Category Archives: Green Living

The Climate Change Diet

I’m going on a diet. A Climate Change Diet. An eating regime that not only makes me healthier, but also affects the earth and ecosystem in beneficial ways. If enough of us signed up for the Climate Change Diet or Climate Diet, we might have a positive impact on the global climate crisis.

The Climate Diet differs from other diets in that I won’t be counting calories. I won’t be required to exercise anymore than I already do.  There are no restrictions as far as having to adopt a vegetarian, vegan or paleo diet. After being on the Climate Diet for a few months, I may not look any better in a little black dress, but chances are, I and future generations will continue to have many opportunities to wear that dress!

The Climate Diet is simple. You can do it if you grow your own food or if you purchase all or most of of your groceries from a store.

Here is its only rule:

Do your best to eat food that was grown in a responsible manner by someone who, through their growing methods, increases soil fertility.

That’s it. Buy food from someone who takes care of the soil. If you grow food, take care of your soil. Good land stewards have a direct influence on climate change because their agriculture and grazing methods directly affect the amount of carbon in their soil.

Farmers and ranchers can sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere and put it to beneficial use in soil through managed grazing, no or low till agriculture, cover cropping, composting, mulching and using bio-based fertilizers and soil amendments instead of synthetic toxins that harm soil fertility.

On the Climate Diet, you would most likely buy organically grown food and meat. Synthetic pesticides and herbicides decrease microbial life within the soil. A soil rich with microbes is alive and fertile. These microbes, especially mycorrhizal fungi, can increase the amount of carbon in the soil. Most of the world’s soils are carbon-depleted.  By choosing to eat the Climate Diet way, we are creating the conditions for soil carbon-sequestration to happen!

As an added bonus, when plants are grown in healthy soil, they are usually more nutrient rich, which is good news for our health. Plus, synthetic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers are usually made of fossil fuels which have a devastating impact on our environment and contribute greatly to climate change.

If you eat meat, the Climate Diet means buying grass fed beef and other animal products from a ranch or farm where the animals are grazed in a way that increases grass growth, soil fertility and carbon sequestration. Grasses, especially perennial native grasses can act like big straws sucking carbon out of the air. The carbon can then be stored in the soil for a long time in the grasses’ long tap roots until it is disturbed.  In this type of land management, animal waste, instead of being a pollutant (like it is in crowded feedlots) becomes a natural soil amendment.

Soil Solution Production Still 3

However we do it, increasing soil fertility could be a giant step in reversing climate change.

Let’s adopt the Climate Diet and see what happens… our dietary choices might lead us to a greener, healthier world and a more stable climate.

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MULCH- Good News for You and the Soil

Mulch Magic. Our friend and teacher Dr. Mike Gonella demonstrates the art of mulching.

Sustainable World Media

MULCH- what a descriptive word for an excellent method that keeps your garden healthy and your plants thriving. Mulching is an easy cost-effective way to recycle green waste, hydrate your garden beds and soil and increase the population of  soil food web inhabitants .

Mulching mimics what happens to plant materials that fall onto a forest floor. Leaves and other plant debris are decomposed by the soil organisms, including the mighty FBI- fungi, bacteria and invertebrates.  Adding a layer of mulch to your garden, about 4″ high, keeps these critters on site; improving your soil with their presence and activities.

When you mulch, you are stacking functions, a concept found in Permaculture. Mulching not only increases the fertility and moisture content of  your soil, it also alleviates weeds, so you don’t have to pull the weeds out yourself or use toxic herbicides.

What can you use for mulch? Pretty…

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Permaculture Basics For Gardeners

Earth Care. People Care. Fair Share. The three ethics of Permaculture can be used in your garden to make your plants and soil thrive. Permaculture design is based on the observation of nature and when applied in your garden can increase crop yields, improve plant and soil health and lessen your work load.

To learn  how to apply Permaculture design in the garden, I spoke with Christopher Shein, a Permaculture teacher, seed saver, gardener and activist. Christopher is the author of the Vegetable Gardener’s Guide To Permaculture: Creating An Edible Ecosystem.

Christopher Shein

Christopher Shein

Click here to listen to my interview with Christopher on Sustainable World Radio.

