Autumn Equinox is upon us and I suddenly realised that unless I get on the case and put this newsletter out, another year might go by before I get around to it again. I am not even going to make an attempt at an excuse. Suffice to say that it has been a busy couple of years; an intense period of growing, learning and exploring. And walking - one of my favourite things to do. I have walked in the Alps, and in Nepal I have walked around Manaslu, the 8th highest mountain in the world. But most of my walks have been more local to my current abode in the Black Forest region of Germany. I wanted to share some of my walks and experiences with other English-speaking folks, and so I wrote a book about it 'Hiking and Biking in the Black Forest (Cicerone Guide) 'Sorry, there is almost nothing about plants in there. That has to wait for another book. Or maybe an experimental plant workshop/vacation, which I am planning for the future. At present I am doing some more hiking, which will be turned into another book by the same great people over at Cicerone Press, but more about that later.
Anyhow, a big 'thank you' to all of you who have joined me on my Sacred Earth page on facebook - it is nice to be in touch with my readers in this way and at least to be able to share some of the cool stuff that I come across on my virtual excursions in cyberspace. Thanks also to all of you who have taken the time to write to me and enquire after the newsletter or to say hello. I greatly appreciate hearing from you and to receive these little nudges. They remind me that there are people out there who want to read my work. (Writing can be very lonely at times.) Well, unfortunately I can't promise you that I will be able to attend to the newsletter any more regularly in the coming months, as life continues to be very busy and I am finding myself less able to devote so much time to providing this resource free of charge. I want to keep the information free and available to all, but I also need to earn a living. Perhaps I should try crowd funding. If anybody out there reading this is hip to that, perhaps you can clue me in. I also want to change the shape of the newsletter to turn it into something that is more like a blog. That way I can add content more regularly without having to wriggle the entire site around every time. But, I am sorry, that is a technical matter which probably doesn't really interest you. I just thought I'd give you a warning that the appearance of the site might change one of these days. I have resisted 'going the way of the blog' as I don't really like the generic look and feel of those things. But, they do make the writer's life a whole lot easier. So, I hope you will forgive me.
Autumn Equinox is upon us. The forces of light and darkness are in balance. Fittingly, this year equinox coincides with the climate march and yet another global climate summit. Will the politicians assembled there make the leap to real cooperation and commit to change, or will they continue with their bickering and power mongering?
The earth is already raging and crying. A radical change is needed to avert the worst, but I fear the business bullies will insist on being allowed to burn every last drop of oil, no matter the environmental cost, and governments, dependent on their money, are in their stranglehold. It is an oligarchy, not a democracy. Meanwhile, we are all taking the heat, literally. Those species that can't take it, or whose habitats are lost and destroyed are becoming extinct - at a staggering rate. According to the WWF we are losing some 10 000 species every year! We could stop this armageddon if we can encite enough political will - if enough of us cared enough to make a stand. Not just once, during climate action week, or when convenient, but every day. It requires a new way of thinking, a new way of relating, to the earth and to each other. Seeing value as something intrinsic, not something that is determined by the fluctuating figures on the stock market. Those figures really don't mean anything. What matters is life. Nothing more, and nothing less. I believe we do have a choice, but it is not an easy one. Will we be bold enough to take it on and to change our paradigms? Will we care enough to rise to the great challenge of our times and make a stand for our future, for our children's and children's children's future and for all the myriad species with which we share this beautiful home?
I would love to hear your comments, so please send your feedback to: email@example.com
It is not quite winter yet. For now there are still things to forage out there - Blackberries, Walnuts, Sweet Chestnuts, and various roots as well as mushrooms. But winter will be upon us soon enough, (and who knows when I will next be able to update the site) so I am giving advance notice of a wonderful winter foraging delight. It is sweet, delicious and only really comes into its own after the first frosts. In fact, prior to that it is quite inedible.
I remember well the first time I came upon this mysterious fruit. The leaves had already dropped to the ground and a wintery bite chilled the air. I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted a handsome little tree, entirely naked of leaves, but beautifully decorated with what at first appeared to be bright orange Christmas balls (baubles). I couldn't imagine a tree that still bore fruit in the middle of winter. You can tell, I was born and bread in more northerly latitudes. Upon closer examination the orange balls indeed revealed themselves as fruit, but a fruit I had never seen before: Persimmons!
Euell Gibbons calls them ‘sugarplums’ and is quite rapturous in his descriptions. American persimmons, which are native from Pennsylvania to the southern states, grow wild even in depleted soils where little else will grow. They are extremely tart and astringent before they ripen, but once bitten by the frost their fruit pulp turns to an almost jelly-like consistency and its flavor takes on a delicate, sweet note, reminiscent of apricot.
Although they mostly lend themselves to sweet dishes, such as pies, cakes muffins and sweetbreads, they can also be used in savory concoctions with a sweet note - for example, spiced with chillies and made into chutneys.
Native Americans made a fruit wine with them, dried them or mixed the pulp with flour to make a fruit bread.
Persimmons are quite nutritious, being rich in vitamin A and C particularly, and an exceptionally rich source of fibre. They also contains some valuable anti-oxidant flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. It is said to be particularly good for strengthening small blood vessels (e.g. in the retina of the eye).
