Summary. “Agroecology” is one of a myriad new concepts that aim to make agriculture more sustainable and at the same time more efficient. But this one might well become the next big thing in “traditional” farming too.
With a holistic approach come many benefits. In a 2011 report, “Agroecology and the Right to Food”, Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, writes that he identifies agroecology “as a mode of agricultural development which not only shows strong conceptual connections with the right to food, but has proven results for fast progress in the concretisation of this human right for many vulnerable groups in various countries and environments. Moreover, agroecology delivers advantages that are complementary to better-known conventional approaches such as breeding high-yielding varieties. And it strongly contributes to the broader economic development.” This is not only true for developing countries: since 2010, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) has made agroecology one of its two main fields of research.
Given such enthusiasm, agroecology could well become the watchword for the future of agriculture, in France and around the world – provided that it is strongly supported by public policies and private initiatives. Olivier De Schutter identifies the main challenge in making agroecology big: scaling up existing experiences through the creation of “an enabling environment for such sustainable modes of production.” This means investing more in agricultural research and knowledge, encouraging partnerships and co-creation between farmers through cooperatives and “farmer field schools”, empowering farmers and more particularly women, connecting farmers with fair trade markets, etc. These are principles that can and must be supported by public decisions, but they can only move up to the large-scale through the determination of private agribusiness companies, which alone have the means and the power to make agroecology the next big thing in agriculture.
Bert Guevara's insight:
Redefining agriculture in a climate changing world:
"Firstly, agroecology is an approach that can apply to any type of farming, whether intensive or extensive, organic or integrated. The term is a combination of the words agronomy and ecology and has a rather loose meaning: overall, it refers to an approach that prefers to use the services naturally rendered by ecosystems, rather than replace them with inputs, like chemical fertilisers or pesticides. For instance, farmers can use chickens to clean and aerate the soil or ladybugs to eat aphids; they can give up monoculture and grow crops that mutually reinforce one another, or cover up soils to encourage new life and organic matter using earthworms."
The winter ice pack in the Arctic was once dominated by multi-year*, thick ice. Today, very little old ice remains. This animation shows maps of sea ice age ...
Since 1988, Arctic sea ice is getting younger, and young ice is not a good thing. In 1988, ice that was at least 4 years old accounted 26 percent of the Arctic’s sea ice. By 2013, ice that age was only 7 percent of all Arctic sea ice.
The vanishing act is occurring because climate change is helping warm the ocean waters in parts of the Arctic. Those warmer temperatures are whittling away at older sea ice during the summer melt season.
Replacing this thicker, harder old ice with young ice, which is generally thinner and melts more easily, is also contributing to the steep decline in summer sea ice extent and could trigger a feedback loop. That’s because less ice means more dark ocean water is exposed to the sun, which absorbs more of the incoming sunlight than white ice. That means warmer waters, which could in turn mean even less old ice and ice cover with each passing year.
Bert Guevara's insight:
Watch the 59-second video and you can see the older ice do a vanishing act as it’s replaced by newer ice.
From sequestering carbon to boosting food production, there have been a lot of big claims made for biochar. So what's the deal?
In fact Albert Bates, author of The Biochar Solution, questioned his publisher's choice of title, suggesting that The Biochar Partial Solution might have been more accurate. Meanwhile George Monbiot issued a withering takedown of some of the grander claims being made by biochar advocates, pointing out that large-scale biochar production could have massive impacts on land use, biodiversity and social justice. And more recently Almuth Ernsting revisited the biochar issue, arguing that research on everything from positive impacts on crop yields to long-term soil carbon sequestration was questionable at best:
Biochar is also promoted as a way of improving crop yields. Those claims, too, are contradicted by science. Field studies reveal highly variable impacts. A recent synthesis review found that in half of all published studies, biochar had either no effect on plants or more worryingly, even suppressed their growth. The author cautioned that due to possible ‘publication bias’, the reported success in 50% of cases should not be taken “as evidence of an overall biochar likelihood of producing positive impacts”.
