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Ecological News

Newsletter of the
Ecological Agriculture Australia Association

No. 17 | October, 2013
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Inside

  • Presidents Editorial
  • Reports from the pillars
  • Frankenfood
  • GM
  • Monsanto
  • Thinking plants
  • Farmer of the Year
  • Ecological faming improves soil structure
  • Schumacher College
  • Climate Change
  • Farmer Endorsement Scheme
  • Membership
Photo of the month



Congratulations
Matthew & Mel Carter
2013
Livestock
Farmer of the Year

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Welcome new members

Thank you for joining our journey !

From all of us at EAAA


Links


Australian Carbon Cooperative
Rahamim Ecological Learning Community
Erin Earth

Eco-quote

Thich Nhat Hanh,The Practice of Looking Deeply

"Thanks to impermanence,
everything is possible."

Thich Nhat Hanh ~
The Practice of Looking Deeply



 


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Editorial

 

 
The recent announcement by the IPCC that human civilisation is the main cause of global was hardly new news. The following statement made in Clive Hamilton’s most recent book Earthmasters. Hamilton illustrates this point:

“In the United States the repudiation of science has reached its highest political levels. In April 2011 the following proposition was put to the US House of Representatives: ‘Congress accepts the scientific findings……that climate change is occurring, is caused by human activities, and poses significant risks to public health and welfare.’ The House, dominated by the Tea Party Republicans, votes by 240 to 184 to reject the basic proposition of climate science. It was as if American legislators had a mandate to vote down the laws of physics. A few months earlier the US National Academy of Sciences had published a major review of the scientific literature before concluding: “A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is largely caused by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.’

Hamilton concluded that in the USA politics has defeated science.

The denial of many towards climate change can be related to the person who refuses to accept that high levels of carbohydrate consumption leads to obesity and continues to consume the same. We know what the cause is but the remedy seems to go against our traditional patterns of behaviour. This makes change doubly hard.

The fact that changing our habits is tough work is demonstrated by a book Earth in Mind by David Orr written in 2004. Orr comments that
 
‘Greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, and consequently climate change is the largest issue looming ahead. Species loss shows no sign of slowing. The health of the seas and oceans continue to decline. Ecological deterioration is at the root of political turmoil throughout much of the third world. And so it goes. Governments everywhere have been slow to move, and ours (USA) in thrall to extremist market ideology, has been autistic on virtually all issues having to do with the habitability of the planet.’

And that book was published almost 10 years ago!

Let’s look at some of the facts about climate in Australia of late as published by the Weather Bureau:
  • On the last day of August, Australia recorded a new winter record daily average maximum temperature of 29.92 °C.
  • This was followed by the early arrival of very warm conditions with 31.45 °C recorded on 1 September for Australia-average maxima, setting a new record for the earliest 31 °C day by 15 days. 
  • A total of 20 maximum and 12 minimum early-season temperature records have been broken or equalled, including

37.7 °C at Tarcoola on 4 September for SA
32.8 °C at Mildura on 4 September for Victoria
31.6 °C at Sydney on 10 September for NSW

 
  • Prolonged warm conditions occurred in many areas, including:
 

Alice Springs with 16 consecutive days above 30 °C
Ouyen with nine consecutive days above 25 °C
Tarcoola with three consecutive days above 35 °C
Sydney with an equal record of 19 consecutive days at 20 °C or above.

 
What impact the IPCC report will have on carbon mitigation in Australia remain to be seen. The coalition government speak of ‘direct action’ but this hasn’t been clearly explained. It would appear that ‘direct action’ means (a) giving money to polluters to reduce carbon emissions, and (b) payment farmers for carbon sequestration in soils. We (the EAAA) wait[s] with interest to see how these two strategies operate in practice.
 