But don’t be sad if you live in an area where persimmons don’t grow wild. Cultivated varieties from Japan and China can be purchased at the store. There are two main varieties, which mostly differ in terms of their astringency. There are the heart-shapes Hachiya persimmons, which must be fully ripe before they become edible, and the non-astringent Fuyu, which can be used even while still quite firm. As the fruits originate from Japan, Japanese cook books, or websites offer a wealth of suggestions of what to do with persimmons.
Here some simple recipe ideas:
Prepare fruit by cutting into small pieces and then pureé. Measure fruit and water into large kettle.
Stir in pectin and lemon juice. Bring to a full rolling boil and boil for 30 seconds. Add sugar and again bring to a rolling boil for exactly 4 minutes, by the clock. Stir constantly. Remove from heat and pour into sterilized containers. Makes 6 jars of jam.
from: FAO non-wood forest products from temperate broad-leaved trees
Use a 13 x 9 pan, bake on the middle rack at 350F for 30-35 mins.
You can also use a pumpkin pie recipe, but using persimmon instead, or to partially replace the pumpkin.
That all the earth is fragile and that we must not take from her beyond what she can sustain. Overharvesting, particularly due to commercial collection of medicinal plants has brought many once plentiful plant species to the brink of extinction. As 'plant people', we should adopt an attitude of green guardianship for mother earth, who so plentifully provides for us.
Here are the rules that every forager should live and breathe by:
Get to know the plants that grow around you on a personal, first name basis: familiarize yourself with the herbs, bushes and trees in your neighborhood, try to learn as much as possible about the ecosystem of which you are a part and the plant members of your 'extended family'. Learn to identify them correctly and investigate all their uses. Try to understand it as part of a larger ecosystem. Which animals like it or dislike it? With which other plants does it form communities? Is it native or invasive? Does it protect the ground or deplete it of any of its nutrients? How does it 'fit' into its environment? What can you learn from its chemistry? Building this kind of holistic knowledge base will give you a much deeper insight into the nature of a plant and its role within the ecosystem. Its a lengthy process, but vital if you want to truly get to know your plant friends and the habitat you share.
It is especially important that you learn to identify the poisonous plants you are likely to encounter, lest they inadvertently end up on your dinner plate, which could be most unpleasant or in the worst case scenario, even lethal. The importance of this point is completely obvious, but cannot be stressed enough. Some people hold the false and dangerous belief that what can be found in nature cannot harm them. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING YOU CANNOT POSITIVELY IDENTIFY AND DEEM SAFE. When you think you know a plant, think again and see what other, non-edible look-alikes might be fooling you. This is even more important when it comes to collecting mushrooms, as there are many poisonous mushrooms out there that have evolved to be masters at deceiving unsuspecting mushroom hunters. There are also many more potentially deadly mushrooms with edible look-alikes than there are deadly plants with edible look-alikes.
Familiarize yourself with the plants that are listed on the endangered species list for your area. Apart from being unethical, it is also highly illegal to pick endangered plant species. Instead of taking rare plants, consider sowing their seeds in the wild.
Only pick as much as you need and never take ALL the plants of any one kind in a given patch. After harvesting an area give the plants plenty of time to recover before returning to the same patch. Be especially conscientious when it comes to harvesting roots and barks. Remember that often harvesting roots means the death of the plant, so before you start digging ask yourself if this plant is really plentiful and if it can sustain a harvest of its roots. If in doubt, don't collect. Consider growing some in your garden rather than depleting natural stands. Collecting barks can also be fatal to a tree. If you must collect this part, try to collect it from smaller branches rather than the stem, from branches that have fallen, or from trees that are due to be cut for other purposes.
However tempting it may look, never pick in places that are subject to pollution from roads, industry or heavy spraying of farm chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc.). And don't collect from nature reserves either - these are areas set up to protect wild species, so give them their space and let them be!
Cast seeds of native species to the earth and to the winds once in a while - as a way of giving something back. Consider adopting a little patch that you are particularly fond of. When you are out and about, never leave any litter behind, but try to bring some back with you - I always carry two bags, one for foraging and one for litter picking. Give thanks to the plants and to Mother Earth who has provided them.
September 23rd, 2014 at UN Headquarters in New York
On the eve of yet another UN climate summit, where the political poker players of the world assemble once again to bargain over policies, I am seriously wondering - when will these people wake up and put their power games aside? Don’t they realise that climate change is happening NOW and that we all - they themselves included, are in it together? Sure, for a while those with the money can buy a clean conscience and secure their homes against the worst impacts of climate change related disasters. As for the rest of us, well, we might just have to struggle for a seat in the boat and hope that it will weather the storms. For millions of people it probably won’t, in the long run. Okay - the long run may be 50 or 100 years off, if we are lucky. Or sooner. We just don’t know.
But in the meantime, can we really afford to pretend that nothing is happening and that we will be saved, be it by God or by science, in the end and everything will be okay? Can we really continue operating in the mental frame of ‘business as usual’?
Millions of people around the world are beginning to realise that things are seriously getting out of hand and are demanding real change and real action, bold, innovative action to meet the challenges ahead and their numbers are growing, as ever more people are feeling the effects of extreme weather events. The question is, will politicians and business leaders around the world actually listen or will they continue to play their power game, exploit disasters for their shock effect to maximise their profits and continue to gamble on the stockmarket? Please, leaders of the world, this is not climate poker! GET REAL! Climate change threatens all life on this planet as we know it. Can we trust politicians and business men to take up the torch of visionary leadership? I wish we could, but past experiences leave little room for hope.
