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March 01 2013

TERRA 805: Natabar Sarangi - The Source

Natabar continues to find, save and share his indigenous rice seed with local farmers. To date he has managed to re-introduce over 350 varieties. But it's not just about the indigenous rice seed of India or about the survival of a sustainable agriculture system with the knowledge of over ten thousand years. It's about a global phenomenon taking place where a non-sustainable system systematically destroys a sustainable one, where short term profit has the power to overwhelm common sense and the consciousness of many millions, where progress is not progress but the wanton destruction of an eco-system and environment we will never be able to replace. Natabar Sarangi is just one of a growing number of farmers throughout the world who realize that if we do not begin to repair the damage taking place to our agricultural systems and our environment, we will lose not just our cultural identity but our fundamental right to a truly sustainable system of food security.

November 21 2011

TERRA_616_Witness Series_1.flv

Trust is a 10-part series about a perfect trifecta. The Public Trust Doctrine is a legal doctrine that traces back to Roman times and holds governments accountable to protect the resources we all share in common and depend upon for our very survival. The principle of inter-generational justice is enshrined in international human rights law and simply put, it means that the adults can't have a party on the planet and leave it a mess for our kids. Combine the Public Trust Doctrine with the principles of inter-generational justice and passionate youth who are fighting for their future in both the courts and on the streets, and we have the perfect trifecta. Why? Because youth across the country are bringing legal actions - based on trust - against the federal and state governments so we will all open our eyes and protect our atmosphere and our futures with smart strategies rooted in science. Part 1: Meet Alec Loorz, a 17-year old climate change activist from Oak View, California. When Alec was 12, he saw Inconvenient Truth for the first time. Since then he has been a dedicated activist for climate change. Part 2: Meet John Thiebes, a 23-year old beginning farmer has set out to change the agricultural practices on a worn-out patch of prairie in the agricultural heart of Montana. Go to http://ourchildrenstrust.org/ to learn more about the campaign.

October 27 2011

02mydafsoup-01

#economics #politics #anarchism

  • Global Resilience Requires Novelty – A Speech by Buzz Holling link
  • Deric Shannon: What Do We Mean By “Works”? Anarchist Economics and the Occupy X Movement link

#agriculture #food #urbanfarming

  • Worst Food Additive Ever? It's in Half of All Foods We Eat and Its Production Destroys Rainforests and Enslaves Children link
  • Marc Alt on Hacking the Food System: Urban Rural Global Local link

#arduino #diy #openhardware

  • The Making of Arduino link
  • Open-source hardware… coming from Facebook? link

#floss #gimp

  • Subtle patterns available for GIMP link
— links by Julien Guigner via oAnth at Diaspora* | 2011-10-27

June 01 2011

Make hay meadow photos while the sun shines | Phil Gates

Whether you take the vole's-eye view or go big and capture the geometry, hay meadows can make for wonderful photography

Share your photos of hay meadows and wild flowers on our Flickr group

It's hard to avoid clichés when describing the beauty of hay meadows. Phrases like "living tapestry of floral colour" try to creep onto the page. So I'll play safe and stick to a simple list: brown bent, totter, sheep's fescue, crested dog's tail, cock's foot, sweet vernal, soft brome – poetic names of common hay meadow grasses that reflect a bygone era of agriculture.

If I were describing the botany of just one the best meadows I could add around one hundred more wild flowers to the list. Ironic, isn't it, that hay meadows – perhaps the most diverse wild flower communities in Britain, certainly one of the best-loved and now one of the rarest – are artificial creations of agriculture, that great simplifier of naturally diverse ecosystems?

Their diversity depends on a traditional cycle of management that allows flowers to set seed before hay making, which is followed by a short period of grazing the "aftermath" (as it's known here in the Pennine dales) and then the lightest of applications of farmyard manure.

It's a system that limits the level of nutrients in the soil, allowing wild flowers to compete on equal terms with the grasses – a precarious equilibrium that's easy to destroy. Heavy doses of nitrogen fertiliser will tip the competitive balance in favour of grasses, and soon purple wood crane's bill, blood-red greater burnet, frothy white pignut and meadowsweet, yellow lady's bedstraw, globe flower and blue speedwells will vanish, leaving an "improved" pasture – more productive, more profitable, but oh-so dull.

Few of the individual meadow wild flower species are rare (although you may sometimes find scarcer ones like butterfly orchids and adder's tongue fern) but this is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts – inescapably, a living tapestry of floral colours.

How to capture the essence of a hay meadow in a photograph?

You could try the vole's eye-view, laying the camera with a wide angle lens on the ground, pointing skywards to capture the tracery of grasses and flowers on a blue canvas.

For the big picture, remember that hay meadows tend to be surrounded by regionally distinctive boundaries like the drystone walls and barns of the Yorkshire dales. They give a powerful sense of place and geometrical pattern when photographed from a distant vantage point with a telephoto.

Selective close-ups work well too. The shallow depth of focus of a long focal-length macro lens isolates individual blooms and insects against a diffuse background of floral colours. Or maybe you could try a slow shutter speed, to capture a zephyr of wind transforming flowers to an abstract blur of colour.