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The Monsanto-Permaculture Alliance: Committed To Sustainable Agriculture

Monsanto recently announced the formation of a new MPCA or Monsanto Permaculture Alliance. The MPCA was formed to transition Monsanto from an herbicide and GMO manufacturer into a leader in the organic agriculture movement. The MPCA plans to “turn Monsanto’s liabilities into assets” using Permaculture principles.

As one company executive stated, “After attending our first PDC or Permaculture Design Course, Monsanto realized that the problem is the solution… And that we are the problem.”

Permaculture, a natural design system with roots in Australia, was created by founders Bill Mollison and David Holmgren  in the 1970’s.  There are now thousands of Permaculture projects around the globe that demonstrate how Permaculture principles can be used to design resilient, sustainable and diverse landscapes and human settlements.

While some have applauded Monsanto’s efforts, many industry observers have wondered whether it’s possible to transform what has been a GMO-producing, seed patenting, farmer-suing and herbicide manufacturing behemoth into a proponent of organic agriculture?  According to Monsanto, the answer is not only that’s it’s possible, but that it’s already happening.  As one representative for the company said, “We have the brains. We have the technology. We have the resources. The only thing missing is the knowledge and that’s why hundreds of Permaculture teachers are already on their way to Monsanto locations around the globe to teach our staff  how to work with nature, instead of against her.”

Started in 1901 Monsanto prospered after convincing the world that it was wise and necessary to poison its food supply with toxins. In 1969, Monsanto began its rise to the top with the best-selling herbicide Lasso and since then has dominated the world herbicide market with RoundUp.

Despite grossing million of dollars last year, not all has been rosy for the GMO giant lately.  New studies showing that RoundUp is much more damaging to human and ecosystem health than previously believed, heated debates over the safety and labeling of GMO food and negative press about their litigious habit of suing farmers have all made Monsanto a controversial company.

Monsanto will continue to work with farmers and crops, but in a more holistic way.  “After decades of study we have sadly concluded that Nature knows more than Monsanto. We hate to admit it, but research shows that organic regenerative agriculture modeled on natural systems is the best way to safely and efficiently feed our hungry world.”

What prompted the largest producer of patented seeds to turn to Permaculture? Like many great endeavors, it started with a dream. One of Monsanto’s top executives explains, “I had a nightmare where I had to arrest my own grandfather for saving seeds. If he was alive today, he probably would be sued by Monsanto- he was a farmer.  After the dream, which was really a nightmare, I sat up in bed and thought, ‘What the f*** are we doing?’  I couldn’t sleep, so I turned my computer on and started Googling terms like seed saving, organic farming and nature. That’s when I first saw the term Permaculture. After reading about the two week  Permaculture Design Course,  I was nervous- especially about the talent show, but  I signed up and and was the first in the company to complete my PDC.  At Monsanto, we claim to be committed to sustainable agriculture,  but after the course I realized what sustainable really means. Agriculture has to be regenerative or else it’s harmful. Who knew the soil was alive? Monsanto didn’t, but apparently a lot of other people did and that’s why we’ve formed our new board .”

The  MPCA Advisory Board will guide Monsanto in its transition from a conventional corporation to an organic one.

President- Wendell Berry

Vice PresidentVandana Shiva

Integrated Pest Management Coordinator- Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet

Soil Health Consultant- Dr. Elaine Ingham, Doug Weatherbee

Organic Agriculture Advisors-  Joel Salatin, Wes JacksonDarren DohertyRonnie Cummins

Livestock and Climate Change- Allan Savory, Abe Collins, Julious Piti, Peter Donovan

Clean Water Experts- Brock Dolman, Brad Lancaster

Permaculture Advisors- Bill Mollison, David Holmgren, Geoff Lawton, Penny LivingstonToby Hemenway and Larry Santoyo

