditioned air. 
Shun electric wire. 
Communicate slowly. Live 
a three-dimensional life; 
stay away from screens. 
Stay away from anything 
that obscures the place it is in. 
There are so unsacred places; 
there are only sacred places 
and desecrated places. 

Accept what comes from silence. 
Make the best you can of it. 
Of the little words that come 
out of the silence, like prayers 
prayed back to the one who prays, 
make a poem that does not disturb 
the silence from which it came.

― Wendell Berry

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Permaculture and Biodynamic

Today in Chico News and Review there was an interesting piece about the Heartseed Community Farm. It seems that the Heartseed farmers Kee, Ron Toppi, and Elliott Proffitt were inspired by Paul Kaiser at Singing Frogs Farm and are running a farm based on Permaculture principles and some of the ideas of biodynamic farming. Reading about their awesome farm and the great ideas of these farmers made me want to revote Permaculture and Biodymnamic to think again and compare and contrast.

A little history: Biodynamics is a farming religio-philosophical practice that grew out of the lectures of Rudolph Steiner and the Anthroposophy movement in the early 1900s. Permaculture is a philosophy-design farming and living method that grew very recently out of the books and talks of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Both permaculture and biodynamics seek to create sustainable patterns of living and growing food based on systems of ethics that deal with how humans treat the earth and each other.

Farming Practices: Biodynamics is considered to be beyond organic while permaculture is not necessarily organic. Biodynamic farming has restrictions for chemical and intensive farming methods while permaculture relies on good planning and the know-how and sensibility of the people in the system.

Culture: Biodynamics has more of a structured community - there are groups that inspect and certify 'biodynamic' or 'demeter' foods. There are also many communities, schools, and businesses that are tied in with the biodynamic movement. Permaculture more of a movement, there are legal limits on who can offer permaculture design courses but the word permaculture itself is not regulated in any way.

Philosophy: As I said before both are based on sustainable patterns of living and social and ecological ethics. - Biodynamics also includes some ideas that might be described as 'mystic' or astrological although that is a rather small portion of the movement's beliefs. Steiner was a philosopher who was interested in metaphysics, and this is central to biodynamic farming. Permaculture has more of an ecological-science approach - the mystical and esoteric is something each individual deals with as they like.

So the point is that these two systems of farming can be complimentary. A permaculture farmer can be biodynamic as well. Neither is mutually exclusive but each is unique enough not to confuse one for the other (you won't necessarily find a permaculture farmer out burying horns filled with manure under the full moon or a biodynamic farmer with swales dug across the contours of his fields). To paraphrase Bill Mollison 'Permaculture is the wardrobe and biodynamic can be a hangar inside the wardrobe'.

"Die Kunst ist ewig, ihre Formen wandeln sich.
(The art is eternal, their shapes are changing.)"
― Rudolf Steiner

"Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex,
the solutions remain embarrassingly simple."
― Bill Mollison

"Traditional agriculture was labour intensive, industrial agriculture is energy intensive, and permaculture-designed systems are information and design intensive."
― David Holmgren

More reading on permaculture and biodynamic (Han et al., 2015; Whitney, 2013, 2015).

Han, E., Whitney, C. W., Niether, W., Nelson, W., and Baars, T., 2015. Effects of Biodynamic Preparation 500 (P500) Cow Horn Manure on Early Growth of Barley, Pea, Quinoa, and Tomato under Saline Stress Conditions, Tropentag Berlin, Germany “Management of land use systems for enhanced food security: conflicts, controversies and resolutions”,
Whitney, C. W., 2015. Trees for Gardens, Orchards and Permaculture, Permaculture, 86, 4-5.
Whitney, C. W., 2013. Permaculture and Biodynamics: sustainable systems of living and growing, Resurgence & Ecologist, Green Living, 4.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Scaling-Up Participatory Sustainable Forest Management (SUPSFM)

Great news: the World Bank has approved a 19 million dollar grant from the International Development Association to support the Scaling-Up Participatory Sustainable Forest Management (SUPSFM) project in Laos; to expand community participation in forest management in priority areas, as well as pilot forest landscape management in northern provinces*.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will implement the SUPSFM project in close partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment who's forestry strategy to the year 2020 aims to improve the quality and quantity of forested areas, and to generate a sustainable stream of forest products. - SUPSFM will support these efforts by promoting payment for ecosystems services and will work closely with other development partners including the forest carbon partnership facility to develop environmentally sound and sustainable growth opportunities.

*Reading through the Ministry Of Agriculture And Forestry framework it was not clear where exactly but I read: Luangnamtha and Bokeo, and forests in Dong Sithouane in Savannakhet Province and Dong Phousoi in Khammouane Province.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Wicked Happy Old Farmer

Moldy photo of a wicked happy farmer in Laos chucking hay with a bamboo pitchfork.