Late hay cuts in traditional meadows give ground-nesting birds a chance to complete their breeding cycle, so look out for partridges leading fledglings through the undergrowth, anxious curlews trying to distract your attention from their offspring and yellow wagtails snapping flies from flowers to feed their nestlings.

Different times of day bring their particular photographic opportunities. At sunrise after humid nights, the serrated rims of lady's mantle leaves are fringed with sparkling water droplets, once believed by alchemists to be essential for converting base metals into silver (the Latin name of this plant, alchemilla, means "little alchemist").

At dusk, swallows skim low over the grasses, trawling with gaping beaks for insects. And when haymaking finally comes around – traditionally when the dry seed capsules in the yellow hay rattle begin to rattle – the mowers leave windrows of drying grasses that map the contours of the field.

Every self-respecting wildlife organisation wants to own a hay meadow. The wild flower conservation charity Plantlife cares for several of Britain's finest examples and your local wildlife trust (search via www.wildlifetrusts.org) may have one too. Durham Wildlife Trust Hannah's meadow is a particularly fine example of a Pennine hay meadow.

One word of caution. Trampling, in pursuit of the perfect shot, can disfigure one of these floral gems and destroy nests. So stick close to the paths and boundaries and watch where you tread.

• This month's Green Shoots assignment is "hay meadows and wild flowers" – share your photos on our Flickr group and the best will be shown on guardian.co.uk and possibly the print edition too.

Phil Gates is a Guardian country diarist, and blogs at Cabinet of Curiosities, Beyond the Human Eye and A Digital Botanic Eye


guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


July 23 2010

TERRA 537: A Winning Scenario

A WINNING SCENARIO is a short film about the agricultural implications of climate change in Kenya. Despite the adverse effects of global warming in Kenya, local communities are adapting farming practices for improved crop production. Soil health is critical in a changing climate and this film explores the importance of protecting Kenyan soil for future generations.
TERRA 537: A Winning Scenario

A WINNING SCENARIO is a short film about the agricultural implications of climate change in Kenya. Despite the adverse effects of global warming in Kenya, local communities are adapting farming practices for improved crop production. Soil health is critical in a changing climate and this film explores the importance of protecting Kenyan soil for future generations.

May 05 2010

Who received EU farm subsidies last year? Whitehall won't say | David Hencke

In refusing to release information about who receives subsidies until after the election, civil servants are exceeding their brief

Over the bank holiday weekend senior civil servants running the country took an extraordinary decision to ban the public from seeing information because they thought it was so controversial that it would disrupt election campaigning.

They decided to protect candidates from being asked questions on the issue and thought it best the public be left in ignorance about the facts.

What was this issue? Not some horrendous economic figure, some real facts on immigration. No, it was decision not to reveal which farmers and agribusinesses scooped up some £3bn from the taxpayer from EU farm subsidies last year.

On Friday statistics were published simultaneously in the other 26 EU countries revealing who had been paid what – it is part of a victory by European journalists to force countries under freedom of information acts to release all this previously secret information.

But in London – against an EU directive – the information was banned. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website says: "Due to the general election campaign, this website will not be updated with the 2009 figures until after the election."

A letter from a Defra official to Jack Thurston, head of farmsubsidy.org, which campaigns for transparency for EU payments, says why: "This decision reflects the need to maintain, and be seen to maintain, the impartiality of the UK civil service, given the potential risk that CAP payment information relating to any individuals involved in the election might be used as part of election campaigning."

Yet ministries continue to publish information on hospital admissions and roads, just to name two. And in post-devolution Scotland they have taken the opposite decision. They published their figures over the weekend – revealing that 19,000 farmers and agribusinesses shared nearly £600m of public money and the world has not fallen apart north of the border.

So who does this protect? Initial research by farmsubsidy.org reveals that possibly up to 70 of the 650 Tory candidates standing at the election could be receiving some sort of subsidy. Up to half a dozen Ukip candidates – who campaign against the EU – could be receiving EU cash as well as a smattering of Liberal Democrat candidates. On the Tory side they have discovered that the declared postcode for receipt of EU subsidies is often the same one as used by a local Conservative Association, suggesting that leading officials of the local parties are also receiving subsidies. These are all taken from the previous year's subsidy figures.

Yet we won't know, thanks to Whitehall, until after the election – even though the EU has made it clear in an article in the EU Observer today that it is disappointed with Britain and intends to write to the new government pointing out it is not in line with the EU directive.

Frankly, disappointment is too weak a word. It is scandal that unelected officials should decide what information should be made public and when. The decision is also partisan in that it appears to protect opposition party candidates more than Labour candidates from scrutiny – particularly in the case of the Conservatives.

Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, should reverse this now. Otherwise it bodes very badly if we are in hung parliament territory when Whitehall will be effectively running the country while politicians sort out a new government. If officials are going to select what information the public should know and what should be kept secret, they are exceeding their brief.


guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


July 15 2009

TERRA 520: Farming Forward

April 15 2009

TERRA 511: Montana Fare

How do Americans decide what food to eat? What is more important: quantity or quality, taste or price? MONTANA FARE examines contemporary food culture in rural Montana through the eyes of two women (farmer/rancher Jenny Sabo (Harrison, MT) and Native American tribal elder Minerva Allen (Lodge Pole, MT on the Ft. Belknap Res)) who try to feed their families while living 50 miles from the nearest grocery store.
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