It certainly seems like the kind of global-scale "biochar as geoengineering" schemes being touted a few years back deserve a healthy dose of skepticism, and according to Ernsting at least, much of the political backing for global biochar initiatives has begun to fade away.
And yet interest among greenies and permaculturists remains high.
It's a question that comes over environmental issues like suburban sprawl and conservation. Which is really better for the environment, cities or suburbs?
A study conducted by the University of California Berkeley has found that cities contribute less greenhouse gas emissions per person than suburbs in the United States. So how does that work?
City life isn’t exactly “clean” per se, as crowding millions of humans together results in incredible amounts of trash, smog, and traffic. But it turns out that people living in American cities are actually contributing less to greenhouse gas emissions than their counterparts in the suburbs. In fact, the greenhouse gas emissions from the suburbs count for about 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the America, even though less than half of the American population actually live in the suburbs.
So what’s going on here? It is simple really; people who dwell in cities have access to public transportation (even if it is kinda crappy), and often live within walking distance to their most visited destinations. Also the raw square footage of a home in the city is much smaller than one in the suburbs, which means less energy needed to heat and cool living spaces. Suburbanites tend to rely on multiple gas using vehicles for a number of needs (think cars to riding lawn movers) and live in larger houses, while many urbanites don’t own a car, and certainly not a lawn mower. Some city dwellers never visit a gas station at all.
Environment is a human rights issue Citizen The International Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticised the failure of governments, international agencies and non-governmental organisations to see environmental issues through the prism of human...
Juliane Kippenberg and Jane Cohen argued in an article forming part of the HRW World Report for 2014 that the environmental and human rights movements had to work together to ensure that those who damaged the environment and trampled on human rights were held accountable.
They said those who suffered from environmental degradation should have a platform to be heard, participate in debate about environmental issues and seek redress.
The HRW researchers said governments’ response to environmental degradation was often weak, disconnected and oblivious to the critical impact that climate change, pollution and other environmental problems had on human rights.
PolicyMic For His Next Feat, the Pope Will Champion the Environment PolicyMic The pope's next push: On Friday, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed that Pope Francis' next project is likely to be an encyclical about ecology and the...
"The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the document was still very much in its early stages and that no publication date has been set. He said it would be about ecology and more specifically the 'ecology of man.'" In November, speculation began to rise regarding an environmental encyclical, when an environmental justice coalition blogged that during a meeting of environmental activists -- famously where Francis held up anti-fracking and gold-mining shirts -- the pope "mentioned that he is preparing an encyclical about nature, humans and environmental pollution."
Protesters claim Maules Creek mine in north-west NSW will destroy critically endangered woodland in the Leard state forest (RT @guardianeco: Environmental activists blocking coal company from clear-felling state forest
On Monday, scores of activists linked to Greenpeace and anti-coal and gas group Lock the Gate blockaded four entrances to the site to stop trucks and other vehicles from gaining access.
They argue the Maules Creek mine will destroy irreplaceable critically endangered woodland in the Leard State Forest, draw down the aquifer used by local farmers and release thousands of tonnes of coal dust onto surrounding farms.
"Our civilisation needs the mining industry but in this case, they are just going to destroy a forest for the coal that they want under it," he said. "The state forest out here is too precious to sacrifice – there's not much of it left."
"Protests at our project sites are a nuisance but they will not deter Whitehaven from getting on with the job of building Maules Creek and delivering the substantial economic benefits which we know the local community strongly supports," he said.
200 mangrove trees planted in Masantol Sun.Star MASANTOL -- Some 200 mangrove trees and 300 nipa palm saplings were planted in this town over the weekend by two groups from Japan, in line with their mangrove reforestation project.
The planting activity was led by the Mirai Ni Kibou Foundation and the Rotary Club of Ashikaga East from Japan, in cooperation with their Kapampangan counterpart, the Quota International of Pampanga.