I have long believed that consumer choices can really make a difference and that even small changes add up to affect bigger changes. It raises awareness and it makes us think twice. But it does little to reduce carbon fuel addiction in all its myriad variations. And because we are doing our little bit we get complacent about the deeper and bigger issues that are at the root of our dilemma. Big changes can be affected, but big business must be part of it, and not just paying lip service and greenwashing their products.
Consumer choices and tireless campaigning by dedicated conservationists have already changed a lot. It is becoming increasingly difficult to continue with 'dirty business practices, although big business and oil companies continue to fight tooth and nail to 'defend their right to pollute'. We can actually hit much harder than sending petitions and avoiding certain products. Big companies depend on their shareholders money. Even if you don't have shares, your bank, your insurance company or the school that you send your children to, have a portfolio that directly invests in our future. Tell them what kind of future you want and invest your money accordingly.The money that the banks use to fund industry and projects or as gambling chips on the stock market is YOUR money. Make sure these funders know how you would like them to invest that money to build a better future. That is the level at which money speaks and can really wield its power.
I might be naive, but I still believe that it is possible to build a better future, that it is possible to change the paradigms upon which our values and therefore our lifestyles are based. We are only trapped in the downward spiral as long as we choose not to do something about it. Empowerment lies in taking responsibility, for our lifestyle choices and the world we want to live in.
This is not the 'newest' document on climate change, but it provides a good overview of the challenges to the major system.
We have all seen the TV news coverage of thick smoke covering much of Southeast Asia. Indonesian forest fires, we are told, are making the air unbreathable, even many hundreds of miles away. Forest fires? Why are the forests burning, you might well ask. It turns out, those fires, although officially illegal, are part of the development strategy of Indonesia. Perversely, this development takes place under the ‘green’ cloak of CO2 emission reduction and sustainability. Burning is the quickest and most efficient way to clear the land after it has been logged (read: cutting mostly primary rainforest) and to prepare it for planting oil palm plantations, Indonesia’s biggest, booming industry.
Humans have used palm oil for some 5000 years. The fruit of this species of palm tree (Elaeis guineensis) is particularly rich in oil, in both the mesocarp (fruit flesh) and the kernel. For thousands of years people have used this oil for cooking and cosmetics, without much harm being done. However, in recent years the story has changed. The oil palm’s swift rise to become one of the most lucrative agro-crops on the planet has spelled disaster - and the misery still continues.
What has fuelled this success story is our insatiable thirst for energy. In the past, most of our energy has been derived from fossil fuel sources, such as crude oil and coal, which have turned out to be extremely bad choices as far as the environment is concerned. In response to growing pressure to curb CO2 emissions, the EU and US has encouraged the use of ‘bio-fuel’ as a renewable, and thus sustainable source of energy. Palm oil is one of the major crops used to produce bio-diesel, which is supposed to reduce our carbon footprint. However, it has become more than evident that this strategy is completely misguided and has been doing a great deal more harm than good.
Palm oil plantations, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s largest exporters of palm oil, are often established on land that was previously rainforest, even primary rainforest. In the process of this conversion huge amounts of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. (The emissions are worst where the land that is cleared is bog land and peat marshes - which is often the case). The loss of habitats for many endangered species such as orang utans and many others, is staggering as millions of hectares are continuously converted. Indonesia’s official line of defense is 'rainforests are worthless. It is undeveloped land that doesn’t do anything for us. We need to develop it so we can improve the livelihoods of the rural poor.'
But this is not the whole truth. For a start, many tribal people lay claim to ancestral rights of rainforest regions. The forest is their home, their ‘mother’. It gives them everything they need to live on. Money economy is virtually unknown among these tribals. But they, along with the orang utans and countless other species, have been made homeless, and worse, are sometimes forced to work on the very land of their ancestors from which they have been evicted, for pittance, of course. This is akin to asking someone to rape their mother. Elsewhere corrupt politicians ‘sell off’ community lands to corporations, leaving the communities landless and unable to support themselves by growing their own foods.
Oil palms are often doused in a heavy cocktail of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, which filter through to the ground water and pollute the drinking water of local communities.
While initially the government saw palm oil production as a means of alleviating poverty, in reality only few farmers could afford the establishment of such plantations or the means of bringing the harvested crops to the nearest processing plant. The fruits need to be processed within 24 hours or else they start to break down and the oil becomes less valuable. As a result the gap between rich and poor grew wider. But things took a sharp turn for the worse when palm oil started to become a popular source of bio-fuel. Suddenly international investors and developers started to move in, without consultation or prior consent of local people. Illegal logging became a lucrative side line. However, in Indonesia, much of the land is covered with peat soil, which is particularly rich in carbon. When it is cleared the carbon is released into the atmosphere, increasing co2 emissions. Exposed to the sun, the soil soon dries out and deteriorates. Once the forest is cleared the ‘scraps’ are burnt, releasing yet more carbon into the atmosphere. it is thus not surprising that Indonesia is the world’s 3rd biggest CO2 producer after the US and China. So much for our 'green, renewable energy'.
The demand for bio fuel has also increased the availability of palm oil for other industrial uses. And nowadays it is so ubiquitous, that it is a challenge to avoid it. You will find palm oil in everything from margarine to chocolates, biscuits, cereals, ice cream, mayonnaise and muesli-bars. It also hides in shampoos, detergent, soap and washing liquids, as well as every cosmetic product you can imagine. It really is everywhere.