Press- Michael Pollan

Monsanto also has a new Seven Point Plan based on the Permaculture Ethics of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share.
1.) Retribution– Monsanto will publicly apologize to the world for its previous rampant disregard for ecosystem, human and animal health and dedicate its vast resources to cleaning up the planet.
2.) Reimbursement– Farmers who were sued by Monsanto will be paid back in full, plus damages and interest.
3.) Toxic Waste Clean Ups– GM fields and adjoining waterways will be treated for contamination and restored using mycoremediation,  phytoremediation, bioremediation and permaculture.
4.) Organic Regenerative Farming-  Monsanto will study, promote and offer free trainings in the following land stewardship methods including, but not limited to: cover cropping, integrated pest management, low or no till plowing, composting, nontoxic weed control, aquaponics, biodynamic farming and rangeland management.
5.) Seed Bank– All of Monsanto’s seeds will be organically grown with all patents removed. Monsanto will donate money to organic seed banks around the world.
6.) GMO Free Zone Monsanto will no longer research, use or sell genetically modified organisms. The microscopes previously used for GM research will be re-purposed and used for studying microbes in the Soil Food Web.
7.) Zero Waste– Monsanto will be a zero waste company.

Now that Monsanto is convinced that regenerative organic agriculture is the best way to feed a hungry world, will other ag giants like Dow AgroSciences, Syngenta and Bayer follow?  Thanks to Permaculture and the newly formed MPCA, Monsanto’s claim to be “Committed to Sustainable Agriculture” will soon prove to be true.

Note: This is a satirical piece that I wrote about possibilities. This is not true.  It’s my vision of what could happen if bio-tech agriculture and Permaculture came together. In my experience Permaculture offers a new and more holistic way of seeing the world. I imagined what would happen if a Monsanto executive took a Permaculture course, had an epiphany about natural systems and became instrumental in changing the company’s direction. It wasn’t intended to mislead anyone about Monsanto, but was an attempt to use humor to help envision a better world.

 

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The Monsanto-Permaculture Alliance: Committed To Sustainable Agriculture

Monsanto recently announced the formation of a new MPCA or Monsanto Permaculture Alliance. The MPCA was formed to transition Monsanto from an herbicide and GMO manufacturer into a leader in the organic agriculture movement. The MPCA plans to “turn Monsanto’s liabilities into assets” using Permaculture principles.

As one company executive stated, “After attending our first PDC or Permaculture Design Course, Monsanto realized that the problem is the solution… And that we are the problem.”

Permaculture, a natural design system with roots in Australia, was created by founders Bill Mollison and David Holmgren  in the 1970’s.  There are now thousands of Permaculture projects around the globe that demonstrate how Permaculture principles can be used to design resilient, sustainable and diverse landscapes and human settlements.

While some have applauded Monsanto’s efforts, many industry observers have wondered whether it’s possible to transform what has been a GMO-producing, seed patenting, farmer-suing and herbicide manufacturing behemoth into a proponent of organic agriculture?  According to Monsanto, the answer is not only that’s it’s possible, but that it’s already happening.  As one representative for the company said, “We have the brains. We have the technology. We have the resources. The only thing missing is the knowledge and that’s why hundreds of Permaculture teachers are already on their way to Monsanto locations around the globe to teach our staff  how to work with nature, instead of against her.”

Started in 1901 Monsanto prospered after convincing the world that it was wise and necessary to poison its food supply with toxins. In 1969, Monsanto began its rise to the top with the best-selling herbicide Lasso and since then has dominated the world herbicide market with RoundUp.

Despite grossing million of dollars last year, not all has been rosy for the GMO giant lately.  New studies showing that RoundUp is much more damaging to human and ecosystem health than previously believed, heated debates over the safety and labeling of GMO food and negative press about their litigious habit of suing farmers have all made Monsanto a controversial company.

Monsanto will continue to work with farmers and crops, but in a more holistic way.  “After decades of study we have sadly concluded that Nature knows more than Monsanto. We hate to admit it, but research shows that organic regenerative agriculture modeled on natural systems is the best way to safely and efficiently feed our hungry world.”

What prompted the largest producer of patented seeds to turn to Permaculture? Like many great endeavors, it started with a dream. One of Monsanto’s top executives explains, “I had a nightmare where I had to arrest my own grandfather for saving seeds. If he was alive today, he probably would be sued by Monsanto- he was a farmer.  After the dream, which was really a nightmare, I sat up in bed and thought, ‘What the f*** are we doing?’  I couldn’t sleep, so I turned my computer on and started Googling terms like seed saving, organic farming and nature. That’s when I first saw the term Permaculture. After reading about the two week  Permaculture Design Course,  I was nervous- especially about the talent show, but  I signed up and and was the first in the company to complete my PDC.  At Monsanto, we claim to be committed to sustainable agriculture,  but after the course I realized what sustainable really means. Agriculture has to be regenerative or else it’s harmful. Who knew the soil was alive? Monsanto didn’t, but apparently a lot of other people did and that’s why we’ve formed our new board .”

