Friday, September 30, 2011

Study Uncovers a Predictable Sequence Toward Coral Reef Collapse

ScienceDaily (Sep. 29, 2011) — Coral reefs that have lots of corals and appear healthy may, in fact, be heading toward collapse, according to a study published by the Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups.

Using data from coral reef systems across the western Indian Ocean, an international team of researchers identified how overfishing creates a series of at least eight big changes on reefs that precipitate a final collapse. This information can help managers gauge the health of a reef and tell them when to restrict fishing in order to avoid a collapse of the ecosystem and fishery.

The study appears this week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors of the study include: Tim R. McClanahan and Nyawira A. Muthiga of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Nicholas A.J. Graham and Joshua E. Cinner of James Cook University, Queensland, Australia; M. Aaron MacNeil of the Australian Institute of Marine Science; J. Henrich Bruggemann of Laboratoire d’Ecologie Marine, Université de la Réunion, La Réunion, France; and Shaun K. Wilson of the Department of Environment and Conservation, Perth, Western Australia. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Economy, Peak Oil and Permaculture

Richard Heinberg- Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute is a Permaculturist.

His latest book describes The End of Growth- isn't looking for when the recession will end and we'll get back to "normal". He believes our decades-long era of growth was based on aberrant set of conditions- namely cheap oil, but also cheap minerals, cheap food, etc- and that looking ahead, we need to prepare for a "new normal". The problem, according to Heinberg, is our natural resources just aren't so cheap and plentiful anymore, and he's not just talking about Peak Oil, Heinberg believes in Peak Everything (also the title of one of his books). Heinberg thinks for many, adjusting to a life where everything costs a bit more, could be very hard, but he also thinks the transition to a new normal might actually make life better. "Particularly in the Western industrialized countries we've gotten used to levels of consumption that are not only environmentally unsustainable, they also don't make us happy. They've in fact hollowed out our lives. We've given up things that actually do give us satisfaction and pleasure so that we can work more and more hours to get more and more money with which to buy more and more stuff- more flatscreen tvs, bigger SUVs, bigger houses and it's not making us happier. Well, guess what, it's possible to downsize, it's possible to use less, become more self sufficient, grow more of your own food, have chickens in your backyard and be a happier person." This is not all theoretical. In the backyard of the home Heinberg shares with his wife, Janet Barocco, the couple grow most of their food during the summer months (i.e. 25 fruit & nut trees, veggies, potatoes.. they're just lack grains), raise chickens for eggs, capture rainwater, bake with solar cookers and a solar food drier and secure energy with photovoltaic and solar hot water panels. Their backyard reflects Heinberg's vision for our "new normal" and it's full of experiments, like the slightly less than 120-square-foot cottage that was inspired by the Small Home Movement. It was built with the help of some of Heinberg's college students (in one of the nation's first sustainability classes) using recycled and natural materials (like lime plaster). Heinberg admits it's not a real tiny house experiment since they don't actually live in it- his wife uses it as a massage studio, he meditates there and sometimes it's used as a guest house (though that's hush hush due to permitting issues). But their tiny cottage points to the bigger point behind why a transition to a less resource intensive future could equal greater happiness. "Simplify. Pay less attention to all of the stuff in your life and pay more attention to what's really important. Maybe for you it's gardening, maybe for you it's painting or music. You know we all have stuff that gives us real pleasure and most of us find we have less and less time for that because we have to devote so much time to shopping, paying bills and driving from here to there and so on. Well, how about if we cut out some of that stuff and spend more time doing what really feeds us emotionally and spiritually and in some cases even nutritionally."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Remote Island Paradise to Be Powered By Coconuts and Sunshine

In the Malay language, the coconut palm is called “pokok seribu guna,” meaning “the tree of a thousand uses.”

Make that one thousand and one. In just over a year’s time, the entire chain of the Tokelau islands plans to get 100 percent of their energy from a heavenly mix of coconuts and sunshine, according to United Press International.

It is perhaps incontestably appropriate that an island paradise should power itself with its two most plentiful resources. The new energy policy should also help to make these tiny, vulnerable tropical atolls more self-sufficient, as well as send the world a message about the feasibility of locally sourced renewable energy.

Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, consists of three small atolls located roughly halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. About 1,500 people call Tokelau home. Since the highest point on the islands is only 16 feet, they are particularly vulnerable to the threat of rising sea levels.

Under the new energy plan, most of the islands’ power — 93 percent — is slated to come from solar energy. The coconut power will supply the remaining 7 percent, and will come into play when skies are overcast or when electricity demand exceeds solar supply.
More >>>

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Climate change threatens to hike hunger in the Pacific – report

BANGKOK (AlertNet) – Climate change threatens to increase hunger and malnutrition among millions of poor people in the 14 small and geographically remote island nations of the Pacific unless action is taken, a new report by the Asian Development Bank said.