Because it is not a nut oil, and because of its relatively stable chemical composition made up mostly of saturated fatty acids, it is a favourite with the food industry. Palm oil has largely replaced ‘trans fats’, which have previously come under attack for being very unhealthy and the cause of many diet related health issues such as heart disease, obesity, and neurological problems such as Alzheimer’s, as well as cancer and diabetes.
It is easy to get down about the way things are going in the big, wide world out there - ever growing levels of pollution as world population grows and everybody is clambering for ‘a better living’, which seems to be achieved by accumulatingever more 'stuff' designed for the landfill. Resources are dwindling and fierce wars are fought over rare metals in far off places. Those on the frontlines of these wars will likely never benefit directly from the riches of their land, but are paid just pennies for risking their lives.
Even supposedly democratic governments seem to have forgotten that they are meant to be serving the people, not rule them as subjects of a plutocracy.
It is easy to lose hope and resign oneself to ‘that’s just the way it is’ and get on with life. One person alone can’t do much anyway, so why bother worrying about anything, right? Might as well just enjoy the ride, play the game and try to keep a jolly face.
Wrong! It doesn’t have to be that way. Things are changing, quietly and persistently. A movement is growing, resilient, strong and healing, sprouting at the grass-roots level, from one community to the another.
It has been said that the next revolution will be fought in our gardens, and I am beginning to see it that way, too. This non-violent, quiet revolution is called ‘Permaculture’, and it is slowly, but surely spreading, not just across the country, but across the entire globe.
Some of you may have heard of it. Sometimes referred to as the ‘no-dig’ system of gardening, conventional growers, even organic growers, tend to dismiss it as a naive and impractical way to feed the millions of hungry mouths around the world. Perhaps that would be true if the aim was to merely replace industrial farms with permaculture farms and continue with the same economic system that we have been locked into for centuries. But clearly, that is not the answer. It has gotten us into the mess we are currently sitting in.
Industrial farming is on the brink of collapse. Soils are depleted, ecosystems are badly degraded and the ‘working paradigm’ is based on war against nature, war against insects and other ‘competitors’, to get maximum yield for maximum profit. Nutritional value, tasteor diversity don’t seem to come into the equation. Instead of using heirloom varieties that are resistant to pests and diseases and adaptable to different climate conditions, agro-industrialists merely produce ‘biomass’.
To that end seeds are engineered to withstand spraying with toxic pesticides and herbicides - with the predictable result of also breeding resistant ‘competitors’ - weeds and insects that can no longer be kept in check with the conventional chemical weapons that agricultural industry has been relying on in the past. Stronger poisons are needed - but where will they come from? And how will they affect wildlife, and how will they affect our own health and nutrition? Well - I’ll leave you to imagine that.
The paradigms of permaculture are not based on maximum yield for maximum profit, but on abundance, and on co-operation and sharing. It is based on restoring, rather than exploiting ecosystems. The emphasis is on ‘thinking globally and acting locally’ - If excessive yields are produced, these can be sold on the national or international markets, but first, lets produce local food for local people.
Presently the market is based on exploitative cash crop economies in ‘developing’ countries: communities are disenfranchised, their land is ‘grabbed’ by multi-nationals and turned into cash crop monocultures - like palm oil, or coffee, or bananas and a host of other items. Peasants are left with no land, or even the time to grow enough food to feed themselves. Instead they depend on the pennies they earn for their labour in this ‘feudal’ system that has its roots in colonial times.
We can’t change the whole world at once, but we can start in our own back yards. We can create cooperative permaculture farms and yards, sharing yields with neighbors and friends and thus reduce our reliance on industrial agriculture that brings us products flown half-way around the world to fill our supermarket shelves with the same stuff all year round. Think globally - grow locally.
Permaculture design is fundamentally different from any conventional agricultural, even organic farming, in that it seeks to imitate and cooperate with nature. Bill Mollison, regarded as one of the fathers of Permaculture, summerised its philosophy in three ethical paradigms and 12 principles.
How Permaculture can save Humanity and the earth, but not civilization
Green Gold - John D. Liu
Slow Travel is rooted in the idea of engaging with a place, its people and its culture. It is rooted in 'being there' - to taste, feel and smell a place, to meet the locals and to experience the essence of a place - not just snapping photographs for later review.
These are the thoughts and ideas that have inspired us to develop a range of unique travel itineraries - slow travel itineraries that are rich in interaction and experiences - that consider the traveller a participant, rather than just an onlooker. The focus of these journeys will be on 'plants and people' as the fundamental basis of all cultures, and even all life on the planet we all share.
Our first journey goes to Peru, a country with a full spectrum of extreme environments, where people have developed many ingenious ways to cultivate the land and utilise plants for almost all their daily needs.
This special tour is a custom made journey for people who are interested in plants and culture - not the'preserved culture' of centuries past, to be marvelled from behind a barrier of glass, but the real, living cultures of today; traditions that have been passed down through countless generations. Culture that can be experienced and even tasted.