The  MPCA Advisory Board will guide Monsanto in its transition from a conventional corporation to an organic one.

President- Wendell Berry

Vice PresidentVandana Shiva

Integrated Pest Management Coordinator- Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet

Soil Health Consultant- Dr. Elaine Ingham, Doug Weatherbee

Organic Agriculture Advisors-  Joel Salatin, Wes JacksonDarren DohertyRonnie Cummins

Livestock and Climate Change- Allan Savory, Abe Collins, Julious Piti, Peter Donovan

Clean Water Experts- Brock Dolman, Brad Lancaster

Permaculture Advisors- Bill Mollison, David Holmgren, Geoff Lawton, Penny LivingstonToby Hemenway and Larry Santoyo

Press- Michael Pollan

Monsanto also has a new Seven Point Plan based on the Permaculture Ethics of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share.
1.) Retribution– Monsanto will publicly apologize to the world for its previous rampant disregard for ecosystem, human and animal health and dedicate its vast resources to cleaning up the planet.
2.) Reimbursement– Farmers who were sued by Monsanto will be paid back in full, plus damages and interest.
3.) Toxic Waste Clean Ups– GM fields and adjoining waterways will be treated for contamination and restored using mycoremediation,  phytoremediation, bioremediation and permaculture.
4.) Organic Regenerative Farming-  Monsanto will study, promote and offer free trainings in the following land stewardship methods including, but not limited to: cover cropping, integrated pest management, low or no till plowing, composting, nontoxic weed control, aquaponics, biodynamic farming and rangeland management.
5.) Seed Bank– All of Monsanto’s seeds will be organically grown with all patents removed. Monsanto will donate money to organic seed banks around the world.
6.) GMO Free Zone Monsanto will no longer research, use or sell genetically modified organisms. The microscopes previously used for GM research will be re-purposed and used for studying microbes in the Soil Food Web.
7.) Zero Waste– Monsanto will be a zero waste company.

Now that Monsanto is convinced that regenerative organic agriculture is the best way to feed a hungry world, will other ag giants like Dow AgroSciences, Syngenta and Bayer follow?  Thanks to Permaculture and the newly formed MPCA, Monsanto’s claim to be “Committed to Sustainable Agriculture” will soon prove to be true.

Note: This is a satirical piece that I wrote about possibilities. This is not true.  It’s my vision of what could happen if bio-tech agriculture and Permaculture came together. In my experience Permaculture offers a new and more holistic way of seeing the world. I imagined what would happen if a Monsanto executive took a Permaculture course, had an epiphany about natural systems and became instrumental in changing the company’s direction. It wasn’t intended to mislead anyone about Monsanto, but was an attempt to use humor to help envision a better world.

 

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When We Feed The Soil, We Feed Ourselves

Any time that we place compostable food scraps in the trash we are throwing away valuable natural resources. In Santa Barbara County, an estimated 700 tons of trash a day goes to our landfill and of that, about 40% is considered compostable. What happens to food scraps in the landfill? After being buried under layers of trash and dirt, food scraps begin to slowly decompose and emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) and methane- a potent climate change causing gas.

Food Scraps On Their Way To A Worm Bin

Food Scraps- Landfill or Compost?

What to do? Compost!  Composting your food scraps turns your trash into treasure, saves you money on gardening inputs, and helps you become part of the solution to climate change.  Composting is easy, doesn’t require a lot of space, tools or materials and offers you a crash course in observing decomposition- a much maligned and feared natural process.  Finished compost is an excellent soil amendment. When you feed the soil with compost, you are improving soil tilth and providing plants with beneficial nutrients and microbes.

Composting Educator Bill Palmisano

Composting Educator Bill Palmisano

Here are four ways to get started on your journey of feeding the soil.  By creating the conditions for compost to happen you are calling in theFBI- fungi, bacteria, and invertebrates to do the composting work for you.