Quota Pampanga president Germinia Villanueva said the event was aimed at promoting the reforestation of much of the coastline and marshes of Masantol, both as an effort to combat climate change and to protect the eco-system of the area.
The project is also seen as a way of creating a natural barrier for coastal villages here against storms and storm surges. She added the mangrove trees provide spaces for breeding of fish and other aquatic life.
Mirai Ni Kibou Foundation president Joseph Ang said the groups decided to plant nipa as a source of income for the local communities living around and near the mangrove forests here.
Mangrove forests serve as breeding grounds for marine life and also help in the balance of marine ecosystemsand protection of coastline from erosion.
Negotiators meeting in Poland have agreed a way forward on curbing deforestation.
A package of measures has been agreed here that will give "results-based" payments to developing nations that cut carbon by leaving trees standing.
One observer told the BBC that this was the "signature achievement" of these talks.
Deforestation accounts for about 20% of global emissions of carbon dioxide.
Earlier this week the UK, US, Norway and Germany agreed a $280m package of finance that will be managed by the World Bank's BioCarbon fund to promote more sustainable use of land.
Now negotiators have agreed a package of decisions that will reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus pro-forest acitivities (known as Redd+).
The conference agreed a "results based" payments system that means that countries with forests will have to provide information on safeguards for local communities or biodiversity before they can receive any money.
'Green architecture' could be the solution to global warming that everyone is looking for - people just need to get on board.
Believe it or not, ‘green architecture’ has the potential to sustain the health of millions in the future. Or at least that’s its mission. Studies show that by the year 2050, our world’s population is expected to exceed nine billion. With that information in mind, our world must find new ways of adaptation. By that year, buildings will need to meet a demand for high indoor environmental quality (IEQ) for growing populations, especially in developing nations and other urban locations. Why is this necessary? Well, the quality of a building’s environment is closely measured, just like the well-being of those who occupy this work or living space. By using this information to work towards a positive impact for the future, decisions on plans for eco-friendly and energy efficient buildings will help to create better quality living for indoor populations around the world, while also connecting humans to the nature that surrounds them.
Climate change is a rich topic to explore in the classroom. From science and geography to politics, it's an area with roots in a range of subjects and can be a great source for debate
Climate change takes on added significance this week as thousands of people across the UK take part in Climate Week, a national campaign to raise awareness of the issue and steps that can be taken to address it.
This week we have a collection of resources to help your students explore the wider issue of climate change and its potential impact.
For secondary pupils, start with the Met Office's Guide to Climate Science. It answers a range of questions including: what is weather; what is climate; has our climate changed before; and what could be the impact of future climate change around the world? The guide is accompanied by a Weather and Climate presentation and teacher's notes. There is also aClimate Zones Poster that helps explain how human activity is leading to changes in weather and climate.
Bert Guevara's insight:
For teachers and advocates, here is a collection of relevant teaching materials:
"This week we have a collection of resources to help your students explore the wider issue of climate change and its potential impact."
MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill declaring Nueva Vizcaya a mining-free province.
The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill declaring Nueva Vizcaya a mining-free province. House Bill 3667, authored principally by Rep. Carlos Padilla of the lone district of Nueva Vizcaya, now goes to the Senate. Padilla said there are some companies presently engaged in mining in his province. There are also individuals doing illegal mining, he said. He added that he has no doubt that the Senate would approve the measure, which he said would protect the beauty of the mountains and environment of Nueva Vizcaya. ... The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) would be mandated to issue implementing rules and regulations. Last week, the House approved two bills declaring Cagayan de Oro City and Catanduanes mining-free areas. Another bill, making Eastern Samar another mining-free province, is awaiting third-reading approval. Nestled along the remote mountain border of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino, the Didipio project is one of the first two large-scale mining projects approved during the Ramos administration under the 1995 Mining Act.
PUERTO PRINCESA - Philippine police said Friday they rescued 120 protected sea turtles found hidden in a pen inside a mangrove swamp, apparently intended for sale to foreign traders.