Food Security and Climate Change in the Pacific: Rethinking the Options urged Pacific nations, many of which are in fragile and conflict-affected situations and suffering from slow economic growth rates, to manage natural resources better and increase local food production, particularly of climate-resistant crops such as taro, yam, and cassava.

"Rising temperatures and rising tides due to climate change could reduce food supply in the Pacific,” Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, a senior economist in the Asian Development Bank’s Pacific Department who wrote the report, said in a statement.

“With over 10 million people in developing countries in the region, this is a threat that we cannot ignore," he added.

The region is already seeing a decline in agricultural production per capita and productivity has stagnated, the report said, partly due to an increase in migration from rural to urban areas and also because of fragile ecosystems and a limited natural resource base.

The Pacific is also considered one of the most vulnerable to impacts of climate change such as natural disasters and sea level rises, which are expected to reduce the agricultural output further. More >>>

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: Efficiency is the Solution

If there is a way to get through the loss of fossil fuels, it lies in developing new and more efficient ways to generate renewable energy and more efficient ways of utilizing the fossil fuels we have left.

Renewable sources currently provide only 16 percent of our energy in the U.S. and 11 percent of our electric power. Unless the production of these renewables can be increased substantially in the next 50 years and the efficiency with which we use energy increased many fold, then the world is going to become a very dark and stagnant place.
There is running debate going on between people who believe all is lost without copious supplies of fossil fuels to power the global civilization and those who believe that the conservation and efficiency that will come with very high fossil fuel prices will provide a recognizable future for civilization. The great unknowns in all this is whether there will be sufficient financial and other resources available to effect the transition and whether or not the damage wrought by a changing climate will be so serious that a global transition to renewable energy will be difficult if not impossible.

For the immediate future, however, much of what life in the future will be like will depend on the technologies that will enable civilization to continue while using only a fraction of the energy that is consumed today and to develop the technology to produce large quantities of cheaper renewable fuels. The manner in which our fossil fuels are being used is so wasteful of the energy contained in fossil fuels that major reductions can be made with little real impact on the activities that consume energy. The prime examples of this waste is the internal combustion engine which uses only 14 percent of its fuel to turn the wheels while wasting most of the rest. Huge central power plants waste most of the energy that devours coal and natural gas, and produce much waste heat that is dumped into the air or local water bodies or in line losses. Without the massive waste, the fossil fuel age could last a lot longer. More >>>

Location:Amman, Jordan

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day 3 of the 2011 Amman Permaculture Design Certificate Course

The questions were flying fast and furious on day three of the workshop as students gain more understanding of the process. 

Topics for the day included Patterning of the landscape, Function and Species Assemblies. The use and importance of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) was discussed  as an important element of Observational Planning.

Tomorrow should be an interesting day as Geoff Lawton has promised us that all the reams of data that have been given to us will come together, apparently with a flash of understanding, bringing instant permaculture enlightenment.

For a recent update of the Jordan Valley Permaculture Project see <>

And for my readers in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) here is a link to information on Permaculture in Cuba. <>

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day 2 of the 2011 Amman Permaculture Design Certificate Course

The day started off with enthusiastic attendees anxious to delve into the esoteric depths of Permaculture.
Geoff introduced us to the The Prime Directive of Permaculture and the Principles of natural systems and design. Permaculture is primarily a design for a sustainable, human-controlled support systems that sustains communities in harmony with nature and the environment.
By the end of the day it was noticeable that there was a significantly higher level of discussion, and it seems as if Geoff's prediction that we would become "infected with the Permaculture bug" is coming true.

It is interesting to note that the Quran states “He Who has spread out the earth for you and threaded roads for you therein and has sent down water from the sky: With it have We brought forth diverse kinds of vegetation. Eat and pasture your cattle; verily, in this are signs for men endued with understanding.” (Surah 20:53-54)

Surely it must be obvious to all 'men of understanding' that all such places that He has provided us are to be respected and maintained in a pristine manner for future generations.

Location:Amman, Jordan

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 1 of the 2011 Amman Permaculture Design Certificate Course

The Permaculture Design Certificate course,an internationally-recognized, seventy-two hour course resulting in a Permaculture Design Certificate got underway today.

The course provides an introduction to permaculture design as set forth by movement founder Bill Mollison. Yesterday's proceedings were opened by Geoff Lawton ably assisted by Warren Brush and Nadia Lawton. The PDC

serves as foundation for further permaculture work and study and is a prerequisite for the Diploma in Permaculture Design, offered through The
Permaculture Institute. Topics covered included, besides an overview and introduction to the subject evidence of the dire need to act.

Given the desperate need, both regionally and internationally, to increase water resiliency and security, as well as stem rising food prices were made abundantly clear. Lectures continue tomorrow with lectures in Concepts and Themes in Design.

Location: Amman, Jordan