1.) Compost Piles– These require the most land area, at least 3’x3’x3′.  By layering dry sticks, cardboard and leaves (carbon) with food scraps, grass, and yard waste (nitrogen) you create a rich haven for composting bacteria to thrive. When your pile heats up, you’re on your way to creating your first batch of “black gold.” Be sure to keep your pile well aerated by turning it and watering it in dry climates.

2.) Compost Bins– Some people like to place their food scraps in a reclosable bin and let them decompose slowly. Sometimes this method can get a bit smelly (anaerobic), but it’s easy and convenient. The drawback is that anaerobic compost emits methane gas.

3.) Worms To The Rescue- Remember ant farms? Worm bins are worm farms where you can watch nature working for you.  A fun and fascinating way to quickly and efficiently create compost, opening the lid to your worm bin is like opening the door to another world.

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The Last of the Non GMO Corn Speaks Out!

I’ve interviewed farmers, scientists, ecologists, and permaculture designers, but until today I’d never interviewed a plant.

A Conversation With Corn

J (Jill Cloutier)-  Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.  Tell me a bit about your background.  Where were you born?

Corn (C)-  My name is as  Zea mays.  I’m a member of the Poaceae family, the grass family.  All cereal grains belong to my family, including wheat, rice, and rye.  I’m an Annual, a monocot, and believed to have been  born in Mexico thousands of years ago.  Like anything that’s been around for a long time,  I’ve had my ups and downs.  For millennia, I roamed the earth. My seeds were saved and passed down from generation to generation.  I was venerate and revered and used as food, fiber and in ceremony.  But, now that  Monsanto’s got a hold of me, I’ll never be the same.

J-  That brings me to the issue that I wanted to talk with you about today.  Genetic modification and the large role that you’ve played in this controversial topic.

C-  I didn’t volunteer for the job.  I never asked to be modified.

J-  What does it mean when something is genetically modified?

C-  It’s a laboratory process where the genes from the DNA of one species are taken out and put into the genes of an unrelated animal or plant.  The genes can be from insects, animals, humans, bacteria, or viruses.

J-  I’ve read that 85% of the corn grown in the US is genetically modified.  How do you feel about being one of the most widely genetically modified plants?

C-  At first, my reaction was one of complete and utter despair.  But now, I’m pissed.

J-  Why?  What happens when you are genetically modified?

C-  This gets a little personal, but basically it can happen in a number of ways, genes can be shot from a gene gun into a plate of cells.  Or bacteria are used to invade cells with foreign DNA.  The changed cell is cloned into a plant.  Most commonly, a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis  is injected in me, so I secrete an insecticide that kills corn root worm pests.

J-  I have no idea what that means, but it sounds terrible.

C-  I’m a food crop that’s bio-engineered to produce my own internal insecticide.  Quite frankly, it’s abusive.  I’d rather have a rootworm eating me then be violated like this.

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The Universe Beneath Your Feet

Soil is alive.  It’s a complex web of macro (that which we can see with our eyes), and micro (those we mostly cannot see) organisms.  One tablespoon of soil contains over six  billion bacteria and countless other species that contribute to a medium teeming with life.   We depend on this life to sustain us.  In soil, we grow the plants that provide us with oxygen, food, clothing and shelter.  In  soil, the water cycle is regulated and water purified.  In this soil universe, sometimes disparagingly called “dirt,”  live the creatures that decompose all dead organic matter on Earth; turning waste into value.   Soil is the meeting place of atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere.  Like most places where “edges” of different worlds meet, the soil is a dynamic interface.   Fertile soil is alive with the biodiversity of a thriving forest; complex ecosystems connecting, growing,  living, co-existing, dying.

The Universe Beneath Our Feet

Soil is Alive

In many places of the world topsoil, (where most soil life is found), is being lost at an unprecedented rate.   Our lives depend on saving, cultivating, and regenerating soil life.  Increasing soil fertility has a positive domino effect and the act of making soil more alive holds answers to some of the most vexing environmental challenges that we face today; including water quality, eco-system and human health issues, and global climate change. Continue reading

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