In the meantime, final word on the matter in this editorial from Professor Chris Rapley a former director of both the British Antarctic Survey and the Science Museum in London. What the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report, AR5, says about the oceans alarms him:
 
LONDON, 28 September - The messages are ever clearer: climate change is real, we humans are the driver, and we need to act resolutely and soon to reduce the risk of serious disruption. The IPCC’s latest report took over 250 experts from 39 countries to sift 9,000 pieces of scientific research and address over 54,000 comments under the close scrutiny of 190 governments. The result: a fresher and sharper image of the physical state of our planet and the changes it is undergoing. It confirms that each of the most recent three decades has been warmer than its predecessor and that the change - almost 1°C since the beginning of the last century - is significant on a timescale of ten thousand years. In the context of an unabated planetary energy imbalance, and evidence that the 93% of the energy build-up taken up by the oceans continues to accumulate, the recent slow-down in the rise of surface temperatures, much heralded by the climate dismissers, appears a minor and temporary fluctuation. In the meantime, the melting and retreat of polar ice shocks experts such as myself - with the loss of ice from Greenland and Antarctica both having increased by a factor of 5-6 over the decades 1990-1999 and 2000-2009.
 

    "...we are fast losing the possibility of restricting warming to 2°C."

 
The consequence? In combination with ocean thermal expansion, an accelerating rise in global mean sea level, currently running at 35 cm per century. This is already approaching one third of the rate sustained for 10,000 years during the transition from the last Ice Age to the current warm period, when sea level rose by 120 metres. The predictions? That we are fast losing the possibility of restricting warming to 2°C. We have at most half a trillion tons of carbon left that can be burned, after which we will be committed to temperature rises outside those experienced by the planet for hundreds of thousands of years. The scientists have done their job; now is the time for politicians to take a lead, and everyone to act.
 

Kerry Cochrane
President | Editor


Farming pillar wordle

Reports from around the pillars


General comment: The main activity over the past few weeks has been with the ethics pillar. The committee comprising Meg Hoskins, Emeritus Professor Richard Bawden &  Kerry Cochrane met by phone to discuss possibilities for 2013/14. Our intention is to meet in Orange in a couple of weeks to work out an approach. If anyone wishes to be involved in the development of this important function of the EAAA please make contact. Most of the meetings are via the phone or computer.
 
The intention is to hold a meeting of the Education Pillar within two weeks. Again if interested please make contact.
 
Ethics pillar wordle

Ethics Pillar


Frankenstein food derived from GM crops: Where does the truth lie?

 
GM Food concepts (Img src: ABC Radio National)The report on ABC Background Briefing on Sunday 15th September, 2013, evaluated GM and its value to the world population versus its risks. Details of this discussion are at Background Briefing | Curse of the Frankenfoods.
 
It is well worth listening to particularly given that Mark Lynas who was a strong anti- GM English activist tells all as to why he changed his mind and become an advocate of GM and the science underpinning it.
 
Interestingly one of Australia’s respected scientists is Judy Carmen from Flinders University spoke about her research on pigs which demonstrated the impact of GM on their wellbeing. Details of the report are on the ABC Background Briefing website or you can download the full paper. 
 
Dr Carmen’s research has been strongly condemned by researches as representing poor science - (and this is often the catch cry it seems when research is offered which is critical of GM and its value) -  and the journal which published the report was criticised as being a lowly rated publication.

That publication was the Journal of Organic Systems which is published in part by the Organic Agricultural sectors of Australia and New Zealand. The Journal contains some excellent papers on research on organics. The website can be found at http://www.organic-systems.org

Useful data on GM
 

Useful data on Genetically Modified (GM) foods is located in the  ABC Background Briefing reports. Once such report is the Guide to Genera. 

Monsanto could win the Nobel prize for agriculture. 


If you find this outcome obnoxious to your value system please read on!
 
In an obscene development, a Monsanto executive is winning this year’s “Nobel Prize of agriculture” -- the prestigious World Food Prize -- for creating GMOs.

Receiving it legitimizes the sort of rampant genetic modification Monsanto pioneered, and helps validate a ruthless business model that impoverishes farmers and monopolizes our food. If that wasn't baffling enough, the founder of Syngenta, the same biotech giant joining Bayer in suing Europe to keep selling bee-killing pesticides, will also win the prize. 