Friday, 26 April 2013

"Smile, breathe and go slowly." - Thầy Thích Nhất Hạnh

"It's simple ... you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine." - Trees

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The ONE Campaign and Food Revolution Day Join Forces for Good Food

The ONE Campaign and Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day have joined forces for good food education and food practices, locally and globally.

They are asking for support and signatures on a petition:

Dear World Leaders,

Help 25 million children reach their full potential by making measurable commitments to reduce chronic malnutrition by 2016.

Now Don't Say I Never Gave You Nothin'

Free Stuff Conundrum

A market niche clearly exists for free stuff. There is an incredible demand and very little supply.

Just the other day I put up a post on the local online community site The New Hanoian (a kind of Vietnamese craigslist) for free stuff and it was answered in minutes by many people. I noticed that there were no old posts in that section of the site and realized why. I had to delete the ad after about half an hour because of all the mail.

In San Francisco we used to have the 'Really Really Free Market' as a kind of community gathering where people would give away everything from clothes to sandwiches and dance lessons. - That all ended tragically when the organizer Kirsten Brydum was shot in New Orleans.

What about a 'Really Really Free Market" for the international vagabonds among us? All the language teachers and NGO workers who are aimlessly roaming from job to job, and those international hitchhikers, sailors and couchsurfers who are looking for a bicycle or a jacket in their destination city. I say we need an online free market/library/warehouse/storehouse for all those vagabonds among us.

Why do we need all these piles of things stashed all over the world? Sometimes I feel like a human squirrel, arriving at a place and gathering up my collection of things to leave for a later date. - I would rather that these acorns are allowed to grow into trees (as a great percentage of the forgotten squirrel-stashed-acorns do). It would be preferable if I could put my surfboard, bike etc. into the local Free Market/Library and look to that in my place of arrival when I get there.

Too many of us are roving around only to invest in yet another motorbike and whole life to leave behind again. Let's share.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Radical Fermentation

Here in Hanoi we eat a lot of fermented foods.

The most common is a crazy stinky dish called Mắm, a purple paste of raw fermented fish and shrimp eaten with cold noodles and tofu, meat and other vegetables.

We also eat a lot of a dish delicious and sour dish called Dua Muoi, which is a mustard and beet fermentation, as well as Ca Muoi, which is a kind of small eggplant fermentation.

The macrobiotic community on Lac Long Quan has many rooms and corners of the house filled with bottles of fermenting fruits and vegetables. - My Vietnamese is only good enough to find out about the age of the fermentation and the general plant type. - I'll be finding out about it and be sure to put photos and ideas up on the 'Organic Slow Foodie' blog as I learn more.

Concerning fermentation here is a much loved poem by Peter Schumann


Saturday, 20 April 2013

Ancient Trees Give Way to New Development

I took this photo because I found that it could tell the whole story.
It is infinitely depressing to witness the forests disappearing here but I am finding some hope in the way that life springs up in every possible niche of the new human-built world.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Wholesome Food in Hanoi

Hanoi is a killer.

The street food is delicious and the people are good but it is hard to take the speed, the noise, the MSG, and the smog of a Hanoi life for very long.

I travel by bicycle or motorbike, from a good job with a local NGO to meditation or yoga class but still feel strung out and depressed after a week or two in this city. I find that all my senses are filled with heavy-metal dust. - I need a lot of support and Lac Long Quan is one place where I go to get it.

On the west shore of West Lake there is a small bulk producer of macrobiotics. - They have saved my life in this smoggy fast-paced action-packed city.

Macrobiotic is about a person's whole environment, from food to social interactions to the climate and geography. It views sickness as the natural attempt of the body to return to a more harmonious balance with the dark and light aspects of life - it is really about diet and lifestyle.

Here is a poem by Matsuo Basho, translated by Robert Hass

A monk sips morning tea,
it's quiet,
the chrysanthemum's flowering.

Monday, 15 April 2013

People Are Good - After the Boston Marathon

Dear America,

I love you and can only imagine how painful and dark the post Boston Marathon time is... I can only imagine how this would create a dark feeling that another peaceful comfortable and beautiful thing has been destroyed by senseless violence.

I want to give a small 2-cents about how this tragedy really shows that people are good. - I know it seems strange and counterintuitive but just hear me out.

A life of traveling has opened up this insight for me. - Especially as a young hitchhiker and hobo I learned that most everyone has a really big heart.

One, or a few individuals, are so full of pain and hatred that they have hurt us all. But, our collective reaction has been one of love and heart-filled giving and caring.

Please have a look at the Business Insider's '13 Examples Of People Being Awesome After The Attack On The Boston Marathon'

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Humic Musings

Work has begun to overwhelm time for musing and writing. - Sympathetic Disengaged Curiosity is now intended simply as a fist in the air - a positive mark of solidarity - part of the deepening online litter of composting words and ideas - not really a catalyst so much as a space for light musings and general appreciation for poets and visionaries: fingers pointing at the moon.

On transitions here's Mary Oliver's poem 'The Journey': 

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.