A bilingual local guide will accompany the group and share his knowledge of the agricultural traditions and plant uses of the Andes. You will visit the less touristy islands of Lake Titikaka and stay at rural homes. From here the journey continues to Cusco and the Sacred Valley where you can learn about the uses of plants in the context of the rich textile traditions of the Andes. Explore native highland crops and agricultural methods and cuisine. We will visit the botanical garden of Pisac and a project initiated by the first graduates of the Waldorf Andina Kusi Kawsay School that produces organic vegetables and medicinal plants. You will evenhave the opportunity to learn about Andean cuisine and help to prepare dishes with distinctive local crops.
At the end of the trip we will visit Machu Picchu, the famous sacred citadel of the Inkas. (Those who book early may be able to do this part as a one-day hike to the ruins, depending on availability of trekking licenses at the time of booking. )
For those who have a little bit more time, an extension with the same theme is available to the Amazon Basin. For an even deeper insight into the diversity of plants and their uses in Peru, you can add a 5 days/ 4 nights extension to the Amazon. Here we will travel to Iquitos, and from there take a 4 hour boat ride to reach Tahuayo Lodge where we will be explore the plant traditions of the Amazon. We will visit local villages, learn about planting a garden in the rainforest, meet with local curanderas and shamans who will share some of their plant knowledge with you and learn about Amazonian food plants by preparing a meal with a native family.
Both parts can also be booked independently.
Hemp is a beautiful, tall and gracious looking annual plant that can reach heights of up to 4 meters. The only member of its genus, it belongs to the family of Cannabaceae. Taxonomists argue over whether to consider the various strains as subspecies or separate species and there is little consensus at present. For the time being variations are considered simply as that: different strains. Distinctions are made between Cannabis sativa (hemp) Cannabis sativa var. indica (marihuana) and Cannabis sativa var. ruderalis, (wild hemp). These strains are in fact quite different in appearance and in action and in my humble opinion (I am not a taxonomist) would warrant separation into different species. I am not usually one to be so fussy when it comes to classification, but in this case it is of great significance, as we shall see. Cannabis sativa is slightly branched, bearing palmate leaves with 3-9 slender leaflets that are covered in fine hairs. Its inconspicuous flowers grow in a clustered spike, male and female flowers appearing on distinct plants. Its growing cycle is only 120 days. The flower heads especially of C. Sativa are strongly resinous, producing a tar like oily substance rich in THC. The dense clusters of seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are a favorite bird food.
Apart from the fact that many animals like to forage on the plant, and seeds provide a nutritionally rich bird food, hemp is also excellent for the soil. Its deep roots help to aerate compacted soils. It is relatively resistant to many common viruses and plant diseases and requires little agrochemical treatment. Hemp is a pioneer plant that often grows as a weed. It is extremely undemanding and can be grown in very poor conditions and depleted soils and will actually improve the soil structure over a period of years. In Chernobyl and elsewhere it has been used for phytoremidiation to help clean up polluted lands as it has the ability to absorb various toxic substances from the soil and render them harmless. Its considerable biomass absorbs large quantities of the greenhouse gas CO2.
The story of Cannabis is full of ambiguity, though this confusion is caused by deliberate misinformation with far reaching effects on socioeconomics as well as on environmental matters. Hemp is the most universally useful plant we have at our disposal. The history of mankind's use of hemp can be traced to between about 5000 - 7000 BC. Remains of seed husks have been found at Neolithic burial sites in central Europe, which indicate that they were used in funeral rites and shamanic ceremonies. It is probable that at that time the distinctions between various strains were not as pronounced as they are today. Although some sources claim that all varieties of hemp contain the psychoactive compound THC, the actual percentage of this compound in the different species varies hugely. While there is almost no THC (0.2-0.3%) in the varieties grown for industrial uses such as oil and fibre, strains grown for their psychoactive effect have been bred to contain large amounts of THC (3-15%). Yet, in the eye of the law both varieties are treated as the same plant and in many countries both remain prohibited.
Up until and even during WWII, hemp was a widely grown crop, providing the world with an excellent and most durable source of fibre. Since it is an annual with a growing cycle of only 120 days it can be harvested several times a year, depending on local weather conditions.For many centuries hemp was one of the most important industrial crops which provided the fibres for rope and tough, durable canvass without which the age of exploration could never have set sail. The founding fathers of the United States, including the venerable George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were hemp farmers. Jefferson apparently had no qualms when he committed a blatant act of biopiracy by smuggling a particularly promising strain of hemp from China into Turkey, which was highly illegal and dangerous - the Chinese valued their hemp highly and made export of seeds a capital offence. To this day, China remains the main producer of industrial hemp.
Hemp also provided the fibre to make a durable paper - a far more sensible solution than the wasteful method of clear cutting old growth forests, or even the cultivation pine plantations that are ecologically speaking dead zones that take 20 years to mature before they can be harvested. Cannabis produces 4 times more fibre per acre and can be harvested several times per year. The first dollar bills were printed on hemp paper, your old family bible is probably printed on hemp paper and even the constitution itself was drafted on hemp paper.
Hemp has the strongest natural fibres, which can be used not just to produce rough cloth, such as sails or canvass, but also durable work clothes, like the original jeans. When the plants are grown closer together the fibre becomes shorter and finer, which allows for finer textiles. Today, there are some fashion designers that are experimenting with a wide range of textiles made from hemp for their stylish, trendy hemp lines, shirts, suits, bags, jeans and more. And, no- you can't smoke them to get high!
Hemp fibres are also finding application as a modern building material, an application that has been spearheaded and exploited successfully in France. Hemp fibres can be blended with water and limestone to create an extremely tough, light-weight, natural cement that has not only excellent insulating properties, but also shows more flexibility than conventional concrete, which makes it particularly useful as a building material in earthquake prone areas.