Here is the list of the 2013 World Food Prize Foundation laureates.
 

Food pillar wordle

Food Pillar


How to feed 10 Billion People and Sustain the Planet.
 
The world must solve three food problems simultaneously: end hunger, double food production by 2050, and do both while drastically reducing agriculture’s damage to the environment. Join our thought leaders as they consider strategies for producing more with less while ensuring the benefits are available to all.

 
Speakers’ topics:
  • Professor Prem Bhallla – What are the big issues for feeding our population?
  • Professor Agnès Ricroch – Can genetically modified crops feed the world?
  • Professor Peter Gresshoff – Should we be feeding our cars or people? Crop use to create biofuels.
  • Associate Professor Simran Sethi – Too much/ too little - sustainable approaches to feeding a hungry planet.
  • Professor Gary Egger – Health, Ills and Economics: Have we overshot the sweet spot?
 
Click on the video link above or go to Festival of Ideas | 2013: Feeding 10 billion people & sustaining the planet. 

Thinking plants


Do plants think? Well if you listened to a broadcast on ABC’s Philosophy Zone recently you will have your question answered.

If you missed the broadcast and wish to hear it go Plant Thinking or click on the image below for a direct link to the audio file.

The presenter Michael Marder is working on a philosophy of vegetable life. His approach combines ethics, phenomenology, Freudian psychoanalysis and botany to present the case, furthering the discourse on plants as is around animals, and in the process bring human thought closer to its roots.
 
IMAGE: PLANT THINKING: BRINGING HUMAN THOUGHT CLOSER TO ITS ROOTS (PAUL EDMONDSON/GETTY )
Farming pillar wordle

Farming Pillar


Matthew Carter (Img src: ABC)

The Australian Organic Association (Australian Organic Ltd) has announced that the 2013 Livestock Producer of the Year has gone to Matthew & Mel Carter from Myall Springs, NSW. The Carter property is certified with Australian Certified Organic and is a stunning example of sustainable grazing using native grasses. It is also open to the public for camping, bird watching or gatherings. It was recognised at the Farmer of the Year held by the ABC Rural and the Kondinin Group (source; Australian Organic Association).

Visit Matthew and Mel Carters property details




On the question of native grasses the Stock and Land carried a similar story this week. The story involves John Ives of ‘Talaheni’ Yass and his belief in the value of native grasses that have already adapted to variable rainfall and high temperatures.
 

Ecological farming improves soil structure according to research published in the Canadian Organic Newsletter


Soil quality improvement under an ecologically based farming system in northwest Missouri
R. J. Kremer1* and L. F. Hezel2

Abstract
: Ecologically based farming conserves and improves the soil resource and protects environmental quality by using organic or natural resources without the application of synthetic chemicals. Soil quality assessment indicates the ability of management systems to optimize soil productivity and to maintain its structural and biological integrity.


Our objective was to evaluate the effect of ecologically based management on biochemical characteristics of soil [soil quality indicators (SQI)] as an assessment of soil quality. The study was conducted on an ecologically based farming enterprise established on gently sloping soils of Sharpsburg silt loam (fine montmorillonitic, mesic Typic Argiudolls) in Clay County, Missouri, which was previously under conventional corn and soybean production. The transition to organic farming began in 1995, which included a primary management strategy to restore soil organic matter consisting of the establishment of native prairie plants and the application of composted vegetative residues and litter from horse and laying hen operations. Soils were collected at 0–10cm depths from sites under organic production (orchard and vegetable), managed prairie/pasture and from adjacent unmanaged fields during 2003–2008 for soil quality assessment.

Soil organic carbon (SOC) and water-stable soil aggregates were considerably increased by up to 60 and 72%, respectively, in organic production sites compared with tilled cropland by the fifth year of assessment. Organically managed systems and restored prairie sites significantly increased (P<0.05) soil enzyme activities compared with unmanaged grass and tilled cropland. For example, dehydrogenase and glucosaminidase activities increased by 60 and 73%, respectively, under organic vegetables compared with tilled cropland. Soil enzyme activities were significantly correlated with SOC content (r values up to 0.90, P<0.001).