It is just the latest case of sea turtles captured in the western island of Palawan where various species are known to congregate said local police chief Senior Superintendent David Martinez. A police patrol in Balabac town on Tuesday came upon a huge pen containing 120 live sea turtles of various species and sizes hidden under the branches of mangroves, he said. “They were just stored there in the swamp. They (the perpetrators) probably just visited them occasionally when they added newly-caught turtles,” Martinez told AFP. The turtles were set free but no one was found tending the hidden pen. Martinez said an investigation was ongoing to determine who captured and stored the sea turtles. Such seizures of illegally-captured turtles are common in Balabac, located about 850 kilometers (528 miles) from Manila because the animals often congregate there, the police chief added added. Sea turtles are protected under Philippine law and catching them is punishable by at least 12 years in jail.
The African nation of Nigeria is experiencing many familiar problems in our age of climate change: rising sea levels, storm surges, devastating flooding. Now its coastal city Lagos is going to outrageous lengths to protect itself, ...
The African nation of Nigeria is experiencing many familiar problems in our age of climate change: rising sea levels, storm surges, devastating flooding. Now its coastal city Lagos is going to outrageous lengths to protect itself, both environmentally and financially, by building an entirely new city the size of Manhattan between it and the ocean.
The multi-billion-dollar Eko Atlantic development claims it will safeguard against coastal erosion, "transform[ing] land lost to the power of the sea into an ocean-front city that will be one of the wonders of the 21st century." It also bills itself as the economic catalyst that will nudge Lagos into the category of a truly global megacity, making it the "new financial epicenter of West Africa by the year 2020."
Over at The Guardian, however, Martin Lukacs calls Eko Atlantic "climate apartheid" built by "disaster capitalists." These investors, he claims, are using the threat of climate change as a reason to build what's essentially a closed-off, financially inaccessible city that will only "save" the people who live there:
The Guardian Dredging rivers not full answer to flooding – Environment Agency The Guardian "I very much welcome the secretary of state's request for the Environment Agency, the local authorities and the drainage boards to get together to see if we...
"I very much welcome the secretary of state's request for the Environment Agency, the local authorities and the drainage boards to get together to see if we can come up with a comprehensive solution," he said. "It is not going to be a simplistic one. It is not just saying: 'If we dredge, it will solve all our problems', but dredging the Tone and Parrett I think will be part of that comprehensive solution."
"An absolute red line for us in the Environment Agency is that we have to be able to maintain our ability to respond to flooding emergencies wherever they are happening," he said. "Our response to flooding emergencies must be protected and will be protected."
Mindanao Examiner Zamboanga police seized illegally cut mangrove flitches Mindanao Examiner The illegal cutting of mangrove in coastal areas in southern Philippines, particularly in the western region, continues unabated and environment authorities...
Police seized a huge quantity of illegally cut mangrove tree on Sacol Island off the southern Filipino port city of Zamboanga. Police said two men - Balolong Barahim and Abdua Halim – were also apprehended for transporting the flitches. The duo was spotted by policemen led by Chief Inspector Nonito Asdai, of the Sacol Community Police Action Center, and intercepted them. The illegal cutting of mangrove in coastal areas in southern Philippines, particularly in the western region, continues unabated and environment authorities are virtually helpless in stopping the locals from destroying the marine habitat of many sea animals and fishes. Locals used the mangrove as poles for thatched houses and as firewood.
The Hindu Mafia Toxic Waste Dumping Poisons Italy's Farms ABC News The farmlands around Naples, authorities say, are contaminated from the Mafia's multibillion-dollar racket in disposing of toxic waste, mainly from industries in Italy's north that...
The farmlands around Naples, authorities say, are contaminated from the Mafia's multibillion-dollar racket in disposing of toxic waste, mainly from industries in Italy's north that ask no questions about where their garbage goes for a fraction of the cost of legal disposal. Dozens of area fields have been sequestered, after authorities found that decades of toxic waste dumping by the Camorra crime syndicate had poisoned the wells, tainting the water that irrigates crops with lead, arsenic and the industrial solvent tetrachloride.