Henry Ford was eccentric in many ways, but he was also quite brilliant in his innovation. Back in 1941 he built a car that was not only entirely built from 'hemp plastic', but also ran on hemp fuel. Hemp oil, pressed from the seeds is also extremely versatile. It can be polymerized to create a solid plastic-like material, which is extremely durable, yet nevertheless is completely natural and biodegradable, which could replace plastics in numerous industrial processes.
Two days before world leaders once again meet to discuss climate change a global day of action is an opportunity for EVERYONE to make a stand for the single most important issue of our times.
Find an action near you:http://peoplesclimate.org/
At the request of major peasant organizations, and with the permission of Pope Francis, a group of scientists and agricultural experts have now made public a letter and document on the problem of genetically modified seeds that was sent to the Vatican April 30. Signed by eight experts from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, India and Canada, the letter and accompanying document (attached) call upon His Holiness to speak out against the negative impacts of GM seeds on the world’s peasants and global food security.
The document questions the scientific basis of GM technology, its failure to increase yields, the exponential increase in pesticide use, the dangers of transgenic contamination of peasant crops, the threat to human health and the concern that GM seeds are patented and monopolized by a handful of transnational corporations.
Tasmania's government has repealed the state's forestry "peace deal", removing around 400,000 hectares of forests from reserves across the state and potentially leaving them open to future logging.Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-tasmania-scraps-peace-nativeforests.html#jCp
source: BBC - 14 Sept 2014
Construction has begun on a giant observation tower in the heart of the Amazon basin to monitor climate change. The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory is expected to rise 325m from the ground. Its instruments will gather data on greenhouse gases, aerosol particles and the weather in one of the largest continuous rain forests on the planet. Brazilian and German scientists hope to use the data to better understand sources of greenhouse gases and answer questions on climate change.
European Citizens’ Initiative against TTIP rejected / Alliance announces resistance The Stop-TTIP Alliance, initiator of a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) against the TTIP and CETA international trade & investment agreements, today announced its opposition to the European Commission’s decision to block the ECI. “Now the battle really begins,” said Michael Efler, contact person of the ECI, which currently represents almost 230 organizations from 21 EU countries. “The rejection of the ECI only confirms the Commission’s strategy to exclude citizens and parliaments from the TTIP and CETA negotiations. Instead of paying attention to citizens, it is just lobbyists that are being listened to.”
Source: etc group
The Industrial Food Chain or the Peasant Food Web?
19 May 2014
This short report compares the industrial food system with peasant farming. Industrial farming gets all the attention (and most of the land). It accounts for more than 80% of the fossil fuel emissions and uses over 70% of the water supply used in agriculture, but it actually produces only about 30% of the world's food.
In this succinct, illustrated booklet, you'll find the answers to these questions:
Source: Global Witness | 10 Sep 2014
by Silas Siakor
The Times recently carried an article called ‘Let poor countries cut down forests’ (04/09/14), documenting journalist Ben Webster’s interview with Sir Jonathon Porritt, former Director of Friends of the Earth and environmental adviser to the Prince of Wales. Reading it, I felt that Sir Porritt seemed to have abandoned his usual analytical rigour and fallen for the spin of the palm oil industry.
Porritt’s notion is that poor countries like mine (Liberia) are being held hostage to what he calls ‘eco-imperialists’ - rich country environmentalists who put pressure on developing countries not to cut down their rainforests, thus keeping us poor. His Forum for the Future charity instead suggests that promoting palm oil, a primary driver of deforestation, is a possible solution to poverty.
As Director of Liberia’s Sustainable Development Institute I have seen up-close the true impact of palm oil, and I can tell you it is more often the problem, not the solution. When Liberia opened up to investment after a devastating civil war, the government struck land deals with companies without the consent of the people who lived on the land, and many communities received a pittance in return for it. In rural parts of Liberia, communities complain that their food is now scarcer than it was before the palm oil companies moved in, and that fertilisers have polluted their fishing ponds and drinking water.
- See more at: http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/23929#sthash.3e2sWW2A.dpuf
Source: Latinamerica Press - 09 Sep 2014
Recent reports reveal that the regional governments of Loreto and Ucayali, in the eastern part of the country, have sold millions of hectares of virgin forests as rural land for African oil palm cultivation.
Read full article: http://farmlandgrab.org/23921#sthash.eHxE71aa.dpuf
Source: Rolling Stone - 28 Aug 2014
For more than two decades, energy giant Chevron and Ecuadorian activists have been embroiled in a contentious lawsuit about who is responsible for contaminating a vast swath of the Amazon. Very good article that recoups the complicated and drawn out legal battle of Chevron vs the people of the Amazon.
See more at: Sludge Match
Source CIP Americas - 15 Aug 2014
In May of this year, the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador pressured the Salvadoran government to change its procurement process to distribute seeds to family farmers. The government was buying almost exclusively from Salvadoran seed cooperatives. The Embassy complained that favoring local seed, leaving out transnationals, was not “fair or transparent.” Multinational agrobusinesses like Monsanto previously dominated the industry, and the U.S. found the new conditions disagreeable enough to withhold the $277 Millennium Challenge aid package to El Salvador. See more at: http://www.bilaterals.org/?the-carrot-the-stick-and-the-seeds#sthash.ZNuR6qbR.dpuf
Source: GMWATCH on 17 September 2014
Preliminary results show severe damage to the human genome in sprayed populations in GM soy-producing areas. The good work of the late Prof Andres Carrasco continues in Argentina, as the interview below with his colleague, the biochemist Raûl Horacio Lucero, shows. Dr Lucero's new research has revealed severe damage to the genome of people exposed to agrochemical spraying in Chaco province.