The results of the soil quality assessment suggest that ecologically based management successfully restored biological activity of silt loam soils previously under intensive conventional agriculture. The system practised at the study sites illustrates how resources internal to the farm (i.e., composts) can be used to manage soil productivity.


Converting from organics to conventional agriculture 


We hear of farmers converting to organics but what about farmers doing the reverse – converting from organics to conventional agriculture?

The following link is to an abstract written about research undertaken in Europe. The findings confirm the problems associated with certification and husbandry techniques of organics.




Is it Ethics or is it Farming?

 

The new government in Canberra will dismantle the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) and in its place erect a direct action platform. What this means in reality no one knows but what it appears to herald is a new approach to offsetting carbon. Under the CFI program 500 major polluters were required to offset carbon under a compliance program. With the removal of the CFI the compliance program will cease but this is not to say that many polluters will not continue to offset the carbon pollution via the voluntary market.

The actual amount of carbon offset via the voluntary market is growing and there are many large corporations in the USA, at least, that invest heavily in this market and one can only assume there would be similar percentages in Australia.Australian Carbon Cooperative 

One organisation that will seek to assist industry to engage in the voluntary market is the Australian Carbon Cooperative and they should be contacted if advice is needed about investing in the voluntary market.

Farmers interested in the scheme should also contact the 
ACC. Contact Johannes Bauer, Director of ACC Board.

Farmer Endorsement Scheme
 

The EAAA Farmer Endorsement Scheme serves to help farmers “climb the ladder“ from conventional industrial agriculture to an ecologically driven farming system.

The EAAA producer endorsement is creating a "community of ecological farmers" who, through peer review, self development and mutual assistance, create a brand that will give consumers confidence that the produce they buy was grown under an ecological paradigm.


3 levels | EAAA Farmer Endorsement Scheme

To find out more, visit our website: EAAA Farmer Endorsement Scheme

or drop us an email. 


[Social] Ecology Pillar

 

News from Schumacher College

 
Over the next 12 months Ecological News (EAAA Newsletter) will feature a series of blogs from an Australian who is currently studying for his Masters in Holistic Science at Schumacher College in the UK.

Richard Widows is a recent graduate of the University of Sydney and is now exploring a whole different approach to learning via the masters programme.

The Masters in Holistic Sciences has an international cohort of students all of whom seek to understand the nature of holism in management or scientific context.

This is an exciting challenge for Richard and we look forward to his despatches. Here is Richard's first blog post.
Our Food Future

Climate Change | Climate Action

 
You may have seen David Suzuki on Q & A recently highlighting the perils of climate change and genetic modification of food crops. As a uni educated geneticist Suzuki’s thoughts on GM are worth listening too but it was his thoughts on climate change that captured most attention. David Suzuki also gave a presentation at the University of Sydney and there Kenneth McLeod attended and asked a question about it requiring a disaster to force politicians to take serious action like leaving the coal in the ground. Kenneth McLeod’s blog is below plus the answer to that question:

I went to David Suzuki’s talk in the Great Hall at the University of Sydney last night. An excellent presentation but, as often is the case, there was a big conceptual gap between his analysis of the gathering global emergency and his implication that there are no feasible global solutions. This left the audience stuck in speculation about end-state solutions with no thoughts about plausible transition strategies. To my mind this is the fatal Achilles heel of the environment movement and “sustainability management”.

By ‘no feasible global solutions’ I mean there are no feasible mechanisms/institutions capable of implementing global solutions, and no realistic prospect that such institutions can be put in place within the timeframe now remaining to us (or ever). On my website, www.ageoftransition.org, I argue that the most likely scenario is a transition period of widespread systemic breakdown which will create the conditions for the renewal of human civilisation grounded on the principles of eco-mutuality. David implicitly accepted this when, in answer to the question ‘what event might be able to trigger a proportional response?’ said he now thought it would take a global economic meltdown on at least the scale of the Great Depression or a global pandemic (which he thinks is highly likely).