In a strong signal that the state is cracking down on the lucrative business, a top Camorra boss, Francesco Bidognetti, was convicted last month of poisoning the water table in the town of Giugliano with toxic waste and received a 20-year sentence. It was the stiffest punishment yet for waste dumping. Officials estimate that the waste seepage at a hill-like dump in Giugliano will keep poisoning the water there for half a century.
The findings have sparked protests by tens of thousands of people who marched through Naples' streets last month demanding to know whether they have been eating tainted vegetables for years.
School teaches love and respect for the environment New Pittsburgh Courier The mission of The Environmental Charter School (ECS) at Frick Park is to educate each student to high academic learning standards using a themed curriculum that will foster...
We believe that it is our responsibility to build an active, engaged and thoughtful citizenry—not just graduate students.We strongly commit to building systems thinkers, and use the platform of environment and ecology explore complexity, diverse perspectives and various disciplinary ways to engage or explore a problem. Ecological literacy is more than tree hugging or understanding the power of an invasive speciesin an ecosystem. ECS recognizes that the world is more complex and the successful education experiencemeans more than simply preparing students with content.
We know that humans need content, yet require opportunities to create, innovate, share and think critically.Coupled with an intensity for believing that culture is as important as a curriculum frameworkand a thinking-centered learning space, ECS dares to do “school” differently, and build extraordinary little people into extraordinary big people.
Tsunami-Blocking Mangroves Lure Carbon Investors: Southeast Asia Bloomberg Replanted mangrove trees in Southeast Asia are getting credit for protecting against deadly tsunamis and typhoons such as Haiyan in the Philippines and cutting greenhouse...
Mangrove regeneration in Northern Samar, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of the worst-hit Philippine city of Tacloban, helped minimize damage from the Nov. 8 storm, according to the Trowel Development Foundation, which oversaw the plantings. On Indonesia’s Sumatra island, where a 2004 tsunami killed 170,000 residents, companies including Danone and Credit Agricole SA (ACA) have put up about $4 million in exchange for tradable carbon offsets tied to the reforestation.
Mangroves have twisted webs of roots above ground that absorb carbon dioxide linked to climate change and help protect coasts from tidal surges such as the one that killed at least 3,900 people when Typhoon Haiyan swamped the Philippines this month. The storm, one of the strongest to make landfall, has gripped UN climate talks in Warsaw this week, with a Philippine delegate tearfully calling for action to slow climate change.
“Had we not protected the mangrove trees against illegal cutting and had we not planted the areas surrounding the fish farms with native mangrove species, the super typhoon would have destroyed everything that the poor fisherfolks established,” Leonardo Rosario, a development consultant on the Northern Samar project, said by e-mail on Nov. 19.
The voluntary fasting by a member of the Philippine delegation, to accompany its call for urgent climate action in the Warsaw Conference, has gained a lot of adherents to its cause. Now, many delegates are riding on the call by also voluntarily fasting to convey the urgency.
Ahead of the World Forum on Natural Capital, Tim Smedley speaks to Julia Marton-Lefèvre about the role of business in conservation
The Bonn Challenge, for example, is a commitment to restore 150m hectares of lost forests and degraded lands worldwide by 2020. In natural capital terms, this is estimated to be worth $85bn per year. "Degraded land has no economic value whatsoever", explains Marton-Lefèvre. "It arguably even has negative value because it takes up space in countries that could otherwise be used. If we restore it people can live there, farm and fish – it's the livelihood benefits that we have estimated would bring $85bn to countries. That doesn't even include the health benefits."
Marton-Lefèvre's favourite example of natural capital working in practice comes from Vietnam, where "planting and protecting nearly 12,000 hectares of mangroves cost just more than $1m but saved annual expenditures on dyke maintenance of well over $7m. And that only accounts for coast maintenance: mangroves are also nurseries for fish, meaning livelihoods for fishing and source of nutrients ... "