Prof Carrasco fearlessly supported the people in their struggle against the GM soy model of industrial agriculture, which has led to skyrocketing cases of cancer and birth defects. He often voiced frustration at the lack of government commitment to investigate the problems in proper epidemiological studies.
But as Dr Lucero explains in the interview, recently the Ministry of Health of Còrdoba released a comprehensive report on cancer in Córdoba province, with numbers confirming researchers' worst suspicions. The finding that caused most alarm is that the highest rate of cancer deaths occur in the 'pampa gringa' area, where more GMOs and chemicals are used. Here, the cancer death rate is double the national average. Dr Lucero says, 'This was official confirmation of what we have denounced for years. Cancer cases multiply like never before in areas with massive use of pesticides.'
Last June, the Faculty of Medicine at the National University of Rosario (UNR) unanimously approved the establishment of June 16 as The Day of Dignified Science in honour of Prof Carrasco, as Lucero says, 'based on his commitment and consistency in defence of an undeniable truth'.
Read full article: http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2014/15649-argentine-researcher-confirms-scientific-evidence-on-the-harmful-effects-of-agrochemicals
Independent research shows a large rise in Cancers, Autism, Parkinson’s disease, Infertility and Birth Defects all linked to the widespread use of agricultural pesticides. One of which is the most widely used herbicide on the planet... Available in every high street garden center. These are alarming reports - yet they are all dismissed by the pesticide industry and what’s more the European Commission and the European Food and Safety Authority back them. So who to believe? In 2012 we started an investigation for simple answers, which has led to discoveries of something much more shocking and dangerous. Putting all of our future generations in real danger. A 90' investigative documentary film is currently seeking crowd funding. To find out more visit: http://www.hungry4pesticides.com/#!film/c1eib. Ecologist article: http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2552919/toxic_glyphosate_herbicides_fly_under_the_eus_regulatory_radar.html#sdendnote15sym
Source: The Guardian, 5 Sept 2014
Britain and other European Union member states are under increasing pressure from North American business groups to open their borders to imports of genetically modified food as part of negotiations for a new Transatlantic trade deal, environmental campaigners have warned.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is being negotiated among European governments, the US and Canada, with the active participation of dozens of large businesses. It has already attracted strong criticism from democracy campaigners, who say it could mean the UK could have to open the National Health Service further to private companies, and complaints against large companies could be treated in secret without proper legal recourse.
The potential impacts on food safety are less apparent as the negotiations are being conducted without public consultation. Progress on signing the partnership is expected to be hastened later this year when new EU commissioners are appointed.
TTIP: EU under pressure to allow GM food imports from US and Canada
Source IPS - 4 Aug 2014
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 4 2014 (IPS) - The headline of every article about the relationship between climate change and conflict should be “It’s complicated,” according to Clionadh Raleigh.
Director of the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, Raleigh thinks that researchers and the media have put too simplistic a spin on the link between climate change and violence.
n recent years, scientists and the United Nations have been increasing their focus on climate conflict. The debate ranges from sensational reports that say the world will soon erupt into water wars to those who do not think the topic is worthy of discussion at all.
Much of the uncertainty over the connection between climate change and armed conflict exists because it is such a fledgling area of interest. According to David Jensen, head of the U.N. Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding programme, the relationship between climate change and conflict began receiving significant U.N. attention only in recent years.
Read full article: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/will-climate-change-lead-to-conflict-or-cooperation/
Source: The Guardian - 21 August 2014
Garcinia-kolaSeveral studies including the newly published Second Edition of Handbook of African Medicinal Plants have defined how bitter kola protects the human body against destruction by pathogens such as the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) as well as comprehensive overview of plant resources available in Africa for medicinal agents, with information about botany, chemistry, pharmacology, and usage. CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes.
COMMONLY called bitter kola, Garcinia kola belongs to the plant family Clusiaceae. It is called edun in Bini, efiari in Efik, efiat in Ibibio, akilu in Igbo, and okan in Ijaw.
The plant has been in the news in recent times as a possible cure for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
Read full article: http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/sunday-magazine/living-wellbeing/175795-handbook-of-african-medicinal-plants-studies-define-how-bitter-kola-boosts-immunity-others
Sept 5-Oct 12, 2014
'Ethnobotany' exhibit fuses plants, art and rich symbolism at Seymour Conservatory
Until now, art exhibits in the Wright Park Seymour Conservatory have mostly consisted of colorful glass art placed somewhat arbitrarily amid the tropical plants, one aesthetic step higher than garden decoration. Not so 'Ethnobotany.'
Opening Friday, Sept. 5, with an artist reception, the 12-artist show is curated by the one person who could pull off something quite unique: Lisa Kinoshita. Her provocative mixed media installations have lately been matched by her funky terraria and plants at Moss+Mineral gallery.