If this is at least plausible even probable scenario, shouldn’t we now be focusing on building the capability to navigate such a transition in the most creative possible way? On my website I suggest at least eight areas in which we can start now to build such capability. I’m sure there are others that you can suggest.
 
 

 

climate change
is a social issue


Education pillar wordle

Education Pillar


Working holiday in Bali


Interested in a visiting Bali and assisting with organics farming? If so please make contact as of below:

Dear Madam, Sir,
 
I’m Marco Degani, Manager of Swasti Eco Cottage, a full-organic accommodation in Ubud, Indonesia. Our hotel is composed by 8 rooms and 8 bungalows but also by a gourmet-organic restaurant and an organic garden.
 
This latter is an organic garden of about 1200 square meters where we cultivate fruits and vegetables, both locals and occidentals. The garden is full organic and provides us food for our organic restaurant.
 
We want to reorganize our garden and introduce some new crops so we would like host an intern/trainee to help us and this is the reason I contact you.
 
We saw in your website that you provide a complete education about organic agriculture to your students. I don’t know if this degree gives your students the opportunity to use what they learn from you in a real situation.
 
If yes, let me introduce you some missions your students might deal with in our structure:
 
*   Find a natural and sustainable solution to improve the fertility of soil.
*   Organize crop rotation in accordance with the needs of Swasti organic Restaurant
*   Manage a small team of gardeners and teach them the bases of organic agriculture
 
If not, can you introduce your students our structure so maybe they will find it interesting to complete their learning by using it in a practical way.
 
We look forward to your answer and thank you in advance by sharing this information with your student,
 
Have a lovely day...Nous vous souhaitons une bonne journee
Best regards....Cordialement
 
Marco, Wayan, Ibu Made, Pa Komang, Pa Rodin, Pa Sura, Pa Dewa, Ibu Kadek , Ibu Mimin et toute l'equipe de Swasti Eco Cottages

 
SWASTI ECO COTTAGES (Restaurant & Eco Spa) 
 
Banjar Nyuh Kuning
Ubud 
Bali, Indonesia

New curriculum | Bachelor of Ecological Agriculture (BEAS)


The new curriculum line up for the Bachelor of Ecological Agriculture (BEAS) at CSU is now available.
 
CSU has changed the composition of the ecological agriculture degree starting in 2014. It has less subject related to ecological production such as permaculture or biodynamics although aspects of these may well feature in certain subjects.

There is still a strong emphasis on natural and social ecology, which is important. What features strongly now are subjects related to its sister course in the Bachelor of Agricultural Business Management. This may mean that there could be an internal offering of the BEAS.

The EAAA is happy to provide advice on the strengths and weaknesses of this course should you be interested. For details of the course refer to the link below: 

Ecological Agriculture: Course Structure

Dairy Dates

UNE Agrifood Experience Day: 1 November 2013


Those of you who attended the recent PIEF Conference will know that UNE have launched a new course for 2014 – the Bachelor of Agrifood Systems

This three year degree combines vocational training in farm management with UNE units to produce ‘hands on’ graduates who can apply the latest practices in agricultural science and technology.

Interested students are invited to the inaugural

‘Agrifood EXPERIENCE Day’

on Friday 1 November 2013.

The day is FREE for all attending including lunch and some travel subsidies are available. Accommodation will be available free of charge on the night of Thursday 31 October in a UNE College.

Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis. 

Bachelor of Agrifood Systems

"Generation 2050: Project Feed the World"


1 - 4 December 2013 

100 passionate agriculture students from around Australia will be chosen to take part in UNE's inaugural

Generation 2050: Project Feed the World conference.

To apply, students must be in Years 10, 11 or 12 in 2013 and studying / enjoying agriculture or science at school.

The Conference, accommodation and meals are free and travel subsidies are available. Visit the Generation 2050 website.  

Stories for the December edition


Please send stories or tips to the editor Kerry Cochrane by email.

Additional stories are available from our website EAAA (www.ecoag.org.au) and from our Facebook page and Twitter stream
Membership

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