Exhibit opening 6-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5, with music by Alex Tapia and Nate Dybevik; then open 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday through Oct. 12. Admission $3, and free for 11 and younger and third Thursdays. 316 S. G St., Tacoma. 253-591-5330
Sept 24, 2014
Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations in CanacaWebinar
This webinar will cover Health Canada Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, steps in establishing a relationship with the Health Canada Office of Controlled Substances, and overview of Standard Operative Procedures, and more.
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
More information at http://dicentra.com/tag/marihuana/
Sept 26-27, 2014
2014 United States Health Freedom Congress, St. Paul, MN
The Congress celebrates dedicated leaders who are daily working for change, protecting access to natural health care practitioners and treatments, the freedom to choose or decline treatments, requiring labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs) and toxic substances, removal of toxins such as mercury, fluoride and heavy metals from drugs and the environment, raising awareness of harmful impact of electromagnetic technologies, keeping Organic Standards meaningful, protecting our freedom of speech and freedom to heal, and so much more.
For more information see: http://www.nationalhealthfreedom.org/conferences/2014Conference/2014Conference.html
Oct 5, 2014
Planting the Future: Stewardship of Sanctuary Rutland, OH (United Plant Savers)
A variety of speakers and presentations will cover topics ranging from saving native seeds to growing American ginseng to brewing beer with herbs.
For more information see: http://tinyurl.com/lo9cvpx
Oct 4-5, 2014
4th Annual Mid-Atlantic Women's Herbal Conference Near Kempton, PA
This gathering will the honor age-old wisdom of herbal and natural medicines, giving participants the opportunity to learn more about growing, identifying, using, and preparing herbs.
For more information see: http://www.redearthfarm.org/cms/sm_user_whc.php
Oct 7, 2014
Agents of Change Symposium and Gala Dinner Washington, D.C.
Celebrating the National Tropical Botanical Garden's 50th anniversary, this symposium and gala will explore the topic of botanical gardens in the 21st century.
For more information see: http://ntbg.org/sharing/news.php?id=1214
Oct 9-12, 2014
150th Annual NIMH Conference Perennial Medicine: Herbal Medicine Past, Present and Future
This sesquicentennial conference will focus on "Perennial Medicine: Herbal Medicine Past, Present, and Future." ABC's Mark Blumenthal will give a keynote lecture on adulteration of herbal raw materials, botanical extracts, and essential oils, as well as a workshop on the evidence of safety and efficacy of various popular herbal remedies and phytomedicines.
For more information see: http://www.nimh-conference.com
Oct 10-12, 2014
Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference Black Mountain, NC
This 10th anniversary celebration will feature renowned herbalists Rosita Arvigo, Aviva Romm, and others. Early registration ends Aug. 15, 2014.
For more information see: http://www.sewisewomen.com/herbal-conference/program
Oct 31-Nov 2, 2014
WFAS World Conference on Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Houston, TX
Special Guest Dr. Andrew Weil to Present at WFAS World Conference on Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine
For more information see: http://abc.herbalgram.org/site/Calendar/1848025767?view=Detail&id=116721
Oct 13-15, 2014
Symposium of Integrative Medicine Professionals in the Land of Enchantment Albuquerque, NM
Symposium of Integrative Medicine Professionals in the Land of Enchantment (SIMPLE) is a state-of-the-art symposium sponsored by the University of New Mexico Section of Integrative Medicine, Continuing Medical Education & Professional Development; the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the Gaples Institute for Integrative Cardiology.
We are excited to present Dr. Andrew Weil as our featured speaker for SIMPLE 2014, as well as other internationally recognized leaders in the field. We have included topics such as Integrative Cardiology, Integrative Pain Management, Integrative Medical Education, Women's Health, Botanical Medicine, Functional Medicine, Nutrition, Mind-Body Medicine and various other topics related to integrative health and interdisciplinary patient care. The conference will be preceded by a full day SIMPLY Botanicals workshop and two half day pre-conference workshops on Group Visits and Social Connection and Talking Medicine: The Healing Power of Storytelling.
For more information see: http://abc.herbalgram.org/site/Calendar/431625241?view=Detail&id=116767
Nov 6-10, 1014
American Herbalists Guild 25th Anniversary Symposium Pine Mountain, GA
This milestone occasion will feature more than 45 presentations and plant walks by clinical herbalists and AHG founders. Early registration ends July 31, 2014.
For more information see: http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/symposium/introduction-to-symposium
IUCN World Parks Congress Sydney, Australia
Building on the theme "Parks, people, planet: inspiring solutions", this conference will present, discuss and create original approaches for conservation and development, helping to address the gap in the conservation and sustainable development agenda. Early registration ends June 30, 2014
For more informations see http://worldparkscongress.org/index.html
Nov 17 - 21, 2014
International Congress of Ethnobotany Cordoba, Spain
Key themes of this conference will include underutilized crops, conservation of ethnobotanical heritage, plants used as food and medicine, family farming, and more.
For more information see http://www.etnobotanica2014.com/#!home/c1zco
Scientific session topics will include climate change, environmental outreach, contemporary environmental issues, and more. Pre-registration is required
For more information see: http://isebindia.com
May 5-8, 2015
15th Congress of the International Society for Ethnopharmacology Petra, Jordan
The goal of this congress is to bring together researchers from all over the world with their recent achievements in ethnopharmacology and medicinal plant science, innovations, and industry. Early registration ends Dec. 15, 2014
For further information see: http://15icse.bau.edu.jo/home_page.html